I have always wanted to go to Palm Springs and recently had the opportunity to tie it in together to watch a professional tennis tournament (namely the BNP Paribas Open), which was on my husband’s bucket list. I’m not a big golf fan (and neither is my husband) but always wanted to check out what Palm Springs had to offer, since it seemed to be the weekend escape for a lot of Hollywood celebrities or those from Los Angeles. Here’s how to go to Palm Springs on a budget.
Lots of Canadians (especially retirees on the west coast, like those from British Columbia and Alberta) spend the cold Canadian winters down south in Palm Springs and fly back up during the summer months when the temperature is just too hot (think 40 degree Celsius).
Getting to and From Palm Springs
From the west coast, Canadian carriers like West Jet and Air Canada have direct flights to Palm Springs. Because it was relatively short notice (about 3 months) and there was a big event (the BNP Paribas Open) we weren’t able to use points for the flight.
Therefore, we went with the alternative, Allegiant Air. In total a direct flight from Bellingham to Palm Springs (PSP) was $350 USD per ticket which included one check-in luggage. To park at the Bellingham Airport, it was about $5-7 a day at their economy parking lot.
Where to Stay
Palm Springs peak season (around March) is notorious for high hotel prices. Because we wanted to have the option of cooking breakfast and having a fridge, we opted to stay at an AirBnb rather than a VRBO which was actually managed by a local hotel. It was about $120 CAD/night.
It wasn’t in the swankiest part of Palm Springs but driving between the 9 cities (Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, Coachella, Palm Desert, and of course, Palm Springs) was straight forward. Here’s a link with the map to the different cities.
Renting a car is definitely a must in Palm Springs. I researched a bunch of different options, including using Turo (it’s like Airbnb but for car rentals) but found that the cheapest option after taxes was just using plain old Travelocity to book a car rental.
It worked out to be a little over $50 CAD/day for a compact car at ACE Rent A Car.
An alternative is to use Costco to book a car rental (apparently the cheapest option) but we don’t have a Costco card.
Where to Eat
We saved money by shopping at grocery stores and cooking mainly at the Airbnb, but also mixed things up a bit by going out for casual meals.
No trip to California is complete without eating at an In-N-Out Burger. With a milk shake, two sets of hand cut fries, and two burgers for around $10USD, you really can’t go wrong. One of the best fast food type burgers I have ever had.
Watching the synergy, enthusiasm, and efficiency of the staff is also something that is worth the wait!
Huge portions (HUGE) and friendly staff.
It’s a very homey kind of place with home cooked meals. Priced well, too, a huge burger with fries for under $11. Would have gone there again but ran out of time.
This was a casual place, you pay first and then they bring you your food. The food was decent but not “wow”. The prices were okay and pretty standard. I liked how you could get your own lemons and make your own sauces (e.g. grab tartar or cocktail sauce depending on what your taste preference is).
Things to Do in Palm Springs
Joshua Tree National Park
You can drive through the park (it takes about an hour and a bit), there are some day hikes you can do (ranging anywhere from 1 hour to much more than that).
The pass is $25 USD by car and that pass is good for 7 days. The rock formations were stunning against the blue backdrop of the sky.
Related: PC Travel Review
Coachella Valley Preserve
Thousand Palms Oasis is pretty cool and best of all, it is free. You can donate if you like. It basically looks like a bunch of palm trees amidst a very stark, desert-like environment, and looks very much like an oasis or a mirage.
You can stand on the San Andreas Fault line.
There are a few hikes around the preserve and the trails are well marked.
VillageFest Palm Springs
Every Thursday evening from 6-10pm downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Drive comes alive with vendors booths and things to see.
It is closed off to traffic on Thursdays so it is very pedestrian friendly.
Admission is free!
Drive around Rancho Mirage
We got to marvel at the beautifully manicured lawns of the hospitals, hotels, and resorts of Rancho Mirage. It definitely had a “lifestyles of the rich and famous” flavour to it.
Readers, have you been to Palm Springs before? Any budget travel tips?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.