Advice needed on where to stay for non-Disneyland portion of California vacation...

DaisyandBoo

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 22, 2014
I am planning my families first trip to California. We will be flying into LAX. Based on everything we have planned I believe a rental car will be necessary. We will then go to Anaheim. This is going to be an expensive trip, so unfortunately we will need to stay at a budget hotel. Looking at The Kings Inn & Suites for 4 nights. We have a three day pass to DL.
This is where the planning gets more complicated...we are thinking we will leave Anaheim and stay the second half of the trip more near Santa Monica or LAX area. We want to spend time in Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and do the typically Hollywood tourist stuff. I would love thoughts on best areas to stay (budget friendly) so that we are more central to these areas. The most budget friendly hotels seem to be near LAX. Is that area difficult to navigate? My husband is a little concerned with the idea of navigating LAX traffic. Is the area near LAX safe? Are there areas or specific hotels that you would recommend we stay away from? Any insight is most welcomed!
 

theluckyrabbit

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
I am planning my families first trip to California. We will be flying into LAX. Based on everything we have planned I believe a rental car will be necessary. We will then go to Anaheim. This is going to be an expensive trip, so unfortunately we will need to stay at a budget hotel. Looking at The Kings Inn & Suites for 4 nights. We have a three day pass to DL.
This is where the planning gets more complicated...we are thinking we will leave Anaheim and stay the second half of the trip more near Santa Monica or LAX area. We want to spend time in Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and do the typically Hollywood tourist stuff. I would love thoughts on best areas to stay (budget friendly) so that we are more central to these areas. The most budget friendly hotels seem to be near LAX. Is that area difficult to navigate? My husband is a little concerned with the idea of navigating LAX traffic. Is the area near LAX safe? Are there areas or specific hotels that you would recommend we stay away from? Any insight is most welcomed!
Well, one way to save some money, especially since you're planning on having a car, would be to see the beach things on the day you arrive or leave (depending on flight time). Santa Monica and Venice are much closer to LAX than they are to DLR. What do you want to do in Malbu? If you just want to drive around, you could do that, too, and see those three areas in one day before heading down to Anaheim. By the way, if you just want to visit a California beach, there are some very nice ones closer to DLR in Orange County, e.g. Huntington, Newport, Laguna, etc. Doing either of these options would save you having to get another hotel outside Anaheim. What specific things do you want to do in Hollywood? For example, if you just want to see the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, the Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre (home of the Academy Awards Ceremony), etc., those can all be seen from one location -- the Hollywood & Highland shopping center -- in just an hour or two. Universal Studios Hollywood (USH) is a one day park, and many people manage to do it in half a day. So you could do USH and some Hollywood sites in one day, driving to/from Anaheim, which would save you getting a hotel in Hollywood. You won't need a car for DLR itself, so by doing one day driving to Hollywood and one beach day in OC, you could base yourself at the Kings Inn (which gets good reviews on the Disneyland (California) board) and save some money.
 


  • EllinK

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2012
    Don't stay near LAX. It is ugly and hectic. I like the luckyrabbit's suggestions. If you do want to stay in the area longer, you could stay in Hollywood or up toward Universal and then drive around each day to whatever you want to see. Alternatively, you could see the Malibu/Hollywood sites and then head down to San Diego to the zoo and safari park.
     

    DLgal

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 12, 2013
    Do NOT pick a "budget hotel near LAX." Just don't. The area is not nice in any way, not super safe, etc. Resign yourself to the fact that hotels in LA are expensive, and find one on a nice neighborhood. You have to be very careful where you stay in LA.
     

    DLgal

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 12, 2013
    My daughter almost always uses AirBnB and gets really good deals on there.
    There's a motion to make Air BnB illegal in LA. The hotels are lobbying hard to make short term rentals illegal and it may happen. It has happened already in many southern CA cities.
     
  • DaisyandBoo

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Apr 22, 2014
    I really appreciate everyone taking the time to warn me about LAX. You confirmed what I was feeling in my gut. Still not sure if we will stay in Anaheim and just deal with the traffic to all of these destinations or not...definitely will not stay near LAX.
     

