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What a Trip to California Costs in 2024 | Average Prices

What a Trip to California Costs in 2024 | Average Prices

To those of us who were born in California (like yours truly), it’s just another state in which to visit family throughout the year. However, even we know that California has a magic all its own. We never take the sunshine, the citrus, the beaches, and the laid-back vibe for granted – nor should you.

Then again, if you’re considering a vacation here, you’re probably not. This giant state – the third largest in the union and measuring more than 163,000 square miles – has endless food, fun, and natural wonder to explore.

Home of the Hollywood stars as well as Disneyland and El Capitan, it has something for everyone – whether you’re a solo traveler, one half of a whole couple, or a family. According to the State Highway System, California’s highways are about 16,700 miles long and comprise more than 51,000 miles total.

That’s a lot of places to go, with a lot of things to do in between! Its state fruit is avocado (yum), its state sport is surfing (fun), and its state flag features a bear (cute) – which you’re likely to see if you travel in the parks.

Whether you’re there for the romance, the outdoors, the wine, the shopping, or the amusement parks, I guarantee you will find it – and you won’t have to look very hard! But having fun and staying on a budget are two different things, which is where this guide comes in.

Let’s take a look at how much it all costs … and more importantly, how you can save as much moolah as possible.

Average Trip to California Cost in 2024

Seven-day trip to California for two people cost table.

An average one-week trip to California for two people will cost around $3,300:

  • Average Accommodation Cost: $100 per night
  • Average Flight Cost: $300 per person
  • Food, Drink & Activities: $125 per person, per day
  • Transportation: $250
  • Total Cost: $3,300

It is notoriously expensive to live in California due to its high cost of living, but it is not actually that expensive to travel there. A one-week trip for two to this star-studded state of the union will only cost you about $3,300, and you can definitely whittle that down if you’re motivated.

This price includes some nice dinners and amusement park trips, as well as a few nights at a resort. As you can see, it’s a budget-friendly vacation that any couple will enjoy, so read on to learn how to do it on a dime!

California Trip Cost: Average by Item

Luxury sports car parked on the road side of a wide street of a city during sunset, an image for a travel guide about trip cost to California.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 1, 2016: Traffic on Hollywood Boulevard at dusk. The theater district is a famous tourist attraction./Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Estimating the cost of a trip is tricky, as no one needs to tell you. The following prices are agnostic of travel dates, number of people, and activities. However, they should give you a good starting point when it comes to planning for your trip.

Accommodation Costs

Although California is famous for its high cost of living, hotels are quite affordable. If you’re not determined to stay somewhere fancy, you can get a 4-star room in Los Angeles for about $75 and in the popular resort town Big Bear for around the same.

San Francisco tends to be more expensive, so the same price will get you a 3-star hotel, but you can still expect all the necessary amenities along with light-and-bright decorating.

If you want to blow it out and stay at a resort for a few nights, plan to spend more like $250 per day. On average, assuming a few stellar stays and some average ones, a budget of $100 per night should do you just fine.

Flight Costs

Flying to California from anywhere in the United States is relatively affordable. From New York City, you’ll pay around $250 round-trip. From Miami, about $200, and from Seattle, about the same. If you’re not flying from a major hub, add in a little extra to account for the cost of getting to a hub.

Another strategy is to buy tickets through Southwest Airlines. They don’t charge you a thing to reschedule your flights, and you can bring two free checked bags. That doesn’t include your carry-on.

If you’re planning on buying gifts and souvenirs when you’re there, or on doing Christmas shopping in San Francisco or Los Angeles, then this is a good way to go. All told, you’ll probably spend about $300 per ticket, assuming you are coming from somewhere other than a major city and want to schedule ahead of time.

Food, Drink & Activity Costs

Tourists walking on the pier area with various restaurants, an image for a travel guide about trip cost to California.

San Francisco, California, USA – March 9, 2020: Pier 39 has 14 full-service restaurants, 90+ shops, a 5-acre waterfront park, and a 300-berth marina./Eudaimonic Traveler/Shutterstock

How much you’ll spend on food, drink, and activities is a bit of a knotty question. That’s because California has so much to do that is free … and so much that isn’t.

For instance, if you’re planning to visit Disneyland, you should plan to spend an average of $150 per person per day just to get into the park. That doesn’t include food, transportation to and from, or extra charges once inside. The same goes for other popular amusement parks, of which the state has a great many.

Catching a Broadway show in Los Angeles ($100), taking a tour of Alcatraz ($41), or a sunset booze cruise in San Diego ($75) can all run up your tab pretty quickly as well.

That said, California is an outdoor paradise and there’s plenty you can do that costs quite a bit less. An annual pass for national parks is only $80 ($20 for seniors), meaning you can enter as many parks as you want during the one-year eligibility period.

And that’s the cost per vehicle, not per person.

If you want to see Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Redwood – just a few examples among many – then it’s dirt cheap. (Literally, it is cheap and there will be a lot of dirt.) Walking in any city is also enjoyable and free.

