I travel a LOT for work and pleasure, and living in San Diego I’m sharing my 10 tips for navigating San Diego International Airport. If you are not from America’s Finest City (I didn’t make up that title), our airport can be a challenge because of its weird layout and quirks. Let me help you make your way, so travel is less stressful whether you are departing or arriving.

Sky view of San Diego Bay

With a little altitude, this bird’s eye view of San Diego Bay is pretty awesome.

10 Tips For Navigating San Diego International Airport

Navigating San Diego International Airport – Departing

  1. Know your terminal – There are only two terminals, and neither makes any sense because they both contain domestic and international flights. If you are flying on Southwest Airlines, you are definitely in Terminal One. All the others? Best to check to avoid a long walk.
    Signage at SAN Terminal 2

    The signage at San Diego Airport is more than a little confusing for newbies.

     

  2. Not much waiting room – This older terminal did not anticipate the amount of traffic it would receive, and the new self-serve ticket kiosks take up a lot of room. There are VERY few seats before going through security, and the areas are cramped with people navigating their luggage.
  3. Pre-Check is your friend – Have you applied for your TSA Pre-Check approval? It’s an easy process, and can get you past what are sometimes very long security lines. I’ve arrived 30 minutes before boarding time and still arrived at the gate with plenty of time.
    Pre-check line is always short at San Diego Airport

    TSA Pre Check is the best thing ever. Keep your shoe on and your laptop packed!

     

  4. Food is sparse in Terminal One – Terminal Two has decent food choices, but Terminal One is very challenged. If that is your departure zone best to get food from the bar at Banker’s Hill, which serves some very good food along with a nice selection of local craft beers.
  5. Valet parking is a good thing – If you’re in a hurry (which is the story of my life) valet parking can be a lifesaver. It’s not much more money than regular airport parking, and you can text from the plane at landing to have your car curbside when you arrive.
    Terminal 2 Departing Flights

    Drop-off for Departing Flights in Terminal 2 is on the top level – very confusing.

Navigating San Diego International Airport – Arriving

  1. Bag claim takes forever – For such a small airport, your bags will travel at a snail’s pace. You could stop and have a cocktail, visit the restroom and shop for a new watch before you saunter down to baggage claim.
  2. App-based rides pick up in different places – If you are an uber person, black picks up curbside and all the others are “supposed” to pick you up on an island across the way – and you can only reach that island by crossing over via bridge ON ANOTHER LEVEL. So confusing and dumb. That’s where the cabs pick up too FYI.
    Sky Bridge to ground transportation at SAN Terminal 2

    God forbid you have to grab ground transportation from Terminal 2, because it’s on the other side of this sky bridge

     

  3. Secret exits if you carried on – If you are able to avoid baggage claim by carrying on, there are some secret ways to exit quickly in Terminal 2. In Terminal 2 East towards the front, you would turn right to keep walking to baggage claim but if you walk straight down that little hallway right next to the security line coming in, you’re at a quick exit out! In Terminal 2 West, sneak out the very non-descript white doors right past that hideous fountain.
    Terminal 2 obscure exit

    If you didn’t check luggage, you can exit Terminal 2 through this obscure doorway.

     

  4. Curbside pickup can be a nightmare – It’s not 7 am or 12 midnight, the curb is always packed. Why oh why do people think that if they park and crane their neck far enough, their pick-up will suddenly appear out of thin air and get in the car? These are the same people that stop and look at their phones in the middle of the grocery aisle.
    Curbside waiting at SAN

    I’m always so happy to return to San Diego, I don’t mind waiting curbside for Triton to come get me.

  5. Close to everything – If you are staying Downtown, Mission Valley, Hillcrest, Banker’s Hill, North Park, Point Loma or any of the beach areas, you are REALLY close to the airport. It won’t be more than a $20 ride to most of those places, and some will be far less. So relax, you will be there in no time!

Hope this list of 10 tips for navigating San Diego International Airport helps! I wish I could memorize all the tricks I’ve collected from other airport visits around the world, but this one I know like the back of my hand.

If you have tips on your hometown airport, please share and I’ll create a post from all of our shares!