I have written a pretty comprehensive Los Angeles Trip Planner to help you plan your Los Angeles vacation from A to Z, but for a quick look at some things to keep in mind to make your trip memorable for how smoothly it went as opposed to what went wrong, check out these Los Angeles travel tips.
Take Traffic into Account
The difference between falling in love with Los Angeles and hating the city usually comes down to your coping mechanism for how to deal with traffic. The one thing you can count on is that rush hour traffic will be terrible, so plan your activities to involve minimal rush hour trips across town, or consider hiring a limo or driver, who will know how to get you around the city as quickly as possible. Depending on what you want to do, it's also getting easier to visit Los Angeles without a car.
More on Driving in LA - seriously, we do it differently here.
Stay Near Where You Play
Related to avoiding traffic, you'll get to see and do much more if you pack up and change hotels frequently to be near your first activity of the day, rather than planning a central home base you have to return to each day. You can save an hour to 2 hours a day in traffic, by changing hotels.
Give in to the Hollywood Kitsch
Hollywood, with its famous footprints and Walk of Fame, is totally cheesy. You can be 'too cool for school,' or you can embrace the cheese and have fun with it. Take your picture with Darth Vader, Hello Kitty or Spiderman for a buck; pose with your very own star on the Walk of Fame at Starring You; pose with a wax Marilyn Monroe in front of Madame Tussauds or just put your hands in the prints of an admired actor in front of the Chinese Theatre for free. If you don't own a TV or go to the movies, you can observe these bizarre rituals from a cultural anthropology perspective and wonder at how fictional characters keep the masses enthralled.
Try Something New
Whether it's your first time eating Thai food, first time taking an improv comedy class, or first time learning to surf, vacation is a great time to get out of your comfort zone and LA has abundant opportunities to try new things, no matter how many adventures you've had before. For some ideas, check out my MEGA guide to Things to Do in LA. Just about EVERYTHING is in there, so there's bound to be something you haven't done before.
Don't Spend More Than You Have To
Los Angeles is known as an expensive city, which is especially true if you're paying rent or a mortgage. But if you're visiting, there are all kinds of bargains from hotel deals to discounts on dining, entertainment and attractions. You can get twice as much vacation for your budget if you plan strategically and look for discounts on the things you want to do. Here are some resources that can help you save money.
Mix Up Run Time and Down Time
There is so much to see and do in Los Angeles that it's easy to run yourself ragged trying to fit in as much as possible. Despite what they say about people not walking in LA, you'll find yourself on your feet walking around most of the time visiting theme parks, museums, Hollywood, the Venice Beach Board Walk, the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade, etcetera. Try to intersperse more restful activities, like a bus tour, a couple hours on the beach, at a spa or by the hotel pool, or a movie with the kids at El Capitan in the middle of the day to break it up.
If You're Not Having Fun, Do Something Else
Sometimes, something you thought would be fun, just isn't. Other times, you might be on a trip someone else planned without taking your tastes into account. If you're not having fun at what you're doing, just think of something you love to do. Whatever it is, you can find a place to do it in or near LA.
If you're on your own doing something boring, it's easy to say "This museum isn't doing it for me, I think I'll go for a hike," or "It's too hot for this hike, I think I'll go find an air conditioned museum."
If you're with someone else, it may take some negotiation. If you're miserable doing what your companion(s) want to do, suggest some alternatives you would enjoy, with the option that they too might like the alternative, or you can split up for a while and get together later. While she shops at the Grove, he might check out the Petersen Automotive Museum. While he learns a new water sport, she may have a spa day or vice versa.
Click the link above to dive into the Step by Step Los Angeles Vacation Planner for help choosing hotels, attractions and modes of transportation for getting to and getting around LA.