San Diego is considered by many to be the perfect city. Kept temperature by ocean breezes, it rarely rises above 80 degrees in the summer or falls below 50 degrees in winter.
It sees about 150 sunny days a year, with an additional 120 partly cloudy days, meaning you can break out those shorts and sundresses for most of the year.
With swimming, surfing, walking, biking, and al fresco dining almost always on offer, it makes an ideal vacation spot. It’s a romantic place for lovebirds to canoodle, an exciting place for the solo traveler to take in, and a family-friendly atmosphere that kids of all ages will enjoy.
Plus, it has some pretty fun brags, according to Old Town Trolley Tours. For instance, did you know it’s illegal to shoot jackrabbits from the back of a streetcar? So if you were thinking about doing that … don’t.
Also, San Diego has come to its senses – unlike most cities in the nation – and issues fines for leaving your Christmas lights up past February 2nd. If that’s worth $250 to you, though, go for it.
More fun facts, you say? I’m obviously happy to oblige.
The city produces the most avocados in the United States, is home to the largest oceanographic museum in the country (Birch Aquarium at Scripps), and has the greatest number of farms in the US.
Also, hypnosis is banned in schools, so add that to your jackrabbit prohibitions. (Let’s just ignore the fact that it has more fleas than any other city as well, because … yick.) That last fact notwithstanding, San Diego is generally an amazing visit.
I’ve been there just one time, but I loved every second of the fabulous climate, beautiful gardens, and laid-back vibe. If you want to pay it a visit as well, I’m here to help you do it on a budget.
Average Trip to San Diego Cost in 2023
An average one-week trip to San Diego for two people will cost around $2,800:
- Average Accommodation Cost: $100 per night
- Average Flight Cost: $250 per person
- Food, Drink & Activities: $100 per person, per day
- Transportation: $150 total
- Total Cost: $2,800
San Diego is one of the simplest and most charming places in the United States to “do” on a budget. Unlike other destinations, whose paid attractions are at the top of the list, San Diego easily offers a week of free activities to keep any couple busy.
With good food, gentle waves, and tons of adorable neighborhoods and gardens to visit, you can scale down your entertainment budget with little trouble.
If you’re smart about flights, transportation, and eating out, you can save even more. If you’re in good old SD to blow it out and have a bit more money to spend, we’ll help you do so smartly. Keep reading!
San Diego Trip Cost: Average by Item
To average out the costs of a trip to San Diego, we have to generalize quite a lot. Below, you’ll find the average hotel prices and some additional options for where to stay, average flight costs from around America, average food and drink costs, and more.
Depending on how you like to travel, when you go, and who you go with, prices will go up or down. Our advice: spend money where it’s important and use our money-saving hacks to slim down your budget in areas you don’t care about.
That way if there’s something spendy you really want to do – a helicopter tour, say – you’ll have a little bit of wiggle room to make it happen.
The average hotel in San Diego costs about $150. If you shop for deals, stay on the outskirts, and don’t care that much about amenities, you can get rooms for as little as $75 a night.
Hostels will cost even less, typically around $35 for a single bed. Inquire at individual hostels about the rates for double beds.
Camping is one of the best ways to save money when visiting San Diego – and Southern California in general. With fine weather for much of the year, you’ll enjoy stunning vistas right outside your tent for the price of a campground spot.
If you head out into the country for half an hour or so, you’ll also get some nice, clear night skies. It’s the perfect place to watch meteor showers in the summer or stargaze at any time of year.
Assuming you’ll opt for a hotel, plan to spend about $100 a night for somewhere with a moderately central location and plenty of amenities, outside of the summer high season.
Flight costs to San Diego are reliably similar from almost anywhere in the United States. From Seattle, you’ll pay about $200, from Chicago $225, and from New York also about $225.
These rates depend on the time of year, the day of the week, how far in advance you book, and how many people you’re traveling with.
If you are coming from a non-hub – say, Bozeman or Myrtle Beach – you should plan on spending closer to $300. Overall, $250 per person is a reasonable estimate for a round-trip ticket.
Food, Drink & Activity Costs
Food and drink in San Diego are roughly the same as anywhere in the United States. If you can, choose accommodations that offer a continental breakfast and snag snacks on your way out.
Lunch and dinner on the street will run you about $10 and closer to $20 in a restaurant if you avoid spendy establishments. Cocktails are expensive – as much as $17 downtown – so if you can get your libations in other ways, do.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego costs only $20 per adult to get in, and is pretty darn rad. According to SEAL Tours, “Established in 1948, the Maritime Museum of San Diego preserves a collection of historic vessels.
The centerpiece is the iron-hulled Star of India dating back to 1863.
The HMS Surprise is a replica British Navy frigate that was used as the backdrop for scenes in the movies ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides’ and ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.’”