San Francisco’s best spots include Nob Hill, Chinatown, and the Golden Gate Bridge – which many people aren’t aware you can walk across. In Los Angeles, entertain yourself by strolling through Hollywood, ambling down Venice Beach, or getting your steps in on one of the area’s many gorgeous hiking trails.

So, what about an average? If you assume you’ll have a few nice meals out ($50 per person), grab coffee at a café every morning ($5 per person), and otherwise eat at the grocery store ($20 per person), that comes to about $75.

Add in a few drinks ($25 per person) and an activity every other day ($75 each on average), and you should plan to spend about $125 per person, per day.

Transportation Costs

You don’t need to plan on spending lots of money to get around in California. Renting a car should cost about $25 a day, while in-town transportation is most cost-effective on public transportation, where you’ll pay about $2 for a regular ride.

If you want to take taxis, you can, but beware: they will not come cheap in the big cities. Taking a taxi from, say, SFO to Fisherman’s Wharf will cost you about $50 plus tip. It’s best to stick to your own car, a rental car, and public transportation where easy and feasible.

Overall, if you plan on one taxi ride after a night out, renting a car, and some public transportation, you should budget about $250 for a couple. If you opt to take trains between major destinations instead, they will cost a lot but you’ll save on car rentals, so the total budget should work out about the same.

Things to Consider

An amusement park filled with lights at night, captured for a piece on an article about trip cost to California,the Ferris Wheel, Roller Coaster, and Big Drop are decorated with lights.


Here are a few other things to consider when planning your trip to California:

  • California is a popular vacation destination for families. That means theme parks (especially Disneyland), water parks, popular tourist attractions, and national/state parks will all be busier during the holidays, spring break, and the summer months. Be sure to check California’s school calendars for these dates, as they may differ from those in your area.
  • You should probably rent a car. California’s size makes travel between cities a pretty big feat, and taking the train may be prohibitive cost-wise. However, renting a car will only run you about $20 to $25 per day, on average. It’s a better way to get around between cities and to see the many amazing parks for which the state is known. (Within cities, public transportation is still a good bet!)
  • The climate changes a lot from place to place, so prepare for all kinds of weather. Wintertime highs in San Diego and Los Angeles can reach into the 60s or even 70s, while summer at the coast may still necessitate sweaters and rain gear. Bring lots of options and dress in layers.
  • Don’t over-plan your trip. I cannot overstate this: California is massive. From the cities to the parks, the beaches to the mountains, there is so much to see and do. If you’re only there for a week, pick two to three locations max. Otherwise you’ll spend all your time in the car.

Frequently Asked Questions

Two women in their swimwear diving down the surface of the water with their surf boards, an image for a travel guide about trip cost to California.

Denis Moskvinov/Shutterstock

Where are the best places to visit?

Naturally, the answer to this question will depend on what your idea of a good time is. If you love the outdoors, then the national parks will call to you. If nightlife and the foodie scene are for you, then you shouldn’t forget to visit San Francisco and Los Angeles, two culinary hubs.

California has plenty of hidden gems as well. Consider Mendocino, which most people outside the state don’t know exists. It’s a tucked-away artists’ colony with delicious restaurants and adorable sweet shops, bookstores and galleries on every corner. Ojai is an adorable mountain town with colonial architecture and delicious Mexican food.

Is it easy to drive in California?

Yes, it’s easy to drive here. If you have an American driver’s license, it’s simple to bring your car into the state or rent one. Note, however, that California has a lot of driving laws. In particular, read up on distracted driving and parking before coming, or you’ll face pretty steep fines.

When is the best time to visit California?

California has a range of seasons and temperatures, depending where you are. In the mountains, it gets very cold in the winter and can dump several feet of snow on you. In the summer, temperatures in the desert can skyrocket over 100 degrees.

If you want moderate temperatures, visit in April and May or September and October. The weather is fine, the temperatures are middling, and you can see everything the state has to offer. Just note that you’ll pay a little more for traveling during these peak times.

What’s the deal with bringing produce and plants in?

California is one of the biggest agricultural producers in the state, and it takes that very seriously. It has stringent laws when flying or driving into the country, and you will face serious questioning at all checkpoints. Be sure to comply with directions, and do not attempt to bring plants or produce in.

Is California expensive?

Although you will have to pay higher prices in certain parts of the state – say, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego – much of it is pretty affordable. You’re not renting a home there, after all, you’re simply visiting. However, don’t skimp on your food and entertainment budget if you want to get the most out of your visit.

So, What Is the Average Cost for a Trip to California?

🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost$100 per night
✈️ Average Flight Cost$300 per person
🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities$125 per person, per day
🚕 Transportation$250
💲 Total Cost$3,300

The average cost of a one-week trip to California is around $3,300 for two people. This is a pretty affordable getaway and even budgets in the cost of a ticket or two to a big amusement park like Disneyland.

So, with so much to see and do and the ability to go on a budget, what are you waiting for — get ready to enjoy the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of one of America’s finest gems. Happy travels!