Took my family of 5 to San Diego this summer in August. This is what we did and this is how much it cost us.
At A Glance
Hotel. Courtyard San Liberty Station. $170/night. Total cost: ~$1500 for 7 nights including breakfasts and couple of dinners at their restaurant.
Airline: Alaska Airlines. Total cost $1,938 Seattle/San Diego and back.
Fun: Different theme parks. Total cost for tickets $750.
Car: Trav Car. Midsize, Nissan Sentra. $250.
Eating out: ~$500.
Total cost: ~$5,000.
Day 1 – Settling In
Arrived to San Diego Airport. Called the hotel. Turns out they have courtesy shuttle at no extra charge right from the airport to the hotel. Sandy, the driver was super kind and gave us useful tips, offered ice cold water. She offered to arrange the rental car. Turned out to be a good option after reviewing others online. She called the agency and they came in no time to pick me and bring to their parking lot. Signed papers and got a car.
The hotel was very nice and seemed to be recently remodeled, great room design and it smelled good too. Nice and clean. Amenities as usual – small fridge, coffee machine, and flat screen TV with LodgeNet. In the lobby free and always fresh and hot Starbucks coffee. Free Wi Fi Internet access in the rooms and the lobby, two free access computers in the lobby with printer attached so you could check email, print boarding passes or coupons to theme parks. Free parking too, this is great comparing to other hotels.
The hotel is minutes from San Diego’s waterfront promenade, the Seaport Village, and few minutes more to downtown. Quick access to I-5 that takes you everywhere. Nice promenade is just behind the hotel, great for evening walk or jogging. Nice small pool with free clean towels, no need to bring from the room. Very good restaurant – great dishes and decent prices. Trader Joe’s supermarket few blocks away and ARCO, cheap gas station too, both on Rosecrans street.
After we settled we took a walk around the neighborhood. The houses are much different than northwest and most seemed to be build of stone.
Day 2 – San Diego Zoo and Seaport Village
On the second day we headed to San Diego Zoo. Huge parking yet packed solid. Gigantic Zoo with lots to see and do. Well organized. You can see hippos in the pool through the pool’s glass swimming underwater. Same with polar bear, this is so awesome, you are few inches from the massive animal that swims right in front of you under the water. And of course the orangutan, almost every zoo I visited has this animal yet it amazes my time and again, it’s so human peaceful and calm, and a little sad. There is a funicular across the whole park so you can see it from above. Bus tour is offered too, but best is exploring it by foot.
In the evening we headed to Seaport Village. It is a waterfront promenade in San Diego 10 minutes or less ride by the car. It offers stunning night views. Lots of small shops and restaurants. You should find a map of Seaport Village at the hotel’s front desk or online. We had our dinner in Edgewater grill restaurant and the food was great and the plates were very big including those from the kids menu. Parking is not free yet the price is decent, can’t remember exactly but it was only few bucks.
Day3 – Legoland California Water Park
On day three we headed to Legoland water park. It is huge amusement park with lots of activities but the key were the rollercoasters and water slides and other water activities. This day was 100% dedicated to kids and they had ton of fun. To get there head to I-5 and get off on exit 48. Note, on exit 47 you have Costco where you can buy a big pack of water for few bucks and swimsuits on the way to the water park. We also bought ready to eat food like grilled chicken and some vegetables so this night we didn’t go to a restaurant which usually cost us around $200-300 for two families. The Costco catch was only $43. Compare the saving to the weekly car rental. Not bad, and tasty too.
Day 4 – SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld Sand Diego is awesome! Huge free parking, friction free entrance – they opened extra gates to let people in frictionlessly. There are several shows that you need to pay attention and attend with some lead time. They offer guaranteed seating with extra charge, but if you come 20 minutes before the show the seats are available even in the soak zone – this is where you get seriously wet. The key show is Orcas. Two other shows which also fantastic are with seals and dolphins. The show with the seals is flipping funny and the show with the dolphins is spectacular. There are two huge rollercoasters too, kids were thrilled. Don’t forget to go the shark encounter, this is where you go through the glass tunnel under the water and huge sharks “fly” over your head, quite amazing experience. Another exceptional experience is manta ray petting. There is a shallow pool with lots of manta rays in it and you can pet them. You can buy special food (squid chunks) right next to the pool and actually feed them. You put your hand in the water with the piece of squid and mantas come to you to grab it and you can touch and pet them. This is awesome! The SeaWorld is few minutes ride from the hotel.
Day 5 – San Diego Old Town
On day five we stayed “at home” and enjoyed the hotel’s pool and the sun, so much needed vitamin D we lack back in the Northwest. But in the afternoon we headed to San Diego Old Town. It is few minutes ride from the hotel. Sand Diego old town recreates the history of how San Diego was built from the beginning. It’s a historic park with active museums (admission is free) and working colorful restaurants and shops. Restaurants feature live Mexican music and traditional Mexican food. Guacamole, fajitas, and (not sure how traditional it is) Corona Extra. You will find endless souvenir shops and cafes where they sell hot tortillas in different flavors, kids love chocolate flavor the most. We loved San Diego Old Town so much that we went there once more the other day too. Must see, feel, and experience!
Day 6 – Soak City and Coronado Island
Soak City is a water park with lots of water slides of different kind. If you like water slides you will enjoy together with the kids. If you are indifferent to water slides you will enjoy seeing your kids enjoying it like crazy.
Soak City was in the morning. Coronado Island was in the afternoon. There are two ways to get to the Coronado Island – rent a bike and ride there through the San Diego waterfront promenade and then over the bridge, or by car going to I-5 and then over the bridge. We used the car, it was 15 min ride. But next time I would go by the bike, you can rent one for around $15/day. Coronado Island is awesome! The colorful streets, the shops and the restaurants, and of course the beach and the breeze – oh… what a feeling!
Day 7 – La Jolla Beach and Seals
La Jolla beach is about 20 min ride north on I-5. A beautiful place with colorful small streets with shops and cafes, mostly on Prospect street, fantastic promenade. The most interesting thing about it is that there are lots of seals that live on the shore right in front of ton of people. There is so called children’s pool beach, a small piece of sand next to the water where people can swim an curious seals come and pop out of the water. They get really close. One of our kids even touched one of the seals. It’s quite an experience. Must see, free of charge. Parking of course is a bit challenging, but doable.
Day 8 – USS Midway and Going Home
On the last day we went to see USS Midway, aircraft carrier that was turned into museum.
It was amazing to walk on the internal and upper decks and constantly remind myself “this enormous thing is floating on the water.” The carrier was built in 1943 and served almost 50 years. It was built in 18 months, something that takes today about 5 years. It was built during the war so people were working around the clock. Its history includes serving during Vietnam war and striking down Soviet made Mig’s and then supporting war in Iraq in the Middle east. What an irony.
Back from Midway we packed, dropped the car right at the hotel. The shuttle picked us back to the airport and in few hours were back home in surprisingly sunny northwest.
That was awesome!!
image by Lin Pernille Photography