Traveling to Los Angeles- “Welcome to Hollywood!” That’s the first thing that comes to my mind when considering a trip to Los Angeles. I took a pre-planned trip to L.A. back in November 2020 and wanted to shared my experience traveling to Los Angeles during covid.
Many of you have asked what is it like traveling during these unprecedent times. Hence, I am going to share my personal experience. Now I do want to add a disclaimer. I am fully aware of the current conditions and am asking you to use your own judgement before planning a trip anywhere. This post is intended to simply share my personal experience with the world. Having said that, let’s get going.
$55 roundtrip from Orlando to Los Angeles, who has heard of such a deal? Yea, I was shocked too. I came across this deal back in May via American Airlines newsletter (sign up for those airline newsletters!) and jumped on the opportunity. Figured I’ll go towards the end of the year in the hopes that the situation would have been under control but boy was I wrong. But that’s a story for another time.
Also keep in mind, at this point I knew very little about things to do in L.A. maybe except for the few such as the Hollywood sign, Rodeo drive, Hollywood Walk of Fame, and avocado toasts?
I had monitored the constantly changing covid restrictions in California, just to ensure I was still going to be able to go. I think back in September or October, the restrictions had eased up which got me excited and solidified my decision to go on the trip. That’s when I booked my hotels and rental car.
Fast forward to a couple of days before my trip, there was a plot twist! L.A.to shut down again, restrictions changed again. And it was too late to cancel my plans, so I embark on an adventure.
As most of you know, I am a last minute planner when it comes to things to do or see as well as food options. So that made it easier for me to go with the flow and create a unique experience. I also decided not to stay in Los Angeles the entire duration of the trip, instead booked nights in Palm Springs, San Diego and L.A. Smart move!
Oh and one more thing. When I initially booked my $55 roundtrip flight, it was non-stop. But at some point American Airlines decided to just cancel that flight and instead put me on a flight with one stop in Dallas. On any other occasion, I would have been upset because I prefer non-stop flights, just get me to my destination but in this situation, in-flight service was non-existent. I mean you were handed a bag with small bottle of water, single use packet of sanitizing wipe and 1 little biscotti cookie. (<<—- Click on it to purchase one). With most restaurants in the airports closed and it being a 6 am flight, I didn’t get a chance to grab breakfast. So I was thankful for the stop in Dallas.
The flights were about 70% full with no blocked middle seats. Masks were required during the entire duration of the flight except when actively eating or drinking. Overall, I had a pretty good flying experience with American Airlines to and from Los Angeles.
HOTELS & TRANSPORTATION
So I spent 3 nights in 3 different cities which were Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs.
I picked up my rental car from Fox Rent a Car at LAX. Overall, it was a smooth process, the customer service rep. was very friendly and recommended some of his favorite restaurants in the area. However, it did feel like an eternity had passed by the time I got my red Toyota Highlander SUV. The reasons being- getting out of the massive LAX, waiting on the car rental shuttle which might have taken 20-30 minutes to get there, the drive to the car rental facility which is off -site, car pick up & inspection and finally driving off. I’d say it took an hour and half. I mention this especially for my first time visitors to L.A. If you are planning to rent a car, don’t expect it to be a quick process, especially during peak seasons.
For the hotels, thanks to Hilton Honor rewards (<<—- Click this link to sign up for your own Hilton Honors Amex credit card and earn up to 100,000 points) points through my Amex credit card, I stayed 2 out of 3 nights at a Hilton property. Plus I trusted their cleaning and sanitizing process (personal opinion).
The first night was spent at the Embassy Suites by Hilton hotel in Arcadia Pasadena which is about 45mins from LAX. By the time I checked in, it was pitch dark outside so I can’t really say much about the surrounding areas. However, the interiors were very pretty decent. I got the 2 queens suite. The room was neat & clean. The check in process was quick, had my room key in 2-3 minutes. The restaurants at the hotel were closed due to the pandemic.
Night 2 was spent at Hotel Republic San Diego, Autograph Collection in downtown San Diego. First things first, they don’t offer on site parking. But apart from that, I loved the hotel for many reasons. It was centrally located, had several restaurants and cafes within walking distance, and the room itself was very modernly decorated, clean and cozy. And the staff was super friendly too. It had to be my favorite hotel from this trip. Highly recommend it!
Night 3 was at Hilton Palm Springs. Umm yeaa. So for the price point this hotel was definitely not worth it. I basically paid over $200 for a run down motel with the Hilton brand name on it. Not impressed at all. But it was one of the better option for that price range in that area. There is a huge casino hotel across the street which seemed fun and lively. Downtown Palm Springs was a 4-5 minutes drive. There were several restaurants and cafes walking distance from the hotel. Parking was $18/night at the hotel. Overall, I’d give the hotel a 3.5/10 rating.
THINGS TO DO
I didn’t get to do or see as much as I would have liked to due to most places being closed. However, the long drives from one city to the next, hunting for local hole in the wall type of restaurants and exploring the outdoors made it an adventurous trip.
Okay so I am going to be very honest here and this is going to be added to my list of travel fails. So driving through an empty downtown L.A, you know that area where they have all the Hollywood stars on the ground called Hollywood Star Walk, well yea, I didn’t even step out of my car to take a pic there. To be honest, they reminded me of the ‘keep 6 ft distance’ stickers you see all over stores nowadays. Major disappointment in my opinion, I just didn’t get the hype. I also did not do the hike that takes you up to the Hollywood sign *embarrassing* . In my defense, I had been up since 4 AM, running on 3 hours of sleep and was in L.A. only for the first night. Now I did visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and spent some time taking pics by the outdoor exhibitions. The indoor museum was closed.
Next day was spent driving to San Diego for a whale watching tour. I enjoyed the sail in the ocean which lasted about 3 hours, even though no whales were sighted. The tour was with Seaforth Sportfishing company, purchased off of Groupon for about $30. Some more things to do in San Diego are- visit the San Diego zoo, Balboa Park, La Jolla Cove, and Coronado beach.
Last day was my favorite of them all, we drove to Joshua Tree National Park & stayed in Palm Springs for the night. The park is phenomenal, perfect for catching a stunning sunrise or sunset as well as star gazing! I highly recommend visiting the park, whether it is for some hiking or to have a picnic in there.
Due to the restrictions, I had to go hunt for food (not literally). With indoor dining closed in Los Angeles, not all the restaurants were open for business. So we ended up getting everything to go except our dinner in Palm Springs which offered outdoor seating.
The food options in L.A. are endless! It’s not all avocado-toasts and coffee. You might come across some of the best tacos, Korean bbq food trucks, or Indian cuisine. From fine dining to food trucks, I loved everything that I tasted on this trip. I have a separate blog post coming up with all the details of where to eat in L.A.
FINALE- TRAVELING TO LOS ANGELES
Finally, my verdict on traveling to Los Angeles during the pandemic. Honestly, I had a great trip. With mask coverings required everywhere and social distancing, I felt safe during the trip. I also ensured I personally followed all the guidelines and maintained my distance at all times.
Los Angeles and the surrounding cities have a LOT to offer. I highly recommend visiting that area, once safe, but plan to spend at least a week because you don’t want to miss out.