What To Do in San Diego: My Experiences9 min read

San Diego Skyline photo at Coasterra restaurant

GREAT, I have to talk to this guy again?! I thought as I walked back up to the front desk. “The room smells like cigarettes,” I said. He turned to the other staff member to mumble something under his breath and without another word disappeared for 5 min.

I couldn’t stop fidgeting with my luggage, because I knew my cousin had never dealt with a headache like this before. I shot a quick glance at the car to make sure the homeless man shuffling through the nearby trashcan hadn’t decided to shuffle through my backpack instead.

Once we were notified of our room being ready, Bianca and I walked back to the car with a luggage cart to grab all the remaining bags. By the time we loaded all the luggage in the room and parked the car, we were ready to pass out. We wouldn’t have been that tired if the Airbnb wasn’t up 3 flights of stairs… or had A/C.

How NOT to Book an AirBnb

Step 1: Don’t check the amenities.

After a half-hour of searching the website, I used a carefully selected set of criteria to come up with about five AirBnbs that met our specific needs. I showed them to my uncle (Bianca’s dad). He chose one with a cool neon sign that read “Chinese Food” above the quaint kitchen area.

I paid for it on the spot and we agreed to split costs for the trip 50/50. 4 Nights and 5 days in San Diego.

There were 289 reviews with a 4.89/5 star rating. I read through the notes from the seller, analyzed the pictures, and glanced through the amenities, but seemed to miss the fact there is no AC. San Diego is a beach city, how bad could it be anyway?

Bianca sitting at the Airbnb’s so-called “dedicated workspace”.

Step 2: Don’t be willing to change plans.

The location wasn’t great and the place looked like it was decorated by a friend of my grandma’s after returning from Woodstock. “Why don’t we try to sleep here one night and if the heat is unpleasant we will get a hotel for the remaining nights,” I said.

After watching Schindler’s list, it was 10:30 pm and the house was probably 82 degrees. I found myself calling hotels searching for last-minute deals.

Bianca leaning on a couch in the San Diego Airbnb
This was probably Bianca’s reaction after I told her that the house was built in the 1880s.

How NOT to Book a Hotel

I had searched on Google, hotels near me and was bombarded with third-party booking sites like Expedia and Hotels.com. I used google.com/travel/ and selected Hotels. A site named bookety.com had the best price. Hotels typically outsource calls to a call center (sometimes not even in the same country).

After three calls to the same number, I figured out the dial option that would transfer me to the front desk. We found a better deal by booking the night of. 

“We don’t have your reservation”, said the front desk. Bookety sent a confirmation email, but the hotel had never heard of that site. I paused my credit card. Using a different card, I booked the same hotel at a similar price through Expedia.com, which I had heard of before.

Bianca and I turned off the three floor fans in the bedroom, emptied the mini-fridge, and dragged our bags down 3 flights of stairs. It was about 11:30 pm when we checked into our hotel.

“I hear if the rooms are available, it’s common for hotels to give a free room upgrade. Why can’t you give us one?” The older gentleman at the front desk was not stoked about my line of questioning at 12 am.

We settled for a room on the 12th floor after the initial room on the 9th floor smelled like a Vegas casino.

Our room at the Westin San Diego had the most comfortable beds. view was flanked with high-rise buildings on both sides and a centered view of the sunset over the San Diego Bay. I cranked the AC that night.

How NOT to Book Dinner Reservations

After 45 minutes of driving around for a parking space we were officially late for dinner. This was the only reservation available on a Tuesday night. Also, 15 minutes seemed like enough time for us to drive 3 miles from our hotel.

This mobile app made me enter the same personal information 3 separate times.

According to the host of Meze Greek Fusion, to get anywhere in the city you either walk from your place, ride a bike, or get lucky with a parking space. Using a horribly engineered parking app, I paid $40 to park my car for 2 hours. It had been 45 minutes since leaving the hotel.

After an hour and a half of amazing Greek cuisine and a brief tour of the restaurant, Bianca and I left with a half-hour of parking remaining.

In between the restaurant and the San Diego Bay was the Marriott Marquis San Diego – less than a mile walk. Within 10 minutes we found ourselves peering through the floor-to-ceiling windows at a glowing baby blue swimming pool. String lights were draped across palm trees and the moon glistened off the water.

Shitty picture from Yelp to give you an idea of the pool area.

We swiftly passed 3 homeless people and danced to a jazz trio on our way back to the world’s most expensive parking spot.

The next night we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant named Coasterra that I had booked a reservation for 3 weeks ago. The couple ahead of us in line walked away frustrated after being told the wait was an hour and a half for a table. “We have a beautiful table overlooking the San Diego Bay waiting for you sir,” the host said. Within minutes we had chips on our table and San Diego’s skyline in our view.

We had a “Cali” Flower Bowl, which is uh good if you REALLY LOVE CAULIFLOWER.

She ate all the chips and salsa. I hear it was good.

San Diego Attractions

Our itinerary and budget I created a month ahead.

My top Points of Interest: San Diego Zoo, potato chip rock, SeaWorld, Cabrillo National Monument, La Jolla Cove, Balboa Park, Japanese Friendship Garden, Mission Beach

This list makes me laugh. When planning, we were way more ambitious about what we could do. On the third day, I returned my All-Inclusive Passes by Go San Diego. Our trip to the San Diego Zoo could have only been enjoyed for a full day and was cheaper than the 1-day pass.

At the Japanese Friendship Garden exhausted after finding out the museums were all closed. This garden changes with the seasons and has a beautiful collection of a variety of flowers and coy fish.

Before buying the pass I called Go San Diego asking for a refund to test how easy it would be. Then, I called 4 of the companies as if I already had the pass. The indoor sky-diving company would not let me book ahead (even though Go San Diego’s website recommends booking ahead). Multiple attractions only took the pass on a first-come-first-serve basis, which doesn’t work in the summer when people are booking attractions days in advance.

Museums

We didn’t get to see any because they were closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Jet Skis

That was a blast. $100 for 1 hour (not sure why the website says $49/hr). I didn’t pay for insurance, but the chart they had which listed the cost for each damaged area was pretty convincing. The waterproof compartment on the jet ski fit my phones and keys. We paid an extra $50 for another hour and used up the whole 2 hours to drive all the way to where the San Diego Bay opens up to the ocean. Booking two days ahead of time was helpful. 

Trying not to drop my phone in the water.

My Favorite Part

The trip started with us stepping gently on a dirt cliff to get within fifteen feet of a family of seals at La Jolla Cove. The trip ended with us strolling the shore of Mission Beach observing the silhouette created by the surfers against the evening sky. Somewhere in the middle, I had my hand pressed up against a Tiger’s massive paw with only an inch thick piece of glass between us. At another moment Bianca was driving the jet ski when a US Navy patrol boat armed with machine guns started trailing us and motioning to keep a further distance from their carrier ship.

I couldn’t pinpoint a favorite part. The majority of the trip had lots of uncertainty. I was only certain that I had chosen the right person to come along.

At this point, she may have gotten sick of me.

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