Over the last 14 years, La Jolla Mom has grown from a one-person operation (me, Katie Dillon) to a team of experts who assist with content, hotel booking, attraction tickets, logistics, and beyond. That’s because millions of people per year rely on us for help regarding four main topics:
- San Diego
- Luxury Hotels
- Theme Parks
- Travelogues (from the places we’ve visited or lived in)
We take pride in our content and are so grateful to everyone who stops by. We believe in transparency, so we would like to share more about how we work and our values.
We Write for Readers and Clients Based on Personal Experiences
We strive to post helpful, accurate content on lajollamom.com. Much of the content is driven by questions that land in my inbox, helpful feedback from clients after they travel, and things we’ve personally experienced. Sponsors don’t drive content choices, and we haven’t accepted sponsored content in many years (more on this below).
Client feedback is a unique and valuable asset that we have. At any given moment, we have people vacationing in San Diego, Maui, Mexico, New York City, Hong Kong, and other tourist destinations. Readers chime in by email, in comments, and on social media, too. We adjust recommendations based on what they tell us they like and dislike because if we think the feedback is valuable, that means you may want to hear about it.
We value your money and your time. So, we also don’t have any problems telling you if there are hotels or hotel rooms to avoid, whether the food somewhere was just okay, or that you must go to a particular attraction (or not). I also don’t have problems striking once beloved restaurants or attractions off our recommended lists when things fall short.
There aren’t many articles on this website about destinations that we or someone on my team hasn’t been to or that we don’t have deep knowledge of.
How Content Is Developed
Here’s an example of how an article might come to fruition and grow on this website. I like to review hotels after we stay in them. I’ll publish an article detailing the hotel’s offerings mixed in with thoughts about our stay, using photos I’ve taken and photos from a hotel’s press room. (The reason for the latter is that I believe in privacy and that at the hotels we tend to stay in, it’s disruptive to video and photograph in certain circumstances—plus, the quality of the room photos is usually better).
Then, as time passes, readers read the review and book the hotel through one of our VIP programs. While coordinating their stays, we receive valuable client reviews of the hotel along with updates, suggestions, new ideas, and more from the hotel coordinators and concierge teams. We update the posts with this content. These tips may also add value to any other articles I wrote about this particular trip. And then, in many cases, my family checks in again, and the cycle repeats itself.
How We Check for Quality
Once an article is published, we have team members who fact-check to be sure that theme park ticket prices and hotel offerings stay up-to-date. You’ll know when a post was most recently updated by checking the last modified date under its title.
Most of our content is focused on San Diego and is geared toward people planning vacations and residents looking to save money, plan a staycation, or check out something new to them. The majority of our San Diego team lives in San Diego County, which allows us to run out to shoot video at a restaurant or hotel or try a new dessert or spa.
We have connections at the local hotels that keep us in the loop and public relations companies that represent restaurants, hotels, and attractions. They help us stay up-to-date.
Why We Don’t Accept Sponsored Content
Anyone who knows me in real life knows I’m not easily influenced. I don’t need to be.
To be honest, I have discovered some truly amazing products because they were pitched to me as sponsored content. We haven’t accepted sponsored content in many years. Where we have, it’s disclosed (and in the process of being removed from the site completely).
Why? If I’m purposefully not reading hotel reviews by people who were given free stays in exchange for a review because I don’t find them credible—as an example. So, you might skip them here. Sponsored content pitches are declined or ignored daily. (Please don’t send them.)
How We Choose Travel and Product Resources
The resources chosen for products and travel, like theme park tickets or places to book hotels, are not random. They’re very deliberate and usually resources we use personally or ones we know readers use.
Sometimes, links to these resources are affiliate links. These are links to sites where we may receive a small commission if a purchase or booking is made. Along with ads, they help keep content on this site free because operating costs are high on high-traffic sites. It literally takes a village to thrive and survive on the web when our competitors are big-budget travel sites.
Resources for Hotel booking
Here’s how we decide which hotel sites to link to when I make booking suggestions. We try to send readers to the places where they’ll get the most value or are the most likely to book.
