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Lyn writes about Southwest for her GotoTravelGal.com blog and has taken her family to many destinations around the US, flying nearly free on the airline. I’ve asked her to share some tips on taking a family trip to San Diego, one of her family’s favorite places, on Southwest Airlines.
Lyn: San Diego was our very first trip where we flew our entire family, including me, my husband and 2 school-age sons, completely on miles. It was quite an achievement to take that first flight, knowing we paid next to nothing out of pocket!
San Diego offers an array of outdoor and adventurous activities, as well plenty to entertain the kids! I’ll share some of my favorite things to do. And how to get there on the cheap.
Southwest Points Are Great for Family Trips!
One of the best ways to save money when flying to this southern California gem is to eliminate the cost of airfare. Southwest flies nonstop to San Diego from many cities, including:
- Indianapolis (our home airport)
- St. Louis
To use the fewest possible Southwest points to book your trip, be sure to book during a Southwest sale and take advantage of the Southwest Companion Pass. The Southwest Companion Pass allows 1 person to fly nearly free with you for up to 2 years after you earn 110,000 qualifying points. I have a step-by-step guide that shows you how to earn the pass, which you can download free.
Family-Friendly Activities in San Diego
Note: This post contains affiliate links for which Go to Travel Gal may earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking through. And some activities and accommodations were provided free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
A great deal on San Diego-area attractions is the Southern California CityPASS, which gets you into all of these at a discounted price. Plus, it includes a 3-day Park Hopper Ticket to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, which is an hour-and-a-half drive north.
The pass saves you ~$150 per person versus buying separate tickets and lets you right into the parks – no waiting in ticket lines! You can read my full review of the Southern California CityPASS to find out more about how it works.
We enjoyed LEGOLAND, though I’d recommend it for elementary school-age kids and younger.
And we are big Disney fans, so we always enjoy visits to any Disney park. Our family also had tons of fun at SeaWorld where we learned about their marine animal rescue efforts, and got to interact with dolphins. They have some great rides, too! We opted to bypass the zoo on this trip, feeling a bit “zoo”-ed out at the time, as we have a great zoo in Indianapolis.
A great time to visit San Diego is in the fall, as not only is the weather phenomenal, but many attractions and hotels offer free admission or discounts for kids during their yearly “Kids Free October” promotion.
San Diego’s Gorgeous Outdoors
Our family loves adventure activities and being outdoors, especially in California! We enjoyed free activities like swimming in the surf at Coronado Island (we even saw Navy SEALS in training swimming in the ocean!), which is just across the bay from San Diego; renting bikes at Hotel del Coronado and riding around the island; checking out Old Town San Diego to see structures from the city’s origins; and wandering through Balboa Park, the nation’s largest urban cultural park. Balboa Park houses numerous San Diego museums, gardens, fountains, green spaces, and the San Diego Zoo.
We also cruised around San Diego Bay after renting a boat from Seaforth Boat Rentals to see the city from the water, including sites like the U.S.S. Midway Museum and plenty of sunning sea lions. I always recommending seeing a city by water if you can.
San Diego also has several parks that are worth visiting, including Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve with abundant coastal views (keep an eye out for Grey Whales migrating along the coast) and home to the newly-renovated Torrey Pines Golf Course, as well as Anza-Borrego Desert State Park with rocky terrain ideal for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, which is set at a high point in the city with panoramic views of the coast and mountains and marked by a 40-foot tall cross.
Our family spent time both on Coronado Island and La Jolla, a charming village north of the city with rocky coastline and abundant seals and sea lions.
In La Jolla, kids will love hiking down into a sea cave via a manmade tunnel from “The Cave Store,” kayaking through sea caves in the open ocean with Everyday California, as well as getting a close look at sea lions complete with their loud “barking” and crazy antics from many access points in La Jolla.
Where to Stay in San Diego
We’ve enjoyed stays at many hotels in San Diego. For those visiting LEGOLAND California, consider LEGOLAND Hotel north of the city in Carlsbad, which is an absolutely adorable hotel that is one of the best kid-friendly hotels I’ve ever come across.
Kids will love the step-on whoopee cushion in the hall, the disco elevator, the kid-size peep-hole in the room, and even the lift-up toilet training seat in the bathroom. 🙂
For our first visit, we stayed at the iconic Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island. It is a gorgeous and historic beachfront property with ghost stories galore, beautiful pools, and amazing beach views. Our kids would have been content playing at the beach for a week in the giant-size California waves along the beach.
In La Jolla, we loved La Valencia, a Mediterranean-style luxury property within walking distance to everything you need in the village. The hotel has a pool and charming nooks and crannies down every turn.
San Diego never fails to entertain all ages and provide that gorgeous California weather that seems simply perfect. Stay busy with lots of free outdoor activities like hiking state parks, frolicking with sea lions, and meandering through Balboa Park.