Travelling in California: 14 Money and Time Saving Tips

Good day to you. I have just returned from a 40 day trip to California. I realized that if I knew a few things before I went, it could have saved me a reasonable amount of money. Now I can save you money before you go to tour the beautiful state of California. 

Below is my experience in travelling California and tips to help you save.

Let us begin. Here are 14 money and time saving tips.

  • Tip # 1: Fly to John Wayne Airport.

The airport is small and easy to navigate. You do not need to walk long distances to get where you want to get. Bathrooms are neat and you will find a Starbucks very soon. John Wayne or Santa Anna Airport is close to everything. When I arrived I did not know where I wanted to go, so sleeping in Orange County the 1st night was the best decision. Down Town Santa Anna is not to great but 30$ drive with a cab will get you to a nearby Inn. I suggest that you do not take the bus from the Airport. After flying you need a taxi to take you straight to your room.

  • Tip # 2: Use the public transport.

Busses and trains are great ways to get around. I will give you more advice on this. When I arrived I did some research on car rentals and even buying a car. I could buy a car for under 1000$ and rent for about 20$ a day. But the problem was insurance. The insurance more than doubled the price so I decided not to rent or buy a car. The problem I had was that walking took to much time and I needed some type of transportation that would shorten the distances between public transport system and places I wanted to see. A friend of a friend then made a suggestion that I use his bicycle. All major City’s have a day pass for less than 5$. This means that you can travel anywhere in that city or county for less than 5$. Hop onto a bus and then into a train all with the same day pass.

  • Tip # 3: Buy a bicycle.

You can buy a decent 2ndhand bicycle for about 200$. The advantage of a bicycle is that all transport methods, busses and trains have racks for bicycles. Now you can see more of California in a shorter time, get to where you want to be quicker, but you stay in contact with the people and the scenery.

  • Tip # 4: Start from the south and travel to the North.

I decided to start south and work my way up California to the north. I took my bicycle and with public transport (the trolleys in San Diego) went to the border of Mexico and with my back to the border started my travels. From there on explore every town and City possible. In every Inn or hotel you stay there will be at least 50 pamphlets of things to do. You will not miss a thing. California was born from San Diego upwards and that is why it flows easily when traveling in this direction.

  • Tip # 5: Ask the people.

One of the first lessons I learned was to ask the Metro bus drivers. I would climbed unto a bus and tell the buss driver where I want to go. He would then tell me the rout. “Get of on Broad Road crossing. Take the 91 and then the 1 and then the 81.” He would also call me to the front and remind me that I need to climb off at the next stop.  Some times I am on the bus for more than an hour and the driver will still remind me where to climb off.  They love to chat with tourists.  I must say that having a Black Berry helped a lot.

  • Tip # 6: T-mobile is the best.

I purchased a T-mobile pre-paid sim card for 49-95$. Unlimited talk and text. I added unlimited text and land lines international for only 10$ and Blackberry for another 10$. This meant that I could phone any international land line for free and talk unlimited. I could text unlimited my friends and family. My customers appreciated the fact that I phoned them from overseas to discuss purchases all for only 10$ extra. My Blackberry worked very well. Only the weather apps and travel apps did not work well. The Google maps app worked very well and I could navigate my way through California easily and accurately. The app even told me what busses and trains to take with a 99% accuracy. Sometimes I took a bus unnecessary and could have taken the bicycle rather than waiting.

  • Tip # 7: Book your hotels on

What a great website. You can book the morning before you leave the hotel for the same evening, or you can book the previous night. Rates differ for 3 nights. If you can book 3 nights at a time you will get the best price. At some hotels you can negotiate with the receptionist and get a few dollars of a night that is if you want to stay longer. But with many of them I went back to my room and booked a cheaper rate on You can also bid for a price, but you have to take the hotel if you bid is accepted, so I rather want to be in control of that. Small things make a difference like HBO, free internet, breakfast and swimming pool. Also, be aware that if you search for a hotel on, near a place it is not always near. Near is a relative concept for that website. Use Google map to make sure where it is and phone the Hotel to check for other specials or better rates. I travelled inseason and paid for a room, 2 to share, between 63$ and 79$ tax included.

  • Tip # 8: Buy your own food.

Most of the Inns have a microwave and a fridge. It is much cheaper to buy your own food than to buy it from a restaurant. Most groceries stores have loyalty cards. Safeway, ens. The 1st time you buy something from them apply and get your loyalty card. You can safe up to 50% on food en drinks. They are not stricked and you do not have to be an American Citizen to get a card. You will also receive the loyalty card immediately and get immediate discount. I love pizzas.  Keep you ear close to the ground, meaning listen when add are running on the television.  Pizza hut had a great special and I could buy a pizza and a 2 liter Coke that fed me for 2 days. 

  • Tip # 9: Take a lot of pictures.

I do most of my travelling alone and in the beginning I often forgot to take pictures. Most of the time everything is new so you becomes overwhelming. Remind yourself to take a lot of picture. Do not be shy to ask people around you to take pictures. For obvious reasons do not ask a person standing alone to take the picture. He might take more than the picture if you get my drift.  Ask some one in a group, a dad with his family or one of 2 girlfriends. When you see other tourists ask them if you can take a picture for them in exchange for them taking a picture of you like I did in the picture below. Even if you are a group of people.  One always seem to be behind the camera and now where to be found on any picture.

  • Tip # 10: Know where you are going at night.

If you are planning to go somewhere at night, visit the place in the day time. Evenings are not for exploring. Sure you cannot stay in your room all night, but do not explore at night. Know where you are going.

  • Tip # 11: By a 21day / 7day Amtrak Pass.

Amtrak has a California - 21 day/7 day pass. This means that you can travel for 7 days of 21 days for about 160$. It is great to know that your travels between Cities will only cost 160$ for the full duration of your travels. And if something goes wrong with your Credit Card you can always go back home. If Amtrak does not have a train that travels to a town it will take you there with a bus. The bicycle will also fit into the bus. These long distance busses have space for bicycles below the bus. Amtrak may ask you to purchase a box (15$) and pay an extra 5$ for the bike but is is still worth your while.  You need a steering wheel spanner to loosen your steering wheel to fit in the box. In all my travels from the border of Mexico to Redding and back I never had to buy a box or loosen my steering wheel. I did pay the extra 5$ though. :-)

  • Tip #12: Take a bus tour.

In Hollywood and San Francisco I would recommend that you take California Tour Packages by bus. They charge about 60$ in Hollywood and 20$ in San Francisco. These tours will show you places, like Michael Jacksons and Elvis Presley's house that you will not have know otherwise. This is worth the Money.

Getting to the Hollywood sign is a mission.  But keep your eye on the sign and you will find a walkway going around to the back of the sign.  Keep on going it is a hell of a way but worth the walk/ bike ride.   No Cars unforntunatly.

  • Tip # 13: Buy the correct back pack

I bought a good size back pack from Big 5 Sporting goods for only 70$.  I negotiated a discount.

  • Tip # 14: Budget 100$ a day

All and all you are going to struggle to tour California for less than 100$ a day.