    DLgal

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 12, 2013
    I really appreciate everyone taking the time to warn me about LAX. You confirmed what I was feeling in my gut. Still not sure if we will stay in Anaheim and just deal with the traffic to all of these destinations or not...definitely will not stay near LAX.
    I would second the recommendation to stay near Universal Hollywood. It's a much nicer area.
     

    LAS2AMS

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 9, 2006
    A few random thoughts:
    - There shouldn't be any issue in staying at the bulk of LAX-area properties, especially the high rise hotels (fun fact: the Hilton LAX is a carbon copy of the Hilton Anaheim). These hotels are typically the most inexpensive options in the area, although note that the brand new NFL stadium & entertainment district is opening up later this year, literally right around the corner, which may cause rates to swell. The area is pretty boring and traffic isn't much of an issue. It's being gentrified (less than a decade ago, you could've purchased a nearby home for less than $100K, and today it'd be worth five to seven times that), but expect to see a lot of aging industrial buildings and plenty of panhandlers. Yes, staying near Hollywood would be nicer but it will also negate the concept of "inexpensive vacation."

    - Traffic can be very slow going. This is especially true in/around Los Angeles, where there's huge population density but very little infrastructure to accommodate it. Even if traffic isn't heavy, there's more & longer traffic lights than you may be use to, equating into a slow commute. Also note that people drive very, very aggressively... as in you get the green arrow, start to make your left hand turn... and the persons turning right keep coming, hoking at you like you're in the wrong. Traffic is at its worst in & around major business and tourist areas... lots of backups in/out of Hollywood even late into the morning. That said... I think L.A.-area traffic is often exaggerated on here, but it's definitely something you got to get use to. The good news is... if you plan your trip, you can minimize time spent in traffic.

    - Don't forget to add parking and gas into your budget. Parking can be very expensive, and gas ranges from $3-$5 per gallon, depending on what part of the region you're in. Here in South Orange County, it's around $3.60. By Disneyland, closer to $3. By West Hollywood, $4-$5 (or more), depending on the station and street corner. Best advice: make sure you always have a full tank when you leave the Disneyland area.

    - I'm sure people are annoyed with me saying this, but: take advantage of public transportation. On weekends, you can get unlimited rides on the Metrolink for $10 per adult. Kids ride for free until they reach high school (weird cut off). Parking is free at both the Anaheim and Fullerton stations, one or the other could be closer to you. A valid ticket also gives you free access to the ART, if you prefer to go that route.
    o You can ride the Metrolink into Union Station, and take the subway (~$3.50 RT per adult, less per kid; sometimes transfers are included in your Metrolink fare) to Hollywood. Perform your own walking tour of the area.
    o You can ride the subway or bus to all of Los Angeles' attractions, whether it's the Disney Concert Hall, Santa Monica Pier or Venice. There's multiple ticket types - per ride, per day, per week, including some that combine multiple transit (LA + Santa Monica, etc.). Ultimately, you'll pay less than you would in gas + parking ... with a lot less frustration -- you'll arrive in the middle of Hollywood, not some seedy lot down the street that you found for $10.
    o You can also ride the Metrolink south to Oceanside. Past San Juan, it runs along the ocean. Oceanside is a very relaxed beachside town, with more reasonable pricing than Newport, Laguna, etc. For a few bucks, you can connect with San Diego's Coaster and go all the way to San Diego. There are lots of places to explore.

    - For Orange County beaches, each community has its own free bus/shuttle during the summer months. You can ride them all, and explore each city's offerings.

    - Not the cheapest, but still a viable idea - for a nice beach visit, consider Santa Barbara. From Anaheim, Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner (which runs the same line as the other trains) goes nonstop, but the best deals with involve changing trains at Union Station and taking the Coast Starlight. Amtrak is always running various promotions, but a family of four (two kids) could go for RT$100-$125. The train runs along the ocean for the last hour of the trip; it's a long distance train (headed to Seattle) and has a long distance sightseer car. It's also one of the last Amtrak trains with a full dining car, if you wanted to sneak a very quick lunch or have a nice dinner on your return (Amtrak is gradually cutting the dining cars - it's not cheap, but you don't have to leave a full tip unless you want to ... Amtrak salaries = why the food's expensive). Amtrak also has a California Pass that allows unlimited travel for a week... $150 per adult and $75 per junior... kids 12 & under ride free (one per adult). Could be a better option for some.

