With stunning beaches, scenic national parks, and major metropolitan areas, you will never run out of things to do or places to see in California. If you are trying to plan a budget-friendly California vacation, look no further! We are here to give you our top tips and tricks for seeing the best of California on a tight budget.

Make a plan

Start by making a list of sites you want to see, your budget, the area in which you want to stay, and the time of year you want to go. From there, you can estimate how much each part of your trip will be. You will know if you need to stay in a less expensive area or eat at cheaper restaurants by making a plan and comparing it to your budget.

One way to help you plan your vacation is by using our self-guided tour app, Action Tour Guide. Our tours have already planned the itinerary; all you have to do is download the app and go!

Figure out your transportation

There are many ways to get to California, but the most cost-effective way is by driving. There are plenty of easy and beautiful road trip routes that you can take to get to California.

Flights to California can be expensive, and because California’s public transportation isn’t very reliable, you would need to rent a car after flying. If you get to California by driving yourself, you won’t need to pay for a flight or a rental car.

On the other hand, a road trip to California can be an extremely long drive, depending on how far away you live. If you decide to fly, make sure you book your ticket in advance. 

Many airlines offer heavy discounts on tickets purchased 1-3 weeks before the departure date. Sometimes, you can find last-minute seats the day before for extremely cheap, but this is a gamble. Either way, flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday will be less expensive than flying over the weekend.

Go in the off-season

Because California is so vast, the off-season depends on which area you are going to. The best time to visit San Francisco is in the fall because the weather is warmer and there are fewer tourists. You can save a massive chunk of change in Lake Tahoe by going in the spring or fall when prices are lower. By bypassing the summer crowds, you can save money in Palm Springs by going in the fall.

Because California is so beautiful, there is no wrong time to visit. However, prices can drastically vary depending on the time of year, so make sure to do your research before booking!

Check out cheap attractions

California has a ton of free attractions, as well as eight total national parks! While you may have to pay a small fee to get into the parks, these are still highly affordable destinations. You can check out Yosemite, Redwood, and Joshua Tree National Park, as well as plenty of free beaches and neighborhood walks. 

Scenic drives are one of the most affordable ways to enjoy California’s scenery, so be sure to check out some of our self-guided driving tours, such as San Francisco to Los Angeles, Big Sur, and the 17-Mile Drive

Use our self-guided tours

Action Tour Guide offers 12 different California driving and walking tours, and these are hands-down the best way to tour California on a tight budget. Self-guided driving tours include Joshua Tree National Park, Hollywood Celebrity Homes, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, La Jolla, and more. These low-cost audio guides are GPS-navigated tours that allow you to explore California’s most scenic areas on a budget.

The tours offer value, safety, and flexibility, making this the best option for exploring all that California has to offer. You can even use it offline, exploring California at your own pace during any time of the day!