Things Parents Need to Know about Vacationing in San Diego

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Parents Guide to San Diego

A San Diego vacation with the kids can be a terrific experience. This amazing city has something for every age from toddlers to teens. With the proper planning, your San Diego vacation can be affordable, with some sights and attractions not costing you a single dime. Here are a few things that all parents need to know about San Diego before they visit.

  • Freebies – The best way to save is to take advantage of all the free activities. Fortunately, even some of San Diego’s top attractions offer freebies throughout the year. For example, the San Diego Zoo offers free admission to children during October. On select Tuesdays you can get in free to a handful of museums at Balboa Park, and Old Town walking tours are always free of charge. Don’t forget to hit the beach for some cheap fun in the sun and if you visit from December through March, head to Point Loma’s Whale Overlook to catch a glimpse of the seasonal whale migration and stop by the tide pools for more up-close and personal exploration opportunities.
  • Accommodations – Do some research before booking your stay. San Diego has several hotels located close by the major attractions. This makes it convenient to take a nap break during the day with little ones. For instance, look for cheap hotels near the San Diego Zoo which will be centrally located to all of downtown San Diego, and be sure to look into additional amenities such free wireless internet, parking and in-room amenities such as microwave and refrigerator which can go a long way in keeping food costs down if you’re enjoying an extended vacation.
  • Food – Embarcadero is an excellent family spot. This mile long stretch by the bay is home to Seaport Village. Along with souvenir shops and a carousel you’ll find great family friendly casual restaurants. The San Diego Burger Company has children’s nuggets and burgers along with more adventurous dishes for Mom and Dad. Asaggio serves up kid friendly pizzas with a fantastic view from their outdoor seating and prices are affordable as well. Not sitting down at full service restaurants for every meal can help lower food costs during your trip
  • Theme Parks – Children are more tolerant of adult activities if they know they’ll have their day too. San Diego has many theme parks suited just for kids. Sea World has hands on exhibits and thrilling shows by Shamu and all your marine favorites. Click here for affordable hotels near SeaWorld San Diego. Legoland is another great option and is one of California’s top family destinations where you’ll find more than 15,000 LEGO structures intermixed with creative play areas and thrilling rides.

With these tips in mind, you can plan a successful family vacation that everyone is sure to enjoy and remember for years to come. If you’re not sure of where to stay, look for affordable hotels near the San Diego Airport and Gaslamp Quarter district which will give you access to major parts of the city. Interested in making a hotel reservation right now? Contact a Reservation Manager at 1-800-571-2933 and learn more about the affordable accommodations at the Marina Inn and the hotel’s wonderful location in the heart of downtown San Diego.

Traveling to San Diego with Toddlers

Activities for Toddlers in San Diego

If you’re a first time parent, traveling with your toddler may seem like a challenging and somewhat daunting task. Fortunately, there are many vacation destinations that are great for families with toddlers, San Diego being one of the best. Although popularly praised for its active nightlife scene, America’s Finest City offers a variety of new experiences for little ones that will provide endless discovery and delight.

If you haven’t yet made reservations for your family vacation, start by booking a room or suite at the Marina Inn, a family friendly and affordable hotel in downtown San Diego. Then, check out our top picks for mom-approved activities that are great for toddlers to complete your vacation itinerary.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

The San Diego Zoo is located in the heart of downtown San Diego and offers plenty of space for your toddler to roam and meet new friends. This zoo is world-renowned with more than 4,000 animals in 9 distinct habitats. Although it seems like a lot of walking around, there is a bus and an aerial tram where you can catch a glimpse of zebras, lions, and giraffes without having to exert too much energy. With numerous playgrounds and play areas, movie theaters, live shows and a carousel, there are plenty of activities for your toddler to enjoy. If you’re on a budget this vacation, know that kids under 3 are admitted into the park free of charge and there are a few options for quality, yet cheap San Diego Zoo hotels that will help keep you and your wallet happy.

