Is the San Diego 3 for 1 Pass a Tourist’s Best Option?
In some cases this San Diego discounted pass is worthwhile, but let's look at the numbers
UPDATE: The San Diego 3 for 1 pass has been discontinued. I suggest strongly that you consider the Go San Diego Card instead.
There is definitely something to be said for unlimited admission to three of San Diego’s best attractions. But is the San Diego 3 for 1 pass worth the price? Sometimes, yes. Let’s take a look and find out.
Table of Contents
How the San Diego 3 for 1 Pass Works
The San Diego 3 for 1 pass provides unlimited admission to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park and SeaWorld San Diego during a consecutive seven day period. The seven days begin on the day you first use the pass. The pass only includes park admission (typical of most San Diego discount passes) so parking, food and other tours are at an extra cost. The San Diego Zoo is the only of the three parks to have free parking.
Children ages 2 and under do NOT require paid admission to these parks.
San Diego Attraction Ticket Pricing
Visit each park just once and you’ll save a few dollars with the San Diego 3 for 1 pass. If you visit all three parks once and then at least one of them another time, this is where the real savings come in.
At the time of this writing, 1-day tickets for these attractions are as follows.
San Diego Zoo: $50 adult; $40 child
San Diego Zoo Safari Park: $50 adult; $40 child
(Note that the above parks offer a 2-Visit pass at $90 for adults and $70 for kids.)
SeaWorld San Diego: $73 for ages 3 and above
(Note that SeaWorld San Diego bundles all-day dining for $103 per person and they also have an annual pass for $85 per person. People who visit more than once always opt for the annual pass.)
Next, we address the cost of the actual pass.
San Diego 3 for 1 Pass Discounts
Do you have to pay full retail value for the San Diego 3 for 1 pass? Maybe not, but it is important to know what restrictions there are, if any.
Costco: The Cheapest San Diego 3 for 1 Pass
The cheapest place I’ve seen to buy the San Diego 3 for 1 pass is Costco. However, in-store availability in local Costcos vary. I would not rely on popping into a store on a random day to pick one up. The good news is that they do sell the San Diego 3 for 1 pass online and you don’t have to be a Costco member to buy it.
However, there is a small processing fee of $1.79 and the estimated delivery time is 5-7 business days from the time of order. Buying the San Diego 3 for 1 pass at Costco is not a great option for last-minute planners. You will need to use the pass within a certain time frame, which is by February 2017 at the time of this writing.
Cost: The San Diego 3 for 1 pass is $129.99 for adults and $104.99 for children.
Site partner Viator retails the San Diego 3 for 1 pass for a few dollars more than at the parks. People buy through Viator for a number of reasons, one is they find comfort in the fact that it is TripAdvisor company with a worldwide presence. They also like reading reviews and tips here from people who have used the pass.
Viator passes need to be redeemed at SeaWorld San Diego so this must be your first stop. They also require a specific start date, which you probably know anyway.
Cost: $168.99 for adults and $137.99. Buy on our partner Viator site.
Park Ticket Booths
Buy the San Diego 3 for 1 pass at a SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo or San Diego Safari Park ticket booth on the day of your visit.
Cost: $165 for adults and $135 for kids. If you buy online through their websites, there is a $1 convenience fee per person.
Scenarios for Use
How much money you’ll save using the San Diego 3 for 1 pass depends on how much you pay for it and which attractions you’ll visit. Let’s assume for the sake of these comparisons that you paid $165 for an adult pass at a ticket booth.
1. San Diego Zoo 2x ($90 with 2-Visit pass) + San Diego Zoo Safari Park ($50) + SeaWorld ($73) = $213
$213 – $165 = $48 savings
2. SeaWorld 2x ($85 with an annual pass… no one buys two, 1-day tickets) + San Diego Zoo Safari Park ($50) + San Diego Zoo ($50) = $185
$185 – $165 = $20 savings
3. San Diego Zoo 2x ($90 with a 2-Visit pass) + San Diego Zoo Safari Park ($50) + SeaWorld 2x ($85 with annual pass) = $225 – $165 = $60 savings
You get the picture. The San Diego 3 for 1 pass can save money.
Is There a Cheaper Pass Option?
The answer is that it depends. If you have kids in tow and they’d like to immerse themselves in these parks and the beach (which is a very common San Diego family vacation strategy), San Diego 3 for 1 might be your best bet. If your child wants to also visit LEGOLAND, it usually makes sense to choose another pass that includes this theme park.
If your itinerary involves these parks in addition to popular museums and tours, it’s likely that the Go San Diego Card will be more economical because it includes up to 34 other attractions. You can also build your own pass. I have written a detailed post about the benefits of the Go San Diego Card.
- 13 San Diego Discounts: Experience the City for Less
- 40 Best Things to Do in San Diego with Kids
- The Best Family-Friendly San Diego Hotels
Top photo is used courtesy of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The Africa Tram Safari features soft-wheeled vehicles that take visitors to see animals such as white rhinoceroses, giraffes, Cape buffalo, Roosevelt’s gazelles, African crowned cranes and more. The tour vehicles run on biodiesel, a clean-burning alternative fuel made from renewable resources and travel 2½ miles around the Safari Park’s expansive African field enclosures totaling 213 acres. The tour is free with admission.