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I’m posting this almost six months after our trip, but I wanted to make sure to share it! We went to San Diego for my 30th birthday (and our 5 year anniversary) and had the best time! Hewson, our son, had the time of his life! We’re from Nashville, so I was a little bit nervous about the flight and time zone change, but, honestly, it was so wonderful that I’d do it 100 times over again. That said, I’m really glad that we were prepared! Here’s the highlights of our trip and how to do San Diego with a one year old.
What You Need for San Diego with a One Year Old
So there were a few things that made ALL OF THE DIFFERENCE for us in San Diego with a one year old. I’m kind of a nerd, so I did a ton of research, and it really paid off because we used all of the following and they were life savers.
- Ergo 360 – Hewson wasn’t walking at 12 months yet, but he did not want to be in the stroller all of the time. When he was in the Ergo 360 he was calm and just enjoyed going along for the ride. Being in a 360, vs a normal chest-chest carrier, gave us SO much more flexibility and made it so he could enjoy more of the trip. I did bring my beloved Solly wrap, but didn’t end up using it this time.
- The Jeep Stroller – We wanted a cheap umbrella stroller to take around with us, but I’m really glad we spent just a little more and got this one. It was super sturdy, the sun visor works well, and it is really, really light. Plus it was nice to be able to carry all of his stuff on the stroller at the airport while we wore him. Additionally, we wound’t have been devastated if it had gotten damaged while on the plan (they make you check strollers at the gate) like we would have if we had taken his normal stroller.
- Dropper stoppers – I swear by these things and have six or seven. Whether in the airport or at the San Diego Zoo, Hewson could toss his sippy, toys, etc., without fear of us losing them forever (or constantly having to pick them up).
- Getting an Airbnb with a separate living area, as opposed to a hotel room – Keep scrolling to see, but we had to put Hewson to bed early (time zone, heyyyyoooo) and it was SO NICE to be able to have “date nights” every night with delicious takeout, Netflix, and the stars! If you’re interested, get $40 towards your first trip if you sign up with my link!
- Read more to see how to fly across country with a one year old for how we managed to handle the flight with Hewson!
- The one major fail we had was this carseat. JL and I got in the fight of a lifetime over trying to install this freaking thing at 2am our time, with a crying baby, and the threat of getting locked in the car rental lot. To be fair, it comes highly recommended and it is super light for traveling, so it is completely possible the problem was us, but it took us forever to install it correctly and I don’t feel it was ever properly installed on the plane.
What to Do in San Diego with a One Year Old
First of all, we spend a full week in San Diego–Saturday to Saturday, I believe, and it was awesome to have that much time. We probably would have been fine with 4-5 days, but it was great to have time to explore and relax. This was especially true because Hewson normally fell asleep around 7pm our time, but in the Pacific Time Zone that was 5pm. So that meant we had to be back by about 4:30 each day. No night time activities for us!
We ended up loving it though because we got a lot of husband and wife time! We were celebrating our anniversary after all! Our airbnb had an outdoor living area and we loved doing dinner dates al fresco every night.
Our favorite place to eat was Lucha Libre! We liked that we could order online and do a quick pickup. Their burritos are a-mazing and I crave them all of the time now! But we also loved a breakfast spot called Breakfast Republic and eating in Little Italy.
The San Diego Zoo
This might sound like a no brainer, but it was actually really awesome. If you have a one year old with you, though, you MUST use a stroller. It isn’t stroller friendly in every area and sometimes you have to take a longer route to get where you want to go, but I CANNOT imagine going there without it.
We brought our own food/drinks and had a fabulous time. We paid full price for our tickets by purchasing on our , but I found out (later) that there are discount options out there if you purchase them at local stores. I would suggest calling around to local places (like the grocery stores) to see if they offer a discount ticket–if they don’t, ask them where you can get this discount!
