I have taken it upon myself to see if I can spend less than $50 a day when traveling. I usually try to stick to this budget but I’ve never really actually tracked down every single Penny or swipe from my credit cards to see if I actually keep my word. Travel can be affordable if you save up, search the deals, and go to destinations that are realistic to your budget.
How do I know if a destination is realistic to my budget? Well, I wrote a neat post about that which you can read here about it, Research is the keyword. Before I go into how I spent my $50 a day I want to mention that this budget does NOT include flights and accommodations, but I did spend very little on both.
Where Did I Start?
I found a deal to LAX on Frontier airlines for $97 to fly direct from MCO (Orlando, FL)! Yes, you read that correctly! On SkyScanner.com you can set up deal alerts that will notify you when a flight that you’re interested goes up or down in Price. Every couple of days I would get alerts and I soon as I saw it was under $100, I booked the flight right away. I didn’t purchase any luggage as I was going to be in LA for a long weekend and the weather was requiring dresses and sun hats.
Next, I started to look where I was going to stay for free or at a very, very low cost. On Facebook, I am a part of an amazing community of women travelers called Girls Love Travel. We empower each other to travel more, share our best tips, and connect with women all over the world. They have teamed up with overnight to create a space where women and stay “overnight” with other GLT women. I searched around and remembered that one of my friends, Pachi, from Chile was studying at UCLA (a fellow GTLer) so I reached out and she told me that her Couch had my name on it as long as I cooked some of her favorite meals for her. Done.
Now that I’ve spent $97 and promised one morning to cooking, it was time to explore the city.
I reached out to GLT again and asked what should a first timer like me on a budget do in LA. I also did research on Pinterest and Trip Advisor and before I knew it, my schedule was full! Remember that the prices you see are per person as everyone was paying their own way. Here is what I did:
Day 1: Part Travel Day/part Explore Santa Monica:
Uber to MCO Airport. I made sure to pack lots of snacks (whatever I had in the house, thanks dad) and an empty bottle of water to fill up once I passed TSA.
As soon as I arrived a friend of mine picked me up from the airport and we went straight to Santa Monica for happy hour.
After that, we explore the Santa Monica Pier and just wandered around the area. By then it was pretty late we were pooped. So we went back to my friend Pachi’s house that lives in Westwood. We spilt the Uber fare between three people.
TOTAL DAY 1 COST: $30
Day 2: Downtown LA Area
This is going to be full day 1 for us and we got up early to take advantage of the day. We had a good breakfast of eggs, toast, and coffee (such an amazing host) and then we meet up with some of her friends that have been living in LA for over a year and the love to show people around Downtown LA. Just my luck right? We could have taken a bus to downtown but it would have taken over an hour, so we just spilt the fare of an uber.
We went everywhere: Disney Philharmonic center, Bradbury Building (Where Blade runner was filmed) City Hall, The last bookstore, MOCHA, and stopped into Grand Central Market for lunch. All for free
I chose to eat at Lunch at Mad Capra, which serves farm-to-table falafel sandwiches & unique drinks. I ordered the orange sandwich with a Mexican coke. It tastes different because its make from sugar cane sugar and it’s served in a glass bottle.
For dessert and motivation to keep on walking so we grabbed an ice cream from McConnell Fine Ice Cream Shop before leaving Grand Central Station.
The odds were in our favor and we went into The Broad (free). Spent about an hour or so inside. After The broad, we wanted to check out the Art District and so we walked because it wasn’t too far. Plus we made a quick stop in Little Tokyo. It was so cool. I wish I were hungry to eat something. Definitely, need to go back and hang out more in that area. Didn’t spend a dime.
We walked around the Art District and discovered an amazing gallery by Lili Lakich who creates amazing art using neon lights. She doesn’t have visiting hours of her gallery, you just have to roll the dice and hope that she is around. Let me tell you, it was amazing to see everything in there. We visited a few more galleries before ended up for a cold beer at Angels City Brewery. The place was packed for a Friday afternoon.
The sun was setting and it was time to start planning for what we were going to do at night. So those friends who gave us a city tour drove us back to Pachi’s house. One of her classmates from the Law Program she is doing at UCLA was celebrating their birthday and her house has become the party central since she has this amazing rooftop terrace. Everyone was bringing something to the party; Pachi and I made Sangria for everyone since it is one of our favorite things to drink when we were both in Chile. Want that recipe and cool story? Check it out here.