Under the Sea

Your toddler will have plenty of space to explore what marine life’s all about at SeaWorld in San Diego. Before heading out for a full day of fun, be sure to grab breakfast at your affordable SeaWorld San Diego hotel or outside of the park. This will help ensure your little one has all the energy he or she needs for a full day at the park. Your toddler will delight in watching the dolphins play and perform tricks, and even has the opportunity to get up close and personal with the penguins at the park. SeaWorld also has a section of the park devoted just to younger visitors and your toddler can meet, greet and have their photo taken with their favorite Sesame Street characters. And for a bit of fun, don’t forget to stop and check out the rides including Elmo’s Flying Fish or Oscar’s Rocking Eel.

Touching Allowed

The New Children’s Museum is a hands-on museum for children to touch and discover the world around them. The exhibits have been created with younger visitors in mind, making for a stimulating yet fun activity that isn’t offered at many attractions. If you’re visiting on a Friday, be sure to stop by in the morning because the museum offers a fun weekly activity that is geared towards toddlers. After participating in the day’s arts and crafts and the weather is nice (which it almost always is in San Diego), check out the bubble fountain in the outdoor area. Here you and your little one can select from a variety of bubble wands, creating bubbles of all shapes and sizes and can also chase some of the larger ones around.

With the proper planning, your first vacation with your toddler can be an experience that the entire family will enjoy. While planning is important, also be flexible with your schedule, allowing extra time at lunch to eat or pushing your itinerary for a much needed mid-day nap. For more tips for visiting San Diego with the family, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Check Out San Diego Zoo Play Days 2014

San Diego Zoo Play Days

Spending the day at the San Diego Zoo can be a great way to have fun with your family while also educating your kids. While the zoo can be a budget buster without proper planning, one zoo event, the San Diego Zoo Play Days, will be taking place over the next few weeks and will help you get the most out of your trip to the zoo. The Marina Inn, a preferred cheap hotel in downtown San Diego, offers information about the Play Days and how you can save additional dollars when attending!

The San Diego Play Days event runs from March 29-April 20, 2014 and provides visitors with extra activities they wouldn’t normally get to enjoy. With the regular price of admission, you get to participate in special events such as:

  • Exclusive Keeper Talks where the zoo caretakers answer questions and talk about the unique animals and plants they care for
  • Expert Meetings based on specific animal behavior topics
  • Digital Easter Egg Hunt where you use the camera feature on your smartphone for a chance to win backstage zoo passes for additional exploration and fun
  • A visit with the Easter Bunny where families can take pictures

Special events such as these give you more bang for your buck since you’re not only getting to enjoy the animals you would normally see, but are also able to take advantage of additional activities for no additional cost.

Another way during the San Diego Zoo Play Days is to bring your meals with you! Spending money on food and snacks throughout the day is a huge expense and can be a budget buster for any size family. Save those dollars for souvenirs or special attractions by bringing food with you to enjoy. Though coolers aren’t allowed in the park, you are allowed to bring food with you in backpacks or purses. Items to consider packing for the day include water, granola bars, cookies, crackers, and sandwiches that don’t require refrigeration. You also have the option of bringing a cooler to leave in the car and enjoying your meal just outside the zoo at their picnic area. Since paid ticket holders are able to get their hands stamped for re-entry, taking a break to eat lunch outside the zoo won’t keep you from enjoying the rest of your day.

Spending a day at the zoo can be both fun and inexpensive if you take advantage of the tips above. For more information about affordable accommodations near the San Diego Zoo for Play Days 2014, contact the Marina Inn & Suites. We are a San Diego hotel offering discounted prices on our clean and spacious rooms and suites. Call a Reservation Manager at 1-800-571-2933 for summer availability and don’t forget to ask about our current promotions for additional savings.

