Most of us work hard all year and may even scrimp on other things in order to afford a nice vacation. It’s our chance to relax and recharge, to play and unwind and, sometimes, to spend time with loved ones without the stress of everyday life.
It’s our time to have fun!
Sure, you’re in merry-making mode when you’re on vacation, but you can still try to find ways to save money. There are savings to be had on all sorts of trip expenses — transportation, lodging, food and attractions — so read on for some ideas that can help you make your money go a bit further when vacationing in Los Angeles:
#1 – Opt for a vacation rental instead of a hotel room
Let’s start with our favorite. In our opinion, this is simply the best way to vacation! Especially if you’re traveling with children or another couple – but even if you’re simply a party of two – staying in a vacation rental can offer significant travel savings. Even if you still eat dinner at a restaurant and just utilize the kitchen for storing items for breakfast and lunch (think picnics!), you’re bound to be ahead of the game for meals, at least, and your accommodations may cost less, as well.
It just makes life on the road so much easier when you don’t have to go out for every meal and when you have more space to spread out. If you haven’t tried it, you really should.
Folks who like to cook may want to do dinner at home, too, so they can sample some of the wonderful foodstuffs available at the Los Angeles farmer’s markets and wine/specialty stores. Vacation rentals are often equipped with a grill, and some even have a slow cooker available – perfect for easy dinner prep while you’re out sightseeing or enjoying the area’s beautiful beaches.
If this sort of information isn’t provided on a vacation rental’s listing, simply send the owner an inquiry to find out what’s available, what markets are nearby, etc. Most vacation rental owners we’ve contacted in the past were quite attentive, and it seems like most genuinely hope you enjoy your time at their place.
We’ve been enjoying vacation rentals at various California destinations for many years (even before the Internet made it so much easier!), and we strongly encourage you to give this lodging alternative a try if you haven’t already experienced the many benefits it offers.
#2 – Use the CityPASS to save on your day in Hollywood
Just about everyone who visits Los Angeles spends a day sightseeing and enjoying the attractions in Hollywood. While it’s free to explore the stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and to gawk at the hand and footprints outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, taking a tour or visiting attractions that charge admission can greatly enhance your experience. For our money, the Hollywood CityPASS gives you the best in a consolidated format:
- admission to Madame Tussauds Hollywood;
- a two-hour ride on an air-conditioned mini-bus for a narrated Movie Stars’ Homes Tour;
- a 75-minute, Red Line Tours “audio live wireless headset” guided walking tour throughout various Hollywood landmarks (i.e., not pre-recorded and ensures you can actually hear what your guide says); and
- finally, an either-or choice of: admission to the Hollywood Museum OR a guided tour of the Kodak Theatre (which you may remember from past Academy Awards ceremonies).
At the time of this writing, the adult Hollywood CityPASS is $59 (it would cost about $109 if you purchased tickets to the attractions separately), and the child’s pass (ages 3 to 11) is only $39. Click here to check out all the Hollywood CityPASS details – it really is a GREAT deal if Hollywood is on your must-see in Los Angeles vacation list. (CityPASS also offers a Southern California exploration package that can save you a bundle if your itinerary includes visits to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, Universal Studios and Sea World in San Diego. Click here for the Southern California CityPASS details.)
#3 – Take advantage of online deals and discounts sites
Do you use these online sites to keep apprised of discounts and deals in your local area? We certainly do, and have enjoyed reduced rates on restaurants, wine tastings and all sorts of activities. Did you know you can also use them to find money-savers for a destination you plan to visit? Follow the links below (they will open in a new browser window) to investigate the offerings at these EXCELLENT cost-cutting sites:
CLICK HERE to view the current Groupon.com Los Angeles deals
CLICK HERE to go to LivingSocial.com (then click the arrow at the top-left, click on “browse all cities” at the bottom of the list and click on the California city (or cities) where you’re headed to view the applicable deals)
(The above links are “affiliate links,” and this site will earn a small commission if you choose to purchase any of the highlighted deals.)
#4 – See if any fairs or festivals are happening nearby during your visit
Given the unlikelihood of rain, many cities host a bevy of fairs and festivals throughout the year (especially during the summer and fall), and they can offer visitors a fun way to experience a locale like the locals do. What’s more, many are free to attend! For example, here is a list of fabulous food and wine festivals in the Central Coast area that you might want to stop at on your way to Los Angeles, and you might also want to check in with the local tourism bureaus to see what’s on. (As you know the greater Los Angeles area is quite large, and our California Cities location reference can help you figure out what other cities are near the location where you plan to stay.)
#5 – Save on airfare
Generally speaking, Tuesday is the best day to find good prices on flights to Los Angeles (and other destinations). This is because most airlines post their sale prices on Monday evening, and then if other airlines intend to match or beat that sale price they will have done so by Tuesday morning. Before you book, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of various airlines’ baggage charges (here is a handy baggage fee chart that appears to be updated with some regularity), and if you’re traveling with small children make sure you know whether your airline of choice charges extra to check car seats and strollers (information which, unfortunately, isn’t included on the handy chart). When travel time arrives, be sure to pack efficiently and weigh your bag – consider investing in this luggage scale from Amazon to avoid any “overweight baggage charges,” and make sure to pack it to use before you head to the airport for your return flight. (There are luggage scales that are a few dollars less expensive than this particular model, but it’s the only one we can heartily recommend. It’s hard to beat a inexpensive product that can save you money — especially one with over 2,000+ reviews!)
#6 – Ways to save if you’re driving
First, of course, before you hit the road you’ll want to make sure your tires are properly inflated in order to optimize your miles per gallon. You also may want to play around a bit with the GasBuddy website and learn how it can lead you to the least expensive places to fill your tank. Another way to save on the road is to minimize food costs by either bringing foodstuffs with you or by stopping at grocery stores along the way instead of restaurants. If you’re traveling with small children, you may also want to do a little pre-planning to schedule those “picnic” stops at parks and other places that will provide space for them to run off a bit of steam after eating.
Something that can really add up is parking at hotels (and this applies whether you’re driving your own car or if you flew into town and picked up a rental car). This daily add-on – along with other similar daily fees that are becoming all too common at hotels these days, like “resort fees” and charges for Internet connectivity – can really add up, and you’ll want to keep them in mind as you investigate your lodging options.
That brings us full circle, and back to our recommendation to check out vacation rental options. We’ve never encountered a vacation rental with any sort of add-on fees, but if a vacation rental listing isn’t clear about what’s included and what may be extra, it’s really easy to send an inquiry and ask the owner for further details.