5 Tips for a Cheap Los Angeles Vacation

One of the only things I didn’t give up when I paid off my student loans was travel. I made room for my budget to accommodate all the travel I wanted to do. I didn’t go fancy, staying in hotels or taking taxis everywhere.

Now that I’m debt free, I still try to be frugal while I travel. If you can have the same experience for less money, why not?

Last year I took a five-day trip to LA that only cost me a few hundred dollars. I went for a work conference, but found time to squeeze time with friends and sightseeing. So here’s my guide for enjoying the land of sun and celebrities without spending like them:

1. Skip the Amusement Parks

A couple years ago, I took a trip to Orlando where I had enough time to visit one amusement park. I hadn’t been since I was a kid, and I was so excited to see the latest Harry Potter Wizarding World.

But, what I didn’t realize is how expensive it’d be to visit Hogwarts. A ticket to an amusement park like Universal Orlando costs about $100, and prices are similar when you’re on the West Coast. Unless you have your sights set on Disneyland, skip the theme parks for something more frugal.

Thankfully, a city as big as LA has plenty of fun and frugal destinations. Here are some top picks (mostly gleaned from my LA-living friends):

  • Hiking in Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon
  • Go to Manhattan Beach or Venice Beach
  • Visit the Griffth Observatory
  • Window shop on Rodeo Drive
  • See the Walk of Stars on Hollywood Boulevard
  • Visit Hammer Museum

2. Use Southwest Rewards Points

Out of all the travel hacking that I do, using Southwest Airlines points is my favorite way to fly. I’ve gotten flights there for only a couple thousand points, which is far better than any other deal you can find.

Plus, now you can earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in three months. Guys, that’s only $666 a month! I know I can easily reach that limit after groceries, gas, take-out, shopping and dog food. If you can find flights for a couple thousand bucks each, that means this offer is good for 12 flights. Trust me, I’ve used almost every airline reward program and Southest remains the best.


3. Use Airbnb

In the age of Airbnb, I’m still not sure what the appeal of hotels are. If you book through Airbnb, you’ll have a whole place to stay in, cook in and enjoy while you’re on vacation.

A quick search showed me that you can find an apartment for two people for less than $100 a night. That’s right, you can stay in LA for less than $50 each. Plus, right now when you use this link, you’ll get $40 off your first trip when you spend $75 or more.

If you’re willing to stay in a private room while someone else is home, you can find even better deals. One of the best parts of Airbnb is that you can cook some meals there instead of going out to eat constantly. Even having a place to store snacks and drinks can save you tons so you’re not stopping by a convenience store every day.

4. Find Bargain Food

I love good food as much as the next girl, but I hate to pay for it. The great news about LA is that you can find amazing and exotic cuisine for a few bucks. I ate every kind of international

I ate every kind of international food including Peruvian, Thai, Ramen, Mexican and more. LA has lots of food trucks and hole-in-the-wall places that won’t break your budget. Do you research beforehand so you have some ideas once you get there.

Plus, if you’re really looking for a discount meal, go to In-N-Out Burger. The rumors about that place are true. It was easily the best burger I’ve ever had, and my total meal cost less than $10, including a chocolate milkshake and fries. Also, my friend Leah recommends Chronic Tacos, a chain that serves cheap Mexican food on the go.

5. Enjoy Cheap Laughs

One of the best things I did during my trip was to visit the Upright Citizens Bridge theater in LA. They have two central locations and have multiple shows a day. Tickets range from $5 to $12. If you’re looking for thrills that don’t have to come from a rollercoaster, this is your best deal.

I love UCB so much I almost took a $40 cab ride to see a $5 show the last time I was in California.


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