12 days budget California trip. Help :)
Replies: 29 - Last Post: Oct 12, 2012 9:48 AM Last Post By: marlajfish
Oct 8, 2012 1:52 PM
15Maybe we should constrain our trip only to SF-Bay Area and LA and surroundings? (and do the transports by plane and/or all-nighters buses). I guess that's more realist for the time we have and our budget.
Oct 8, 2012 3:44 PM
Oct 8, 2012 11:22 PM
Oct 9, 2012 7:35 AM
18Your girlfriend wants to see Disney so I would resign yourself to that - otherwise she might make your life miserable. There appears to be an HI hostel in Fullerton.
In LA the Getty museum is really nice, $15 for parking, entry is free.
Oct 9, 2012 11:20 AM
19ok! I made a chart of average costs and I CAN survive with 1000 dollars, but obviously I'm not going to take only 1000. But is good to know what the minimum is.
Yeah my friend (we're two girls) is basically dying to go to Disney so whatever, we'll go. I guess I'll calculate maybe 1 day (max 2) in LA plus 1 in Disney, and then go to San Diego, and then back to SF for about 6 days.
thanks everybody :)
Oct 9, 2012 2:41 PM
Oct 10, 2012 5:27 AM
Oct 10, 2012 2:29 PM
22I would also like to add that Santa Barbara is a beautiful area, but in the winter in can be pretty cool (not really super cold, but cool) and rainy. That's actually true of a lot of California as that's the middle of our rainy season. That time is out of tourist season, but Santa Barbara is one of the more expensive places south of the SF Bay area. It is a convenient stop on the Amtrak train line. If you would like to see Santa Barbara, depending on whether or not you rent a car, I would recommend finding a place in Ventura or Oxnard, 30 minutes south, which would be much cheaper. Santa Barbara, at least the Isla Vista neighborhood nearby the UC Santa Barbara campus, does have a large college student population. It might be better to try and do a couch surf in this area, as I know there are a lot of hosts in that area. I personally don't know of a hostel here, but I never looked for one either.
Oct 10, 2012 2:59 PM
23OP, let me tell just why it would be so helpful so maybe you'll take my oh-so-earnest request a bit more seriously.
This board gets a boatload of budget travel inquiries. By and large, the regulars around here are quite well traveled. This is generally a good thing, because we are individually and collectively well-equipped to offer ideas on what's good, what's so-so, and what's better skipped, along with some tips and tibdits that you won't necessarily find in the usual sources. But there is a downside: Most of us regulars haven't been tight-budget travelers for a long time. We do our best from having observed along the way, for most of us it's been a while since we really had to scrimp on the road. (It's been 34 years since I slept on a football field in Winnemucca, Nevada while hitching across the state, for example.)
So if you, as someone who will personally wrestle with the need to stretch your bucks, will give us a detailed report about how you did it and what the ups and downs were, I really think it would be enormously useful to future travelers who come here. After all, this forum is only as good as what people put into it. Think of it as one of those plates of pennies next to a lot of cash registers. Take one, give one. It would be so much better if we could refer to a posting from someone who really did it, rather than taking our best guesses.
Thanks in advance for any willingness to do so. On this particular topic, it'd be hard to imagine someone posting too much detail. If you tracked every nickel you spent on lodging, food, transportation, and enterainment wherever you went, and then wrote about it, you'd really hit the sweet spot.
Oct 10, 2012 3:35 PM
24I live in the SF Bay Area and have for twenty-odd years. I could do SF on $83 per person, per day, no problem whatsoever.
Stay in a cheap motel. You'll find two areas that have these in SF, in particular: down on Lombard, and out in the Sunset. There are hotels that run as low as $80. These are two-star type hotels which can take a bit of digging. That's $40 per person, per day. If you go up to a $100 a night hotel, which again is doable, fully doable, in SF, if you don't mind a little dive in your hotel, then you're at $50 per person, per day.
If you are willing to eat at supermarkets and other street food, which there's a ton of outside of more upscale districts -- think Chinatown, Japantown, crepes, bagels, sandwiches, and yes, markets, especially all of the Asian dollar stores which are amazing -- you could probably make do with $5 meals. Haight Street has great, cheap eats. I regularly stock up on cheap, premade groceries in Chinatown and Japantown both. For restaurants, there are some food carts. Mexican is often a safe, cheap bet in a restaurant, and probably insanely good. Noodle shops, ditto. Mel's Diner can be kind of a lifesaver. I don't think SF is especially expensive to eat in, but I don't like restaurant eating much and am NOT a foodie, so I'm usually fine with "whatever." Thus said, I also will eat almost anything and am not picky at all. I adore red bean buns! These are like $1 for a pretty feeling little bun. Soft tacos? Cheap. There's a noodle place on Haight street that can feed two for $5. A few bucks. I hate sitting in restaurants, more or less, and generally only eat at these if necessary (even nicer ones).
Make sure you have a list of where to get cheap eats while on the go. If you try to grab the same sandwich in the De Young Museum, you're going to pay three times what you would at a hole-in-the-wall which is three times yummier.
If you're careful, that's $15 a day for food. Everyone has a different appetite. I tend to be a "one-meal a day and some snacks" kind and can go for less. My husband eats three squares. He might cost $20-30 on a budget.
So were this me, I'd be at an estimated $45 for the hotel + $15 for food. That's $60.
I'd still have $28 left over for transit as well as entry fees. However, there are a million and one fun, free things to do in SF. If you get to know and love the Muni line, it's cheap too.
That's my advice.
