How to Travel Los Angeles on a Budget

Los Angeles, California is the second largest city in the United States. Because it is a very popular place to visit, the cost of visiting LA is significantly higher than other tourist destinations. That’s why when I found a round-trip flight from Chicago to Los Angeles for $112, I freaked out and booked it ASAP!

I planned to go on this trip with two other friends and PRO TIP that’s one way you can lower the cost of travel since you can split housing costs between many people. The goal for us was to plan an affordable girls’ trip since we are recent college graduates with not much money to our name. We tried to avoid the expensive tourist destinations. Sadly, this means no Disneyland and no Universal Studios, but there are so many free things to do in LA that we never felt bored during our stay.

Below, I break down my costs for visiting LA. I was there for a total of 10 days, which definitely makes it a little more expensive, but I was able to explore a lot and enjoy myself without severely breaking the bank.

Transportation – $164.2

Flight – $112.60

The biggest way to cut down costs for a trip is to find the cheapest flight possible. This involves being flexible with your travel dates and times. I used to find my flight. This website browses through various different airlines and provides you with the all of the options for your dates. With this website, I was able to look at the calendar for the trips heading to LA, and I found an amazing deal for November.

I highly recommend that you visit a place during its off-peak season. This means try to go somewhere when many other tourists aren’t. This lowers the cost of flights and accommodation, as well. Because most tourists visit LA during the summer, November was a great time to visit and helped lower the cost of my flight. In case you’re wondering, the airline I flew with was United and my flight was direct. Thank goodness for no layovers! I was very fortunate with this deal, but the downside is that you have to pay extra for a carry-on bag. This may seem like a huge issue for many, but I was able to pack everything I needed in my large backpack. Squeezing everything into my bag was definitely worth it for a very cheap flight.

Metro Subway & Bus – $45

I think the Metro unlimited 7-day pass was crucial for our trip. It cost us $27, which consists of $2 for the initial Tapcard cost and $25 for the pass itself. This pass included unlimited Metro subway and bus rides for seven full days. It was such a great deal! We added $15 for the remaining days to cover the extra rides for those three days (and I lost my card on the bus so I ended up paying the $2 fee again – so sad). Overall, the public transportation in Los Angeles was very affordable. They also offer some DASH buses that only cost $0.50 and take you to popular destinations like the Griffith Observatory. I highly recommend you check out the DASH buses!

Uber and Lyft – $7.2

We took about two Ubers during the entire trip. The unlimited Metro pass made it really easy to not need to Uber. Well… I shouldn’t say it was easy because we did end up spending a lot of time waiting on buses that never showed up. BUT they got us to where we needed to go in the end and they definitely saved a ton on transportation costs. Gas prices in Los Angeles are ridiculous. Do not expect to pay under $4 per gallon on gas while you’re there. That’s one of the main reasons why we didn’t want to get a rental car during our stay and because rental car companies charge extra for drivers under 25 so it was best to avoid that mess entirely.

If you’re new to Uber, you can get $2 off your first 3 rides by using my code jennifera32ui.


If you’re new to Lyft, you can get a $5 ride credit if you use my code ALVAREZ03668. Yes, I am the queen of coupon codes.

Bikes – $7.5

We decided to bike in Venice Beach to take in the views of the (crazy) Boardwalk and the stunning beaches. We found a bike rental place that charged us $15 for two bikes and we split the cost between two of us. This was the cost for an hour and that was plenty of time to bike the Venice beachfront. I definitely think it was worth it! And the bikes were pink so it can’t get any cuter! There are so many places along the boardwalk that rent bikes, scooters, and skateboards that it shouldn’t be hard to find a ride that suits you.

