Getting from San Diego to Palm Springs (and return)

San Diego is the second largest city in California and is well known for the excellent weather, beaches, the famous Zoo and quick access to the Mexican border and Tijuana. San Diego offers a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of Los Angles .

Palm Springs is a resort city in California and offers a lot of indoor and outdoor activities. You can spend the day hiking or trying other outdoor activities and relax in the evening.

Quick summary

There isn’t any direct route to travel between San Diego and Palm Springs, unless you plan to drive. The cheapest option for traveling between San Diego and Palm Springs is the bus. Single tickets cost $31.50* and the travel time is up to 5h. Train tickets are more expensive and the connection is via Los Angeles. Flights aren’t even an option due to the very expensive fares for the Los Angles to Palm Springs leg of the trip.

Flights from San Diego (airport code: SAN) to Palm Springs

There aren’t any direct flights from San Diego to Palm Springs, but you can fly via Los Angles, which makes it a very expensive journey.

For the first leg of the trip, book a flight between San Diego and LAX. San Diego International Airport (SAN) is located 3 miles from the central business district of San Diego and is the second busiest single runway airport in the world (after London Gatwick). It is a focus city for Southwest Airlines. Flights to LAX are operated by: American Eagle, Delta Connections and United Express. The flight time is 40 minutes. In late December 2011 and mid-March 2011, expect to pay from $119 one way on United.

For the second leg of the trip, book a flight from LAX to Palm Springs, which is served by Palm Springs International Airport (PSP). Flights between LAX and Palm Springs are operated only by United Express. In late December 2011 and mid-March 2012, expect to pay from $511 for the 51 minutes flight. Indirect flights start at $211 one way.

>>read more about Flights to Los Angeles

Trains from San Diego to Palm Springs

Amtrak offers train connections between San Diego and Palm Springs via Los Angles. The total journey time is 6h 45 min and the single adult fare is $83.

The train leaves San Diego daily at 10:50 a.m. and arrives in Los Angeles at 1:35 p.m. Another train leaves for Palm Springs at 3 p.m.

The train leaves Palm Springs daily at 4:45 a.m. and arrives in Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m. Another train leaves for San Diego at 9:40 a.m.

Buses from San Diego to Palm Springs

Greyhound offers bus connections between San Diego and Palm Springs but this is not a direct service either. Buses go either through San Bernardino or Riverside.

The travel time is 4h 25 min (via San Bernardino) and 4 h 50 min (via Riverside) and the web only single adult ticket is $31.50 regardless of which route you choose. Buses depart San Diego at 10:45 a.m. and 4:10 p.m. Buses depart Palm Springs at 11:05 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

Driving from San Diego to Palm Springs

When you rent a car and plan to drive from San Diego to Palm Springs , there are three possible routes to choose from. The on highlighted in the map below is via I-15 N and CA-74 E. The 133 miles can be covered in about 2h 40 min.

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Note: *at the time the article was written

Photo credit

Los Angeles Things to Do

San Diego is a worthwhile alternative to Los Angeles

sandiego350This site focuses on Los Angeles and one day we might start one specifically for San Diego, but for now we’ll discuss a bit about San Diego right here. That city near the Mexico border tends to be forgotten by most Angelenos, so it’s easy to forget that for many people it’s actually a more appealing destination than Los Angeles itself.

Not long ago we covered the various methods for getting between Los Angeles and San Diego, but we haven’t discussed much about people who’d prefer to skip LA completely. I know from living in the Phoenix area for 5 years that San Diego vacations are actually preferred among people from Arizona, so I’m sure the same is true for many people from other places as well.

Getting to San Diego

If you are coming from another part of the US then it should be simple enough to find cheap flights to San Diego. All the major airlines, including most of the discount carriers, fly directly to San Diego so fares are competitive. If you are coming from a city where a direct set of flights seems more expensive than you’d think, it’s not a bad idea to check flights into LAX as well.

