By George Hobica
As every savvy traveler knows, a low airfare is only the beginning. The real work? That starts when you touch down in your destination, where costs can easily run away from you. And it starts right at the airport. If you're not careful, you can easily spend as much getting into town as you did on the flight that brought you there.
That's why were taking a break from telling you about low fares to talk to you about ground transportation. Seriously, though, you will be, when we show you how cheaply you can get things done. This week, were analyzing the situation at San Diego International Airport.
Forget the clichés about California car culture; there's plenty of that, but there's also plenty of transit. San Diego and the beach communities in the northern part of the county are served by both Amtrak and the regional Coaster commuter rail; there's also an extensive light-rail network, known as the San Diego Trolley. With the trolley, you can get anywhere from the Tijuana entry gate to Old Town and Qualcomm Stadium. (You cannot, however, get to the beach. Any beach. You've been warned.) But to reach any of this from your terminal, you'll first have to hop the bus. Specifically, the Metropolitan Transit System's Route 992 bus, which serves Terminals 1, 2 and the Commuter Terminal every fifteen minutes during weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends. Fares are $2.25, exact change required. It's just a short ride to downtown's Santa Fe Depot, where you can catch Amtrak (to LA and beyond), the Coaster (as far north as Oceanside) or the Trolley.
There are plenty of car service and shared-ride services to choose from, but Green Ride offers affordable private town car service to popular spots around the region at pretty reasonable prices. Downtown, Ocean Beach and the San Diego cruise terminal, for example, are all just $18 each way for up to 4 passengers if you pay cash (it's $5 more per ride using credit cards.)
If you're just heading downtown or to nearby neighborhoods such as Hillcrest or Point Loma, you'll love the fact that cab fares top out around $10. Further afield, though, cabs start to become more expensive, as in most cities. Multiple taxi companies are authorized to serve the San Diego airport; rates vary slightly, starting at anywhere from $2-$2.50 at flag drop and $2.50-$2.70 per mile. Learn more here.
If you're renting a car, it is worth considering whether or not you've got somewhere cheap – or free, better yet – to park it in your destination. Valet parking, often mandatory at downtown hotels and upscale resorts elsewhere in San Diego County, can run you upwards of $25 per night. If you decide to opt for a car rental at San Diego, head down to the arrivals level and look for signs for car rental shuttles, which are either across the road or over a skybridge, depending on your terminal. Car rental lots are not centrally located – make sure to get directions for your return; because of the airport's central location, space is at a premium – some lots, Enterprise, for instance, are quite remote. (As such, you can often get better rates and service there.) If you do rent, to find the lowest car rental rates in San Diego, take a look at Autoslash.com, a great source for hidden discounts.
BROWSER (AND FRIENDS) SAY:
San Diego's airport is centrally located and literally within walking distance of plenty of popular hotels and the city's walkable downtown. But we don't come to San Diego to see the city; we come for the beaches, for La Jolla, for those beautiful resorts up in the hills. Without wheels, you're pretty much stranded in any of those places, unless you like deciphering bus schedules on your vacation (we do not.) So, if we were headed downtown for a convention and didn't anticipate having much time to explore, we'd just taxi or shuttle to our hotel and walk everywhere. On vacation, though, we are definitely renting a car.
Learn more about San Diego International Airport here. See what's up in San Diego at www.sandiego.org.