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A Quick Tips Guide to Finding the Best California Travel Packages

Adventurer C

Whether it’s hiking in a national park, swimming and soaking the sun on a world-famous beach, a romantic weekend tasting wine in Napa Valley, or relaxing poolside in one of its many eclectic cities, California offers an array of choices for those wishing to vacation there. Whatever the reason, sometimes organizing and planning a California trip can feel overwhelming and downright impossible, so we’ve created these six incredibly simple, effective tips to help you find the best California vacation packages.


travel packages california.jpgCoronado Beach, Coronado Island in San Diego

Plan Ahead (Timing is a Big Deal)

One of the most widely known tidbits about booking your travel packages is: the earlier the better. With California vacation packages it is no different. Occasionally, you will get lucky and score a nice deal at the last minute (these are some of the best, but are rare and can be super inconvenient in terms of a quick time crunch). But general travel package wisdom tells you that planning months in advance will not only score you a nice price on the travel package, but it will open up opportunities for other travel package add-ons like activities and interests.


Airfare is the most expensive during that crucial window between 0 to 13 days before a flight. Typically, California airfare can range on average of $100 to $200 more compared to the prime-booking window of 21 to 100 days out. Proper planning of a vacation, especially dealing with a California travel package can save you hundreds of dollars. The best time to book a domestic flight is between one and four months before your planned trip. Saving a couple of hundred dollars on your airfare is one of the easiest and best tips for California vacation packages. That extra cash means you can add a wine tasting session at next to nothing.


“If you plan on traveling the last third of the year or the first six weeks of the new year, watch out for system-wide fare sales. There are only one or two per year and typically occur in July and/or August. They last for three days each, so you have to act fast, but they offer the lowest fares across most destinations.”

@dfwskier Southwest Rapid Rewards Member 


Decide On A Vacation Package Theme

Knowing the purpose of your California vacation as well as who is going to be with you can make all the difference. Are you looking for a romantic getaway with that special person? Maybe the perfect, relaxing California beach weekend rife with yoga on the beach? Perhaps you want to take the kids on a family-friendly California national park excursion? Choosing a theme for your California vacation package helps simplify the process.


Southwest Vacations has multiple California vacation package themes to choose from.


  • Beach Vacation Packages
     Turn your beach dreams into a vacation where you can soak in the sun, play on the beach, or swim in the ocean’s surf. There are many wonderful sandy destinations up and down California’s beautiful coastline.

  • Family Vacation Packages
    California vacation packages include many various options for family travel. Whether it’s beaches, amusement parks, or national parks, California has the vacation theme and amenities designed for optimal family fun. In fact, check out the crazy packages planned for Disneyland.  

  • Romantic Vacation Packages
    San Francisco, San Diego, or Napa Valley, all of these have romance written all over them. California provides some of the top romantic vacation destinations through scenic coasts, relaxing beaches, and an array of dining choices for your significant other.


Spending a Little Extra to Upgrade to Have a Better Experience Can Be Worth It

With most California vacation packages (and especially through Southwest Vacations – more on that below), you’ll have the ability to find the cheapest options for the package. You’ll also have the opportunity to select the most expensive and top picks which usually will give you a better hotel, better air travel time, and a better location. They are priced differently for a reason. Pay attention to reviews and travel guides when comparing different packages. In some cases, an extra $50 to $100 can be the difference between an average resort vs one of the top resorts in California. The rule of thumb is this: Upgrades and spending a little more are going to give you a better experience. Don’t let pinching a few pennies be the difference in a vacation package you remember for the wrong reasons.


california vacation packages.jpgGolden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Plan for Inevitable Fees

Except when you fly on Southwest. We’re a fee-free zone. But when it comes to hotels, resorts, car rentals, they are everywhere! They’re a nuisance. Sometimes they’re a lot. Sometimes they aren’t. You used to be able to avoid them (oftentimes negotiate out of paying them) and they used to be tied only to extra amenities, but it seems like they are becoming more prevalent and mandatory. Fees. They come in the form of taxes, hidden surcharges, resort and hotel fees (we’ve even seen fees added to activities) and fees are here to stay. They range from WiFi, parking, fitness center use, pool access, use of pool towels, and a bottle of water. They are everywhere and a lot of them are ridiculous. What makes fees even worse—yes … worse than paying $10 to $60 extra per day on fees (sometimes as much as $100)—is being blind-sided by small print and surprise charges. 


The best tip when it comes to fees related to vacation packages is: Plan for them. This does two things. First, when you plan for fees they’re not a shock to you when you have to pay them. And secondly, planning for the eventual fee prevents you from having to play musical chairs down the road on activities or dining schedules during your vacation. How much should you plan on paying? A really good rule of thumb is to plan on paying 10 percent of your vacation package budget on fees.


The one place you can count on not having fees is on your Southwest flight! 


Be Flexible With Time and Money

There are two ways to really squeeze the most out of your California vacation package: Time and Money. When it comes to time, vacation packages usually have the dates and the number of days locked down. For example, a weekend package to San Diego which includes a trip to SeaWorld and another day planned for the beach will have you flying on Friday and coming home on a Monday. However, you don’t have to feel obligated to a Friday to Monday travel arrangement. Many California vacation packages will allow you to extend the dates for only a handful of dollars. When it comes to Southwest Vacations, you can plan on having an extended weekend in California by flying home on a Tuesday and most likely will save money on that extra day and by flying home on a Tuesday.


Most of the time, vacation packages are going to include a hotel and flights. But many of them (almost all) will have the option to include a rental car, passes to attractions, and all-inclusive amenities like meals and dining. Your goal with a vacation package is to get the best experience for the best value. Sometimes travelers confuse cheap vacations with memorable ones. Be flexible with your cash. A lot of times it is worth it. Don’t be afraid to opt-in to these amenities, especially when it can enhance the overall enjoyment of your vacation.


“A flexible travel schedule may save serious money! With Southwest, it's easy to use the Low Fare Calendar to find the least expensive day to travel to your destination.” 

@SWDigits Southwest Rapid Rewards Member


Use Southwest Vacations to Find the Best California Vacation Packages


Finding the best vacation package deal using Southwest Vacations is more than easy. We’ve provided some simple, yet effective tips for getting everything you need to begin planning your California Vacation. Through a simple process of plugging in your departure and arrival locations and dates, then select the hotel or resort, you can begin to plan and prepare for that ultimate California vacation


One of the best features of the vacation package tool is the search filters. Users can drill down by hotel, price, rating, hotel amenities, the type of experience, and geographically-centered points of interest which means you can select intriguing points of interest in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego.  Inside each of these filters are a plethora of options. Simply put, you can create one of the most customized California vacation packages without all the hassles or complex organizing. And even if you don’t have your theme selected or know what you want to do, experiment with plugging in a California location and discover all the entertaining and enlightening things there are to do in this diverse haven.


Where is your favorite place to stay in California? Leave a comment below!

You can also visit our Discussion Forum for other advice and answers from travelers like you—start with the Travel section if you’re looking for more great ideas for your next great vacation.


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