You are going to need a car in either city and you can rent them just as cheaply in LA (and often cheaper) than San Diego, so you might save $100 on a flight in exchange for 2.5 hours driving down the coast in a rental car each way. Once you get into Orange County the drive itself is quite nice as well.

Where to stay in San Diego

You have two main choices here, but both of them are pretty broad. The hotels in San Diego are scattered throughout the area, and generally you’ll be looking at either a business-type hotel in the downtown area, or one of the many family-type hotels near a beach. The good news about these beach hotels is that there are literally many hundreds of them so prices are more reasonable than you might imagine.

Where I recommend that people stay

I prefer the area they call North County. The beaches near the city center are nice, but the area around them is so crowded that it doesn’t really feel like a resort community at all. But if you stay just 10 miles or so north of downtown San Diego, you’ll feel like you are in vacationland, in a good way.

I recommend Solana Beach if you can find a place there, or Del Mar or Encinitas are nice too. One word of warning though about Del Mar and Solana Beach. There is a popular horse racing track in Del Mar (called Del Mar) and from late July through mid September they have a popular race meeting and all hotels get more expensive and tend to be more full. If you can come before or after that you’ll find lower prices and smaller crowds.

Photo by Nick Chill on Flickr

Los Angeles

Fall Travel Deals in San Diego

sandiegoA quick jaunt from Los Angeles and a city full of fun for all ages, San Diego is an ideal U.S. city to explore. I have always loved San Diego. Lots of sunshine, tattooed surfer boys, bikes along the boardwalks and great bars—and while the San Diego I love now is not the San Diego I loved as a kid (the zoo, Seaworld, the sea lions, the beach) it is certainly a city that can please all different kinds of demographics of travelers—from wild 20 somethings to families. And, with plenty of sunshine and the summer crowds gone, fall is actually an ideal time to spend some time in San Diego.

Bike along the beach at Mission Bay, hit the bars in Pacific Beach, catch one of the great ethnic heritage festivals in September or October, or check out some of the restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter. For those who are mourning the end of summer—blue skies and bikini weather lasts well through the autumn months in San Diego, making it an ideal place for a little getaway.

Plus, with strong completion into San Diego Airport between Virgin America, United, Southwest and Alaska Airlines it usually isn’t too difficult to find affordable flights to San Diego. I recently wrote about all of the great fall travel deals to San Diego—and from plenty of great hotel deals and cheap flights it may be hard to resist an autumn getaway to the Southern California city.

For those who want nice accommodations for not a whole lot of money, the cheap hotels in San Diego tend to be centered about 3 miles from downtown in the Mission Bay beach area. Here you can find hotels that are not only super close to the beach, but are also just a short cab ride or drive downtown and walking distance to Pacific Beach. The Best Western at Mission Bay has a three-night-for-the-price of-two offer for stays through December 31.

Another hotel in Mission Bay offering up discounted rooms is the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa, which is actually the property where my cousin got married just a few years ago. I can attest that this hotel is absolutely beautiful and with rooms now being offered $129/night (the same rooms can go for as much as $239/night). Jen Leo from the Los Angeles Times tested some of these rates and found that while it was difficult to find the discounted rates on the hotel’s web site, she found the $129 San Diego waterfront resort and spa deal easily for both mid-week stays and weekends on Hot Wire’s Travel Ticker web site.

Another way to save money on a trip to San Diego is to book your hotel and airfare as a package. With hotels and airlines bundling your trip for you, you’ll not only save time, but you could also potentially save money by booking one of the many San Diego vacation packages.

Deals on Cruising From San Diego

San Diego is also a launching point for many cruises heading south to Mexico to warmer waters and temperatures this time of year. While cruise line executives have been making plenty of statements on how well they are faring in the recession, it’s clear from all the crazy sales on cruises that some cruise lines are frantically slashing prices to fill up ships.

If you are still hoping to get away for the upcoming holiday weekend, there are plenty of great deals to be had on last-minute cruises departing from San Diego.

