The family and I are vacationing in sunny San Diego this week, where we can smell the smoke from the wild fires elsewhere in the state. We have had a great trip so far, and we while we have had to spend some hard-earned money here (California is not a cheap state for travel), we have managed to save cash along the way. Here are a few tips if you are traveling to San Diego:

1. Check out Balboa Park. It's loaded with museums and it has the San Deigo Zoo. There is a charge to visit each of the museums and the zoo, but here is what you will want to do: go to the Balboa Park visitor's center and buy the deluxe Passport to Balboa Park. It will give you entry to all of the museums, plus you get a one-day pass to the San Diego Zoo. The passport will only give you one entry to each of the museums, so if you want to visit a museum more than once you will have to pay again. I paid $155 for three people, but on the first day alone we visited two museums, which would normally have cost us about $50. We intend to visit a few more museums over the next couple of days, so I figure these passports will save us anywhere from 30 to 50 percent. Zoo admission alone would normally cost us nearly $100, so as you can see there are big savings with the Passport to Balboa Park.

2. When I was looking for a rental car, I checked the regular travel sites like Hotwire, Expedia, Priceline, etc., but I got the best deal through the Balboa Park web site. There were links there for hotel, flights, rental cars and other package deals. I got a rental car for one week for $108. The next best price I found was on Expedia, for $135. Check local web sites for savings.

3. When eating out at restaurants, get away from the hotels. Even the restaurants just outside of the hotels but still in the same neighborhood tend to charge higher prices. Drive to a residential area and check out some of the restaurants you find there. The prices tend to be lower. Ditto for the restaurants in the "tourist" areas.

4. Ask the hotel concierge or desk clerk if the hotel offers discount tickets for area attractions. They often have arrangements worked out with the area attractions and you can get tickets and admission for a lower price by buying at the hotel.

5. If you are a AAA member, check to see if there are any local discounts. I am a Triple-A member, and I found several discounts on area attractions at the AAA web site. Many hotels and restaurants also offer Triple-A discounts.

6. San Diego is a military town. That means many of the attractions offer military discounts. Many post signs stating this, but if you are in the military and don't see a sign offering military discounts, ask the venue if they offer them. A lot of them do, and they want the business.


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