Go San Diego Card makes claims that are enough to make a person skeptical: "Save up to 55%" on lots of attractions. It almost sounds to good to believe, so we set out to find out the truth about the popular discount card.
We poked, prodded, clicked and peered at the fine print. We even made a spreadsheet to calculate the savings - all so you don't have to. Now we can help you figure out whether it's a good idea for your vacation.
On this page, you'll discover:
- What the Go San Diego Card is
- How it works
- How to figure out if it can save you money
- How to get a Go San Diego Card
Go San Diego Card: What Is It?Think of Go Card as a volume discounter. They negotiate with local tourist attractions for discounts and sell them as card-based packages.
You can choose from two types of Go San Diego Card:
The basic version covers all their offered attractions for a fixed price, valid for a maximum number of days that you choose. Buy more days and the card costs more.
- Go Select offers fewer attractions and is good for 30 days after your first use, but you can choose only ones you want to visit. The more you choose, the greater the discount. They also offer some pre-built packages for the most popular attractions.
How the Go San Diego Card Works
Using it is simple. Take the Go Card to any included San Diego attraction, present it at the ticket window (before 5:30 p.m.) and you're in.
After it's used the first time, the card is good for the number of days you chose, but those must be consecutive days. If you skip one because you're tired, you don't get a refund - or an extension.
Except for the rare multi-day pass, you can visit each attraction only once.
Will the Go San Diego Card Save You Money?
The short answer: Probably yes, but for most people, it won't be as much as the ads claim.
The only way to know for sure: Add it up. Only you know which attractions you want to visit and how much you might want to hurry through them to pack everything in. A quick way to get all the prices you need for that is to use the Go Select page, where they show current prices.
A quick answer that's correct most of the time: The Go San Diego Card will save money if you:
Buy a 3- to 5-day card and visit all the big-ticket attractions (Sea World, Legoland, San Diego Zoo and Safari Park) OR visit about 3 to 4 of the smaller attractions per day.
Be realistic about how much you can do. According to the Go Card website: "people tend to visit fewer attractions each day than they expect." The big attractions will all take a full day each and some are far apart and even for shorter ones, there may be travel time between them. If you pack your schedule too tightly and get too pooped to finish them all, your savings will plummet.
Group Go Card activities into the fewest days: Use the rest of the trip for doing other things. If you crammed all the Go Card activities in the Top Things to Do in San Diego into three days, you could save almost 40%, but you'd be so rushed you wouldn't have much time to enjoy them. Extend that to a more-reasonable five days and you'd save about 20%. Take seven instead, don't do anything else and the savings fall to just 5%.
Choose the Go Select option. For all the Go Card activities on our Top Things to Do in San Diego, we estimated 20% savings. And because it's good for up to 30 days, you have a lot more days to do everything in.
If you're prone to losing things (or forgetting to take them on a trip), the Go Card may not be for you. Lost cards are not replaceable or refundable.
Inside Look at the Included AttractionsOf all California's top tourist destinations, San Diego has the most that charge high admission fees, with five of the top dozen attractions charging well more than $50 per adult ticket, and three others requiring an admission fee. Those attractions are why most people visit the city and if you plan to "do" them all, you'll probably use your Go Card a lot. However, not everyone wants to see the top sights, and these insights may help you make sense of it all.
Some attractions offered may not interest you. For example, if you don't like to go to museums, that takes about 20 attractions off the list. If you don't like guided tours, that eliminates another half dozen. If the list of things you want to do becomes too small, the card might not save you money. However, some people say it introduced them to enjoyable activities they might not have found on their own. And once you break even, you'll save on every little thing you do after that.
Only longer-duration cards include Sea World (3 days or more).
Take a closer look at that long list: You'll see that some attractions are not in San Diego, but in Anaheim, Orange County or even Hollywood and you have to take yourself there to enjoy them - which may or may not be part of your vacation plan.
So, a museum-hating, guided-tour-avoiding vacationer who isn't going to leave San Diego is left with about two dozen attractions to choose from.
Some require reservations: After you buy the card, you may need to make reservations for some tours. Read all the details so you don't get disappointed.
How to Get a Go San Diego CardYou can't buy a Go Card at the attraction box offices, so you need to plan ahead. But not too far. Cards expire on December 31 of the year following their purchase, whether they were used or not. You can return unused cards for a full refund for a year after purchase, but why not just wait until you're sure about your trip dates?
If your trip is at least 2 weeks away: Just go to their website, where you can make the purchase and they'll mail the cards to you. There is a small shipping fee and they offer expedited shipping - and international shipping for a higher cost.
If it's less than 2 weeks until your trip - or you don't want to pay high shipping fees: Buy your Go San Diego Card online through Kijubi.com (where you can also plan more things to do that Go Card doesn't include). You'll get a printable voucher that you can take to a Go Card redemption center, which are listed here.
Alternatives to the Go Card
The Go Card is one of quite a few options for saving money on the most popular attractions in San Diego. Check them all in the San Diego Discount Card Guide.