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How to Visit San Diego on a Budget

While I love living here in San Diego, I don’t love the high price it costs to live here. A lot of people want to come visit because it’s so pretty and has tons of fun things to do but it’s also expensive to visit too! Here are a couple tips on how to visit San Diego on a budget!

How to Visit San Diego on a Budget

Plan in advance. If you’re visiting San Diego solo, you might be able to snag an amazing last minute deal. And if you’re the type that can fly by the seat of their pants, visiting without a plan just might work. For us, though, planning helped us be able to save the right amount of money, and it cut down on stress – a lot!

Find cheap travel. If you’re flying, check the deal sites! Priceline.com, hotwire.com, kayak.com…you know the drill. Stalk those airlines like it’s your job to be doing so! If you’re driving, you need to weigh the pros and cons of taking your own vehicle versus renting a vehicle. For example, an SUV will take a lot more gas than a small car. So, if you have an SUV, see how much it would cost to rent a smaller car. Also take into account the wear and tear to your vehicle, as those costs add up!

Find cheap lodging. The best thing to do when traveling to the beach is to pair up with another couple or family, and do group lodging. You can rent a beach house or condo for way less than a hotel room. If you’re traveling solo, you could even camp! If you’re traveling as a family, your best bet is to look into hotels and motels like Motel 6, Days Inn, etc. We’ve stayed at the higher-priced hotels, and honestly most of the time it’s not worth it.

Do free stuff. Posts from your favorite bloggers can be really helpful at a time like this! I’ve written another post about Free Things to do in San Diego and so has Sadie over at Slap Dash Mom, plus San Diego’s Visitor Site has 25 Fun & Free things to Do. Make an itinerary and plan things as close to your hotel as possible, to save even more money.

My favorite free spot (besides the beach) is Balboa Park! You could literally stay there all day and still not cover the entire park. Pack a picnic lunch and save even more.

How to Visit San Diego on a Budget

Enjoy the beaches. San Diego has several beaches, and everyone seems to have their favorite. Mission Beach is one of my personal favorites, but there are so many within just a few miles of each other that you can check them all out for yourself! Consider driving up to La Jolla, especially if you have kids. You’re likely to see seals swimming along the cove, or perched up on the rocks!

Pack a lunch. Don’t underestimate how much you’ll be spending on food during your trip! A family of 5 can easily spend $100 each day on food if they don’t plan ahead. I like to pack a cooler full of ice, drinks, and sandwich supplies when we go to the beach. While trying a bunch of new places to eat can be fun, the prices can be outrageous, and it’s so much easier to just walk back to your towels and eat a lunch instead lugging all your stuff to find somewhere you can all agree on to eat.

Relax a bit. Instead of stressing about money (we do that enough at home!), take a chill pill and make yourself relax. Whether this is by laying out on the beach, or taking a short nap in your hotel room, do what you need to do to get a little relaxation time in. Your mind and body will thank you.

Splurge if you can. While not always possible, I know that a little splurge here and there helps me get through the ‘cheap’ parts of the vacation. I don’t want to feel like I’ve been working to save money every day – I want to enjoy my trip and I want the kids to enjoy it, too! If this means splurging a bit on ice cream, or a bicycle tour, then try to squeeze it into the budget.

How to Visit San Diego on a Budget

Check out these other posts before you travel!


  1. Heather Garcia July 25, 2014
    • Tara July 26, 2014
  2. Yvette May 24, 2015
  3. Shelly August 6, 2015

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