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San Diego on a Budget

While San Diego may be a great destination for families, one thing it is not is cheap. Hopefully here are a few tips to try to make your stay enjoyable and less expensive.

Buy tickets for several attractions
You can buy tickets online that combine several attractions. This can save you quite a bit if you are planning a several day trip. Your first option is a two-ticket pass which includes the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park. Your second option is a three for one pass which includes admission to San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, and SeaWorld for up to five days. Your third option is a San Diego Passport which includes a best value zoo ticket, a tour of either Old Town or on the Amphibious SEAL, a one or two hour hornblower cruise, tickets to the Maritime Museum, and San Diego Museum of art, a free child admission ticket to Legoland (with adult admission) and other assorted discounts.

Stay away from hotel circle
The highest ticket item is where you will be staying. Since many of the attractions will be spread out over thirty or so miles (if you are going to Legoland), it really doesn't make any sense to stay right in hotel circle where you will be paying top dollar. We stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott about 10 miles north of San Diego and paid about $134 per night (off season in 2006) compared with similar hotels in hotel circle that were above $250 per night.

Pack your own food
Your second biggest expense will likely be eating out. I suggest bringing your own snack and food items and visiting the grocery store once you arrive. Find out if the place you are staying has a frig or microwave (some places will put one in for a small fee). This could save you some money and it also makes space for bringing things back. Let's face it, my daughter was happier with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich than she was with the $8-$10 meals options at the parks. Most places will also let you bring in your own snacks and sandwiches in a backpack.

Free and cheap things to do

Beaches - One great thing about San Diego is the number of good beaches. These are obviously free and can be found on this link: San Diego beaches.

Parks - There are a number of parks and open space areas in San Diego county. A listing of these can be found on the San Diego county parks website here: Suggested for an easy hike are: Goodan Ranch Preserve (seven miles of trails), San Elijo Lagoon Reserve which is one of the few remaining examples of coastal wetlands in southern California (six miles of trails), and Tijuana River Valley Regional Park (five miles of trails). Suggested for a medium to difficult hike are Hellhole canyon which offers really amazing views (eleven miles of trails), Mount Gower Preserve (eight miles of trails), and Mount Olympus Preserve (five miles of trails).

Belmont park beachfront amusement park - Unlimited rides on the roller coaster and other 9 rides are available for $13.95 if under 50 inches and $19.95 if over 50 inches. This is a great way to combine a full day of activities to go to the beach, ride some rides, go back to the beach, then have dinner. You can bring your own food, visit one of the fast food places, or select a more traditional dinner at nearby restaurants. 2005. All Rights Reserved.