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How to do San Diego on the cheap

Looking for one last beach vacation with family and friends, good food and drink, and plenty of sunshine? San Diego is your spot!

How to do San Diego on the cheap

Summer may be over for those living on the East Coast, but the West Coast still has plenty days of sunshine and warm weather left. Surprisingly, a trip to San Diego doesn’t have to cost a fortune. We’ve found a few ways to cut some corners and make the trip affordable — including everything from where to stay to what to do.


Ask yourself how much time you’re planning on spending in the hotel. If you have kids, you may need to splurge slightly in order to keep them entertained. Little ones need naps, and you may not want to feel trapped in an unsightly room for hours. If this is the case, we recommend Sheraton San Diego Hotel. It sits right on San Diego Bay — perfect for early-morning walks —and has three pools, one of which plays movies Friday and Saturday nights through Sept. 30. For those traveling with friends or a significant other, search for deals on sites such as Hotwire or, and choose a low rate within your budget.


With thousands of dining options throughout the city, you’re certain to find more than enough that will fit your budget. Plan ahead and look for coupons on sites such as San Diego Restaurants or Bring plenty of snacks, make your own coffee in the hotel room and consider staying at a hotel with a continental breakfast.

How to do San Diego on the cheap


You can easily spend hundreds of dollars per day in San Diego on activities (think San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld), but there are also activities that aren’t quite as pricey. A few of our favorites include:

  • Balboa Park. Balboa Park is full of beautiful gardens, 15 museums and multiple performing arts venues. It’s perfect for families or even couples looking to have a low-key day.
  • Beaches. Most likely the main purpose for your trip is to visit one of the many beaches San Diego has to offer. Pack a picnic, open up an umbrella and spend the day soaking up the sun — for free!
  • Seaport Village. Seaport Village sits on San Diego Bay and provides hours of entertainment for both kids and adults. Check out docked ships, sailboats and yachts while window shopping, grabbing a drink or listening to live music.

Additional tips

Although it’s best to have a car when visiting San Diego, you can manage without one if you plan properly. Stay at a hotel that is near your main activities, and check to see if they offer free shuttles to anywhere you’ll be going.

Instead of eating three meals out, eat one or two. Have a late lunch instead of lunch and dinner. Grab appetizers and drinks from a restaurant that offers happy hour if you get hungry later on.

Relax, relax, relax! Finally, remember that the whole point of a vacation is to relax. Sleep in, lounge on the beach and at the hotel pool, go on walks and soak up the views of the city, socialize and just be. Vacations aren’t about spending money — they’re about feeling refreshed and rejuvenated!

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