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11 Tips for Traveling on a Budget in California

11 Tips for Traveling on a Budget in California

Remember these tips for traveling on a budget when you plan a family vacation and you won’t have to fall back on your #TravelGoals.


6 min read

June 26, 2021

Some think that budget-friendly and travel are two different things—not if you know how to travel cheap. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to break the bank trying to plan the ultimate summer vacation. Most people end up saving for months, only to spend it all in one week. On the contrary, traveling can be extraordinary without having to cost a fortune. 

We love a good bargain just like any other person, and we’re here to make sure that you don’t overspend and compromise on fun the next time you’re on the road. Remember these tips for traveling on a budget when you plan a family vacation and you won’t have to fall back on your #TravelGoals. 

How To Travel on a Budget Without Sacrificing Anything

For real, though, do you really want to spend all that money you saved and not get a good view because of the many crowds?

1. Make Your Plans After Peak Tourist Season

Should we state the obvious? Yes, because oftentimes, this is the part where people splurge the most. Airline tickets skyrocket and airline companies profit greatly, especially when families travel during the holidays. The key is to plan beforehand, and by that, we mean way before. Do your research to find out which season is the best time to visit the destination of your choice, and see whether tickets are cheaper before or after the peak tourist season (most of the time it’s after). And if you’re traveling to the City of Angels or Palm Springs, the weather will never be an issue because it’s always sunny in SoCal. 

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2. Travel Light

What’s the point of packing eight different outfits for a one-week vacation? Go ahead, we’ll wait. The answer is there’s absolutely no point. If you want to travel on a budget, you have to start with saving space instead of cramming your outfits in a suitcase. The airline will probably charge you an additional fee if you have checked baggage, so do your best to stick to just a carry-on. And if you’re road tripping, you won’t have to worry about packing on the last day of your vacation. Oh, and one more thing—you’ll always have room for souvenirs. 

Yes, getting a hotel room is fancy and pricey, but if you're traveling with a group of friends, you'll save a lot more money by staying at an Airbnb.

3. Opt For A Reasonably Priced Airbnb Instead of a Hotel Room

We don’t mind staying at an eco-friendly or desert hotel when traveling, but we’re also aware that they can get pretty pricey. Every traveler’s bible has a verse on booking Airbnbs instead of hotels, especially if you’re traveling with a group. This comes with several advantages besides the cost, and one of them is taking part in Airbnb experiences. Alternatively, you can always rent a cabin if you’re going somewhere remote—just make sure it doesn’t cost you too much and is close to the places you want to visit. 

4. Take Advantage of Public Transportation

Angelenos can’t imagine life without a car, and San Franciscans can’t imagine life without the BART. We can argue all day about the advantages and disadvantages of public transportation, but let’s face it—if you want to budget properly for a trip, you may as well embrace it. Do your research on the pricing systems and routes of trains, buses, and metros. You’ll end up saving time and money instead of spending half of your time pumping gas in your car and looking for a parking spot. If anything, you’ll get to see new places along the way when using public transportation. 

This one's the hardest: we love a good taco just like any other person, but, hear us out. Would you rather spend that money on food or a cruise?

5. Try New Food, But Don’t Eat Your Cash Away

Did you really travel if you didn’t try local food? Pics or it didn’t happen. French-dip sandwiches and California burritos are iconic foods you must try in the Golden State. And while we wouldn’t mind eating away at all the best spots in San Diego or vegan restaurants in the Bay Area, we also have to think economically. People usually forget this part when they budget for a vacation, and it ends up costing them a fortune. We’re by no means saying you should refrain from dining at restaurants. However, instead of slurping Michelin-starred ramen, opt for making dinner at your Airbnb one night. 

6. Make Use of Free Museum Days

Free art galleries and museum days are one of the best things that happened to travelers and you can’t convince us otherwise. Whether it’s archeology, history, or maritime museums, you'll find something that suits every mood. Look up the ones you want to visit and see which days offer free admission. The same applies to art galleries. Any tip for traveling on a budget involves taking advantage of free things, so don’t hesitate to put that to good use. 

Venice Beach is cool, so is S.F. and Santa Barbara, but what about Stanislaus National Forest, or Torrey Pines, or the queen herself Yosemite?

7. Check Out Local State and National Parks

If you’re going on a road trip on a budget but don’t want to miss out on visiting awesome places, you’ll be pleased to know that state and national parks cost little to nothing. These underrated places pack so many adventures for people of every interest. All you have to do is pick the ones close to you and drive on the highway until you reach your destination. With 300 state and nine national parks, you’ll be spoiled for choice in California.   

8. Visit Touristy Places, But Avoid Tourist Traps

Sure, you’d love to see the Cabazon Dinosaurs, they’re pretty awesome. But, do you really need to buy a $20 mug from the gift shop there? There are plenty of tourist attractions to visit and fun free things to do while vacationing in Palm Springs, Orange County, or San Francisco. So don’t worry about visiting all the fun places you see on Instagram, but don’t fall for the tourist traps when you’re there either. 

Smalls things go rather unnoticed, but trust us when we tell you the off-roading adventure in a nearby small town will end up being more memorable.

9. Explore Small Towns

Are you vacationing around Yosemite? Consider venturing out to the nearby small towns. Planning a solo getaway to Death Valley? You’d love to visit the interesting places in and around the national park. Most of the time, these underrated areas offer the most exciting adventures and they often go unnoticed. Believe it or not, by the end of your trip, checking out these towns will be the highlight of your vacation. 

10. Purchase Souvenirs from Small Businesses 

That souvenir shop looks hella cute on Melrose Avenue, but chances are they’re overpriced. So while you’re exploring small towns nearby, why not purchase gifts from small businesses there? Shop for eco-friendly presents that everyone will love and purchase the perfect souvenir for your personality type. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best tip for traveling on a budget

Mother knows best. You know who else does? People who've lived in the area for a long time. Ask them for insight on the 401.

11. Ask Locals For Insight

Sometimes, you end up listening to the wrong people and find yourself relying on your credit card too much on your trip. The locals probably think you’re loaded due to all the money you’re spending, but in reality, this whole trip is just getting too expensive. What do you do? Ditch the travel itinerary that’s costing you too much and ask the locals where the cool kids are going these days without splurging. You’ll probably get to visit the most spectacular places and not spend a single dime. They’re most likely uncrowded too!

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