Planning a San Diego Family Vacation
San Diego is the quintessential family vacation destination: it’s welcoming in all seasons, brimming with both kid-friendly attractions and hip, adult-friendly dining, and laid back.
Getting to San Diego is so easy, even families with small children and babies will think it’s a breeze: the San Diego International Airport is located less than five minutes from downtown, making a commute nonexistent. While in-city traffic exists, it can be avoided by carefully choosing to stay in locations with easy access to public transit and walking routes.
Rent a vacation home by the beach:
Lodging options in San Diego vary widely, from downtown hotels in the harbor area to beachside motels along the Pacific from San Diego to Carlsbad. For the best of both worlds, rent a vacation home in the Mission Bay district: you’ll be steps from the water (many rentals include boogie boards and even kayaks to use), but also within easy walking distance to restaurants and shops, as well as transit.
Use the historic trolley:
Families will see advertisements for Old Town Trolley Tours throughout San Diego. These tours are more than just a tourist offering: families can ride the trolley to attractions across the city, utilizing the hop-on, hop-off feature. Plan to spend an entire day ‘on the tour’, getting off to explore major attractions at your will. Not only will you skip the hassle of traffic and parking, but you’ll skip the longer lines for free trolleys in popular tourist areas, such as Balboa Park. The San Diego Old Town historical district is a must see, but don’t forget that the trolley ventures much farther afield.
Pick your beach based on needs:
San Diego has no shortage of kid-friendly beaches. Families with young children may opt for the protected water of Coronado Island, while adventurous families with school-aged kids and teens may prefer the wild and scenic beaches of Torrey Pines State Beach. Mission Bay offers recreational activities on the water, such as kayak rentals and stand-up paddleboarding, and Pacific Beach offers the most local vibe.
Plan a full day in Balboa Park:
In addition to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park is home to the Museum of Man (with a wonderful yet small children’s museum in the back) and the San Diego Museum of Art (with free student days). The botanical gardens are always free to enter, and street entertainers abound. On sunny days, Balboa Park can get busy, but museums are almost always manageable.
Take a day trip to Carlsbad:
Home to beautiful state beaches and Legoland California, Carlsbad has managed to hang onto its down-to-earth vibe despite growth. Families can easily drive to Carlsbad from San Diego for a full day of beachcombing and biking, or make it a stop-over for a Legoland vacation.