California’s incredible wealth comes at a cost: miles of saltwater coastline, beautiful, sun-filled days, bustling towns, an infinite number of serene and adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities…the list goes on. However, this does not mean you have to spend the entire amount to experience everything. Although most products in the Golden State are more expensive than in other US destinations, budget vacations to California are possible if you know where and how to look for deals. Consider these nine ideas and things to consider about while arranging a budget trip to California.

Opt for Self Guided Tours

Accommodation prices tend to climb dramatically in major cities, along the coast, and near popular attractions; save money by booking a hotel in the surrounding areas. Vacationers wishing to visit San Francisco, for example, can consider lodging in adjacent San Jose or Oakland, both of which offer their own attractions, such as multicultural food scenes. Are you looking for a sunny coastal break in Malibu or Santa Barbara? Smaller coastal villages like Cambria, a few hours north of Santa Barbara, and Ventura, an hour north of Malibu, may be more affordable.

Check out a city’s tourism agency or chamber of commerce website for recommended itineraries to complete at your leisure. Begin your tour of Palm Springs at the Palm Springs Visitors Center, a midcentury modern landmark in its own right, and then follow their recommendations to view some of the city’s most well-known architectural houses, buildings, and hotels. Up north, Visit Redwoods has created a list of self-guided excursions, including a mural tour of Eureka and a tour of Humboldt County’s historic lighthouses. Santa Barbara, further south, offers the Red Tile Walking Tour, which includes 17 stops highlighting the city’s Spanish-style adobes constructed between the 1700s and 1800s.

Research Cultural Attractions Ahead of Time

Save money on things like museums by looking for cultural sites that provide free or reduced admission. Some museums in Los Angeles, including the California African American Museum, the Getty Center, and the Broad, offer free admission all year. The Orange County Museum of Art, the first floor of the Mingei International Museum, and the Women’s Museum of California in San Diego all provide free entrance year-round. Museums throughout the state also hold dedicated free museum days, however some may demand evidence of residency to attend. Free museum days are conducted at several San Francisco-area institutions, including the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Oakland Museum of California.

Seek out city passes in most big cities to get savings on theme parks, museums, and other attractions. Many city passes include an all-inclusive pass that may be used for three, five, or seven days, as well as the ability to purchase a specified number of activities at a discounted fee and use them over a set period of time, such as an ebike tour or whale watching.

At California Parks, to Camp or not to Camp

When deciding to stay and play in or near California’s bucket-list parks, keep in mind the various costs. Yosemite, Sonoma Coast State Park, and Joshua Tree National Park all have a high demand for lodging, camping, and recreational permits. Depending on when you’re traveling and your preferred travel style, it may be more cost effective to book housing rather than camping out when you factor in shower fees, as well as the tools and time required to prepare and store your own food. As you plan your trip, time will work in your favor because the longer you wait, the less alternatives you have for potentially saving money.

Be Patient Deciphering Parking Signs

In some cities’ central regions, it may appear that understanding street parking laws requires a PhD. Can I park in a specific space? For how long, and what exemptions am I eligible? Without needing to consult California’s driver manual, take the time to correctly examine parking signs to avoid earning a parking ticket that you’ll have to fix with your rental car company. Another tip: most conveniently located yellow and green loading and temporary parking zones are free after 6 p.m.

Dine Out During Restaurant Week

During restaurant weeks in participating cities, you can sample some of California’s top restaurants at often reduced prices. Participating restaurants in Sonoma, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange County, and San Diego typically offer special prix-fixe lunch and evening menus. In Los Angeles, restaurant week lunch menus begin at $15 and supper at $25. Sometimes a restaurant’s signature dishes are included in prix-fixe menus, so do some research to locate the best value during this time.

Seek Out More Affordable Wine Regions

Napa is definitely well-known for producing some of the best-fermented grape juice in the country, but the state also includes countless other wineries making high-quality wines at moderate costs. Consider wine tasting tours in Sonoma, Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles on the central coast, and Temecula Valley in southern California. With over 100 American Viticulture Areas (AVA), or federally designated wine-growing regions, you can plan a wine-focused vacation in California that won’t leave you sobbing into your pinot when the bill arrives.

Sometimes traveling is about embracing the crowds rather than avoiding them. Whether you want to celebrate Pride in San Francisco, visit the flower-strewn floats of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, or party until the early hours in the southern California desert at Coachella, planning ahead of time is more cost effective. It is best to book lodging and rental cars for these major events at least a year in advance.

Things to do Alone in California

If you’re alone in California, you have plenty of options for things to do. There is something for everyone in this state: big and busy cities if you are lonely and want to be surrounded by people; various national parks to climb if you want to think and be alone; and the ocean if you prefer swimming, surfing, or simply sitting on the beach. A road trip is the best way to completely explore California without limiting your interests to the larger cities. You will need a car or a van and will be able to visit the area more freely, stopping anywhere you like along the way.

Go Eating and Drinking

If you’re on a solitary trip and want to meet some people and have some company, you don’t have to worry about it in California; all you have to do is go to a bar or restaurant to eat and drink, and you’ll be able to meet people quickly. Large cities, such as Los Angeles and San Diego, feature dozens of bars, pubs, restaurants, and other eating and drinking establishments. They are full with people and other travelers who, like you, want to have a good time, so you will soon make new acquaintances. If you prefer drinking in bars, you won’t be able to stay alone for long in California. You’ll notice it right away.

Visit a National Park and Go Hiking

California has several lovely national parks, and it’s a good idea to visit a number of them and go trekking on the same vacation. It can be a lovely way to spend time alone while also connecting with nature. Joshua Tree National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Yosemite National Park are among the area’s most popular national parks. And there are plenty more. You only have to choose one, or if you have enough time, you can hike in both. And you don’t need a buddy to go hiking in a national park; in fact, going alone may be a more rewarding experience because you can be more in tune with nature.

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