I recently spoke at the 20 Beautiful Women VIP Luncheon and Book Celebration in Los Angeles and fell in love with the city all over again. Melissa and I went to LA a few years ago and had an amazing time, so I knew this trip wouldn’t disappoint.
While I would have loved to fly first class and dine at the best restaurants the city has to offer, my wallet wouldn’t allow me to do so. I traveled to LA on a budget and had a blast. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re an affordable planning a trip to the West Coast:
- Have a plan, but be flexible
Despite this being the most unorganized trip I’ve ever gone on, it was one of the best. I went with one of my best friends and we planned what we were going to do literally the night before our flight (which I don’t recommend!). Because we didn’t have a strict schedule of what to do, we went with the flow and considered how we were feeling before making a move.
As fun as it is to travel, it can drain you so don’t try to do too much. Have a list of must do items and then a few others that you’ll get to if there is time. We wanted to hike to the Hollywood sign and see a taping of The Real, but we weren’t able to do it all so that gives us a reason to come back.
- Choose budget airlines
While Delta is a great airline to fly with, it doesn’t always have the most affordable tickets. We bought our tickets at the last minute so flying with Spirit was the most economical choice. It wasn’t a bad trip – despite their reputation. Our flight was delayed getting there and coming home, but I didn’t mind the return flight because it gave us a few extra hours to sleep in.
If you’re just trying to get there and don’t care about the amenities that other airlines offer (like complimentary peanuts, drinks and carry on items), then Spirit is pretty decent. My friend and I beat the carry on and extra luggage fees by packing together and only checking one bag. Melissa and I flew with Southwest when we went, and it’s a better option that’s usually pretty affordable and bags fly free. Whoever you fly with, just be sure to get your tickets early!
- Be strategic with location
My primary reason for going to LA was to attend the event, so I stayed at The Westin near LAX where the event was being held. However when Melissa and I went to LA in 2012, we stayed near Universal Studios because we were going to the park and it was convenient to other attractions. Map out what you want to do and then decide on the best location to stay.
- Use the transportation method that works for you
Getting around a city as spread out as LA is not cheap! Being strategic with location can cut transportation costs down tremendously and give you options to commute – from a rental car to public transportation to Uber rides.
During my most recent trip to LA, I initially didn’t plan to rent a car but when I realized that we’d be staying in Inglewood (which is about 40 minutes from the city) I knew that was our best bet. We only rented a car for the two days that we explored the city so it was much cheaper than renting it for our four day stay. But when I went to LA the first time, we used public transportation a lot because it was near our hotel.
Do what works best for you, but keep your options open and weigh the pros and cons of every method of transportation before making a decision.
- Explore Cali!
Sometimes the best plan is not having a plan at all. During this trip, we drove around a few different parts of California just for the heck of it. We ate breakfast at a cute place called The Nest in Bellwoods, and swung over to Compton which wasn’t far. Of course we embraced being tourists and went to Hollywood to witness the strip that never sleeps. It was Oscars weekend when we went, so we got some dope selfies with the golden statue. It’s cool (and cheap) to just drive around and point out things that you saw in movies.
- Enjoy nature
One of the best things about California is that you can enjoy the beauty of nature at no cost. Whether you want to be in the heart of a popular beach like Venice or Santa Monica, or if you want to have a secluded getaway at El Matador State Beach, there is something for you.
After being a tourist walking the Hollywood Walk of Fame, take a 15 minute walk to Runyon Canyon Park to slow down and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- Limit night life
Between drinks, cover charges and the Uber ride to and from your hotel, hitting the club scene can get pretty pricey. Designate one or two nights to hit the town, depending on how long you’ll be there. Going out every night is expensive and for me, clubbing gets kind of old after awhile.
When I went to LA this time, I went to the No Name Club – a spot in West Hollywood that’s super exclusive. It’s invitation only and apparently where a lot of celebrities like to hang, although I didn’t spot anyone. My friend who lives in Cali put my name on the list to get in, and it was a bit overrated and overpriced. But it was a cool experience nonetheless and gave me a real reason to tweet my favorite Mean Girls quote #youcantsitwithus.
California really is a magical city. The weather, people and attractions are unmatched so I’d definitely suggest adding it to your bucket list if you’ve never been.
What would be on your to do list if you were going to Cali for the first time, or planning a return trip? Share in the comments below!