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How To Get The Most Out Of California Eco-Travel On A Budget

Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Lucky-photographer



California has a great reputation for its commitment to sustainable living. According to a WalletHub analysis, California is the ninth greenest state in the country.

This is a great opportunity for eco-tourists who want to travel to California. If you are serious about traveling in a sustainable way, then you may want to look at things to do in California.

Enjoying an Eco-Friendly Trip to California

From beautiful long beaches and their vast redwood forests to their renowned vegan meals and abundance of Hollywood celebrities, California is a very popular eco-tourist destination. Our friends that run the blog Travel Begins at 40 wrote some great reasons that it is a prime place for eco-friendly tourism.

However, it’s also one of the most expensive states to visit. So, if you’re an eco-tourist on a tight budget, you’ll need to plan carefully.

Don’t worry, though. You can still experience all of California’s natural beauty, diverse culture, and fun without hurting the environment or breaking the bank. We’re here to explain how that’s possible.

Keep reading if you want to find out how you can keep your wallet undented while having an awesome trip to the Golden State.

#1. Timing is Important

When is the best time to visit California? It really depends on what activities you want to do. February is perfect for skiing in the Sierra Nevada slopes, April is the time for the desert super bloom, and late May and September are ideal for camping trips to Yosemite. There are plenty of eco-tourist activities year-round, but you need to plan accordingly.

In general, however, I’d say the best time to visit California on a budget is between November and April. This is the off-season for eco-tourists, so it won’t be too crowded. Also, things are less likely to be overpriced.

Flights will be a lot less expensive from January to April (especially right after Christmas and New Year’s). Not to mention, the weather during these months is just right, with the perfect balance of warm and cold.

#2. Narrow Down Your Choices

Before you plan your visit to California, you need to decide where exactly you’re going. California is a pretty huge state. It covers around 800 miles, which means it’s even bigger than some European countries!

It will take you 6 to 8 hours to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. And from San Francisco, Yosemite National Park is 3 to 4 hours away. So, if you’re on a budget, visiting all the places is just not realistic. It would also leave a huge carbon footprint to travel so much. Eco-tourists should limit their trip to a certain region, so they minimize the amount of pollution they leave.

Since there’s a lot to see in California, you need to narrow your choices down. Fix a travel itinerary and tackle the places closest to each other. Keep the travel time, distance, and fuel costs in mind.

This way you’ll truly be able to enjoy whichever places you visit, and splurge where it’s necessary.

#3. Pick Cheaper and Cleaner Transport

The most budget-friendly and convenient way to travel through the different cities of California would be to bring your own car. You could also rent a car to drive, but you’ll have to pay for each day of the rental, plus the gas. Also, using a car won’t be great for the environment.

However, I’d say this is still a cheaper option than having to pay for flight tickets. If you do plan on flying though, make sure to do your research with online flight trackers, like Skyscanner and TripAdvisor, to get the cheapest deals. Flying is also more environmentally friendly than driving yourself.

You can also take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train through Southern California, which makes several important pit stops and lets you enjoy the scenery for tickets priced at $30 to $40.

As for traveling within cities, the most cost-effective option is to use public transport systems, such as San Francisco’s BART and SamTrans as well as the LA Metro. You could also consider trying ride-sharing apps, such as Uber Pool and Lyft Line.

#4. Be Smart about Accommodations

If you want to save money, avoid staying in tourist zones or highly populated areas and try looking for a base in the outskirts that are not too far away from the hubbub. For instance, the Palm Desert area is only 25 minutes away from Palm Springs, but the lodging costs are much lower there.

Another great tip is to rent a private Airbnb room rather than a whole house. You’ll get the same services and comfort, just for a smaller space and better rates. Airbnb is also a green alternative to look into.

When booking a place to stay, try out websites like, Expedia, and Priceline to get the best options. Even better is if you opt to go camping. Camp sites are very reasonably priced compared to hotels.

What I personally did the last time I visited San Francisco, though, posted in online groups looking for housing with other San Fransisco backpackers. This way, I made travel buddies for life and got to share my living costs.

#5. Eating Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

While sustenance is an absolute essential, you can save money by making smarter choices. Of course, the very famous and budget-friendly McDonald’s and Taco Bell are available, giving you the option for $1 meals. What’s more, there’s also a lot of thrifty street food options scattered everywhere.

It’s not a very difficult task to live off street food, like tacos, burritos, salads, and pizza, for the duration of your stay. And yes, most of these food carts also cater to vegetarian needs. In fact, you can even taste international flavors on a budget in places like Chinatown and Japantown. The best thing about these options is that they are very environmentally friendly, since they don’t use a lot of chemicals.

California is also known to have daily farmers’ markets, which are both great for the environment and have an amazing array of fruits, vegetables, local cheeses, and baked goods. So, instead of hitting up a fancy restaurant, you could opt for a delicious takeaway local lunch.

Tip: Lunch prices at expensive restaurants are more affordable than their dinners!

#6. Try Out Free Entertainment

Good news: you don’t always have to pay for entertainment in California. There’s a lot of low-cost thrills for tourists.

The fun part about California is that there’s always some sort of festival happening every month. And there are quite a few wine tasting events, Scottish dancing, and the Indian Color Festival that have free access. These give you a chance to blend in with the locals and truly experience California’s diverse culture.

There’s also a lot of State Parks in each city, as well as breathtaking architecture throughout the streets. Even the highways are packed with scenic beauty that nobody really charges you for. What’s more, you can enter a lot of museums, science centers, and art exhibitions without paying a dime.

Tip: If you’re in Los Angeles, make sure to visit the Griffith Observatory for a free stargazing session and a wonderful view of the city.

Enjoy Your Eco-tourist Trip to California!

California is a great place for eco-tourists to visit. It may sound expensive, but as you can see from this article, you can still enjoy it to the fullest on a budget. You also don’t need to hurt the environment to save money visiting California. Just make sure you do your research and make informed decisions.

Set your priorities straight and pick where you want to spend your money. And, most importantly, rather than buying things like souvenirs and clothes, use your money for the fun experiences instead!


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