8 Smart Los Angeles Travel Tips

Tips to Avoid the Common Los Angeles Tourist Mistakes

Los Angeles, New contemporary art museum
••• Downtown Los Angeles. P. Eoche / Getty Images

I see them all the time: the Los Angeles tourist who should have picked up a few travel tips before their trip.

Instead, they made a mistake - or two - or more. They're aggravated and stuck in traffic on the 405, they look miserable shivering in their shorts at the beach or they're kicking themselves for paying too much for their hotel room.

To help you be a smarter Los Angeles tourist, enjoy your trip more and spend less of your hard-earned money doing it, try these tested and proven Los Angeles travel tips:

8 Smart Los Angeles Travel Tips

Know the Weather: Summer weather can be quite warm in Los Angeles. However, it always cools off at the beach in late afternoon. Winter can be rainy and you may not expect the "June gloom" marine layer often obscures the sun for weeks at a time. To know what things are really like, check the Guide to LA weather and what to expect

Be even smarter and check the forecast for the right spot: temperatures vary within just a few miles. When it's 72°F in Santa Monica, it might be 80°F downtown and even hotter in Pasadena or Anaheim.

Spend Smart: Discover some surprising ways to save money in Los Angeles. Find out how to save on almost everything: transportation, attractions, tours, and hotels. The  Guide to Saving Money in Los Angeles includes a little-known fact about those big fare comparison websites.

Avoid the 405: This freeway seems to be perpetually gridlocked, especially between US 101 and Long Beach.

You can get in a traffic jam on it anytime, whether it's rush hour, midnight on Tuesday or noon on Sunday. Get a good map and use it to plot another route. Use the guide to getting around Los Angeles, which may also help. Depending on where you are and where you're going, consider using the Metro Rail instead of driving.

Pick the Best Hotel for Your Trip: LA is a sprawling city and the best place to stay depends on what you'll be doing.  Use the Los Angeles hotel guide to find out about each LA metro area, with their pros and cons.

Know the Geography: The Los Angeles metropolitan area is a big place. It covers five counties. It can take almost all day to drive across it from north to south. You can attack it in two ways: (1) Figure out what you want to do while you're here. Mark the locations on a map and visit them in groups. Or (2) focus: Pick an area to stay in such as Hollywood or the beach cities and visit the attractions in that area.

You Have Options for Airports: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the best-known, busiest and most hectic airport in the area. It's also prone to delays, is busy and confusing. Consider flying into Burbank (BUR), Orange County's John Wayne Airport (SNA) or Long Beach (LGB) instead.

What to Expect in Hollywood and Beverly Hills: You probably know what you will find in Hollywood: museums featuring memorabilia from Hollywood's past, the Walk of Fame, and the famous footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Few movie stars live there, or in Beverly Hills. Most of the studios moved out years ago.

Skip the overpriced movie star home tours. Don't buy the maps you'll find sold on the roadside either. Frankly, they're mostly fiction. If you really want to see a star or two, the most reliable way to do it is to get tickets to be in a Los Angeles studio audience.

Go to the Beach: Beaches are linked to Los Angeles and Southern California in many people's minds. The water's a little too cold for all the but the hardiest swimmers or surfers in wetsuits, but it doesn't keep people from flocking to the sand. Join the locals to watch beach volleyball games while you stroll along the beachside sidewalks. In Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach or Redondo Beach, you'll join rollerbladers, bicyclists, and runners. Visit Venice Beach for a taste of the unusual. Or head to Orange County's Newport Beach or Huntington Beach for surfing and sand castles.

Save Money on Admissions: If you're visiting several attractions with admission fees, think about buying a multi-attraction discount pack. The Go Los Angeles Card offers a lot of things to do. But be sure you'll use enough of them to make it worthwhile before you purchase. CityPASS offers fewer attractions (but ones that you are most likely to want to see).