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Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation Options

by Mommy Frog on June 3, 2023 23 Los Angeles

Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation OptionsAs one of the most-visited destinations in the world, Los Angeles boasts numerous transportation options. Thanks to an abundance of airports, freeways and other options, planning your Los Angeles transportation isn't difficult, although getting to and around Los Angeles without traffic might be! Hop aboard as we explore the transportation options for Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.

Transportation to Los Angeles

Whether you drive or fly depends largely, of course, on where you're coming from and how many passengers you will have with you in your frog squad. Larger families with a lot of tadpoles may find it more economical to drive, but you should always factor in the additional cost of gas and food while on the road. And leapin' lily pads, you should know that California has some of the highest gas prices in the country. Once you get over the shock at the pump, the Los Angeles area does have a massive freeway system. That makes Los Angeles fairly easy to get to and more car-based than other cities, so bringing your own car can help you save on flights and a rental car.

Los Angeles Area Airports

Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation Options - LAX at Night Courtesy of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

If you're flying to LA, you have an abundance of options. The two biggest airports are Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and John Wayne Airport (SNA), although depending on your origin, you may find the smaller airports to have more competitive rates or to be more convenient from your departing airport. At 12 miles away, John Wayne is just a hop, skip and jump away from Disneyland, although Long Beach is only a bit longer jump at 18 miles away. Burbank is closer to downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood than LAX.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation Options - LAX Courtesy of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

John Wayne Airport (SNA)

Long Beach Airport (LGB)

LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT)

Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation Options - Ontario Airport

Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR)

Traveling Between Los Angeles and San Diego

Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation Options - Union Station Courtesy of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

For travelers planning to visit both Los Angeles and San Diego (about 120 miles away), it is usually much cheaper and easier to rent a car or hop on a train rather than fly between the two cities. All aboard! Amtrak operates from the historic Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles and makes stops in several Orange County cities (including Anaheim) before reaching San Diego's Santa Fe Depot (also historic), a journey of about three hours. If you'll be hopping in a car, it can take two to four hours to travel between the two cities, depending on traffic.

One thing to be aware of is track closures. Some tracks between Irvine and San Diego are closed for repairs. You might not realize that until you go to purchase train tickets, so go through the process of purchasing to see if there are any schedule disruptions first. 

Transportation Around Los Angeles

Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation Options - LA Freeway at sunset

Los Angeles is a very large city that covers about 469 square miles, so the most popular way of getting about is by car. Residents of Los Angeles are very attached to their cars and the immense freeway system for traveling around Los Angeles and neighboring Orange County. If you're taking a trip to Los Angeles, you are better off renting a car than relying on public transportation, which will cost a family more money and not necessarily save time. Expect to do a lot of driving, as most of the area's major attractions are quite spread out!

Renting a Car in Los Angeles

The good news is that LA boasts some of the cheapest rental car rates in the country! Plus if you book your hotel stay or purchase theme park tickets with Undercover Tourist and add a rental car when booking, you will unlock even deeper car rental discounts! You can easily bundle your car with other travel expenses when purchasing to save the most green.

All of the stories you hear about LA traffic are true. You'll need to pack your patience to get around its many congested freeways, and you should expect to find bumper-to-bumper traffic if you're traversing the city, especially during rush hour (roughly 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays).

If you are heading to Universal Studios Hollywood, it is ALWAYS rush hour on the 101, no matter what time you drive. Plan to spend time ahead of your trip familiarizing yourself with the major roadways and mapping out your major destinations, starting with the journey from the airport to your hotel. If the thought of sitting in traffic makes your family feel green, hop over to learn more about taking public transportation to Disneyland and Universal Studios.

HOV Lanes for Families

Many of the Southern California freeways have designated High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes (a.k.a. carpool lanes), accommodating vehicles with two or more passengers. The so-called "diamond" lanes are fixed lanes that can go for several miles without a break, although in-and-out out merging areas have grown a lot recently. These lanes can come in handy when traveling with a group of tadpoles at rush hour because you can pass by all of the single-occupancy vehicles sitting in traffic.

