How to V-Day without going broke

Joshua Tree National Park (Good Free Photos)

Over 2.5 million people visited Joshua Tree National Park in 2016, up over 500,000 from 2015, according to the National Park Service.  (ANDREA CLEMETT/LARIAT) 

Travel getaways on $200 budget 

Bridging the anxiety of midterms or celebrating Valentines Day, budget getaways exploring the desert, beach, and city can be done for under $200. Time to scrounge coins from the pockets of those favorite jeans laying bedside, the car’s cup holders and head to Coinstar in CVS to change pennies into dollars.  

Driving two and half hours northeast from Orange County, travelers can retreat to Joshua Tree National Park. The park is interfaced between two ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado River. The distinctive Joshua Trees bordering the community appear to have numerous twisted branches and small spiky palms, which could resemble a land out of a Tim Burton movie. 

The National Parks Day-Use pass is free for backcountry hiking ranging from short walks and natural trails to moderate and challenging hikes. Skull Rock, as seen on Instagram stories, world-wide is short. A 1.7-mile hike exploring natural border piles that resemble a skull bearing large hollowed-out eye sockets.

TWENTYNINE PALMS: Hikers trek three miles to the Fortynine Palm Oasis. (ANDREA CLEMETT/LARIAT) 

Beyond hiking, the 1,235 square miles of park offers four camping areas, from the open scenery of the trees in Black Rock to the secluded area of Indian Cove where cell phone reception and water are limited. Holding 386 campsites, extended stays may be a must when priced for $15-20 per night.

Adventure welcomes all-abilities to the world-class destination for climbing. Offering 2,000 boulder problems and 8,000 climbing routes. The desert is acclaimed for the vertical cracked slabs of rocky terrain. Daily guides or classes are available with certified individuals who have the highest level of rock guiding. 

Early spring is ideal, revealing the picturesque desert blooming of wildflowers with mild temperatures for hiking and climbing. For guides, parking and a supply list, refer to the park’s website at National Park Service

To achieve the essence of community, Airbnb hosts numerous refurbished Airstreams from the 1970s. Most can accommodate two, equipped with gas grills and half bathrooms starting at $69 per night. These desert hideaways have backdoor wildlife: roadrunners, jackrabbits and coyotes. Hide your snacks. 

Heading into the town sightseers can indulge in fresh, soulful-style pizza at Pie for the People. It’s known for New York size slices and creative customized pies. “The Wookie” is decorated with pineapple, pepperoni, jalapeños and finished with gorgonzola. Speciality large pizzas for $25 can feed three with leftovers for breakfast.

A few miles west, adventurers can head to Pioneertown, stopping at the rustic decor of Pappys and Harriets. Patrons enjoy free live music sets while sipping on spirits out of mason jars. The spot is recognized for their Tex-Mex fare and guest performances by artists such as Paul McCartney.

Instead of gazing at yucca trees, excursionists may head northwest to Los Angeles to eat fried yucca at Cafe Brasil. It’s a vibrant cafe that serves small plated $2 appetizers of Brazilian cuisine such as empanadas, plantains and collard greens. 

From the cafe heading west on Washington Boulevard leads into Venice Beach. The Venice canals deliver a quaint atmosphere for quiets strolls near the water, concealed between the chic shops of Abbot Kinney and the character of the Boardwalk. Sitting within a five-minute radius within the three boroughs, Airbnb offers “tiny houses,” starting at $140 per night for two.  

The spaces can range in the 400-square-feet size and evoke a cottage-like feeling of rest and relaxation. Unlike hotels, these charming studios have kitchens to provide one’s own food or cooking. Hang up the car keys and bring bicycles to hop on and get around the town. 

With the spin of a compass, “staycationers” head an hour south to San Diego for a day trip to Mission Bay. It is the largest man-made saltwater lagoon in the country occupying 54 percent of the Mission Bay Park. Scenery of vanilla-cream sandy beaches, miles of paths for running or skateboarders and boats water abound.  

The calm surf conditions permit Duffy boat ventures. These boats are electric silent luxurious cruisers that suit all ages. Duffys can be comparable to the Telsa of the marine industry, firstly designed in 1968. 

Groupon advertises 90-minute cruises with cheese, wine and crackers for two to six persons for $45 each. Aboard these rentals, patrons may encounter wildlife such as sea lions, seals or dolphins. Each Duffy has a trained escort crew while the group can enjoy scenery and music.

Southern California offers an array of new experiences in neighboring cities that weekenders can celebrate, explore, and relax. With planned research, these exciting trips do not have to break the bank.

Info:  Airbnb, Groupon, National Park Service

Source:  Trip Advisor, Airbnb, Groupon