I think people tend to like traveling in style. I'm kind of a backpacker at heart. I do like a nice hotel, don't get me wrong, but I think SF is an easier place to travel without much money than many other large US cities IF you are willing to walk a bit, take public transit, people watch, and watch your wallet some.
Careful of the truly sketchy areas, however. Union Square turns into the Tenderloin very quickly. There are plenty of areas of SF that you really want to avoid walking at night at all costs, even in groups.
It sounds like you'd already made up your mind, but the resistance to your idea struck me as odd coming from someone with serious experience with this area who knows it absolutely can be done (depends on your travel style, that's all).
Edited by: shekinah_75
Oct 10, 2012 3:45 PM
25Suggestion about S.F. hotels: If possible, come back here with names, prices, and addresses before booking. The absolute cheapest places in the city are in the Tenderloin (junkies, whores, thieves) and you wouldn't want to stay in any of those places even if they were free. The S.F. locals ought to be able to tell you whether or not this or that hotel is in the Tenderloin. No matter how much you need to scrimp and save, there is a level below which you do not want to go in San Francisco.
#25, can the OP really find a non-Tenderloin bed for $45?!
Oct 10, 2012 5:20 PM
26He said $40/pp, so $80/night. Last time I was in SF, in June, I booked a room on Lombard for just around that through Hotwire.
It wasn't bad but I was a bit sketched out when a drunk started following me and shouting. Luckily I was able to duck into some store and he just stumbled on his way. I may not stay there again alone, but I would if I was with someone. The hotel itself was a tad rundown (it was a Ramada, I think) but I've stayed in far, far worse. I managed.
The neighborhood is mostly safe, though. Maybe a bit too "frat boy" for my tastes, but just for a place to sleep, it was fine.
Oct 10, 2012 7:17 PM
Oct 11, 2012 9:03 AM
28Yes, I was thinking down on Lombard, and also, there's a pocket of cheaper hotels kind of by the SF Zoo in the Sunset District as well.
And then there's the third option of cheapies out by the airport, with BART.
Oct 12, 2012 9:48 AM
29I recommend the HI Fisherman's Wharf hostel which has spectacular views of the Golden Gate. You don't need a car in San Francisco but if you have one, you can also park free at this hostel which will save you $25 a day. They also have a cafe there where you can eat very inexpensively. And you can walk over to a Safeway grocery store where you can buy food to cook your meals free in the hostel. This hostel is in a former Army barracks from the Civil War so it has a lot of history behind it, it's at Fort Mason next to the marina which is a neat area. You can easily walk down and catch the cable car line from here. We have stayed there. Also, it is connected to a hostel across the bridge in Marin, forget the name of it but if you go to the website you'll see it, I believe that is in the Marin national park area which is all in redwoods. They even have transport back and forth between the two hostels. Very beautiful area.
You can also do a hostel trip to Yosemite if that interests you, check out the Yosemite Bug hostel, they run bus trips from the San Francisco Bay area. Not sure about winter, though or whether it fits into your budget.
The weather in January is very changeable. Sometimes it is beautiful sometimes it's very rainy. It will be quite chilly most likely so bring a coat. It is less rainy in Southern California.
If a car rental works into your budget, my suggestion would be to not have a car in San Francisco, but then rent a car and drive down Highway 1 through Big Sur. A weekly rental will be cheaper. There are beautiful redwood forests there. You can stop at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and park across the highway from the park entrance to avoid having to pay a fee, then walk into the park. The same with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park which is a very short walk but spectucular and memorable.
Do not spend the night in Big Sur, however, it is very expensive. Also, do not drive this stretch in a bad storm it has many winding curves.
If you stop at Limekiln State Park in the south park of Big Sur, it's very beautiful and there are redwood forests and a hike up to a waterfall.
Stop at Nepenthe for the view even if you can't afford the $17 hamburgers.
Spend the night at the hostel in Santa Barbara or Cambria, then drive to LA and stay at the hostel in Santa Monica. It is in a very attractive part of town and you can easily get to Beverly Hills or Hollywood from there.
If you decide to go to Disneyland, stay at the Motel 6 in Anaheim it is very close by and will not be expensive in January. Plan to eat at the McDonalds across the street from Disneyland, it's a lot cheaper than inside the park. Also you can bring food and drink in a backpack into the park, they don't stop you. If you go to the park, make sure you are there when the park opens which is probably 9 a.m. in January. There won't be too many people there so you won't have to wait in line. Make sure you get FastPasses--google it and learn how they work--that will make your day there much more pleasant. There is a trolley system that runs around the Disneyland Resort area so you can get around without a car if necessary.
If you go on down to San Diego, you can stay at the HI Downtown hostel which is right in the Gaslamp District and very fun. But you will have to pay for parking. It's not far from the train station and you can get around by trolley there if you don't have a car. If you stay at the Point Loma hostel, it is a little quieter and less of a party atmosphere, but also very nice and the parking there is free and you are close to Mission Bay. They sometimes have cheap dinners for a few bucks and they used to even offer free pancake batter on the weekends to make your own pancakes. There's also a grocery store nearby.
The train trip down the coast is marvelous I think it's called the Coast Starlight?? Or the Coaster? Go to Amtrak.com to look it up. In January they might also have some discounts as it is low season. If you take it to Los Angeles then you end up in downtown Los Angeles Union Station and you can walk over and see the original Pueblo de Los Angeles historic district at Olvera Street, right next door to the train station.
Note: If by redwoods you mean Giant Sequoias, then you need to either go to the Mariposa Grove at Yellowstone, or to Sequoia National Forest or National Park. Sequoia can be covered in snow in January though when we went last year it was dry. It's a great time to go because there are no people there and it's stunning.
Edited by: marlajfish
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