A Fun Day of Learning for the Entire Family


When on vacation, your children are likely excited for the theme parks, afternoons on the sandy shores and trips to the pool. However, who says your kids can’t enjoy a little bit of learning too? San Diego is a premier vacation destination, appealing to individuals of all ages for its diverse range of activities. In addition to Mission and Coronado beaches and popular attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld and LegoLand, be sure to stop at Balboa Park for an exciting day of hands-on learning and fun.

Balboa Park is home to more than a dozen museums, with some appealing to the younger individuals in your group. If you’re on a budget, be sure to reserve a cheap hotel near downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter and purchase the Balboa Park Museum Pass for the most savings. Then you’ll be set for checking out these family and kid-friendly museums:

  • San Diego Air & Space Museum – This museum highlights some of history’s top aircrafts and spacecrafts from around the world including the actual Apollo 9 Command Module spacecraft. There are also plenty of interactive exhibits including a space shuttle simulator and a 3D/4D interactive kids’ zone. If you’re visiting soon, don’t miss out on the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not exhibition which is sure to leave your kids in amazement and wonder.
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum – If your little one has an affinity for model trains, there’s no better place to go than the San Diego Railroad Museum. As the largest indoor model railroad display in the world, there are countless trains to observe and even play with. The best part about this museum is that children 14 and under are free!
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center – Individuals of all ages will be captivated by the attractions that the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. In addition to a variety of hands on exhibits and attractions which allow visitors to explore the endless sky, stars and planets, there is a one-of-a-kind planetarium show. With the help of one of the museum’s experts, you’ll enjoy an in-depth and informational narration as you watch the stars fly by.
  • San Diego Natural History Museum – Dinosaur lovers unite! At the San Diego natural History Museum, kids can check out life size replicas of dinosaurs of the past or can play at Camp-o-Saurus, a campground just for kids. After a long day of checking out the exhibits, head over to the on-site restaurant and eat dinner with Al the Allosaurus or check out a movie at the Kaplan Theater.

If you haven’t yet reserved a hotel for your upcoming family vacation to San Diego, consider the Marina Inn & Suites. We are a family-friendly hotel in downtown San Diego and offer our guests all the essential amenities of home including free wireless internet, parking and hot breakfast prepared fresh daily. To learn more about our discounts for our popular Kids’ Suite, contact a Reservation Manager at 1-800-571-2933 today!

Fashion Valley Mall Food Guide


If you’re planning your San Diego shopping excursion to Fashion Valley Mall, which we highly recommend, you’re going to need to rest those feet and your wallet during the day, and one of the many restaurants or cafes is the perfect place to do it. This newly renovated mall has tons of options for every preference, taste and budget.

First, some basic information about the mall: it’s open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 7 pm. There are five department stores, 200 shops and restaurants and an 18-screen AMC movie theatre. The stores cover big name brands like Burberry and Gucci and budget stores like Forever 21 and H&M.

If you’re making the mall trip a fun family outing, then take a play break with the kids at the Geppetto’s children area on the first floor next to Gap Kids. The mall also has multiple baby changing stations, including one near Guest Services on the lower level.

If you’re coming from another country to vacation in San Diego you might want to utilize the mall’s Foreign Currency online ordering with Travelex option. You can have U.S. currency delivered right to your door or you can have money preloaded onto your Cash Passport. Something else that might make your travel easier is staying at a cheap hotel near the San Diego International Airport.

Now that you have content kids and the right currency, it’s time to eat! Here are our suggestions for Fashion Valley Mall food destinations:


  • 59th& Lex on the third floor in Bloomingdales is a nice quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the busy outdoor mall.
  • The Zodiac is a hidden gourmet gem nestled inside Niemen Marcus that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Nordstrom Café also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner but caters to the busy grab-and-go shopper who’s just looking for a quick bite.


