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Budget California

9 replies

suedonim · 14/04/2003 04:39

My student son and his girlfriend hope to go to California this summer and are looking for budget accomodation. Everything they've found so far has been $60 a night or more. Is there anything like the Youth Hostel Association, or any other places at the cheaper end of the market? They are starting out from Los Angeles.

Also, what are the 'must see's' of Califonia?

OP posts:
chickster · 14/04/2003 07:36

My husband and I spent part of our honeymoon in California and they must spend some time driving down the coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The coastline is really wild and awesome, to use an Americanism. The area around Monterey, Pebble Beach and 17 mile drive, and the aquarium at Monterey are all fantastic. If they are not limited by time there is so much to do and see, but depends on their interests - may not be the same as honeymooners!!!

valleygirl · 14/04/2003 11:53

Buy a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide - they will have plenty of recommendations on cheap hostels/accommodation in California - it's not that cheap to stay in hotels any more, so the backpacker travel guides are the best for advice. To get around cheaply I would recommend travelling by Greyhound - it's not that comfy, and it is reknowned for the weirdos it can attract, but it's a good service between LA and San Francisco - and I'm sure you can still buy passes that allow stopping off en route.
I would recommend staying either in Santa Monica or Venice Beach in LA - it is possible to get by without a car there, and I know there is a hostel in Santa Monica by the beach. Having lived in California I think LA is best avoided if possible, and spend more time up in San Francisco and the north. Much cooler and easier to get around. Santa Barbara is a lovely town hour and a half north of LA, and great beach front/atmosphere.
If they really want to drive (and I think you have to be 21 and over to rent a car in the States still) then why not try a Driveaway, where you get a car for nothing, pay for petrol and reloccate the car - i am sure a search on the internet will come up with results. I did LA to Miami with Driveaway, and we had 8 days to do the journey, which was great fun, and not too rushed.
if need any other advice glad to try and help.

zebra · 14/04/2003 12:50

I'm a California native and therefore biased...
Camping is a reliably cheap and reasonable option in most parts of the state, except big cities and high mountains in winter. There is something like YHA, but be wary of thieves in the big cities. When MIL flew out for our wedding she insisted on paying no more than $50/for a single hotel room... we could only find her a dive at that price in San Diego, but she managed a lot of hotels for less in other places. Hotel and airfare prices have dived since 11 Sept 2001...

My British friends tell me their fave California places are the Redwood parks (esp. Big Basin state park), deserts (Death Valley being terrific outside of summer time), the coastal route Chickster mentioned (watch for sea otters!), city of San Francisco, Yosemite Valley and the San Diego Zoo. Personally I would add to that list Joshu tree national monument/park?, and hiking in the high Sierras.

suedonim · 14/04/2003 13:17

Wow, loads of ideas here, thank you! LA is a 'must do' because my other son is getting married there, so some time will have to be spent in the vicinity, but otherwise they'll be free agents. DS2 is 23, so maybe a car hire - Driveaway sounds very good - is feasible. Many thanks again.

OP posts:
SamboM · 14/04/2003 13:21

I would hire a car and drive from LA to SF. If I was 23 I would LOVE Santa Cruz (loved it anyway actually). Also Sonoma and Napa are great if he is into wine, but prob a bit expensive. The whole Big Sur/Monterey/Carmel bit is lovely, a v dramatic drive. Has he considered hiring a camper van type thing instead of a car then accommodation would be included.

Does he have his own house/flat (rented or owned)? We did a house swap from London to SF and swapped cars too, check out if it is appropriate. It was brilliant, we didn't have to pay for accommodation or car hire so when we went to other places it meant we could afford to really splash out.

Philippat · 14/04/2003 14:51

Motel 6! (sorry too lazy to do links). Some are more expensive than others (the ones in the big cities) but if you plan where you stay, it can be cheap but fine ($40 or so). Camping in national parks I can also recommend - very cheap and on a honour system of payment usually. Fairly basic but beautiful, however it relies on you never having seen any US horror movies or the Xfiles as you really are on your own! There's a chain of campsites called KOA which sometimes have cabins - no idea how expensive, as I seem to remember just a tent with them was a bit pricey but can be very central.

Car hire can be cheap if you go for a small model without the added extras (although be wary of not accepting CDW as that could get very expensive if you hit someone), especially as gas is so cheap. Hiring an RV is very expensive but if they are more into roughing it, you can fit a blow up mattress into the back of a mini van (a sort of espace sized car) if you move the seats. Hiring a car at the airport or a city is more expensive than in medium-sized towns, and there are rent-a-wreck type places.

Personally, I wouldn't travel Greyhound, but trains are not an option (much more expensive than hiring a car). There used to be a hippy type bus that travelled between San Diego and Seattle called Green Tortoise which was supposed to be great fun but no idea if that still exists.

Food can be cheap, so it doesn't really make an expensive holiday.

Route 101 from LA to SF is gorgeous but quite scenic and empty rather than the thrill of americana. At 23, is that what they want? They might be better heading south down the surfing coast to San Diego (not a place to be at the minute if you're anti-war)and popping into Mexico (you can get into Tijuana without a passport - it's tacky but it's wild). Or through Death Valley/over to Big Bear ski & mountain biking through to Las Vegas (the cheapest place in the world to stay).

Meanmum · 14/04/2003 15:49

You can get The Rough Guide and Lonely Planet guides from your local library. They even have them on sale sometimes. We have a couple on the US (but they're a few years old) so your son can certainly borrow them if he wants. We're obviously not using them at the moment and I really have no issue loaning them out. Just tell me where to post them. I'm not sure how you do that but I think I saw somewhere that you contact mumsnet direct and they can pass on my email account and we can go from there.

suedonim · 15/04/2003 13:31

An abundance of ideas, thank you. I'll probably pass on the house exchange for now as ds is living in our house while we're living abroad. I've done a houseswap in the UK before and it is a good idea, though, which maybe dh and I will do in the future!!

Meanmum, that's a very generous offer. I hope you don't mind if I don't take you up on it as our mail is being redirected and I wouldn't want to risk them going missing. Thank you for being so kind.

OP posts:
Meanmum · 15/04/2003 14:03

Suedonim - no problem at all. Definitely get them to check out the library for copies though.

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