We recommend getting out of the lane a few miles before your planned exit, or you might just miss it. Crossing that line when it’s not an official HOV lane entrance or exit can make for a very expensive ticket. There are some HOV off-ramps in certain areas, especially near Disneyland, which can save time by passing the regular traffic lanes. It is worth noting that motorcycles can drive in the HOV lane and often pass the HOV cars on the right, so be on the lookout for that, especially when merging to the right. The motorcycles can startle unsuspecting drivers who aren't used to sharing lanes. But it's toadally a thing in LA, so always check twice before switching lanes.

Parking in Los Angeles

In LA, parking can be tricky. Some locations have ample free parking; others are metered or require paid parking. Hours can vary and many meters have time limits, so be sure to read the signs. Most parking meters take coins or credit cards.

Bus Service

While the city operates a bus service, it is not recommended because of the spread-out service and the frequency of stops. There are some other bus services, such as the FlyAway bus, which runs between LAX, Union Station and Van Nuys. It's about $9.75 per person one-way between Union Station to LAX and kids 5 and under are free with adults.

Rail Service, Metrolink and Metro Rail

The Los Angeles area does have a commuter rail system and subway. At Union Station, you can use Amtrak or Metrolink to hop between Los Angeles and outlying areas, including Orange County (near Disneyland) and San Diego. To get around the greater Los Angeles area (Hollywood, Santa Monica, Universal City, etc.) quickly and conveniently, you can take one of the Metro Rail lines. These subway trains can take you to many tourist destinations around LA such as Hollywood, Universal Studios and even Santa Monica beach areas, but be sure to check the train schedule ahead of time to make sure you can get back when you want to.


Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation Options - Shuttle signs at LAX

Because Los Angeles is such a sprawling area, we only recommend cabbing it or using ride app services for short distances. It can get quite expensive to use them as your primary mode of transportation, especially during high-traffic times. When you need them, however, there are plenty of options. Note that SuperShuttle is no longer one of these options, as it went out of business in 2019.

Keep in mind that LAX has changed the process for picking up a ride from Uber, Lyft and taxis. These options are banned from curbside pickup. Instead, passengers should plan extra time to use the new pickup area called “LAXit” (pronounced “L.A. Exit”). Travelers must board a shuttle bus or walk, but it's too far to walk from many terminals to the pickup area to catch a ride. (It's closest to Terminal 1.) This pickup system is in place until LAX finishes building the elevated airport train (called a people-mover). Shuttles should arrive about every 7 minutes, depending on airport traffic.

The new train will arrive every two minutes and will transport passengers between the terminals, a car rental facility, a ground transportation hub and a Metro station. So while it's good news for the future, it's a little less convenient in the meantime.

Popular Los Angeles Transportation Addresses

Your Complete Guide to Los Angeles Transportation Options - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Popular addresses are listed below. Don't froget to plug them into your favorite mapping system before your trip!

Los Angeles International Airport

1 World Way

Los Angeles, CA 90045

John Wayne Airport

18601 Airport Way

Santa Ana, CA 92707

Long Beach Airport

4100 Donald Douglas Dr.

Long Beach, CA 90808

LA/Ontario International Airport

2500 E. Airport Drive

Ontario, CA 91761

Hollywood Burbank Airport

2627 N. Hollywood Way

Burbank, CA 91505

Amtrak & Metrolink (Union Station)

800 N. Alameda St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Disneyland Resort

1313 Disneyland Dr.

Anaheim, CA 92802

Universal Studios Hollywood

100 Universal City Plaza

Universal City, CA 91608

Six Flags Magic Mountain

26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy.

Valencia, CA 91355

Knott's Berry Farm

8039 Beach Blvd.

Buena Park, CA 90620

We hope you've found this overview of transportation to and around Los Angeles hopful in planning a visit. You'll find more resources and tips inside our Los Angeles Planning Guide.

Related: Tips for Visiting Los Angeles with Kids

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Nov 20, 2023 at 6:35 a.m. Stacie Says...

We are flying into Long Beach Airport on a Thursday around 7pm and need a ride to S.Harbor near Disneyland. Are there shuttles? Or is Uber/Lyft/Taxi the only way? Looking for something around $50 or less. For a total of 4 people. And i don’t mean $50/pp lol. Thanks!

Nov 21, 2023 at 1:27 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Stacie!

Generally, Uber, Lyft and taxi are the best ways to go. There are shuttle service companies, but most of the estimated quotes we found were well over the $50 budget.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jun 21, 2023 at 12:13 a.m. Shearer Says...