    - To keep dining costs down, I recommend signing up for Mimi's Cafe promotions list. It'll take a couple weeks or so (you'll get some free muffins at first), but you'll receive perpetual BOGO coupons. Mimi's is across the street from Disneyland, and an easy walk. You can watch the monorail go by while you eat - makes for a cheap but good meal. Also, Katella Grill is a little further, but has some incredible old school "Blue Plate" specials. Like break, soup or salad, three strips of london broil, two sides and rice pudding or ice cream for $13. Buy a coupon from Groupon or Resturants.com and get it for even less.

    OK, I'm rambling and I'm sure nobody's reading this lol...
     

    jotemo87

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Aug 8, 2019
    OK, I'm rambling and I'm sure nobody's reading this lol...
    I’ve read the whole thing, and thank you very much for this long explanation.

    I have same doubts that Op, however my situation is different:
    - Tuesday: arrive to LA (night)
    - Wednesday: full day to visit LA
    - Thursday: DCA
    - Friday: DL
    - Saturday: full day to visit LA.
    - Sunday: bye bye LA

    So, I can’t split my trip and change the hotel two times. I must choose between a camp base in Anaheim or Hollywood for the five nights. What would you chose?

    I have seen in GMaps that going to DLR from a hotel in Hollywood is 1h30m, so if I have to be at the DL doors at 7:00h (due to ROTR), I think it would be better to stay in a hotel in Anaheim.

    About using the metro to travel between Anaheim/LA, I am looking in GMaps, and seems that travel by train/bus is much longer than travel by car, I don’t know if I’m missing something.
     
  • DLgal

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 12, 2013
    I’ve read the whole thing, and thank you very much for this long explanation.

    I have same doubts that Op, however my situation is different:
    - Tuesday: arrive to LA (night)
    - Wednesday: full day to visit LA
    - Thursday: DCA
    - Friday: DL
    - Saturday: full day to visit LA.
    - Sunday: bye bye LA

    So, I can’t split my trip and change the hotel two times. I must choose between a camp base in Anaheim or Hollywood for the five nights. What would you chose?

    I have seen in GMaps that going to DLR from a hotel in Hollywood is 1h30m, so if I have to be at the DL doors at 7:00h (due to ROTR), I think it would be better to stay in a hotel in Anaheim.

    About using the metro to travel between Anaheim/LA, I am looking in GMaps, and seems that travel by train/bus is much longer than travel by car, I don’t know if I’m missing something.
    There is absolutely no good reason for you to stay in LA. Pick an Anahiem hotel for the duration and drive to the sightseeing spots you want.late morning and mid day, traffic isn't much of an issue.
     

    LAS2AMS

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 9, 2006
    Another big tip, if you're looking to save on snacks: Visit a 99 Cent Only store. There's a location near Disneyland (in Garden Grove but you may want to visit another location that's not quite as busy. They're a liquidator, so sometimes they don't have anything of interest, other times you end up with several grocery bags (note that in California, you will pay 10c per bag unless you bring your own, or improvise without one). Kraft Foods tends to dump the most product, frequent re-occurring deals include: $1 for "premium," 2/$1 regular and 4/$1 snack-sized Lunchables, Jimmy Dean "Breakfast On The Go" packages 2/$1 (these are $3.50 each at Walmart), 1 oz. bags of Kettle Chips 4/$1, etc. My personal favorite is the Oscar Mayer 1 lb. deli meat packages sold for $1, but these go petty past. Pay attention to pricing!!! The chain's on death's door, and has recently tried to hike prices on name brand stuff, but it's done inconsistently. For example, I walked out with a club sized box (64 ct.?) of Quaker granola bars for just $1 last week.

    So, I can’t split my trip and change the hotel two times. I must choose between a camp base in Anaheim or Hollywood for the five nights. What would you chose?

    I have seen in GMaps that going to DLR from a hotel in Hollywood is 1h30m, so if I have to be at the DL doors at 7:00h (due to ROTR), I think it would be better to stay in a hotel in Anaheim.

