We live in Utah, so California feels exotic with it’s beautiful beaches and amazing food choices. A few times a year we try to get some beach time in and just relax. On this particular trip we wanted to make it kid friendly and do some of the theme parks. Legoland, Sea World, San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park are all in the vicinity of San Diego. We chose to do Legoland and Sea World thanks to the convenient Go San Diego Card. It’s pretty handy to keep costs down and see a lot of things.
If you’re going to be in the area in October a lot of the attractions in the area allow kids for free including Sea World. They are a lot busier but it’s a great way to save money.
Another great way to save up for some of the costs of theme parks in the area is to cut costs on flights, accommodations and rental cars. In a previous post I discussed how we use credit card points for a majority of travel unless we find an amazing cash price. For this particular trip we flew on Alaska Airlines out of Salt Lake City (SLC) to San Diego (SAN). Alaska Air is popular on the west coast for being affordable and very clean. If you’re not on the West Coast SAN is also a popular hub for Southwest Airlines which carries their own credit card or you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. Our flights were 5k each way per person plus the standard $5.60 taxes and fees per person which is typical for domestic travel. Our family of 4 with a lap infant was able to get there on 30k points and $33.60. Alaska’s current signup bonus is 40k points with $1,000 minimum spend in the first 90 days.
(This is really a steal for anyone even if you’re not on the West Coast because of transfer partners like Icelandair and many Asian carriers. They also offer a companion pass yearly for $99 plus taxes and fees, which can be used to travel to Hawaii. We do this every other year and head to our favorite Island Kauai for cheap).
For our hotel stay we used a combination of Hilton Points and cash to book the Homewood Suites San Diego Downtown Bayside. This location was ideal because we were just off of downtown so it was cheaper but we could walk to a lot of restaurants and a nearby park. We only had to drive 10 mins to be at a nice beach or Sea World as well, which was wonderful. I highly recommend renting a car when you have kids just for convenience and car seats. Uber is fabulous if you’re just with adults though because parking is expensive in the larger cities. At this particular hotel we paid a nice $40 per night for parking. It cost more than our airfare! Overall the Homewood Suites was roomy with a studio style layout and has free breakfast which is always a win when traveling. Overall we paid 80k Hilton points and $156 for the four nights. There are better ways to use those points but we were going for a cheap family trip. Hilton’s credit card holders get a bonus perk of collecting points at 8-14x $1 spent on their properties so it is easy to rack up a decent amount of points again. Hilton currently has a fluctuating price model depending on demand and how many guests but most rooms start at 20k points a night up to over 100k a night for some of the more exclusive resorts like Bora Bora, Maldives, etc.
For more info or to check out the Hilton Surpass Card click here http://refer.amex.us/CEARATOQZc?XL=MIMCP
Legoland is a short drive from San Diego in Carlsbad, CA and was a blast for our five year old and she was tall enough for nearly everything. Our one year old did what you would expect, and took the sights in from the stroller, and could only go on a few things with us holding him. There’s a water park section as well and so much to see. We did it all in one day but I feel like two days would give you more time, especially with kids of multiple ages.
Sea World was fun and the rides were spread throughout the park to break up the exhibits so it didn’t feel quite like an overpriced aquarium. (Side note: Beer and Wine in Legoland were REALLY expensive but Sea World got it right and catered to mom and dad everywhere you walk 🙂 ). Overall one day at Sea World felt like plenty as well and the lines weren’t bad when we went in September.
If you’re in the area you have to go to the beach right? That’s what we did with our other days. Coronado Island is a personal favorite but there are many wonderful beaches along Mission Bay, Pacific Beach and the smaller marina bays surrounding downtown San Diego. In the past we have also stayed at the Catamaran Resort and Spa on Mission Bay, and that is a great place for a beach break with all the amenities.
That’s a simple straightforward trip on points and after everything we spent-$33.60 on airfare, $156 total on a room for 4 nights, $340 on the San Diego Go cards and $113 for a rental car through Hotwire.com. Not too shabby compared to what we would have paid cash price. Thanks for reading and feel free to email me with any questions or to help plan your next trip!