Family ending their holiday at Hilton , universal City after arriving by car. What is the best transfer back to LAX for 4 with suitcases? Is super shuttle back in business?

Jun 22, 2023 at 1:29 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Shearer!

Uber and Lyft are the most popular choices in LA. It does seem that Super Shuttle has service to LAX again, though we do not have personal experience with this service.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 12, 2023 at 6:27 a.m. DancerT Says...

Excited to use Flyaway and ride Amtrak! Fingers crossed it goes well.

Aug 8, 2022 at 2:54 p.m. May Says...

what is your best recommended transfer going to our hotel closer do Disneyland from LAX?

Aug 11, 2022 at 12:38 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi May!

Uber or Lyft will be your best bets.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jul 19, 2022 at 2:34 a.m. Isa Says...

Am looking foward to going to universal thanks for the advive!!!!!!!!!!!!11

Jul 19, 2022 at 11:06 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

We're excited for you to go to Universal, too, Isa - have fun!!!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Feb 22, 2021 at 2:24 p.m. Thomas Christopher Says...

Los Angeles city is a the most attractive place in the world. This article beautifully describe the transportation system & help me a lot while I visited LAX.

Feb 22, 2021 at 8:58 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

We're so glad to hear it, Thomas - thank you for sharing! :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Nov 11, 2019 at 7:34 a.m. atlanta airport transportation Says...

nice post

Oct 27, 2018 at 6:33 a.m. Imperial Ride Says...

Yeah Hiring a chauffeur service for Los Angeles would be the best option. Kindly tell me about the rate of your cars with 1,2, and 3 person separately and also send the information for family trip to Los Angeles. We have been hiring chauffeur in London for travelling. If your chauffeur service is available let me know.

Sep 24, 2018 at 8:14 p.m. Alexis Delgado Says...

Besides car rental, what is the best step-by-step guide to get from LAX to Universal Studios and back? It'll be for 2 people, so hopefully advice that won't cost more than $100 round-trip. Thank you!

Sep 27, 2018 at 5:31 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Alexis!

You can take theFlyaway bus ($8 per person each way) from LAX to the Hollywood stop near Hollywood and Vine (60 to 90 minutes, depending on traffic) and then either use theMetro station to take the red line from Hollywood/Vine to Universal/Studio City stop (it is two stops away and there is a free tram from the Universal station to the park, but it is walkable if you don’t mind huge hills) or a taxi. Check the Red line schedule because the trains are not always running when you want them (mid afternoon gap) but otherwise trains arrive about every 10 minutes and it’s about a 6-8 min ride. If the train schedule does not meet your needs you should be able to take a taxi or Uber/Lyft between Universal and the Hollywood station. It’s only a few exits from Universal.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jan 27, 2017 at 8:29 p.m. Bevin Says...

We will be staying in Studio City, and it said the nearest station was downtown Burbank to take the to Anaheim. Do we just buy our ticket at the station or can we purchase tickets online ahead of time? I did not see anything on the Metrolink website about purchasing tickets, just the price. Thank you!

Jan 27, 2017 at 5:27 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Bevin,

Metrolink offers a Mobile Ticketing app that you can download, use for payment, as well as your ticket. Your other option is to purchase at the station. The How To Ride section on the Metrolink has lots of great tips.

Hoppy Planning,

Mommy Frog

May 9, 2016 at 3:56 p.m. Carol Says...

I'm looking for a scooter or moped type transportation option in LA area ... please give me options! Thank you!

May 20, 2016 at 9:50 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Carol,

We did a quick Google search for moped rentals in L.A. and several operations came up. Since we have not tried any of them we do not have one we can endorse and say is the best. Let us know how it works out.

Hoppy planning!


Mar 18, 2016 at 3:54 a.m. Sarawilliams001 Says...

Very professional, always on time and just outstanding service.

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:53 a.m. SuziKyle001 Says...

Extremely nice drivers and cars. Would definitely use their service again.

Dec 12, 2015 at 5:54 p.m. Eva Hill Says...

Planning trip to Disneyland,Six Flaggs and Universal in June with my granddaughter. looking for discount tickets...2day park hopper to Disney, one day each to the other parks.

Dec 17, 2015 at 11:04 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Eva,

You can see all of our discount ticket options here:

We don't currently offer Disneyland tickets, but hope to in the future!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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