    About using the metro to travel between Anaheim/LA, I am looking in GMaps, and seems that travel by train/bus is much longer than travel by car, I don’t know if I’m missing something.
    You'll get more bang for your buck in Anaheim.

    The ride into Hollywood through Metrolink / Amtrak, transferring to the Metro, is definitely faster than car most of the time. From the Anaheim station, it's a 35-40 minute ride into Union Station; from Fullerton, 30-35 minutes. It takes a couple minutes to walk from the train platforms to the subway platforms, and trains run every 5 minutes or so. It's a 20-minute ride into Hollywood. If you plan it right, it can be done in an hour. Traveling by car is typically 1.5-2 hours (or longer, but that can be avoided) especially with major construction on the 5 much of the way, and it's pretty high-stress. Note that the freeways are wide near Anaheim (which brought us the California Adventure, since Disney wanted to add direct access from the redesigned freeway to their parks, and rushed through the project), but as little as two lanes in landlocked Hollywood. This means that 90-minute commute can turn into several hours... and it happens more often that you'd like.

    That said, I'm not saying that utilizing public transportation will always be faster - that's definitely not the case. But given the cost of gas and parking, and often the time spent to find parking -- street parking can be tough - if not impossible - to find in Los Angeles, and hunting for a spot can be time consuming; the cheapest lots are typically in seedy areas -- it can be cheaper, more relaxing... and if you plan right, not anymore time than driving. Watching the sights from the sidelines... is a lot more interesting that watching a tourist from Texas cut you off as he/she desperately cuts across three lanes at once, given he/she missed his/her exit.
     

    sjmac42

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 15, 2017
    I’ve often done day trips from Anaheim (sometimes several) to LA and San Diego but it’s not ideal. If you are going to spend just 1 or 2 days touring LA and beach areas, staying in Anaheim as suggested would be fine. Any more than that, I’d suggest budget friendly Hollywood, West Hollywood or Beverly Grove. When there at Christmas we spent 4 enjoyable nights at the Beverly Laurel Motor Inn in Beverly Grove. About a 10 min walk to the Farmers Market, The Grove shopping Centre, several restaurants and cafes. It’s very well located and budget friendly, about halfway between Hollywood and Beverly Hills, close to several attractions (Petersen Automotive Museum, La Brea Tarpits, Beverly Centre).

    Glad you’ve dismissed staying near the airport.
     

    LAS2AMS

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 9, 2006
    I’ve often done day trips from Anaheim (sometimes several) to LA and San Diego but it’s not ideal. If you are going to spend just 1 or 2 days touring LA and beach areas, staying in Anaheim as suggested would be fine. Any more than that, I’d suggest budget friendly Hollywood, West Hollywood or Beverly Grove. When there at Christmas we spent 4 enjoyable nights at the Beverly Laurel Motor Inn in Beverly Grove. About a 10 min walk to the Farmers Market, The Grove shopping Centre, several restaurants and cafes. It’s very well located and budget friendly, about halfway between Hollywood and Beverly Hills, close to several attractions (Petersen Automotive Museum, La Brea Tarpits, Beverly Centre).

    Glad you’ve dismissed staying near the airport.
    The problem is that there are few budget friendly properties in these areas. The Beverly Laurel is a fine hotel, but generally (including taxes and fees) twice the rate of the Knight's Inn Anaheim, where the OP is considering staying. If the OP must stay near Los Angeles, I would highly recommend the Ramada Inn Wilshire Center; if you book in advance, the rates are comparable to Knight's Inn -- and there's ample, free parking, which is a rarity in the area. It's located in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles, a few miles from downtown (straight down Willshire) and down the street from the Wiltern, which hosts some big concerts/shows. It's surrounded by trendy shops and restaurants, and a Ralph's is a short walk away if you need to buy snacks. Traffic isn't too bad in that part of town, but a Metro station is located across the street and you can literally get on a bus to just about anywhere right outside the hotel.

    Personally, I would recommend staying in Anaheim. The "exhausting" part of visiting LA or SD is the drive, but you can avoid that by taking the train and using public transportation. There's nothing worse than driving around, looking for a parking spot, then finding one and wondering about the legality of parking there. That said, there's tons of cheaper parking throughout LA, generally not far from the attractions people visit, but you have to find them and be willing to walk to/from them.
     

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