San Diego makes a great travel destination in Southern California. The weather is always sunny and the winters are mild, which means you can enjoy the coastline at any time of the year. There are lots of San Diego beach house rentals with some of the best views of the Pacific Ocean and an abundance of delicious food to match in California’s second-largest city. But, if you’re planning to visit, and especially international tourists, there are a few things you should be aware of to make your trip as smooth as possible.

Don’t Just Wing it

Before you even leave the house to get to the airport, you should have a rigid idea of what you want to do on your trip. Planning is the most important tip so that you can get the most out of your time and money. San Diego is a large city with a population of 1.5 million receiving almost 35 million annual tourists making it a busy place. Turning up and just going with the flow will only lead to wasted time and missing out on some of your must-visit activities.

Visiting the Attractions

The three main attractions tourists want to visit include the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park and Sea World. Giant pandas, koala bears and a wide range of other exotic species call the zoo home while Sea World has more than 20 live shows and 1000s of fish and marine life. Visiting one or all of these attractions is a must for tourists.

However, when you look at the stats above, a lot of the other tourists will have the same idea as you. Tickets sell out fast, and only a limited number of people can visit each day. So, instead of just turning up and hoping for the best, search online and book tickets in advance. Not only will you be able to find promotions and save money, but you may also be able to skip the line.

Taking Advantage of Special Promotions

Promotions and special deals come in all shapes and sizes from getting discounts when buying a combo ticket to finding a bargain on Groupon. If you take the time to research before your trip, you should be able to find offers like the San Diego Card, which gives you access to several attractions saving more than 50% compared to paying each admission individually.

You could also be savvy and search for the discounts on certain days of the year such as Black Friday or Christmas where you’re more likely to get a bargain. Most tickets are valid for a few months so buy now and use them when you visit San Diego.

Don’t Waste Your Money on Bad Food

As you’re exploring the touristy areas in the Gaslamp Quarter and Old Town, you’ll find lots of restaurants with the waiters enticing you inside. The variety of food seems reasonable, and restaurants tend to be full. However, most of the diners are tourists, and you’ll rarely find locals eating here. For a start, the prices are much higher than other places in the city, and the high cost doesn’t match the quality of the food.

If you head to Kensington or Hillcrest Neighborhoods, you’ll find the same selection of food but at more reasonable prices with better quality and service. A top tip is to ask a local contact, such as a hotel receptionist or someone working at the tourist information office, where the best place to eat is. And the rule of thumb is to avoid the ones the locals don’t go to.

Don’t Rent a Car on the First Day

At some point on your trip to San Diego, a car will be imperative. Attractions aren’t close to each other and relying on public transport for sightseeing can be challenging and time-consuming. But, when you’re in the downtown parts of the city, you don’t need to use a car anyway. If you do, finding a parking place is almost impossible, and when you eventually get one, you’re stung with parking fees. Some downtown hotels also charge you to park overnight. Instead, use the trolley bus to get around.

Explore the center and visit the attractions here first and then rent a car for the days that you need it. Again, tourists who do their due diligence and spend enough time planning will be able to go sightseeing in the most efficient way possible.

Other Must-Know Tips

Expect to pay 8% sales tax and 10.5% or 11.95% Hotel tax in San Diego. The lower number is for smaller hotels with fewer than 70 rooms. Just be aware of the numbers and percentages before you buy anything or book a room. Some tourists, especially non-Americans, can sometimes be caught off-guard.  

The final tip is primarily for the non-American tourists. Remember that in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21 and not 18 like in Europe and Australia. Many of the bars and nightclubs will ask you to show ID as proof of age, and it’s not uncommon for people closer to the age of 30 to be refused because they didn’t carry their ID.

How to Have an Awesome Trip to San Diego

If you’re visiting San Diego, put the time into planning your trip. You may be able to find incredible deals and discounts on sites like Groupon. It’s also a good idea to book tickets in advance or buy the San Diego Card. All it takes is a little extra effort, and you can avoid feeling disheartened on your epic adventure to one of California’s best cities.