TOTAL DAY 2 COST: 49.75
Day 3: Saturday Recover Mode Beach Style.
We wake up in the morning completely exhausted. Officially, I will say it’s because we walked 8.6 miles around Downtown LA. Unofficially, we went to bed at 7 AM(that sangria gets you going and no one wanted to leave).
We turned our Saturday into a beach day and spent the whole day in Santa Monica and Venice Areas. Before heading out to Santa Monica, we had to recharge our energies with the famous In-N-Out Burgers that everyone on the west coast raves about. Animal Fries and all.
Our bellies were full and it was time for a nap on the beach. So we jumped on the Bus and headed towards Santa Monica. Once we woke up, we walked down to Venice beach along the coast to check out a free music concert that was going on.
Pachi and I got hungry again, so we meet up with her classmates for, you guessed it, another burger. This one was a little fancier and I decided to try the veggie burger (Califresh Burger) and it was out of this world. Served with a Kellerwise Wheat Ale and split a serving of tater tots with Pachi.
We all headed back (someone had a car) to the house to Chill and drink the leftover beers from the night before.
TOTAL DAY 3 COST: $36.80
Day 4: Museums and Griffith Observatory
I’m not the biggest Fans of Museums but Los Angeles has so many good ones that I had to give in and check them out. Most of them have great walking tours that are free so you’re hearing the story behind the artwork instead of just pondering about art. Pachi and I first to an uber to the Getty Center.
Then we got hungry and took another uber to the Originals Farmer Market. It was very similar to the Grand Central Market but with a more homey feeling to it.
COST: $4.30 (not a mistake, just a coincidence)
Our lunch was fantastic. We wanted to eat the Brazilian Pampas place was the line was so long that we didn’t want to wait. So we settled for the next best thing, The Jumbo Pot, and it didn’t disappoint. Plus we got an ice from for the road.
We saw on the maps that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, was pretty close. General admission is $15 but there are lots of things to see outside for free; the tar pits totally surprised me and of course, the famous Lamp Posts right in the main entrance. If you cross the street from LACMA you can find the longest stretch of original Berlin Wall outside of Germany. Definitely worth seeing. In total, we went about an hour there and then got uber to the Griffith Observatory.
There is a reason you should save this for last, especially in the evening time. The Sunset is spectacular from here. You can see the Hollywood sign from the distance. Once you go inside the Observatory, there is so much to do. We had just missed the last viewing of a tour through the universe film that cost about $7. Would have totally done it. We also waiting in line to look through the telescopes (free) and I saw Saturn and the moon. To get back to Pachi’s house we decided to take the bus. It was going to be the same time as uber, so we wanted to try it. There is a Dash Bus that takes you up and down the hill for .50 cents and then the bus that drops us off 1 block away from Pachis for 1.75
TOTAL DAY 4 COST: $32.55
Day 5: Cooking/UCLA
I promised Pachi my home cooking in exchange for a place to stay so this was the day that we had scheduled to cook. Before cooking, we went out to UCLA to check out the campus and she showed me where she went to class and I also got the chance to say goodbye to her classmates.
We had to grab some Lunch and I ate Bi Bim Bam at the local Korean BQQ Spot near UCLA. My goodness, it was SO GOOD
On our way back to the house, you guessed it, we stopped for ice cream. Diddy Reece is famous for its amazing cookies. So what did I get? An ice cream Sandwich. I WAS IN HEAVEN. The best 2 bucks spent on this trip. No Joke!
The rest of the day was spent cooked and chatting until it was time for me to go. I found out there is LAX Flyaway bus that will take you to LAX for $10. They leave every hour on the hour from different points in LA. I decided to Uber pool because it was only $5 more and I wanted to spend as much time with Pachi as I could.
TOTAL DAY 5 COST: $28.80
So, How did I do? Did I accomplish my goal?
I sure did. I managed to stay under budget. YAY for me!!! In total, my trip was well under $300 and on average I spent $35 a day. I’m sure that I could have lowered my daily spending if I would have taken the bus or not eat out as often as I did. But I am personally proud of myself. You have to enjoy your vacation and I have definitely enjoyed my self to the fullest. I wouldn’t have changed a thing and I know I need to get back to LA ASAP. I didn’t grab a good souvenir. I know that this city has so much more budget-friendly things to do that I can come back 3-4 more times and not repeat anything.
I hope ya’ll are able to pick up and few things from my time in LA. Let me know if you have any questions or want to suggest a place for my next visit.
Remember when you give good, you get good.