Very Expensive $300 and up
Inexpensive Under $100
What You'll Really Pay
A hotel's "rack rate" is the official published rate, and the prices quoted here are all high-season rack rates. The truth is, though, hardly anybody pays rack rates, and with the exception of smaller B&Bs, you can usually pay quite a bit less by using online discounters such as Hotels.com or Expedia. Also keep in mind that the rates given in this chapter do not include the hotel tax, which is an additional 10.5%, or 12.5% for lodgings with 70 or more rooms. But always peruse the category above your target price -- you might just find the perfect match.
I called several downtown hotels one Tuesday morning to see what their best rate on a room for that same night would be. In all instances the rate I was quoted was 25% to 40% lower than the rack rate. When I called the Grand Hyatt, I was first quoted $240 -- a third off the rack rate. The price fell to $220 when I mentioned my AAA membership. I said, "Thanks, I'll get back to you." The very helpful reservations agent countered, "Let me check to see if there are any packages available." Within a few seconds she found a rate of $139 that included breakfast for two, free parking, and a 15% discount off dinner at the hotel. I started to end the call again, and she cut me off to say, "Oh, here's a $99 promotional rate you might want to consider . . ."
Note: Quoted discount rates almost never include breakfast, hotel tax, or any applicable resort fees.
The Big Picture -- Whatever you are looking for in an accommodation, whatever your price range, you will find it in San Diego. Historical ambience? Sleek modernism? Plush luxury? A dorm bed? It's all here.
By law, public spaces need to be accessible to all, so travelers with disabilities should have few problems finding a place to stay. Also note San Diego has a hotel tax that will not be included in published rates; it's an additional 10.5%, or 12.5% for lodgings with 70 or more rooms.
High season is vaguely defined as the summer period between Memorial Day and Labor Day -- some hotels push rates higher still in July and August, when Comic-Con and the Del Mar racing season are in full swing. Beach accommodations tend to book up solid on summer weekends and even some weekdays (with luck you can sometimes nab a day-of reservation, filling in for a no-show).
Because San Diego is a very popular convention destination you'll find that rates for the larger downtown hotels and a few of the Mission Valley hotels are largely determined by the ebb and flow of conventions in town -- which means that weekend and winter holiday rates can be good bargains. Leisure-oriented hotels along the coast and in Mission Valley are generally busier on weekends, especially in summer, so midweek deals are easier to snag. Here's an idea to maximize your discounts: Spend the weekend at a downtown high-rise and duck into a beach bungalow on Monday. And remember -- in the current economic conditions everybody is making deals. You might be able to wrangle a room in one of the city's finest hotels for a pittance.
Getting the Best Deal -- While the rack rates at San Diego's most desirable hotels may deliver something in the way of sticker shock, there are ways to score a deal.
- Dial direct; or better yet, book online at the hotel's website.
- Ask about special rates or other discounts.
- Look into group or long-stay discounts.
- Avoid excess charges and hidden costs (such as minibar charges).
- Book an efficiency.
- Investigate reservations services such as Quikbook (tel. 800/789-9887, or 212/779-7666 outside the U.S.; www.quikbook.com) and Hotel Discounts (tel. 800/715-7666 in the U.S. and Canada, 00800/1066-1066 in Europe, or 1214/369-1264 elsewhere; www.hoteldiscount.com). You can also look for deals with online booking sites like Expedia, Hotels.com, Kayak.com, Priceline, and Travelocity.
Room rates at properties on Hotel Circle are significantly cheaper than those in many other parts of the city. You'll find a cluster of inexpensive chain hotels and motels, including Best Western Seven Seas (tel. 800/328-1618 or 619/291-1300; www.bw7seas.com), Mission Valley Travelodge (tel. 888/515-6375 or 619/297-2271; www.travelodge.com), Ramada Plaza (tel. 888/298-2054 or 619/291-6500; www.ramada.com), and Vagabond Inn -- Hotel Circle (tel. 800/571-2933 or 619/297-1691; www.vagabondhc.com).
Many downtown hotels seem designed for the expense-account crowd, but in the budget category, you can't beat the 259-room 500 West, 500 W. Broadway (tel. 866/315-4251 or 619/234-5252; www.500westhotel.com). It offers small but comfortable rooms for $89 to $129 a night in a seven-story building dating to 1924. It has contemporary style, history, and a good location, but bathrooms are down the hall. Cheaper still are downtown's hostels.
Inexpensive motels like the Harbor View Days Inn Suites, 1919 Pacific Hwy. (tel. 800/329-7466 or 619/232-1077; www.daysinn.com), also line Pacific Highway between the airport and downtown.
Wealthy, image-conscious La Jolla is really not the best place for deep bargains, but if you're determined to stay there as cheaply as possible, you won't do better than the La Jolla Village Lodge, 1141 Silverado St., at Herschel Ave. (tel. 877/551-2001 or 858/551-2001; www.lajollavillagelodge.com). This 30-room motel is standard Americana, arranged around a small parking lot with cinder-block construction and small, basic rooms. Rates vary wildly by season and day of the week -- a room that costs $90 midweek in February doubles in price for a summer weekend.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.