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How to Get the Best Deal on San Diego Attraction Tickets

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

San Diego is one of Fat Papa's, Itsy Bitsy's, and my favorite places to visit. I think we have visited San Diego more than any other destination we like to frequent for vacations. While our trips generally focus on the Zoo and Safari Park, as Itsy Bitsy has gotten older, we have started visiting other fun places in San Diego as well. And what we have found is this … San Diego is expensive! So, knowing the best way to buy tickets and package experiences is key for any San Diego vacation.

Like many popular tourist destinations, San Diego offers visitors a wide variety of attractions from amusement parks to museums to watersports and more. You will never be at a loss for new adventures when visiting this great city. Luckily, a variety of third-party ticket sellers have also been attracted to this popular tourist market. Why is this lucky? Because these third party vendors provide visitors a variety of ways to buy tickets and bundle experiences to make vacations easy and more economical.

But third-party vendors aren’t the only game in town to save a few bucks on tickets for all your San Diego excursions. Depending on where you are staying and what activities you plan to participate in, your hotel or activity of choice may even offer special promotions or ticket bundle options. It never hurts to call ahead and ask.

When you save money on tickets, it's easier to splurge on fun extras like giraffe feedings. (Oct. 2019)

Then there are the seemingly never-ending corporate promotions that go on during popular tourist seasons. Growing up in Southern California, it seemed like there was always a promo with some soda company that you could turn in an empty bottle for $10 off a ticket at some local attraction. Obviously, as an out-of-town tourist, these promos are going to be harder to find, but not impossible. They just take some extra sleuthing.

One thing is clear, though, when it comes to getting the best deal on attraction tickets in San Diego … the possibilities seem endless and rather overwhelming. Well, I’ve got you covered there, ducky friends! Over the years, Fat Papa and I have used every trick in the book to bring down our travel costs in San Diego to help justify our constant travel to this one destination. In this blog post, I am going to share with you all of my tips and tricks for getting the best pricing based on your interests, where you are staying, and the activities you are booking.

In general, my experience on getting a good deal on tickets for San Diego attractions breaks down like this …

Hotel and Resort Deals

Old Town Trolley

CityPASS Southern California

Go City San Diego

Direct From Attraction

Zoo-cations – Multi-Day Tickets vs. Memberships

Each of these options has their niche market and attractions that they support, and each one has its pros and cons. Ultimately, which one will work best for you is going to depend entirely on the type of activities you are wanting to book in San Diego and the focus of your vacation.

Hotel and Resort Deals

Any time you are planning a vacation and know where you want to stay and know what you want to do, your first step in booking your travel should be to call the hotel or resort where you plan to book. Why? Not only will the concierge be able to provide you with great information about the local area, but they will be able to tell you about any promotions or special ticket pricing they are able to offer guests.

Concierges can often clue you into local discounts.

While each hotel is different and promotions change regularly, when you stay at properties in popular tourist areas, many compete with each other by offering ticket deals. This is especially true of “vacation” properties like Hilton Grand Vacation MarBrisa Carlsbad, which will entice guests to listen to their 90-minute time-share pitch with a gift of free LEGOLAND tickets.

Fat Mama Tip: If you stay at a vacation property that offers free ticket attractions in exchange for listening to their time-share sales pitch BE CAUTIOUS. Fat Papa and I have sat through a few of these and the pitches are very high-pressure and amost always longer than advertised. So if you don't want to buy a condo or time-share, just keep saying no! Also, consider whether the price of the free tickets is worth 90-minutes of your precious vacation time.

Additionally, the local hotels may know about any local promotions going on for discounted tickets. So, starting off your ticket search with the hotel concierge is always a good idea.

Old Town Trolley

San Diego is full of different charming districts, each with a unique feel and atmosphere. Visiting all of them as a tourist can be difficult but the Old Town Trolley makes that easy. While the Old Town Trolley doesn’t offer much in the way of ticket bundles, they do offer a wide variety of tours and activities that provide visitors a unique perspective of San Diego.

The Old Town Trolley is a fun way to get around San Diego; here a trolley is leaving the Historic Gaslamp District.

If you plan to fly to San Diego and don’t want to rent a car, purchasing multi-day passes for the Old Town Trolley is a great way to get around this metropolis. With 11 stops covering 100 points