Visit California on a Budget

Has it been your dream to visit California? Have you always thought that it was simply too expensive and put that dream aside? Perhaps you had no idea where to begin, or how to travel from one part to another?

If any of the above sounds like you, then keep on reading, as I reveal how I travelled from San Diego through Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 16 days without breaking the bank.

Within this blog I have detailed many key points that saved me money. If you would like to know exactly where I stayed, how long and what I did then just ask.

Where should you book your Flights?

Skyscanner has never let me down, I saved money by adjusting my start or end location.

If your plan was to start in San Francisco and travel south, you may save money by arriving in San Diego and travel north instead. This doesn’t always work, but if your start destination is flexible it’s certainly worth a look.

Where should you stay?

Hostels were the cheapest option for me, some Airbnb’s came close, however they rarely offer breakfast within the price. Hostels allow you to fill up on a great breakfast, whilst surrounded by likeminded people, plus you have access to leaflets and posters advising you where to eat and what to do. Don’t be put off by the cheap hostels, my favourite hostel was situated in San Diego city centre, this was in fact the cheapest hostel I have ever stayed in.

Make sure you have an idea of what you want to do and where it’s situated in relation to your accommodation. There might be accommodation that costs slightly more but allows you to walk everywhere, therefore you can justify spending a little more to save on transport costs.

How to get from one city to the next?

Greyhound bus services will get you from any major city in California to another for low prices.  I went from San Diego to Los Angeles for around $15 and from Los Angeles to San Francisco for around $24.

In my experience booking last minute wasn’t difficult, buses were regular, and they operate through the night. The journey from LA to San Francisco is almost an 8-hour journey, as my time was precious and my budget tight, I took a bus overnight.

This saved me both time and money, as I didn’t need to pay for a hostel that night and I got an extra day to see the glorious San Francisco. The buses I used were spacious and comfy, plus they had phone charging ports and WiFi. So, both me and my phone could recharge.

Transport within the city?

My experience of American public transport is fairly small, as I didn’t use it much. When in new destinations I love to walk everywhere and get a real feel for the place.

However, at times walking isn’t an option so occasionally I used apps like Uber and LYFT, both are taxi operators that often have deals if you are new to signing up. The deal I got with LYFT was 5 free rides, this got me to where I couldn’t walk. Secondly, both Uber and LYFT offer a “shared ride service”, which gets cheaper rates. Often used by locals, so that is a great opportunity to gain more knowledge of the area. Lastly, when using the apps such as Uber and LYFT, move your desired destination pinpoint around. If you place it on a tourist attraction the price may be higher than if you place it a short walk away.

How to reduce your food spending?

Another reason hostels are a win in my book is the breakfast. It usually consists of bagels with cream cheese, porridge and some fruits, if you are like me then you are in paradise. My advice here is to make the most of the breakfast, take a bagel and a piece of fruit, save it for lunch or snack later.

Hostels often have deals for dinner like cheap BBQ’s or takeaways, so definitely worth checking. When I was in LA, the hostel had free Taco’s, far from the best Taco’s but it was food after all. Another point worth noting is that hostels have cooking facilities so don’t be in the mindset that you have to eat out every night, you can save money and eat well by purchasing food and cooking it yourself. Just be prepared for the endless signs saying, “Clean up after yourself”.

I often found bar style restaurants and takeaways that offered meals such as a pizza/burger and a drink for $10. This gives you the opportunity to sit aimlessly at a bar with a beer like you see in the movies, (something I did more often than I would like to admit).

Plan your day in advance

I spent at least 30 mins each day planning my next day attempting to minimize unnecessary costs. I achieved this by organizing my whole trip, what I want to see, what is nearby, so I aimed to complete different areas of the city each day. Sounds obvious I know but I was amazed how many people would get this one wrong and would waste time and money going back to places they had been because they missed something.

Stay flexiable

Now this can be a difficult one to follow as organisation and planning is the key as I have already pointed it out. However, there are ways to be organised yet remain flexible to change. My method of flexibility was to have a couple of hostels in mind and regularly check their website. Often hostels display the number of beds remaining for each day, by keeping an eye on this it meant I could postpone booking accommodation until I had a better idea of my travel plans.

I did this whilst in San Diego and I am so glad my plans were flexible as I fell in love with the city and found there was more to do than my time allowed. Plus, many locals told me the number of days I originally planned for Los Angeles was simply too many, I took their advice and it paid off.

As I hadn’t booked my LA hostel or travel yet, I was able to postpone going there and booked 2 last minute nights in San Diego. This gave me the time I needed to visit the famous San Diego Zoo, so I’m sure you can agree me when I say, “it was worth it”.

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Thank you
Travel by Season