Accommodation – $184

Finding a cheap Airbnb at a good location took a little bit longer to figure out. I checked back on the website regularly to see if there were any new listings, and thankfully, I was able to find a place that was a great deal. We were able to book a private room and split the cost to $184 each for 9 nights! I think finding your own bed in LA for $20/night is uncommon, but with a little digging, you can find similar offers. If you’re interested in booking the same place I did, you can find the listing here. I highly recommend staying here. The place was very clean and included many amenities, such as free parking, free laundry, and FREE Keurig coffee (yes, I took advantage of that every morning). It’s also located in a central location in Midtown with easy access to many bus routes. I only included the room I stayed in during my trip, but I know there are various other rooms within the same house that you can book, as well.

Also, if you’re new to Airbnb and would like to receive a travel credit for your first stay, sign up with my invite link! You can get up to $40 off your first stay and $15 off your first experience booked through Airbnb.

Food – $278.27

Since we were able to save so much on airfare and accommodation, we decided that we wanted to splurge just a little bit on food. After all, Los Angeles is one of the best places for foodies and I wanted to treat myself. I will be writing a separate blog post on the best places to eat in LA so if you’re interested in that follow my blog and socials to receive updates!

For now, I’m covering the cost of food in LA. And trust me, this can really add up. To lower our costs a little, we decided to buy bagels and cream cheese for breakfast (and have some of that free coffee, of course). That means we were having two meals each day during our stay, but we were never hungry since we also bought small snacks along the way.

Dine-in Meals – $237.82

You can find a huge range of food prices in LA. From $1 tacos to lavish and EXPENSIVE meals there is something for everyone in this city. My average meal cost was $8 to $13 for when I was dining out at a fast food or casual dining place. The highest price I paid for a meal ranged between $20 to $25 for casual dining and upscale dining. I did my best to choose cheaper options so no lobster and caviar from me, but I did have amazing pizza and pasta so that higher price was definitely worth it.

If you’re limiting yourself to two meals per day, then expect to pay about $20 to $24 per day. The Airbnb comes with a nice kitchen so I recommend buying some groceries and cooking breakfast or dinner there to help make the trip more affordable.

Dessert – $17.95

I also splurged just a teensy bit on dessert. So… maybe I spent $7 on soft serve ice cream. In my defense, it was one of the best soft serves I’ve ever had so I can’t say I regret my decision. In total, I had three ice cream cones while I was here because it was summer weather and I wanted to live my best summer life. The ice cream cones I bought ranged from $4 to $7 so I would try to minimize the number of times you buy ice cream. It definitely adds up, but it’s a small price to pay for a happy soul.

Drinks – $22.50

To help lower the cost on food, I also limited my alcoholic drinks. Two margaritas for the entire trip seems like a reasonable amount for a girls’ trip on a budget. The average alcoholic beverage costs between $10 to $14 for mixed drinks and cocktails. Beer will be lower in price, of course, but I’m not a huge fan of beer. What can I say? I love my mango margaritas.

Activities – $0

We did not spend any money on activities since there were so many free things to do. I’ve included a list of free things that we did below in case you’re interested in trying them out:

  • Hike the Hollywood Sign
  • Visit Griffith Observatory
  • Beach Day at Santa Monica Beach
  • Walk the Venice Boardwalk
  • Explore Downtown LA (DTLA)
  • Watch the sunset in Malibu

Grand Total = $626.47

This all adds up to the grand total being $626.47, which sounds very scary. Yes, looking at this number again makes my heart stop. BUT it was divided over time, which is why it didn’t feel like a huge strain. For example, I bought the flight several months ago and the Airbnb was booked a few months after that. So, the grand total may still seem a little high for many but traveling with close friends for a week is PRICELESS.

Hopefully, this helps break the stigma that Los Angeles is too expensive to visit! The City of Stars can be very expensive if you want it to be, but it can also be a great place to explore when you are on a budget. I was able to travel for ten days without feeling like I was breaking the bank. If you have any recommendations on travel hacks or cheap places to visit in LA, leave a comment below. I would love to check them out. And, as always, thanks for reading!

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