Luxury Hotels with VIP Programs
If you are searching for a luxury hotel, it likely participates in a VIP program. Because I am an Independent Affiliate of Cadence Travel in La Jolla, you have access to extra perks at thousands of hotels worldwide at no additional cost.
I am always going to link to these benefits because they are nearly always the best way to book. I book my own hotels this way.
(Pro tip: These VIP programs are among the many reasons never to book a high-end hotel through discount online travel agencies. Not only will you forego these benefits, but you’ll likely be put on the bottom of the list for things like room selection and special requests. Think about it this way. A hotel makes less revenue from these bookings, so they’ll cater to their VIPs and then direct bookings first. You will have a better experience booking in as a VIP.)
If you book through a VIP program, you can learn more about how our hotel booking process works. Virtuoso is one of those VIP programs that you’ll see mentioned throughout the site. Most Virtuoso hotels can be booked directly through Virtuoso.com, and we receive your booking within minutes of you pressing submit.
Other Brand-Name Hotels and Smaller Properties
If a hotel does not have a VIP program to which I can grant you access, here’s how we decide where to send you.
If you are not booking through a travel advisor or a hotel VIP program, you’re usually better off booking big chain hotels like Hilton, IHG, and Marriott directly.
The reason is that it’s free to join their member programs. And they provide discounts to their members. Plus, if you run into issues, you’re likely in better shape to get personnel to resolve them, having booked directly through the hotel brand.
(Pro tip: If you have issues and booked through an online travel agency, there’s not much the hotel can do because you didn’t make the reservation through them. This is one reason why direct can be better.)
Discount Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
That being said, I’ve found that many readers use discount online travel agencies to book hotels. OTAs include Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Booking.com, and similar sites. (I am not talking about Virtuoso.com, because we receive your bookings and handle things personally with the hotels.)
There can definitely be reasons to book through OTAs. Many people who are not brand loyal like their rewards programs because you can earn points no matter which hotel or hotel brand you choose. Also, the OTA a hotel uses will determine where we send you to book. Some don’t work with all of them.
(Fun fact: We have found that most of our readers use Expedia.com and Hotels.com)
Sometimes, I might see that a particular hotel is an even better deal if it can be bundled with theme park tickets in a vacation package. I keep close tabs on the vacation packages I can offer through aRes Travel, because I know they typically have the best price on tickets (more on tickets next).
These days, you can buy cool stuff nearly anywhere. We love making product round-up lists of items like travel games, bento lunch boxes, and more. Some of the content stems from my own research, while others are because, well, people ask. It’s been a few years since I’ve needed travel cribs, but people booking hotels often prefer to bring their own.
Most of the products I mention can be conveniently purchased on Amazon, which most readers (and I) use for convenience and comfort. The price is usually competitive, if not the lowest available. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. If a product isn’t available on Amazon, we link it to wherever else it can be purchased.
About Our Theme Park Tickets
We partner with aRes Travel to sell theme park tickets to most parks. They are a San Diego company based in Pacific Beach, just down the hill from my house.
We have monthly meetings with their staff where I share client feedback and learn about upcoming deals. They are also very keen to know about ticket combinations that readers would like to see.
Readers can call my dedicated phone line at aRes Travel if they need help purchasing tickets, getting tickets resent, and other customer service issues. If you need it, call (888) 795-3715 and +1 (619) 577-4068 for international callers. If, for some reason, you can’t get through, you can also email me for help with tickets.
This is why you’ll find aRes Travel mentioned as a primary source for individual tickets in our theme park posts. But we also have promo codes for sightseeing passes like Go City San Diego. Sometimes a sightseeing pass is more appropriate for some trips. Sometimes a military discount may be more favorable. We like to call out as many reliable options as we know of in our how to buy discount theme park tickets articles.
Our theme park ticket posts are on a regular price check schedule from once per week to once per month, depending on how frequently information typically changes at that theme park.
ABOUT KATIE DILLON
La Jolla Mom is the go-to resource for San Diego vacations and things to do, managed by Katie Dillon. Readers rely on her luxury hotel expertise (she lived in one of the best). Through her, you have access to exclusive amenities at five-star hotels worldwide and discounted theme park tickets. She also shares guides for visiting major cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore that her family has lived in or visits regularly. Learn more.