  • California Pizza Kitchen in the top level food court is a great place to bring the kids. Their diverse menu has everything from pizza (of course) to chicken plates, pastas and kids meals.
  • Cheesecake Factory is the place to go for large plates and hot dates. The expansive restaurant has a hot happy hour, large booths and an inviting patio.
  • True Food Kitchen is the one true option for the health conscious eater who wants delicious food options while still sticking to their diet.
  • Stacked is a great burger and pizza joint that lets you decide when you get your bill and when the food arrives. This is a great option for families with sometimes fussy kids.

For a full listing of Fashion Valley stores and restaurants you can visit the Fashion Valley mall website at Its central location makes it a great destination to relax whether you spent the day at SeaWorld San Diego, the zoo or one of the fantastic beaches along the coast.

Now that you’ve got some information about San Diego, start planning your vacation! To see what a nearby family friendly budget hotel in San Diego can offer you, click here. The Marina Inn near downtown San Diego has all the family friendly amenities you’re looking for: free breakfast, affordable rooms, and a Kid’s Suite that has an adjoining room with a bunk bed for the little ones! To book a room at the Marina Inn, please call our Reservations desk at 1-800-571-2933 and be sure to inquire about our available discounted rates.

San Diego Museum Month offers 50% Off


San Diego’s 25th Annual Museum Month has officially begun! For the entire month of February museum lovers can get a free museum pass that grants them 50% off at 44 local museums. That means you have 22 whole days left to enjoy the plethora of participating San Diego museums. The overzealous can even attempt to tackle two museums a day to see them all. If you’re flying into San Diego for your vacation, click here for information about San Diego Airport hotels that are minutes from all the museum action!

The San Diego Museum Council started this event 25 years ago in 1989 as a way to draw tourists and locals to local museums. All you have to do to participate is go to 1 of 14 Macy’s stores in the San Diego Area, Temecula or Imperial Valley to pick up your free Museum Pass. One pass is good for 50% off museum admission for up to four people throughout the entire month.

Here is a list of the 44 participating museums:

  1. Adobe Chapel
  2. Barona Cultural Center & Museum
  3. Birch Aquarium at Scripps
  4. Bonita Museum and Cultural Center
  5. California Surf Museum
  6. Coronado Museum of History & Art
  7. Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum
  8. Gaslamp Museum at the William Heath Davis House
  9. Heritage of the Americas Museum
  10. Japanese Friendship Garden
  11. Junipero Serra Museum
  12. La Jolla Historical Society
  13. Living Coast Discovery Center
  14. Lux Art Institute
  15. Maritime Museum of San Diego
  16. Marston House & Gardens
  17. Mingei International Museum
  18. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Downtown
  19. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla
  20. Museum of Making Music
  21. Museum of Photographic Arts
  22. Oceanside Museum of Art
  23. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
  24. San Diego Air & Space Museum
  25. San Diego Archaeological Center
  26. San Diego Automotive Museum
  27. San Diego Botanic Garden
  28. San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum
  29. San Diego Chinese Historical Museum
  30. San Diego History Center
  31. San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  32. San Diego Natural History Museum
  33. Santa Ysabel Store
  34. The New Children’s Museum
  35. The San Diego Museum of Art
  36. Tijuana Estuary Visitors Center
  37. Timken Museum of Art
  38. USS Midway Museum
  39. Veterans Museum & Memorial Center
  40. Visions Art Museum
  41. Warner-Carillo Ranch House & Museum
  42. Water Conservation Garden
  43. Whaley House Museum
  44. Women’s Museum of California

As you can see, there is a vast array of museums throughout the county specializing in different subjects, from boats and botanical garden to surfing and song, your interests will surely be appeased.

Of the 44 museums, 13 are located in the beautiful Balboa Park next to the San Diego Zoo. For a day full of cheap family fun, book a budget hotel near the San Diego Zoo to enjoy the local museums like the popular Reuben H. Fleet Science Center at Balboa Park before walking to the Zoo to ogle the new panda cub. Or you could make this an adult only vacation and attend Balboa Park’s Culture and Cocktails event at the San Diego Museum of Art on Feb. 20. This 21+ social event features South Asian art, multiple bars inside the museum, an after party and a live DJ! Who said museums weren’t any fun?