We opted not to do the safari park or the 4D movie experience. Looking back, I’m glad we made that decision. I just don’t think Hewson would have had the attention span to sit through either one of those. Maybe in a year or so, but not as a one year old.
I wish we could have stayed in La Jolla forever. It’s so beautiful–the beach, the community, all of it. It was super easy to wear Hewson around and the people were so nice! We loved the pier, the aquarium, the farmer’s market, the cove/seeing the seals, all of it. If your baby is eating solids, the farmer’s market is a must because we got to introduce Hewson to a bunch a new-to-him fruits and veggies that were out for samples.
Plus, we ate at the best sushi restaurant where the hostess asked us if she could hold Hewson while we ate. UMM YES PLEASE! He loved her and they spent the meal laughing at each other. (It should be noted, he was less than 10 feet away and we could see him the entire time.) We, praise Jesus, got to eat in peace for the firs time since… I don’t even know! I highly recommend just hanging out in La Jolla as a family.
I didn’t realize this until we got there, but this area is mostly museums plus a little green space. Some of the museums are free and some are not. It was nice to be able to stroll around in the sunshine and enjoy some art while Hewson slept! We got him out and played outside of the botanical garden. Apart from the zoo, this is probably the most family friendly place if you’re going to San Diego with a one year old. There’s a ton to do–just save the art museums for nap time and go to the more interactive areas while your baby is awake (i.e. the Fleet Science Museum).
The Balboa Park website is great and there’s even an app you can download. Make sure that you check the dates of your visit to ensure that you can get to see some of the things you want to see! Most of the museums are closed one day a week. Also, just a heads up: they all have a “free day,” but that’s only for California residents.
We loved visiting the Japanese Friendship Garden (warning: it’s a workout with a stroller, but I wouldn’t do it without it either), the Fleet Science Center, San Diego History Center, San Diego Natural History Museum, and the Museum of Photographic Arts.
There were a ton of cute restaurants in Coronado, but we had breakfast at a Starbucks. In the picture above, a police officer came in for a cup of coffee, saw Hewson, and gave him that police officer sticker on her way out. So nice, right?
We spent an entire day in Coronado and we loved it. If you’re doing San Diego with a one year old, Coronado is a must. The beach is really nice, the town itself has an old Hollywood vibe, and the people were so friendly! It rained a little bit while we were there, so we stopped in the local visitor’s center (which was also a mini museum). We were trilled to find they had a kids area and Hewson played with blocks while the storm passed.
These couches are inside of the Coronado Hotel (which was really fun to visit) and were a great place to take a break/let Hewson crawl around and play for a bit.
We love going to museums and things like that so this was actually surprisingly cool. I had no idea how huge these aircraft carriers were and I really enjoyed seeing what it’s like to live on a boat like that and all of the logistics required to make missions happen. We got our tickets at a great discount through Groupon.
I will say, though, it is NOT stroller friendly, so make sure you have a baby carrier. Hewson napped the entire time (almost), which was great. However, one thing to note: if you’re a larger person or wearing a baby carrier, which I was, you’re not allowed to go into the tower at the top of the boat.
Things We Intentiaonally Skipped
We had a big list of things we thought might be fun, but because we were in San Diego WITH a one year old, we decided to cut all of the following things from our itinerary:
- Lego Land – I think if Hewson had been older, we would have enjoyed it, but we chose to skip it this time. If we go back anytime again, I’m going to look into the city passes because you can get a break on multiple theme parks if you bunch them together.
- Disney Land – We entertained the idea of going to Disney (which is in Anaheim) but it’s quite a drive and we weren’t prepared for a long day at the theme park plus driving for hours and hours in the same day.
- Sea World – We also thought about going here, but we didn’t go for a few reasons, the main one being, again, we felt Hewson was too little.
- Gaslamp Quarter – It was highly recommended by friends, but it was just not little kid friendly because it was mostly bars.
So that’s it! That’s what we did in San Diego with a one year old! Taking a break from everyday life is so important and it was such a blessing to get to have this time together.