How To Visit Los Angeles: My Vacation Elation
As you may or may not have noticed from my overexcited social media posts, this last week the lady friend and I threw caution to the wind and went to visit Los Angeles. We’ve been there once before together, and between the food, beaches, sun, and under-qualified hippies peddling health products that no one needs, we decided we simply had to go back.
I love L.A. for two reasons. First, the diversity is simply astounding. Not only can you see a huge range of people (tourists, locals, bro’s and bae’s workin’ on their beach bods), but the culture and traditions that they bring with them is astounding.
…who the hell am I kidding? I visit Los Angeles because I want to eat amazing food from all over the world.
And second, it’s the entertainment capital of the world! And if I have the chance to sit next to Mel Gibson (actually happened) or Seth McFarlane (has yet to happen, Seth…) then I’m going to take advantage of it!
But as I’m a financial blogger, and it’s my duty now to provide information on how to life a rich life, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to talk through some ways that the lady and I opted to visit Los Angeles without dropping a boatload of cash. So here’s how my lady and I tackled Tinseltown on a “tiny” budget.
The first thing you need to do when you decide to visit Los Angeles is figure out the roof/bed situation. As you can imagine, getting a hotel in Los Angeles will cost you nothing short of the soul of your firstborn son. It’s ridiculous! When I did my first search for lodging, I came across several motels I wouldn’t consider fit for cockroaches… at $250 per night and up. Suffice to say, there was no way that the lady and I were going to spend that much just on a room.
So we got a little creative, and found a website called VRBO.com (it stands for Vacation Rental By Owner). It’s a lot like AirBnB, except the landlords own these properties specifically to rent out to vacationers. There were literally hundreds of options to choose from, from single rooms up to full houses. We opted for a cheaper option, preferably something under $125/night. We found this cute little studio that was 8 blocks from Venice Beach, which given how last minute we were, was a ridiculous find. And at $120 per night, which was easily half of what the other motels were going for! We had it made!
… or so I thought.
We show up on Saturday to our “studio”. I say “studio” because the owner had just re-purposed her garage into three separate rooms to rent out. GREAT START TO THE TRIP, PAUL!!! YOU’VE SET YOU AND YOUR GIRLFRIEND UP IN SOMEONES GARAGE!!!
There was no A/C, and the only way to keep the “studio” (shack) cool was to leave the door open, which led to a serious lack of privacy. On top of that, here are the pictures of the room:
Needless to say, I was a little skeeved out. Multiply my skeeved-ness by 823,428,980 and you might understand how disgusted my girlfriend was. Within an hour of actually seeing the “studio”, we decided we had no choice: we HAD to find another place to stay. After all, we were going to be there for a week, and there was NO WAY I would have been able to function in that space.
So we (happily) moved away from the barracks and made our way inland about 10 minutes to another apartment that looked like this:
Here’s the craziest thing: this apartment was $35 cheaper per night! And the location was arguably just as good! No, we weren’t walking distance from the beach, but we could get to Hollywood Boulevard, studios, downtown, and anywhere else you can imagine, all within 10 minutes! We were happier than a pig in shit, a fish in water, and a biddy in a pool of Pumpkin Spiced Latte.
COST: $240 + $500 = $740
The more you read about financial literacy, the more you learn that certain people have certain weaknesses when it comes to money. Some people love to spend money on cars, others on gadgets, and some love to drain their bank account on useless shit from Amazon (hey, we’ve all done it once or twice). My financial weakness, my budgetary “kryptonite”, if you will.
I come from an Italian family where it’s expected that the food you eat is not only delicious, but comes in portion sizes fit for a small army. And I’ll be the first to admit that I spent more on food than any personal finance blogger probably should. But again, as I’ve said before, thecodetoriches.com is a blog about living a rich LIFE, not necessarily pocketing away as much money as possible as quickly as possible. If that were the case, I’d tell you to never go on vacation.
So yes, I spent some money on restaurants. BUT HERE’S WHAT I DID TO BALANCE IT OUT:
For every meal that the lady and ate out, we probably ate 2-3 meals in. That’s why finding an apartment to rent out is so much more advantageous than just getting a hotel room. In an apartment, you have the opportunity to cook, if you’re so inclined. And after looking at some of the food prices in L.A., you become so inclined very, VERY quickly!
