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Planning Your Palm Springs Vacation on a Budget

Palm Springs is a desert oasis on the western edge of California's Coachella Valley. This former Hollywood-glitterati hideaway offers glamour, nature exploration, relaxation, and 350 days of sunshine. Here's how to do it all without breaking into your piggy bank.

While there is much to do in the lively town center, the surrounding scenery is some of the most breathtaking in the state. The Coachella Valley Hiking Club offers free guided hikes year round. Whether you prefer an easy 2-hour stroll or a strenuous 8-hour hike, this hiking club will cater to your abilities. Traverse the surrounding mountains and climb almost 12,000 feet to the peaks. You'll have to get out of the city to reach these hiking trails, so choose any affordable hotel in Palm Springs for your stay. For something a bit less intense, visit the Sunnylands Center and Garden for free bird-watching walks or the Living Desert to explore a variety of animals and habitats.

There are ample designer boutique shops in Palm Springs, but for a more affordable shopping experience, browse the one-of-a-kind items at Villagefest and the Farmers Market. Villagefest happens every Thursday night between Amado and Baristo roads. This weekly outdoor festival features food, arts, musicians, and local artisans. Also on Baristo Road, the Farmers Market is held on Saturday mornings next to the Camelot Theatre. Stay within walking distance of these events at the budget-friendly Best Western Plus Las Brisas Hotel.

Take a break from tanning and seek the shade of the city's art galleries. The Palm Springs Art Gallery attraction offers free admission and an extensive collection of West Coast artists, Native American artists, art glass, artifacts, and photography. You'll see the historically significant works of Sam Francis, Robert Arneson, Nathan Oliveira, Mark di Suvero, and Edward Ruscha. If you're looking for local work to buy, head to the Backstreet Art District. Just south of Highway 111 you'll find about a dozen artist-owned galleries and studios. Shop the open houses and street sales during monthly art walks that happen the first Wednesday of every month. You'll find the quaint and affordable Saguaro Palm Springs hotel near the Backstreet Art District.

Try your luck at the tables and slots at the Spa Resort Casino. This downtown hotel and casino is a hub of activity every night of the week. If you're not one to take chances gambling, grab dinner at one of the on-site restaurants. If you're still fighting jet lag, take advantage of the early-bird special at the hotel's steakhouse. Additionally, the casino offers live entertainment and a disc jockey at the Cascade Lounge. For a quieter evening out, reserve a table on the patio at Alicante Restaurant. Next to the Plaza Theatre, this restaurant offers outstanding food, affordable prices, and peaceful people watching.

A former journalist, Tammy Banfield is a freelance travel writer who loves scouring the Web for the best travel experiences. Tammy has written about more than 2,000 hotels throughout Canada and the United States for sites like Hipmunk.

Tips for Families on the Road

Life and Travel from Four Happy Travelers recommended by the DeMichiel Family (FOTR since 2007)

Tips for winter camping in New England:
  • Rent or bring your own
    100 lb. propane tank
    (the 30 lb. tanks did not produce enough pressure to keep us warm.)
  • Take the wind into consideration on where you go. Up by the Great Lakes or by the ocean the wind blows almost constantly and can lower the temperature in your RV significantly.
  • Call any RV park that says they are open year round to make sure they offer winter camping.
  • Bring a heating blanket, slippers, bathrobe, extra socks, boots, mittens, scarf, coat and extra blankets.
  • Heat tape and a heated underbelly I think are the minimum you need (and our water still froze up many times - mostly when it was windy.)
  • Many slide outs and windows can leak air - put pillows by the windows you sleep near.
  • Keep the day/night shades closed - it makes a huge difference.
  • Most of all, plan to have the equipment you need so that you can have fun in the winter and be warm.

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