How to save money in the City of Angels.
LA has long been a favourite destination for Kiwis, and for good reason. A direct flight, it's a close entry point to the States and has broad appeal for everyone from fashionistas, to sports nuts, from foodies to health fanatics to kids and adults mad about theme parks. Fares have become more affordable, making it an even more popular holiday option; and if you're smart, visiting sunny, fun Los Angeles doesn't have to be eye-wateringly expensive. Here are some top tips for how to enjoy LA without emptying your wallet.
Although Rodeo Drive is great to look at, Gucci, Prada, Tiffany's and Louis Vuitton probably aren't going to be where you'll do your retail therapy if you're watching your pennies. Luckily, LA has some great outlet malls where items won't swallow your clothes budget for the next five years. Citadel outlets is the closest to Downtown but a bit further out are Ontario Mills and Outlets at Orange. Discounts can be up to 70 per cent off all your favourite American brands.
Check out the free attractions
There's so much to do in LA that doesn't cost anything at all. The Hollywood Walk of Fame, hiking in the Hollywood hills, relaxing at the beach, people-watching in the fashion districts, free art walks and walking tours, Griffith Observatory. It's also worth cruising the various ethnic neighbourhoods — Little Ethiopia, Little Tokyo, Olvera Street (Mexican) and Chinatown will all give you a great insight into the cultures and people that make up this vibrant city. There are plenty of museums too: the California Science Centre, The Broad, Getty Center and Hammer Museum (Art), The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Travel Town Museum and the California African American Museum. The incredible Last Bookstore in Downtown is well worth a look, too, for its eclectic interior.
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Eating well, but inexpensively, will never be a problem in LA. There are more than 140 nationalities represented in this truly multicultural city, resulting in an incredibly diverse food scene. Food trucks, markets and ethnic neighbourhoods will give you an authentic local experience for very reasonable prices, feasting on the likes of Mexican tacos (there are taco trucks all over the city), cubanos, Vietnamese, Korean, poke bowls, vegan salads and so many more delicious, and often portable, options. Try Miracle Mile for Food Trucks or Smorgasburg in the Arts District on a Sunday (a Brooklyn market that now has an LA outpost). It will be great for your 'gram too — multicoloured Korean mandu, hot dogs with truffled relish, Peruvian tacos, doughnuts with wild art-like toppings and other similar foods are sure to induce food FOMO from all your friends back home. If you're not there on a Sunday, Grand Central Market, downtown, is also a must-do LA foodie experience. Open seven days, it's been a bustling hive of food-based fun since 1917. You'll be able to choose from more than 50 stalls selling authentic food from all over the world.
Book accommodation carefully
As with any destination, it pays to really think about where you stay. If theme parks are the main purpose of your visit, stay somewhere close with a free shuttle to the places you want to go. And always book a hotel that includes breakfast; American buffet breakfasts are next level and will keep you full well into the afternoon. LA has a Metro system so look at how close your hotel is to a station. Try neighbourhoods like East Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and Koreatown rather than Beverly Hills. Packages that include flights and accommodation can be a good way to go if booking ahead.
Be theme park savvy
If you're going for thrills and spills there are ways to make your trip slightly more affordable. Using apps for each theme park and booking online can save you time and money. There's also something called a Go Los Angeles Card which can cut your entrance fees significantly at some of the best-known attractions. Buy water and snacks from the supermarket before you go to reduce your in-park food costs. Try to visit on weekdays so you get the most bang for your buck and don't spend all day queuing for three or four rides. The weekends are crazy, with locals swelling the crowds.
Air New Zealand and American Airlines fly direct from Auckland to LA. If you're happy to add in a stopover, try Qantas, LATAM, Hawaiian, Virgin Australia, United and Fiji Airways.