One of the reasons Mark and I have been house sitting for over a year is so we can live “for free”, taking care of people’s home and pets, while they are away. For us, it is a perfect exchange, with quite a few perks, one of which is the variety of places we get to live in. We don’t seek out super desirable locations and make the destination our highlight as many other sitters do, but prefer longer term sits and weekend explorations in each area we find ourselves in. The United States has interesting parks, beaches and cities everywhere!
On the most beautiful day during our three-week sit in Costa Mesa, Southern California, we put on shorts and flip-flops and headed for the beach; Laguna Beach to be precise. This is the name of a town we instantly liked upon arrival. The atmosphere is relaxed, people are very friendly, the shoreline is abuzz with activity and the surroundings are pretty and well-cared for. The beaches and coves are attractive, dogs are allowed wherever we wanted to go and there is some quirkiness to the area.
Mark and I are “on a budget”, and have always been. This doesn’t mean that we count every dime and keep a tight ship at all times with spending limitations for each category. No, we operate differently. We don’t really have an exact budget, we are just used to spending as little as possible, weighing options when it comes to “frivolous” activities or items. What this also means is that we try to enjoy destinations on the cheap. Sometimes, the game is on to not spend anything at all, apart from the fuel to get there, like that time at the Victorian Christmas in Nevada City, or this day in Laguna Beach. And, yes, you can still have fun on a shoestring; it can be quiet satisfying, actually. 🙂
I realize that one of the attractions on a day trip is going out for lunch, dinner or a drink. Our experience is that in popular places, food and drinks are very expensive and often disappointing. We usually pack our own sandwich lunch and water (drinking fountains are prominent in the US) and have a picnic in a park or on the beach. On this particular Sunday, we had a massive brunch at home before we left and carried snacks for us and our temporary dog Jaxx. Viewpoints are the ideal place to enjoy these nibbles.
What about parking, you ask? Research online told us that there is a parking lot in Laguna Beach with a certain number of free spots on weekends, outside the summer season. I am talking about Lot #11 (at the corner of Laguna Canyon Road and Forest Avenue) and spots 300-422. Arriving relatively early might be necessary to secure one of these freebies. We pulled in around 10am and most spaces were still empty. If you miss out on them, the cost to park is only $3 for the whole day. It is less than a ten-minute walk to the waterfront from here. There are free weekend trolleys if you decide to park further out. No dogs are allowed on the rides.
Mark and I like the outdoors and enjoy long walks. Laguna Beach delivered. We followed the coastline for hours, over the boardwalk, on meandering paths with gorgeous views, through well-maintained (sculpture) parks and past attractive neighborhoods. Sometimes, we wandered on the beaches and discovered picturesque coves, and once, I dipped my toes in the icy water. Seven-month-old Jaxx had no idea what to make of those foamy things that kept coming and going, only that they tasted salty. We had no expectations about Laguna Beach and were pleasantly surprised with what we found: an oasis for day trippers and their dogs!
Do you prepare a lot before going on a day trip? Which – previously unknown to you – destination have you been pleasantly surprised with?