I am here to outline my affordable family vacation in California. As a single mother who likes to travel it is important to plan a budget friendly vacation whenever possible. California is an expensive area in itself so it was only going to be but so cheap, but I say that I did pretty well with keeping my family vacation in California Budget Friendly.
Family vacation in California ~ The Flight
I felt like the flight was worth mentioning because not all flights are created equal. I live in Virginia and we were flying to California, so the flight was something I was not willing to compromise on. If you want the cheapest flight then you can go through Spirit. But after I flew them in my Minnesota vacation (click here), I refused to do this again.
At the end of the day I have a kid, I have a kid that needs to be occupied for a 6 hour plane ride and I felt that Delta did the best job. It did cost more but they provided free headphones and they had a TV on the back on the chair to keep my child and myself entertained the whole way. I watched the series Claws by the way. They also served dinner on the plane for free of cost along with several snacks.
An honorable mention is the Alaska airline which we flew coming back from California. It is a little cheaper but if you want your child to be entertained you have to pay for a tablet and headphones separate from the flight. They did offer snacks on the plane but no meal unless you wanted to pay for it.
Family vacation in California ~ Arrival
We arrived at the Los Angeles Airport. I personally would fly into this airport over the other ones because it is bigger and a major airport which typically means flying into LA means a cheaper flight. Since we were not going to be in LA the whole time we did opt to rent a car. Which could also be expensive.
But, I chose to rent a car from 24 car hour car rental. It is the cheapest place to rent a car and no matter what time you fly in they can get you a car. I would recommended reserving online first because although the office is near the airport someone has to drive and come get you. And with the way the traffic is around the airport it can take quite a while. The car itself was decent. It did not have automatics locks nor was it a luxury car. But it is the cheapest and if you do not mind manually unlocking doors and rolling down the windows, then you can save yourself $20 per day, which for me came out to saving over $200 for the time I had the car, over the other car rental places.
Family Vacation In California ~ LA
Taking a family vacation in California means that you should try to see as much as you can. Since we flew into LA, we chose to stay there overnight and see LA the next day before heading somewhere else. The cheapest hotel to stay at in the area that is still family appropriate and does not have drug addicts hanging around or anything was the Hampton Inn Los Angeles Int’l Airport Hawthorne. It was about $100 per night at the time we went, which is really affordable for the area as compared to other hotels in the area.
When we got to the hotel, the area does not look super ideal on the outside, but it is not dangerous or anything. There was free parking in the parking garage and the room was really nice. As a bonus you get free breakfast, which for family vacations you want to save on as many things as possible including breakfast.
The next day we went to Hollywood and Highland. You can park in one of the many decks which can be expensive. However, if you park under a specific restaurant and eat at that restaurant they will validate your parking so you will not have to pay. We ended up eating at Trastevere Ristorante.
In Hollywood and Highland you can just walked around and people gaze, following the stars that are imprinted on the ground. They also have museums and tours. Some tours are cheaper than others, which if you are looking for a really cheap option you can take those. For us, we took the TMZ tour. My mother is a huge fan of TMZ and they have a reputation for celebrity sightings. They are a bit expensive but we used my mother’s military discount to get a better price.
For us it was worth it because we saw a celebrity on this tour. Anthony Anderson from the show Blackish. He came on the bus to talk to us and he even took pictures with us. So although it was more money than the other tours, it was money well spent.
I even made it on TMZ!
On Hollywood and Highland there was live entertainment so you can choose to just window shop, walk around, and spend no money what so ever if you want to. The area has a lot going on where you can do that.
Family Vacation in California ~ San Diego
Having a car rental allows you to drive to other areas so that you can make the most of your family vacation in California. So we chose to drive near the San Diego area. Which is about two hours away. We did have family in the area so we did not have to pay for a hotel. But if you do have to pay for a hotel since you have a rental car you can stay in the cheaper places outside of San Diego, as oppose to staying in San Diego itself to save money.
We went to a shopping center that was not in San Diego but near San Diego called, Carlsbad (The Shoppes). This allowed for us to eat, get some shopping done, and to avoid the crowds. The mall was a decent size mall and it was not crowded at all.
Some of the major family friendly places you can see in San Diego of course if the Zoo. They have two Zoo’s that are not near each other. The San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Zoo. We chose to go to the San Diego Safari Zoo. Once again the tickets can seem like a lot of money, but it is pretty much standard for the area.
When you visit the San Diego Safari Zoo they have many Safari that you can go on for a separate price. Some of them can cost over $100! Don’t do that! Just pay for general admission which is about $50. Included in this price is the Cheetah run, where you get to see an actual cheetah run. That is a standing only event and can get very crowded to I recommend you get there early.
And the African Safari, where you get to see a lot of animals through this event when riding on a tram. So really there is no need to go on an additional Safari unless you just want to pay additional money. The Safari that comes with the general admission ticket is the most family friendly Safari anyway and is safe for all age.
So this pretty much rounds up my family friendly vacation in California. Please note that you can really do all of this in just 3 days maybe 4. That way you do not have to just spend money for no reason on hotels. In this plan you get to see two major cities, and if you are going to California you should want to see as many places as you can in one shot.