Book your cheap San Diego hotel now and start planning your SoCal vacation so you don’t miss out on these great affordable events. For more information about discounted hotel rates, contact the Marina Inn today at 1-800-571-2933!

SeaWorld San Diego Savings


SeaWorld is one of those must-see places when you’re planning your family vacation to San Diego. SeaWorld has it all: amusement park rides, shows, exhibits, shopping and dining! However, if you don’t plan accordingly, the budget for your family day out could easily double or even triple! Click here for information on affordable family friendly San Diego accommodations, and continue reading for some helpful tips on how to easily save some cash during your SeaWorld trip:

  1. Don’t pay full price for admission! For the same price as a single day admission ticket you can get the Fun Card which is good for admission throughout the whole year! Also, right now you can get the adults Fun Card at the child’s price if you enter code “SWCWestwaysFC2014” online. Visitors can also ask about available AAA and AARP discounts. However, be sure you always make purchases from reputable websites and dealers and do research before giving anyone your credit card information, especially online.
  2. Pick your splurges. You know your kids are going to want a souvenir or that overpriced cotton candy, so consider allotting them, and yourselves, a certain “allowance” on unnecessary items. Something as little as $10 will let your kids feel like they’re picking a special treat and will force them to be more selective when they know ahead of time what the spending limit is.
  3. Pack your own food. Amusement Parks have notoriously overpriced restaurants and snack bars, so come prepared to feed you family. It’s even easier to pack a meal ahead of time if you have a cheap San Diego hotel room close to SeaWorld with a refrigerator and microwave. Leave a large cooler in the car and enjoy a delicious and cheap homemade meal in the picnic area just outside the park. There are also a handful of kid-friendly restaurants nearby where you can easily travel to during breaks from the park.

Another way to save money is by booking a cheap family-friendly San Diego hotel room at Vagabond Inn & Suites. Not only are we located just minutes from San Diego’s major attractions like SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo, but we also offer a 15% discount on your hotel stay when you purchase your admission tickets through us.

If you have a friend who is looking for a centrally located budget hotel near the San Diego Convention Center, SeaWorld or another popular attraction, be sure to share this article on Facebook and Twitter by clicking on the icons in the upper right-hand corner!

Why your Family Should take a Tech Vacation


A Tech Vacation is simply a vacation away from technology in a new and active city like San Diego. When was the last time you shared a family dinner without the presence of a smartphone, tablet or gaming device? Is the TV or DVD player constantly on in your home? Can you recall the last long and meaningful conversational you had as a family?

These are just some of the signs that technology is taking over your home. Breaking away from these devices can be a refreshing way to spend quality family time in a new place. And what better place than San Diego for a technology-free weekend? Year-round sunshine, beaches and cheap hotels near the MCRD, SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo.

Not sure if you could spend more than an hour away from your electronic devices? Here are some reasons we think your family should try replacing a laptop with laughter and a cellphone with conversation:

  • Health benefits. We’ve become reliant on technology to do all the thinking for us and we are starting to forget how to use our brains. Did you know that a weekend without technology is proven to boost brainpower? Cognitive thinking improves when we use a map for directions and figure out a 20% tip without a calculator. And your kids probably won’t argue too hard if you agree not to set an alarm clock.
  • Relational benefits. Without a screen in front of your face for hours, more time is opened up for family bonding, meeting new people and engaging in conversation. Ungluing yourself from technology forces families to communicate with each other over games, outdoor activities and meals.
  • Simple living off the grid. Too often we complicate our lives by worrying about Facebook “likes” and work emails. Disconnect with technology to re-connect with the simple pleasures available in the real world. Let friends and co-workers know before you go that you’ll be out of touch for a few days and hold true to your promise to power down.
  • Adventure. Don’t be afraid to get lost and explore new things. Instead of mapping out a minute-by-minute itinerary, try playing part of your trip by ear. Let your kids have a say in some of the activities to take their mind off of the lack of social media.