Where one dinner was an $80 meal at a nice restaurant, another dinner was some simple mac n’ cheese at home. One breakfast was a cute little cafe, but another was a slow morning with a muffin and espresso at the apartment. And as long as you try to keep that sort of balance during your vacation, you’ll find that you won’t go completely overboard when it comes to food. Remember: the key is to have a kitchen so you can cook!
COST ~ $400
Instead of flying out to Los Angeles and renting a car, we both decided it might be fun to drive through the night and so we’d have our car with us. Pretty simple concept and it looked good on paper, though in the end I think I might just fly next time. We probably did end up saving some money, but the added 24 hours of transport or so wasn’t worth it in the end.
COST ~ $325
This is where shit got a lil’ bit cray cray. As anyone who is slightly budget-minded (say, for example, if you are trying to get a blog up and running), I dutifully googled “Free Things To Do in L.A.” There were lots of awesome suggestions (in fact, way more suggestions than could possibly be done in a week). I went through the list and cherry-picked what I thought might be fun and interesting. And of course, I heard about this before, but one activity stuck out:
Go be in the audience for a show. If you want to visit Los Angeles, have an amazing time, and have enough money to get home, this is BY FAR the best activity!
There are different websites that you can go to and sign up to be either in a live audience or a recorded one. You can go game shows, competitions, sitcoms, you name it. I did a bit of clicking around and found out that we were going to be in town for two show tapings. One was for “America’s Got Talent” and the other was for “Man With A Plan“, a sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc (Joey from Friends). As the girlfriend is a HUGE Friends fan (has openly admitted that she would ditch me on my deathbed if it meant 3 minutes with the cast), and I used to do some performing in college, I signed us up for both.
Keep in mind, what I’m about to tell you we did for FREE. Completely, utterly, “God Bless America” free.
The first show we went to was “America’s Got Talent”. Not only did we get to be there for the live show, but we got AMAZING seats! We were no more than 6 feet away from the judges, and we were the closest people to Howie Mendel. We were so close to the judges that we were on LIVE TV!!! Unless, of course, it’s just a huge hoax and my friends/family are lying to me. They’re all pretty tricky, they might just be doing that….
But let’s keep going. Because before the show went live, the MC went around and asked if there was anyone that wanted to get up on the stage and sing. I shot my hand up in the air before my heart stopped beating for the following 3 minutes. The MC noticed, and allowed me to get on the stage and sing a quick diddy in front of 1,500 people. Needless to say, I was pretty much shitting my pants. Watch below and see if you can see the audiences reflection in my nervous sweat!
… again, I got to do this for free!
Next up on the list was “Man With A Plan” CBS’s new show coming this fall featuring Matt LeBlanc! We showed up at 3:30 pm to the studio, and didn’t end up leaving until 10 pm. However, it was all worth it. Not only did my girlfriend burst into tears when she saw Matt on the set, but she even got to talk to him! AND get his signature! I can’t believe it worked out as well as it did, but she was absolutely beside herself with joy. Which means I get to do at LEAST 3 stupid things at home before she can get mad at me again. Booyah!
Of course, there were a couple other things that we did that cost money (studio tours, going to the San Diego Zoo, parking) but all in all I’d say we did very well for ourselves on our entertainment budget!
COST ~ $200
The Lessons I Learned…
I learned a lot of things during my time in L.A.
- I’m carrying around an extra 20 pounds that I really shouldn’t be.
- Smog is gross. Sticky, hot, and gross.
- There is always someone more talented than you.
- The safest way to drive is to ignore people’s turn signals and look into their eyes. Turning signals don’t burn with the same hellfire of intent.
But here’s the most important thing I learned while on vacation in L.A.:
Price is not indicative of quality.
If there was one theme that kept popping up, it was this. If this were a sitcom, then this would be the point of the episode. The dad would put his kid on his knee, and with a voice that speaks from experience and with love, say the above. Cue the audience:
In all seriousness, this was a huge takeaway from this trip. We spent an extra $35 per night to be closer to the beach. Was it worth it? Not by a long shot. If I had wanted ripped sheets and a gross shower, I would have paid for the motel. At least they would have had air conditioning. Did we have to pay hundreds of dollars for backstage passes? No, we simply got the free tickets, and with a little bit of luck and a willingness to say “yes”, both my girlfriend and I were able to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences! We’re both dying to visit Los Angeles soon!
So remember, as you continue on your financial journey:
Glad to be back at “work”!
Keep trying to crack the code,