What’s the Best Way to Get to the Airport in San Diego?


Hey, I worked on that plane!

I don’t travel much for my day job, but I do for my part-time gig(coaching).  This year we have trips planned to Vegas(x2), Philadelphia and Dallas along with a personal trip to New York.  Even though most of my airfare will be free  thanks to Southwest(plus my companion), I’m still looking for ways to maximize my savings on all these trips.  Traveling can be expensive enough but I think I’ve found a couple viable options for getting to/from the airport.

I’m not sure why, but I always feel a little guilty about asking my friends for a ride to/from the airport.  The San Diego airport isn’t even that far out of the way; it’s located right near downtown.  Maybe it’s the guilt or maybe I’ll feel bad if I never repay the favor but generally I only ask my family for rides.

The most hassle-free option is usually a taxi, but this always ends up being the most expensive.  Even though I only live 10 minutes from the airport,  a taxi ride costs $25 plus tip.  Here are some of the best options I’ve come up with.  Let me know what you would pick and if I’ve left anything out.

Option 1 – Getting a ride from a friend or family member.

Even though it’s not a big hassle to take someone to the airport, it will still take at least 30-45 mins round trip for them.  I don’t know many people that live right near me so add that to their total drive time.  Normally, I would ask my fiancee to take me to the airport, but a lot of my upcoming trips leave mid-day so it would be pretty inconvenient for her to leave work and take me.  And unfortunately, most of my friends are employed so they work during the week too.

Option 2 – Taking a shuttle

I thought I was brilliant when I found out that shuttle services would pick you up from your house like a taxi and take you to the airport.  But unfortunately, they also pick up a few other people, so a 10 minute ride can easily turn into 45 mins.  The cost may be worth it for a single traveler, but if you’re in a group of 2 or more, a taxi is probably the better option.  It will cost me $20 one way for a ride in the shuttle(+$9 for each additional shared passenger) so I’m only saving $5 before tips.  That doesn’t seem worth it at all.

The only time I would consider taking a shuttle is if I’m at a hotel/landmark.  When you book a shuttle with a company like Super Shuttle, they’ll ask if you’re coming from a hotel/landmark since they often have discounted rates with these companies.  I actually live within a 10 minute walk of Hotel Circle but there is the ethical part of that option(not that I have the best ethics).  I did use this service once though when I went to school at UCSD.  A taxi from the airport to UCSD was about $40 while the shuttle was only $19 if you were going to the campus.  You didn’t even have to be a student/faculty to take advantage of this option.

Option 3 – Public Transportation

The only drawback of living in a city like San Diego is the public transportation.  The only bus that goes into the airport picks up in downtown, so you have to make at least one transfer if you live anywhere else.  How dumb is that?  The public transportation option would cost me $4.75 but it would take at least an hour since I have to transfer downtown.

Option 4 – Car2go San Diego

Now this option might not be available for everyone, but if you live in a major metropolitan area you may have a similar car sharing service available.  I’ve already talked about how much I love Car2go and this is just another reason car-sharing is so awesome.  Since there always seems to be Car2gos on my street I’m usually within a 5 minute walk of one.  The drive to the airport is about 15 minutes, and there’s a park called Spanish Landing where I can park my Car2go.  From there, all I have to do is walk through a tunnel(about 5-10 mins) and I’m in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport.

I actually did a drive by the other day when I was in the area and there were six Car2go’s in the parking lot on a Sunday so I should have no problem getting one on the way back too.  At 38 cents per minute, Car2go will only cost me $5.70 each way!

Option 5 – Parking Garage

I know most airports have valet services and parking lots but those prices are pretty absurd.  I don’t even think it’s much more convenient than taking a taxi and it’s probably three times the price.  But there are always local parking garages with free shuttles to the airport.  The more people you’re traveling with and the shorter the trip, the more money you’ll save.  I recently used a Park N Go for a weekend trip where I left on Friday at 3pm and came back on Sunday at 7pm.  I had to pay for three days with an average rate of $9/day.  This option worked out really well since they have shuttles running constantly and it didn’t take much more time than any of the other options.

What Did I Pick?

