How to Vacation in San Diego on a Budget
[ Insider Tips ]

How to Vacation in San Diego on a Budget

When you think of San Diego, what comes to mind? The sunny beaches? The culture? The price tag? People often believe that a vacation in San Diego will cost an unimaginable amount. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
You and your family can enjoy a memorable San Diego vacation without going over budget by using these tips.

Vacation in San Diego on a Budget
A vacation in San Diego doesn’t have to break the bank.

Where to Stay in San Diego on a Budget

First and foremost, you need to figure out where you’ll stay during your time in San Diego. Depending on a number of different factors, room rates can range from affordable to astronomical. To save money on lodging in San Diego, consider the following:
Location
Most travelers prefer to stay in hotels with a convenient location, which means finding a hotel in downtown San Diego. However, these hotels can charge premium rates due to their prime real estate downtown. If you don’t have a location preference, consider staying at a hotel just outside of downtown San Diego for lower rates.
Amenities
Do you need a hotel room to sleep in after a long day of exploring, or do you prefer a suite decked out to the nines? As you know, hotels with premium amenities have a larger price tag. If you don’t need luxury amenities, look for value hotels that offer cozy accommodations for a price within your budget.
Make your reservation at one of these low cost, comfortable hotels around San Diego:

Look for Hotel Deals
Remember to check resources such as Reserve San Diego for exclusive hotel and attraction packages as well as other savings. You never know what discounts you’ll find when planning your vacation in San Diego!
Travel Off Season
Hotel rates spike during peak tourist seasons and lower during off-peak seasons. To avoid crowds and surge pricing, visit San Diego from March through May or September through November.

Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.
Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.

Getting Around San Diego For Cheap

Even if you plan to drive to your vacation in San Diego, getting around San Diego can be expensive. Save money by using one of these transportation options in San Diego:
The San Diego Trolley
Instead of spending money on gas and a rental car, rely on the San Diego Trolley to get you around the greater San Diego area. The San Diego Trolley covers approximately 50+ miles of the city and stops nearby large attractions and destinations, from Gaslamp Quarter to Little Italy.
For even more savings, combine your sightseeing adventures with trolley transportation on the Old Town Trolley Tours. You’ll learn about San Diego’s history, landmarks, and more while heading to your next attraction or destination. Purchase a 1 or 2-day hop-on, hop-off pass to make the most of your vacation in San Diego.
Consider the Cost of Parking
Parking in San Diego can be tricky to find and expensive, especially downtown. To keep a few more dollars in your wallet, consider taking public transportation or an Uber/Lyft around San Diego instead of a rental car. Should you require your own car, be prepared for high parking prices and limited space.

A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.
A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.

Affordable (and Free) Attractions in San Diego

With several notable attractions located nearby, it is easy to understand why people think a vacation in San Diego costs a fortune. Actually, there are plenty of affordable (and even free) activities throughout the greater San Diego area.
Take advantage of these low-cost activities and attractions while in San Diego.

Purchase a Go San Diego Card

Did you know there’s a way to experience San Diego’s most popular sites such as SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, and LEGOLAND® California and save money?
The Go San Diego Card is a must for every vacation in San Diego. With this exclusive pass, you receive admission to all 44 San Diego area attractions for one discounted price. The Go San Diego Card includes admission to attractions and activities such as:

With 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7-day passes, the Go San Diego Card is the best way to experience San Diego’s greatest attractions at a price you can afford. Simply present your card at any of the 44 attractions during operating hours and enjoy!

The Balboa Park Explorer Pass

Balboa Park is a beautiful park in San Diego that houses 17 captivating museums. Of course, visiting 17 museums with multiple people can deplete a vacation budget in a matter of seconds. To help guests save money and experience all the park has to offer, Balboa Park offers an Explorer Pass.
By purchasing an Explorer Pass, you gain access to all of the museums for one low price. When on a vacation in San Diego with multiple people, this pass is the perfect way to save money and see it all.
However, if strolling through a museum isn’t your style, you can visit the park itself completely free of charge. Balboa Park includes various gardens, 65 miles of hiking trails, and more for guests to discover.
Whether you decide to purchase an Explorer Pass or roam the park, visiting Balboa Park is an affordable way to spend your vacation in San Diego.

Visit San Diego with Kids in October

Will you be traveling to San Diego with your children? If so, visit during the month of October when San Diego offers more than 100 free activities and attractions exclusively for kids. From free theme park admission to free events, your family can save money without skipping out on the best attractions and experiences.

Go on a Sightseeing Tour

When you travel to San Diego, sightseeing needs to be on your list of things to do. From the monuments to the iconic neighborhoods, there is so much to see. Traveling to and from all of these destinations over the course of a vacation can quickly become expensive. Instead, reserve your spot on the San Diego tour of your choice.
From drool worthy food tours (my favorite, naturally) to landmark sightseeing tours, San Diego is bursting with fantastic tours that cater to every type of traveler. You’ll experience all of the top sites, maximize your time in San Diego, and keep a few dollars in your wallet all at the same time.

A trip to one of San Diego's many beaches is nearly free!
A trip to one of San Diego’s many beaches is nearly free!

Lounge on the Beach

You know a day at the beach is practically free, right? Plus, a vacation in San Diego isn’t complete without at least one day by the ocean. Visit these sunny San Diego beaches (for free) during your trip:

  • Bonita Cove
  • Pacific Beach
  • Ocean Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • La Jolla Cove

Explore a State Park

Travelers who prefer to explore the great outdoors will have a fantastic vacation in San Diego. From Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, you can enjoy the San Diego landscape and nature for the low cost of free.

Walk Around Gaslamp Quarter

No matter when you visit, a stroll through Gaslamp Quarter is magical and doesn’t cost a thing. From the architecture to the shops, there’s always something to see and experience in Gaslamp Quarter. Don’t forget to bring your camera and capture your memories of the Victorian buildings and vibrant decor for years to come.

See the Sea Lions at Scripps Park

Those who know me know I can’t pass up an opportunity to see sea lions! One of the best places to spot these lovable marine mammals is at Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove. Why pay for aquarium admission when you’ve got one sitting right in front of you?

See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!
See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!

Start Planning Your Vacation in San Diego

Now that you know how to vacation in San Diego on a budget, it’s time to start planning. Don’t forget to visit Reserve San Diego to take advantage of savings that will help you stay within your vacation budget!

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