Now that you know the benefits, how do you actually do it? Don’t tempt yourself by packing devices; instead leave anything that’s not a necessity at home. If you’re allowing cellphones on the trip for safety purposes be sure to set some ground rules. Perhaps don’t allow phones during family time, disable in-room WiFi and turn off social media notifications. Planning ahead will also allow you to stick to your tech-free trip guidelines. Print out crucial addresses, directions and phone numbers ahead of time and consider purchasing a San Diego Guidebook. Most importantly, act as a role model for your kids. If you don’t adhere to your own rules, and look like you’re having fun doing it, they won’t want to either.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many people also use their phone as a camera, and having these memories to hold on to can be important. If you plan a trip to the San Diego Zoo and want to capture a photo of the famous Giant Pandas go ahead and snap away, just set guidelines about whether uploading photos online is allowed or not. To learn more about the Zoo’s exhibits and why it’s a necessary stop during your tech-free travels click here!

If you’re really craving a little technology during your vacation you can find a way to make it a family bonding experience. Create a music playlist together that you can all listen to during the car trip, go see a movie at a local theatre, or create some friendly competition at an arcade. Also be sure to take advantage of the family-friendly features offered at the top San Diego budget hotels like Marina Inn and Suites. Purchase your Zoo or SeaWorld tickets through us and get 15% off your entire stay! We also have Kids Suites and Park & Fly Packages available for your convenience.

Want to learn more about how Marina Inn can help you plan a Tech Vacation in San Diego? Call us today at 1-800-571-2933 and learn how much you can save!

Tips for Parents Visiting the Zoo with Children


We know that planning a day trip with children can be a taxing task at times. So to ensure that everyone has a great time at the San Diego Zoo, sit down with your children the day before you head to the park and plan out a possible itinerary of shows and exhibits you would like to see. This allows time for each child to contribute their opinion and helps ensure your family will get to enjoy as many animals and shows as possible. Also, read up on the following tips that will make your day a walk in the park:

  • Bring your own stroller or rent one at the park – $12 for a single or $16 for a double – if you have kids that won’t be able to walk around the 100 acre park for an entire day. Additionally, make sure everyone wears comfortable shoes!
  • Pack a backpack full of any necessities like sunscreen, snacks and juice boxes. Having snacks and drinks on hand is a great way to avoid spending extra money throughout the day and can keep kids from getting cranky! If you don’t feel like carrying a backpack or diaper bag around the park, you can rent a large locker for $1.50.
  • Need somewhere to nurse a newborn in privacy? You can use the Zoo’s First Aid office, the Health Office or the women’s restrooms with designated nursing stations. Most restrooms also have diaper changing stations for your convenience.
  • Make your trip a fun, educational experience by introducing your youngsters to new plants and animals online before arriving at the park. The Zoo’s website has a special section just for kids where they can learn all about the animals on display, play games and watch videos. Getting to know more about the Zoo ahead of time will make them more eager to interact when your family visits.
  • Don’t forget to take frequent breaks. A long day of walking around the Zoo can be tiring for children and adults alike. Be sure to take a break every few hours to eat, rest and regroup. Break time would also be a good opportunity to catch their sea lion show, hop on the Skyfari aerial tram or watch a film in their 4-D theatre.

If you’re in need of a family-friendly hotel near San Diego Zoo, then look no further than Marina Inn & Suites. We’re located less than three miles away from the Zoo and offer 15% off your hotel stay with the purchase of Zoo admission tickets! We also have a Kids Suite which is great for large families as it has two queen beds and an adjoining room with twin bunk beds.

To learn more about the rooms, rates and discounts offered at our affordable San Diego hotel, click here or call 1-800-571-2933 and speak with a reservations specialist.

Advance Booking

14 Days - 12% Off

7 Days - 10% Off

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