Couples have been California Dreaming of romantic getaways in the Golden State since before the first car zipped down Route 66 to the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a land of sunshine, surf, and superstars.
There’s no reason to go anywhere else for a dream vacation for the 50 million people living in California and the surrounding states. Gas up before the state line and watch your burn rate along the coast, and you can have your choice of desert, beach, or mountain vacations. If you shop well for your hotel and flights, you can find cheap California vacations from anywhere in the county.
America’s finest city is also our first choice for cheap California vacations. S.D. has the best beaches in California for surfing, swimming, and scuba diving, along with the world-famous San Diego Zoo. With the beach resorts of Mission Bay, the gilded age elegance of the Hotel Del, and the urban appeal of the Gaslamp District and Little Italy, it’s easy to see why San Diego is a beloved destination. The trick is how to do San Diego on a budget.
First off, because of traffic in the L.A. Basin, it’s easier to get to San Diego beaches for anybody in Southern California, Nevada, or Arizona for anybody living outside of Los Angeles County or the O.C. Secondly, because of the trolly system and hop-on /hop-off buses, you can visit San Diego car-free if you fly. There are many cheap things to do in San Diego, including biking and the beach, and the hotels are much more reasonable than you might expect. Finally, here’s our ace in the hole – the King of Happy Hour website. There are so many happy hour specials in San Diego, especially Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, that you never need to pay full price for meals.
OK, T.J. isn’t in California, but it’s so cool that you can take the trolly and walk into Mexico. Once you’re there, you can go to extreme water parks, culinary tours, art tours, or just hang out for tequila and tacos.
If you’re brave enough, you can get a hotel and stay overnight, but most people just come down for the day. Another more “exciting” adventure is to get insurance and drive into Baja. The “lobster loop” to Ensenada and the wineries of Guadalupe Valley is simply an incredible weekend road trip.
Malibu, Santa Barbara, Oxnard… One of these things isn’t like the other. And if you’re a bargain vacation shopper, you’ll choose the one with the best tacos. Oxnard has beach resorts that don’t suck your wallet like aggressive liposuction. It also has fun things to do, like boat trips to Channel Island National Park.
Two major Navy bases in Oxnard are Port Hueneme and Point Mugu, which means a lot of travelers on government rates bring their families for a bit of beach time. Plus, the drive from LAX to Oxnard up Highway 1 is like you’re in the movies. Once you know what Point Magu Rock looks like, you’ll realize how often it appears as a Hollywood backdrop.
The Big Sur road trip gets a lot of love, but it takes work to turn into a full-fledged vacation. Reaching the beach is hard, and there aren’t really resort hotels. If you drive north out of San Francisco through the redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants, you’ll reach the sleepy coastal town of Eureka.
Budget travelers will love the price point of Eureka hotels and Humboldt Bay eco-tours. Everything is mellower in Eureka, including the dining. If you’re looking for more free things to do, there’s hiking and biking through the redwoods everywhere, and the coastal habitats of Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge are some of the most biologically rich places worldwide.
Mount Shasta is a giant, not-so-extinct volcano in northern California. It erupts every 800 years, but may have yet to erupt since Moses led his people to the promised land. USGS scientists predict a 1% chance of eruption at Medicine Lake volcano, a 3.5% chance at Mount Shasta, and a 2% chance at Lassen Peak in the next 30 years. So you’re not risking death, but you do get to enjoy an alpine playground of forests and lakes.
There’s plenty of hiking, mountain biking, and disc golf around Mt Shasta, including downhill trails and scenic rides during the ski resort’s summer operations. There’s even rafting on the Klamath River and paddling all around Siskiyou. Word to the wise- Heart Lake Trail is AMAZING! All you need to do is pack the car and pick your hotel.
Big Bear is SoCal’s answer to Mt Shasta. Sure, maybe it doesn’t have all the epic alpine scenery, but it’s so much closer. You still get the trails and downhill biking, but save big on gas. Plus, it’s so much closer to Los Angeles.
You can still find cute lodging around Big Bear, including cabins, and plenty of things to do, including convenient paddle sports on Big Bear Lake and all the hiking you can handle in Castle Rock State Park.
California camping is extraordinary because of the temperate weather and gorgeous locations. The problem is that everybody knows this, and the prices and availability at California’s State and National Parks are horrible. Here’s our travel hack for California camping vacations – county parks.
Most counties around the state have camping in their parks that’s objectively nice, affordable, and available. Here’s the campground resource we used when we lived in San Diego. Notice that you can get anywhere in the state you want. You might not be by the ocean, but you can find rivers and lakes to splash in and drive to the prime attractions. If you’re really cheap, there are even free campsites in California; you just have to know where to look.
There are many reasons for couples to take cheap vacations. You may be on a budget and trying to retire early or want to balance expenses on a trip between luxury stays and heart-pounding adventures. Most importantly, you shouldn’t sacrifice your fun just because you’re looking for low budget vacation ideas.
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What are the most romantic getaways in Southern California? For active couples, SoCal offers a little bit of everything from luxurious beach hotels to cozy mountain cabins. From the bright lights of Los Angeles to the starlight of the open desert, we’ll show you the best couples vacations or romantic California staycation.
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San Francisco is considered one of America’s greatest cities. We’ve designed 5 self-guided San Francisco walking tour routes that are not just easy to follow, they take you to all of the famous sites in one full and photogenic day. What’s more, these tours are 100% designed around public transportation!
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Looking to chill on the best beaches in San Diego? How about sipping craft beer at some of San Diego’s finest breweries? Why not combine the two for a perfect pairing. Read on to get the inside scoop…
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