If you’ve got a little more time on your hands and want to take more than a 3-7 day cruise, you can sail for 14 days from San Diego to Miami on board the Celebrity Constellation, visiting Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatulco, Putarenas, Cristobal and Cartagena. The cruise departs December 6, and will offer passengers the opportunity to check out fabulous beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean, as well as make stops in two continents and several countries for $899.

If you would rather opt for a shorter, more family-orientated cruise, Disney cruises also depart from the Port at San Diego. Plus, not only can you score some deals on Disney cruises (and all cruises fdor that matter) right now, but San Diego is the perfect city to explore with the kids before the ship ever leaves port. MSNBC recently ranked San Diego as one of America’s 10 Most Kid-Friendly Cities. With the fabulous San Diego zoo, Sea World, and plenty of fun activities to enjoy outside, San Diego is an ideal place to vacation with the kiddos.

If San Diego is not your thing, check out more travel deals from Los Angeles.

photo by Nick Chill

Los Angeles Transportation

Getting from Los Angeles to San Diego

San Diego, the second largest city in California, is almost always a sunny 72 degrees. With 70 miles of beaches, you can visit it for a day of fun surfing, sailing or lying on the clean sand. Others come to the warm city to see the many family attractions including the world famous San Diego Zoo, home to the giant panda, or to visit Sea World where the famous whale Shamu will put on a spectacular show. Whatever the reason for a visit, thousands of people migrate from Los Angeles to San Diego every week.

By Plane

There are a few ways to get to San Diego from Los Angeles. While the two cities are only 116 miles apart there are airlines that offer flights between them. Alaskan Air has a 45-minute flight that is around $330. American Airlines also offers a similarly priced flight, which is about the same flying time. Finally, United offers a flight for $350, which is also about 40 minutes. In other words, unless you are rich and crazy, you are probably going to want to find another way of getting between these two cities. When you factor the flight time along with the airport check-in and security time, plus getting to and from each airport, this method will take longer than driving almost every time.

By Bus

A bus is a more economical way to get to San Diego. The LuxBus offers an $88 dollar roundtrip ticket from Los Angeles to San Diego and takes approximately 3 hours each way. The bus departs from many major hotels within both cities at regularly scheduled times, giving a door-to-door non-stop service. It is a large coach bus referred to as “airline on the ground” due to it’s snack and drink service, leather seating, on bus movies and a restroom facility. The Greyhound bus is very inexpensive, around $35, and departs frequently every day. Buses depart and arrive at Greyhound terminals of which there is only one in both Los Angeles and San Diego.

By Train

The train is a cheap, hassle free way to travel from Los Angeles to San Diego, avoiding traffic en route while leaving from central locations in each city. Amtrak offers a $68 roundtrip ticket which leaves Union Station in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, arriving approximately 3 hours later at the marina in San Diego. The train has a snack car, a baggage check in, and a selection of seating classes, which vary in price. With beautiful views along the route from each city, the train has the ease of flying without the price.

By Car

Finally the most popular way to travel between the two cities is by car. Whether renting a car from your local rent-a-car location or using your own automobile, this is the cheapest way to get to San Diego. The ride is about 2 hours but can be upwards of 3 hours or more if there is heavy congestion on the freeways, which is true much of the time. You begin by taking the San Diego Freeway Interstate 405 going South. You then take the exit towards California 73/California 55/San Diego merging onto the California 73/Corona Del Mar Freeway. After about 17 miles you will take the Interstate 5 South freeway where you will hit a partial toll.

The I-5 S. Freeway is beautiful, running right along the Pacific Ocean. Along route I -5 S. as you get closer to the city you will pass the Marine Base Camp Pendleton, a base located right on the Ocean, started in 1942 and a major training location for the Marine Corps. Once you have passed Pendleton you will take exit 17 which will put you directly into downtown San Diego, home to the famous Gas Lamp quarter. From here you can easily find a place to stay, restaurants to eat in and things to see and do.