Trips to San Diego are the stuff of childhood legends—and the fond reminiscing of adults, too! There are so many wonderful things to do in this world-class city, from visiting the San Diego Zoo to scoping out the USS Midway Museum to meeting the animals at SeaWorld. Whether you want to explore the cultural side of things at Balboa Park, immerse yourself in theme parks, or roam the natural world, San Diego has something wonderful in store for you.
For many, however, the first key to unlocking that magical San Diego vacation is getting there. The San Diego International Airport (SAN) is among the busiest in the state, making navigating this bustling hub something of a challenge.
In order to help you figure out your San Diego flights, we’ve put together this brief guide to San Diego International Airport.
San Diego International Airport Overview
The San Diego International Airport serves 17 different airlines, including: Jet Blue, Southwest, American, Air Canada, British Airways, Delta, and United. The flights come in and out of two different terminals, Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. If you need to know which terminal your flight will arrive in or depart from, consult the airport website. Terminal 2 is the larger of the pair, serving more airlines and catering to more flights.
In order to make the most of your time in SAN, we recommend consulting the interactive terminal map. It’s a helpful resource that highlights everything from parking and flights to shopping and dining.
San Diego International Airport Security
As with all modern airports, SAN employs TSA security for entering the gate areas. You’ll need to follow standard security procedures. These include having the right size of toiletries, bringing no liquids (with the exception of breast milk, medicine, or other approved exemptions), and removing all large electronics from your carry-on luggage. Please also follow TSA guidelines for all checked luggage. A failure to do so could result in your luggage not making it to your final destination.
If you’re traveling with kids, remember that children under the age of 12 can leave their shoes, light jackets, and hats on per TSA regulations. Infants will need to come out of their stroller (which itself must go through screening), and they should be carried through security sensors. For more information on getting through TSA screening procedures with little ones, check out their official guide to traveling with children.
Security lines can get long at any airport these days, and SAN is no exception. Especially during the peak tourist season—spring to early summer and fall—flights from San Diego can be very busy and security can get quite backed up. We recommend arriving at least two hours in advance of your departing flight if possible.
San Diego International Airport Shopping & Dining
Once you’ve survived security, there’s plenty to enjoy in the terminals. With everything ranging from standard airport magazine stands to indulgent spas, San Diego International Airport basically has it all.
In terms of shopping, the airport is a solid last-minute option for souvenirs. Because Terminal 2 is the larger of the terminals, you’ll find far better shopping here than in Terminal 1. Both terminals offer the basics like newsstands, places to pick up last-minute tech, and some San Diego-themed souvenirs. But Terminal 2 is where you’ll find more themed stores like the Gaslamp Marketplace. If you’re in search of good shopping destinations for kids, Mindworks is an excellent educational store. Also, check out Kids Love San Diego, which has appropriately touristy clothes and toys (both are located in Terminal 2). For a complete list of shops currently operating at SAN, check out their shopping guide.
Travelers with experience at many airports will appreciate the elevated level of dining options available at SAN. Both Terminals 1 and 2 offer unique destinations with flavorful, reasonably-priced fare. Some of the favorites from Terminal 1 include the farm-to-table Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant, Craft Brews on 30th St. (which features many of Southern California’s most famous craft beers), and the sandwich place Urban Crave. Terminal 2 standouts are even more impressive. They include multiple wine bars, tapas and seafood places, salad and sushi joints. It even has the Prado at the Airport, the SAN version of the famed Balboa Park restaurant. For a full listing of all restaurants in both terminals, consult the airport dining guide.
San Diego International Airport Car Rental, Shuttles, and Ride Share
If you’re trying to get to or from the San Diego International Airport, there are plenty of transit options. In addition to public transit options like Amtrak and COASTER commuter train, you can also find rental cars, hotel shuttles, and ride share options like Uber and Lyft. There are even walking or cycling options to cater to your San Diego flights. This makes SAN a pretty eco-friendly airport, too.
Rental car companies are all located in the Consolidated Rental Car Center. This is reached via shuttle bus from either terminal. More than 15 different rental car companies service SAN, so your preferred company is likely to be available. We do recommend that you make reservations in advance as it’s possible for all of the cars to be reserved during busy times of year.
Hotel shuttles and taxis can be found at Transportation Plazas, several of which are located throughout the airport outside of both terminals. Ride share options are more limited, with only one Transportation Plaza at each terminal permitting ride share pickups. Follow signage in the airport to find your Uber or Lyft pickup points.
Save on San Diego Attractions
Now that your San Diego flights have been settled, you’re probably looking to enjoy all that this marvelous destination has to offer. Pick up a Go San Diego pass to maximize your savings and make the most of your adventures.
You can save up to 55% on combined admission to all the top things to do in the city. Visit top attractions such as LEGOLAND® California, SeaWorld San Diego, Balboa Park Museums and the USS Midway Museum. Plus, tours, cruises, and more.
And don’t forget to share your adventure with us! Tag @GoCity or use the hashtag #GoCityPass in your holiday snaps and we’ll feature you on our page. Follow the Go City Instagram and Facebook pages for competitions, special offers, events, and inspiration for your chosen destination too!