You might also consider the San Diego Museum of Art, whose collection stretches back 5,000 years, or the San Diego Natural History Museum. Both are around $20 to get in as well.
One of my favorite activities in San Diego was a quiet visit to the Lake Shrine Meditation Gardens. According to their website, “Lakeside paths, meditation areas and shoreline docks are open for quiet contemplative activity.
The Windmill Chapel is open for individual meditation and prayer. Our Visitor Center is open for book and gift sales. The Gift Shop featuring Indian specialties is open Thursday through Sunday.”
To go there, however, you’ll need to reserve your parking spot in advance. It’s per vehicle, so a couple can use the same reservation. Enjoy fresh air, beautiful landscaping, and contemplative surroundings that will help you draw a deep breath in the midst of your whirlwind visit.
If you’re the type who Wants To See It All, then a Go City pass might work well for you. The pass combines the top attractions around the city then lets you choose which ones work best for you.
By buying the pass, you can save up to half of the cost of a normal ticket to any of the museums, tours, and activities covered under it. To be worth it, though, you need to be a busy beaver during your week!
Assuming one activity per day (around $40 on average), reasonable eating, and a splurge or two (that helicopter tour, for instance), you should be fine on $100 per person, per day.
Because San Diego is spread out, offers tons of nearby nature, and is close to LA, many people choose to get a rental car while they’re there. If you don’t have your own with you, this is a good way to go at only about $20 a day plus gas.
Public transportation is reliably cheap, however. If you’re planning on spending all your time in town, you can get a public transportation pass for very little.
A day pass is $6 per adult (compared to $2.50 per ride) and a month pass is only $23, perfect for those who plan to use their pass all week. Cabs are not as cheap.
Plan to spend about $28 per hour if it’s waiting for you or sitting in traffic and $3 a mile otherwise. A 15-mile ride will cost you $50 or more including tip, so where possible, avoid that option.
In general, if you rent a car, you’re looking at about $200. If you use public transport and take a cab from the airport, you’re closer to $100, so we’ll call it $150 on average.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other things to consider when planning your trip to San Diego:
- Ocean Beach and North Beach are great destinations for doggos. If you’re traveling with a furry friend, take them here for fun in the sun with other canines.
- Helicopter tours are a popular adventure in this SoCal town. For around $200 (30 minutes) to $375 per person (60 minutes), you can take an airborne tour of the town that will give you an intro to the major sights. Check out La Jolla Cove, Sea World, San Diego Bay, Downtown, famous La Jolla Cove, and more.
- There are more than 60 beaches in San Diego, so if you’re a beach bum, you’ll be in hog heaven. Check out a map that lists the main beaches and has informational links to the most popular of those.
- The San Diego Zoo is famous the world over for a reason. It offers sightings of more than 3,500 creatures from more than 600 different species. Located in beautiful Balboa Park, you can take a guided tour, ride the Skyfari gondola for $4 (or free with zoo admission), and enjoy yummy snacks while you take in animals from Asia, Africa, and beyond.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about budgeting your trip to San Diego:
How can I save money on flights to San Diego?
One of the best ways to save money on flights to San Diego is to leave the bookings until a month or two ahead of time. You get the best deals closer to the departure date, when airlines are trying to fill up flights.
Another good way to save money is to be flexible with your dates. If you have room to maneuver on either side of your planned trip window, you can find some serious savings. At only a few hundred dollars from most places in the nation, though, it’s not that much anyway.
Is lodging expensive?
Accommodations in San Diego can be very expensive. You will pay more for hotels and Airbnbs that are near city center, close to the beach, or have lots of amenities.
You will also pay more during the high season – June through August – so if you’re trying to visit on a budget, steer clear of summer. Since almost any time of year is lovely here, that’s not hard to do!
Is it safe in San Diego?
According to local publications, San Diego’s crime rate is 15 percent lower than the national average. It’s still a big city, though, so be aware of your surroundings and personal items, especially at night.
What are the best free activities?
San Diego is bursting with gardens, walking tours, camping spots, hiking trails, beaches, and more. If you don’t want to spend a cent during the day, it’s absolutely possible.
When is the best time to visit San Diego?
Literally any time is the best time! San Diego is rainy during the winter, but rarely falls below 50 degrees during the day, and it’s still fun to walk and hike. You’ll also see great deals this time of year.
During spring, summer, and fall, the weather is more reliable – between 70 to 80 degrees during the day. It’s perfect for dining al fresco, walking around, and lounging on the beach. However, you’ll pay more in summer, so plan for that.
Over to You — Book Your Trip to San Diego Today!
|🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost||$100 per night|
|✈️ Average Flight Cost||$250 per person|
|🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities||$100 per person, per day|
|🚕 Transportation||$150 total|
|💲 Total Cost||$2,800|
The average cost of a one-week trip to San Diego is around $2,800 for two people. A pretty good deal for some fun in the sun, so get packing. Happy travels!