A Kuripot’s Guide to a L.A. Holiday

I just returned from my solo holiday to meet with family & friends in the United States. I booked it last January and started to save up and make my budget at the beginning of the year. I had four months to financially prepare myself for a trip to Los Angeles, California. How do I write about kuripot tips on a trip to this expensive city?

It sounded impossible – just the thought of spending US dollars made me nervous! My ticket (taken from my Travel Fund) cost me AED 3,200 which for me is expensive on its own and I still had to set aside enough money to eat and go around for a week’s stay.

Kuriport Challenge ACCEPTED. I had to find ways how to do exactly that, and still enjoy it without feeling deprived.

It’s not much but I hope some of these ideas will come in handy:

  1. Contact your friends/family for accommodation. First of all, check with them the date/s of their availability before you book. This way you can estimate how many days you can spend with whom, and you can arrange your pick-up and drop-off as California is a very big state. Take note that they have jobs and families to look after so let them know in advance so they can arrange their leave requests or change in shift schedule. I did not spend on accommodation because my friends offered that I stay in their houses in Fontana, LA Downtown, and Costa Mesa.
    My Room in Fontana

    My Room in Costa Mesa
  2. Go when your friends/family are on their off days so they can show you around. My home-based friend was so excited to get out of the comforts of her home that she offered to drive all the way to Las Vegas! She arranged and paid for everything – from the hotel, places to go, and where to eat. She took me to Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen at The Strip where we had the most amazing Beef Wellington. My other friends took a day off to meet me up and spend a few hours; one of them even had to drive for more than 2 hours just to have brunch!
  3. Book flights with a layover as they are cheaper than flying direct. I flew Turkish Airlines which offered a good rate but had to layover Turkey for a few hours which I did not mind. I love Turkey – its food and its people – and I have fond memories in Istanbul. As long as I have in-flight entertainment to catch up on new movies I’ve missed, good food, a comfortable seat and a blanket, I am good to go for 13 hours straight! The service is impeccable and I would definitely fly Turkish Airlines again in the future.
  4. Find a friend who is/knows a Disneyland Employee aka Cast Member. The Cast Members of Disneyland have a privilege of giving away passes for as many as 16 guests per year (maximum of 3 guests per visit) for FREE! I was able to get the passes through my sister whose friend works in Disneyland Theme Park.
  5. Find a friend who is/knows a City Employee. As a privilege, the City Employees have discounts to attractions which I think is so cool! With the help of my friend’s dad’s network of public employees, she purchased our Universal Studios tickets for a lower rate, from USD 120 to USD 95 per person.20180511_192910
  6. Bring your own snack to Disneyland. Yes, they allow visitors to bring in snacks. We brought croissant (with jalapeños & ham – so good!), some Porto’s Cheese Rolls, and my sister’s homemade banana bread. The endless walking and queueing made me hungry! The food inside is a bit overpriced but can be justified by the huge portions, which is ideal for those who prefer the convenience of not carrying around a big bag of snacks. Inside the park are water stations for free refills, so it is wise to bring a water bottle. It saved me from dehydration and, of course,  spending my spare cash on bottled water.
  7. Buy wine and beer from the supermarket. As soon as I arrived after a 20-hour trip from Dubai, my friend took me red wine shopping and we stayed up until the wee hours over cheese and prosciutto at her lovely home. It is much cheaper to drink indoors than at pubs – imagine how much a bottle would have cost if we were in a restaurant. At the supermarket, a bottle of good wine costs less than USD 10 (AED 37) such as Stella Rosa or San Antonio, or a six-pack of beer.20180419_131051
  8. Eat bread & pastries for carbo-loading. I am a big fan of carbs. I loved the pastries from Porto’s, a very popular Cuban bakery, which cost only around USD 9 (AED 35) for a dozen. My favourite is the Cheese Roll, and the Guava & Cheese Strudel was also good. I have also tried a croissant filled with jalapeno & ham from a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese bakery. Each piece is big enough for two people! My friends also took me to a Taiwanese bakery called 85ºC where I enjoyed their Taro Swirl and Egg Tart with my coffee.
    A dozen of Cheese Rolls from Porto’s

    Goodies from 85’C Bakery
  9. When hungry, fastfood is not so bad. I am not a burger person but I am a curious foodie! A Double-Double Burger (double meat & double cheese) from In-N-Out costs only USD 3.85 (AED 14) and French fries costs USD 1.85 (AED 6.8) which is very affordable. I was so full after this meal! I also tried Pink’s – a Hollywood fixture and internationally famous since its founding in 1939. Their Chili Cheese Hotdog was filling.
    In–N-Out Double-Double Burgers

    Pink’s Chili Cheese Hotdog
  10. When extremely hungry, go to a buffet. Generally when I am hungry, I tend to order a lot of items which we barely finish so my sister opted to treat me to a seafood buffet that cost USD 18 (AED 66) per person. They served all sorts of seafood – from oysters, fish, escargot, shrimps – as well as baked mushrooms, stir-fried vegetables and a myriad of Chinese and Korean dishes. It was my first time to eat cajun craw-fish which I enjoyed, and went back for another plate of fresh oysters! To cap the night, I had vanilla ice cream.20180424_06521720180424_064823
  11. Stay away from Outlet Stores and Discount Stores. You will see ridiculously cheap items that you don’t need and you will definitely get tempted to hoard just to “take advantage” of the low price. But the question is, do you really need them? If not, then avoid these places with all your might unless you have extra extra extra money for useless shopping. Out of curiosity, I went inside Ross, Walmart, Target and came out empty-handed because I am the queen of self-control, but I imagine others would have gone crazy!
  12. Bring you own water bottle. It was hot and humid during my stay and I was thirsty all the time! There were places where I was able to get a refill for free, and it saved me money.
  13. Forget about pasalubongs. But if you really want to, get them from Trader Joe’s where it’s cheap. I got a few chocolates to share with friends and colleagues.20180423_002827
  14. You need souvenirs? Take pictures. I took lots of pictures and bought some fridge magnets, which were sold for USD 4 to 5 (AED 15 to 19) each. I will keep the memories with me forever and that does not cost me anything.
  15. Visit places that don’t need entrance fees. Hollywood is known for its stars which are conveniently placed on the sidewalks.  Rodeo Drive, The Grove and Americana are popular shopping areas each offering a distinct character. And of course, The Urban Lights at LACMA is also a nice place to see. There are a number of museums and art galleries that don’t require entrance fees for visitors.20180423_024138

Throughout my stay, my generous hosts paid for my meals and entrance fees to theme parks and made my entire stay extremely pleasant and memorable. Filipino Hospitality at its finest! All in all, I spent roughly USD 250 (AED 1,000 ) during this trip which was mainly on fridge magnets, a souvenir shirt from Universal Studios, a wine bottle stopper from Disneyland, and food items from Trader Joe’s and H-Mart (a Korean chain supermarket).

I managed to spend less than what I saved up for the past 4 months, which I put back to my Travel Fund.

Do you have any tips? Perhaps a place that you would recommend for a short trip? Feel free to share!


4 thoughts on “A Kuripot’s Guide to a L.A. Holiday

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