So that’s everything I could think of.  I think the cheapest option is getting a ride from a friend or family member.  But if you travel a lot, there’s only so many people you can hit up before there’s some resentment.  Personally, I think my best option the Car2go service.  At just $5.70 each way and 10 minutes of extra walking, it should allow me to get to the airport quickly and efficiently.

The parking garage option comes in at a close second though since sometimes you can find good coupons/groupons for them.  There’s a ton of competition in that market, so you can really take advantage of some good deals.  It also helps if you’re taking a trip that’s 3 days or less.  But since I have the Car2go option, I don’t think the $27 is worth it for all the 3 day trips I have coming up.

Readers, what do you think?  Which one of these options do you like the most or would you go a completely different route?

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Hi, I'm Harry, the owner and head writer for Your PF Pro. I started this site back in 2011 in order to create a place where young professionals could come and get all of their financial questions answered. On the site, you'll find articles on everything from asset allocation for retirement to saving money at Chipotle! So enjoy..

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  1. says

    I’m actually realizing that driving myself to the airport and parking for shorter trips is often cheaper than taking a cab both ways. A cab would run me $30-60 each way for a total of $60-120. Plus, I hate cab drivers. I should be able to park for close to $10/day, which would work out cheaper. We’ll see what I end up doing for my next work trip…

    • says

      Hey Leigh, yea that’s exactly what I was doing before I joined Car2go. I’m going to Vegas on Friday for three days so we’ll see exactly how long that way takes. The parking garages are pretty awesome though since they’re so cheap and convenient. I googled airport parking once and one of the garages had a groupon that you could buy year round.. haha I saved $5!

  2. Bichon Frise says

    Did you just admit to working on the 787?!?! Hopefully, it wasn’t with the batteries!

    In a lot of cities, it costs just as much to take a “limo” (aka a Towncar) than it does to take a taxi. This is usually true if being dropped off outside of the downtown area, but I find it to be $10-$20 more going to downtown areas. Denver is a good example. Especially, as I returned to my Alma Mater on the west side of town, a lot of times a “limo” was cheaper than a cab. The benefits are someone is there on time, every time. There is a lot of competition, so the service is excellent. Just another option to run through…

    • says

      Yes I did, but definitely not on the batteries. Funny how everyone was worried about all the new composite technology but lithium ion batteries have been around for 10-15 years.

      I completely forgot about the limo option. I actually shared a limo from downtown Phoenix to the airport last summer and it was cheaper than my taxi ride the other way! It was actually pretty nice riding through Phoenix in a limo and definitely more comfortable than a taxi. Thanks for the travel tip.

  3. says

    Good ole’ Lindbergh Field. We always have family pick us up as it’s just much easier that way when we have the kids with us. We’re actually looking to drive out there this summer or next as it just gets so expensive flying all of us out there.

    • says

      Haha yea good ol’ Lindbergh. Oh man I can only imagine how kids would complicate things. I think it generally makes more sense to drive reasonable distances as your family size increases.

  4. says

    We usually just ask for a ride or take a taxi since we live fairly close, but hopefully the trolley will have a stop there one day since I’ve been hearing rumors of its expansion. Safe travels!

  5. says

    It doesn’t really help you, but my wife and I work in downtown San Diego, and the parking garage we pay for to leave our car at during work is across the street from a hotel that has a free airport shuttle. I’m not going to lie; we’ve sneaked onto that shuttle several times. Ride to airport in exchange for a $3-4 tip? Sounds good to me!

    • says

      Hey Bryan, that is a good tip! If you don’t mind sneaking onto the airport shuttles, you can usually find good ones near airport parking garages and hotels like you mention.

      You just have to find one that has free street parking nearby. I wouldn’t mind leaving my old car on the street, but since I got my new one, I’m too protective to leave it on the streets near downtown haha.

    • says

      Wow that is expensive, it’s definitely expensive if you go with one of the parking options the longer your trip is. I like them for short weekend trips though, usually cheaper than a cab and your car is there waiting for you when you get back.

    • says

      Ah nice haha! I thought about doing that too but since I got my new car I’m a little hesitant to park it on the street for more than a couple days. It is pretty easy to walk onto those shuttles though :)

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