The Best San Diego Money-Saving Tips You’ve Never Heard

Los Angeles and San Diego on a map
Los Angeles and San Diego on a map

Just as San Diego is full of exciting things to do, these things cost money, and it can be work for the budget-minded traveler to keep the trip affordable. San Diego is also full of great discounts and opportunities to save money—but not all of them are well-known. From under-the-radar discounts at the big theme parks to offers at lesser known attractions, I’ll show how you can make a San Diego vacation much more budget-friendly.

The Best San Diego Money-Saving Tips You’ve Never Heard

Theme Parks

Kids love visiting theme parks, but parents don’t always love the price. Luckily, San Diego theme parks offer steep discounts that are just a click away on Reserve San Diego. If your kids love LEGOS the 2nd Day Free pass currently offered at LEGOLAND California is a great deal. For aquatic fans, SeaWorld has a length of stay ticket allowing unlimited visits during a seven-day time period. Both tickets feature a discount of 10-30% off.

Animal Attractions

A visit to the world-class San Diego Zoo is a must! Make the most of your time and money with a 2-day pass to the Zoo. The 2-Day/2-Park Pass can be used for two entries to either the San Diego Zoo and/or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Personally, I think it’s best used to visit both outstanding parks. You save over 10% on this combo pass, too, which means you can see more for less.


The 1,200 acre Balboa Park is teeming with museums, gardens and cultural exhibits. If you plan on visiting multiple museums at Balboa Park, invest in a Balboa Park Explorer Pass. Available in one-day or multi-day varieties, it includes admission to multiple museums at an extremely reduced price. The multi-day pass is the best money-saving bet. It offers access to 17 museums, including the San Diego Natural History Museum and San Diego Museum of Art, over the course of seven days for one low rate. Currently, prices are $55 for adults and $29 for children ages 3-12. It’s always free to enter Balboa Park and simply see the beautiful landscaping and architecture, and the Timken Museum is also free daily.


When you travel greatly effects your budget. San Diego doesn’t have an off season, per se, but there are times of year that are cheaper to visit than others. Plan your vacation for January-March and October-November for the lowest rates on hotel rooms. Look for package deals too, as rates are even cheaper when bundled with other purchases. Smaller hotels with 70 rooms or less have a 2% lower tax rate which will save money over the course of a stay. Keep a look out for hotels that offer a free breakfast, as this is not standard in San Diego. Three verified options include the La Quinta Inn & Suites Old Town, Best Western Plus San Diego and Howard Johnson San Diego.

Free Things to Do

Believe it or not, there are free things to do in San Diego. Museums such as the California Surf Museum, Oceanside Museum of Art, and San Diego Botanic Garden all offer free admission on Tuesdays. Families can visit the New Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego free every second Sunday, too. Stroll through the Village of La Jolla to peruse about 30 art galleries showcasing anything from animation, to sculptures, to photography, and paintings. Or, get historical at one of the free tours in Old Town and in Balboa Park. The tours in Old Town happen every day at 11am and 2pm, and last for about an hour. The Balboa Park tours vary, but they showcases the gardens in addition to the history of the park.

San Diego Trolley

Hop aboard the San Diego Trolley for a fun and cheap way to get around town. For as little as $5 per day, you can crisscross through San Diego visiting everywhere from the Gaslamp Quarter to Old Town to Little Italy.


There are lot of places to eat in San Diego, but the best deals can be found in the Hillcrest area. Bread and Cie, Bronx Pizza, Oscar’s Mexican Seafood and Hillcrest Sandwich Co. are all delicious choices. For giant burritos on a budget, don’t skip Roberto’s Taco Shop or Santana’s. Both offer tasty carne asada burritos for $6 or less. Other options for dining on a budget in San Diego include Lolita’s, Salt and Cleaver, The Kebab Shop and Punjabi Tandoor. Of course, if you’d like to try one of the more expensive restaurants in San Diego opt for lunch instead of dinner. Many times the selections are comparable but the prices are cut in half.

Vacation fun doesn’t always have to be expensive. Follow these San Diego money-saving tips to stretch your vacation budget.

Ashley Dickey is Reserve San Diego‘s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

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One response to “The Best San Diego Money-Saving Tips You’ve Never Heard”

  1. My husband and I have been wanting to plan a trip to San Diego for almost a year now. There are so many things that we would like to do there like go to a baseball game and see some of the different breweries. Saving money is something that we are very open to so these tips will definitely come in handy. Thank you so much for sharing!