Budget Vacations: Budgeting Your Trip to…Southern California

There are many places travelers across the globe want to visit at least once in their lifetimes. The beautiful and historic cities of Europe are on the list as our places like Australia and the tropical environments of Hawaii and the Caribbean. On the U.S. mainland, visitors head toward New York, Disneyworld, Boston, and the country’s numerous national parks. At or near the top of the list is the region known as Southern California.

Southern California isn’t the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles alone. The over 200 miles of land and coast that make up this region cover hundreds of different areas, including amusement parks, miles of beaches, soaring mountains and baking deserts. A week in this area wouldn’t scratch the surface of what’s available to be seen and done.

And that unfortunately means a good deal of money to be spent in the area. Remember, Hollywood and Beverly Hills are part of this region, which means things can be very expensive. Yet, those on a budget can still visit and enjoy the region. It takes needed, if not required, financial planning to set up a five-day trip to the Disneyland area or a car journey across the landscape. Here are a few tips to consider when budgeting.

Getting There

Driving or flying — these are the two main ways to get to Southern California. You’ll have no other choice but to fly if you don’t live in the U.S., but there are options to drive if you do. From coast to coast it’s a 3,000 mile trip across one of the nation’s major highways, followed by stop and go traffic on the vehicle-clogged roads of the area. Though not as expensive as flying, especially with a larger family, driving can rack up costs for accommodations, dining and fuel. An option to budget for in this situation may be the rental of a recreational vehicle.

Flying into the Southern California area offers many choices. The main airports are Los Angeles International Airport and San Diego International, with LAX the more expensive of the two. Within the Los Angeles area are three smaller airports — Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Long Beach Airport, and John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Which one you fly into depends on your itinerary. Should you want to visit both L.A. and San Diego it’s best to fly into San Diego and take the two hour drive north. Fly into one of the L.A. airports if staying in that region. A word of warning — landing in LAX doesn’t put you smack dab in the Disneyland area. It’s still and hour drive or so. And speaking about the Magic Kingdom…

What to do

Southern California does not lack for attractions. Some of these are relativity inexpensive. For example, visiting the beaches, walking around the various neighborhoods of San Diego, or visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Others are slightly more, to the point it may take a year to save up. An extended trip to Disneyland for a family of four can run somewhere in the area of $1,000 with lodging, tickets, dining and various souvenirs. You won’t find many discount stores on Rodeo Drive, so a simple purchase can cost a quarter of someone’s paycheck. Design a plan of attack prior to your visit.

How to get around

You’ll need a rental car. This is not an option…You’ll need a rental car. While L.A. does have a subway system and a commuter rail runs from the San Diego suburbs to the Los Angeles region, the easiest way to get from one point to another is driving. Sadly, everyone else has the same idea, which means you can spend a good deal of your time in traffic wasting away precious fuel. Best to consider a compact or economy vehicle to save money. Try to rent a hybrid or electric vehicle if at all possible.

Where to eat

In-n-Out-Burger. Sure, the Southern California region is known for its cuisine; however, In-n-Out is an institution which features good food at a low price.

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