It’s taken me a while to put up this post not just because of a deadly disease I have called procrastination, but also just because I’ve really been trying to think of the right ways to be able to explain and breakdown everything that I did in a way that makes sense and is helpful; which, I think I’ve finally got.
Recently I got a request from someone I know asking me to detail more or less the cost of our California trip because they were interested in setting a trip up there as well, BUT they were on somewhat of a tight budget.
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Before I get into the technicalities of it all, I just want to mention that throughout our time booking this trip (which was pretty much only 3-4 months), we were on a tight budget as well, AND it was somewhat of a last minute decision to book.
We had been going back and forth about it for a WHILE until we were all finally just like screw it…we’ve never traveled altogether before, and it could be a great and fun experience for us all; plus (at the time) my brother had been going through a break-up and his birthday was approaching, AND the time we were going was a little bit after MY birthday, so we figure it was the perfect time to do it.
Being that it was all a little last minute, we tried to be as smart as possible about our finances, like putting money to the side from each of our checks and as much as we could put to the side at the moment, going for Airbnbs instead of hotels, buying groceries in bulk instead of eating out every night, and finding discounts on park tickets.
I also just wanted to mention that since we were all traveling and doing these things together, we split relatively all of the costs down the middle so that it was all even and wouldn’t be nearly as much as it would have been had we all paid for this stuff individually.
That being said, I’m going to go into all of the nitty-gritty details about all of the things I just mentioned.
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Necessary Expenses: Places to Stay, Food and Transportation
- First thing’s first, FLIGHTS. We used this app called Hopper which really came in handy when it came to booking our flights because it allowed us to track them for a while to see when/if prices for them were going up or down. It would also give us predictions for the best/worst times to book because they would either be the cheapest in the moment or they may get slightly cheaper (same with the alternative of it possibly getting more expensive). Does that make sense? Per person, our flights going to San Francisco was $119 which was the absolute cheapest price we probably could’ve gotten it for (and we flew Alaska Airlines and was a straight flight). Coming home from Los Angeles, we actually weren’t as lucky with a straight flight or a cheap one for that matter. We ended up accidentally waiting a little too long and the price per person went up to $181 (we flew American Airlines coming back home).
2. Second were the Airbnbs. Doing this ended up helping us a LOT too believe it or not because we easily would’ve ended up spending twice as much had we stood in a hotel. In total for the airbnbs we spent about $1,386.20. We were only in the San Francisco airbnb for 2 nights, which came out to a total of $830.16 (which per person was $207.54).We were in Los Angeles a lot longer (4 nights, 5 days), which came out to a total of $1,112.07 (which per person was $278). The thing that I liked about booking the airbnbs the most was the fact that they did the payments in installments. That was super helpful, they asked you to pay half of the cost the day you booked it, and then the other half later on down the line (which for us was about a month and a half after we first booked). So we didn’t have to worry about putting all that money down all at once.
3. Next was Ubers. Unfortunately while we were in San Francisco, our only real form of transportation was taking Ubers everywhere. We spent a LOT of money on it, which kind of sucked, but honestly, we had no other option. We didn’t know the buses or trains like that so if not for Ubers, we would’ve lost a lot more time simply trying to figure out how to get around. So, I would not recommend doing this unless you completely plan ahead for the public transportation use OR do a car rental, which we didn’t think necessary to do since we were only in San Francisco a day and a half. We spent almost $200 on Ubers all over San Francisco.
4. Next was booking our MegaBus tickets from San Francisco to Los Angeles. We played around with the idea of renting a car to drive ourselves to LA, but thought it would be an extra unnecessary expense plus paying for gas, snacks along the way, etc., so we stuck to taking a bus there. The tickets in total were $216.50, which per person came out to about $54. Not too bad. Plus it was an interesting experience to drive along the coast for ALL of us to enjoy instead of taking turns driving and what not (it was also a 6 hour trip btw).
5. Next was our car rental in Los Angeles. This we found to be a little more necessary just because of the longer amount of time we spent here, plus all the places we ended up going. It was just better and easier. We rented our car from a website called Turo , which was super quick and easy to use. The guy we rented from was really nice and super responsive for any/all questions we had about the car. Plus his car was really nice (we had gotten a 2017 Nissan Altima). The total for the car, given the amount of days we needed it for, was $261.91, which came out to about $65 per person; it was also pretty good on gas and we only had to fill it up 2-3 times.
6. And finally shopping for food in bulk. We thought this would be one of the best ways to attempt to save some money out there as opposed to spending on eating out every single day whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or all of the above. So, on our first official day in LA we went to a nearby Walmart and spent $140 on groceries with all of those things to sustain us for the rest of the week. Now, of course we did end up eating out a few times because there were certain places out there that we wanted to try, but generally, I think we did pretty good with saving SOME money by buying our food in bulk. Plus our Los Angeles airbnb we had the entire house to ourselves WITH a fully equipped/stocked kitchen, so why wouldn’t we take advantage of that?
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Leisure Expenses: Eating Out, Theme Parks & Souvenirs
So this part is for the extracurricular things we obviously decided to do on the side that weren’t “necessary” but did cost a decent amount of money.
- Amusement parks. While we were in Los Angeles we couldn’t pass up the opportunity of going to the amusement parks….I mean, we could’ve, but I wasn’t going to let that happen!!! So, we ended up going to Disneyland and Universal Studios. Typically, the prices for tickets to these parks could be pretty freakin’ pricey, if we’re being honest, BUT we were able to get discounted prices on ours thanks to my mom’s job and this website that employees there tend to get discounts for on a variety of things. A typical 1-day ticket to Disneyland (per person) costs $174, for an adult. With my mom’s discount, we were able to get our tickets for $149. Similarly with Universal Studios, one ticket normally costs about $139, and we were able to get them for $94.50. Unfortunately I don’t have any tips and tricks for this one other then to try googling discount codes or seeing if your job or anyone you know’s job offers discounted prices on things like this.
2. Souvenirs & Food. This one is kind of hard to write and talk about just because I didn’t bother to calculate how much I/we spent on food or souvenirs, and even if I did, it wouldn’t really matter just because stuff like that depends on the particular person traveling. Personally, whenever I travel anywhere, I’m a huge souvenir person, that’s just how I am, but Diego for instance isn’t. I have to like force him to get little souvenirs because he’s fine with just experiencing the places, taking pictures/videos, and just being good that way. As for food, again it depends on the person or people you’re with, as well as yourself. We ate at a few different places in the Disney parks, we got In n Out, we tried this bakery called Susie Cakes, we tried this place called the Rose Cafe for breakfast one day and then we bought the food in bulk from Walmart for all the other days we were there.
So, all in all, when calculating everything, yes we still spent a decent amount, BUT it just basically comes down to being mindful of your spending habits and looking for deals whenever you can. At the end of the day, it’s vacation so you should be splurging a little, BUT there are also ways to be smart about it like finding affordable apps for flights, places to stay, etc.
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I hope you guys enjoyed this post and that it gave you a better perspective as to the cost(s) of a trip like this, more specifically when you’re in a group and on somewhat of a tight budget.
Also, just an FYI that I did 2 travel vlogs on my YouTube channel completely showing how our trip went in both San Francisco and Los Angeles , which, if you haven’t already done so, you should DEFINITELY check it out. It also shows you a better idea/view of the airbnbs in case the pictures on the site aren’t that great.
Don’t forget to like and subscribe to the channel btw to stay up to date with all of my videos 😉 .
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you guys in my next post.
-Xoxo, LeoGirl ❤