Quick, Atypical trip to San Diego – travel hacking, budget travel, and some new shoes.

We had a great weekend get away to San Diego and Oceanside. So nice to be somewhere else for a bit.

Lubbock has been dry and dusty for months and Llama needed a break.

We ate good food, explored areas of San Diego we had not seen before, and figured out the public transportation (very easy by the way). May make this an annual thing.

First order of business after dropping our bags at our Airbnb was dinner. Recommended by both our Airbnb host and in a vlogger we follow was The Crack Shack. It was just a short walk from our place and nice outdoor seating. Yummy fried chicken for the win.

Llama and Karol had found a charming AirBnB in Little Italy. The owner host is new to Airbnb and we were happy to be some of her first guests. They place was perfect for our needs. The only funny thing, which we knew going in, was the house was right under the flight path to the airport.

We started our first full day in San Diego with a pleasant walk through the neighborhood. We spied Hob Nob Hill Restaurant for brunch. Hob Nob Hill was started in 1944 by Dorothy Hoersch and is San Diego’s oldest woman founded restaurant. Baby Yoda picked the 1st Ave Omelet which was egg, fresh crab, jack cheese, and avocado. The meal was rounded out with pineapple coffee cake and spiced apples. This was a beautiful meal. The restaurant took advantage of the pandemic to update the interior to more modern styling but keeping the vintage flair. Karol’s favorite book series and movie is The Wizard of Oz! She loved the decorations.

After a lovely brunch we walked around the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. Sway Sway! Beautiful day in San Diego. Michael had seen this on a YouTube video and really wanted to check it out. Turned out it was just a quarter mile from the restaurant. We even helped a young couple who were there taking some pregnancy photos. They are expecting a boy and were obviously thrilled.

We spent the morning wandering Bankers Hill (between Little Italy and Balboa Park). It is marked by these beautiful old homes. Many are businesses now, but some are still residences. We especially liked this one built in 1889.

The afternoon of our 1st full day in San Diego we took in a walk around the main square of Balboa Park and Old San Diego. The day was beautiful and everyone was out enjoying the spring day.

We didn’t really do anything in Balboa Park other than enjoy the architecture and the people. Llama and company have been to the Zoo before and really just wanted to chill this time. We are already making plans to spend a whole day here next year with museums and gardens.

We did watch and listen to a peaceful demonstration against the War in Ukraine. It was very touching. Slava Ukrani!

Michael wanted to visit Old Town San Diego State Park. (This is where the shoe story comes in.)

One expense is not included in the total for this trip. When I got to Sand Diego I realized I had forgotten my tennis shoes. Opps! Off to Big 5 Sporting Goods I went for a new pair of New Balance. I was in need of a new pair anyhow, so that’s okay. In my usual fashion, I found a pair on sale, the socks I needed to also buy were 1/2 price if I bought shoes, and they had a 10% off if you joined their email list (that’s why I have a junk gmail account). Worked for me. This was an extra Uber trip, but the Big 5 was 1/2 mile from Old Town San Diego which was one of our planned stops, so that worked out.

Off to Old Town we go. Michael was a bit disappointed as it is not what he had envisioned. Llama thinks part of this is because they entered through a large Mexican food establishment that is on the north side of the park. Very commercial, very crowded. Once we were out into the park and adjoining area it was much better. There are museums, living history, shops, etc. The company spent an enjoyable couple of hours and had some VERY YUMMY Prickly Pear Lemonade.

The Airbnb was so well situated that after figuring out how to take the Trolley from Old San Diego (super easy and cheap), Llama grabbed a nap, then off to dinner in Little Italy. The previous night we had spied a brewery that looked fun.

Ballast Brewing was so much fun. We had Blueberry Cider and split some guacamole and fish tacos. Both were excellent. The cider was really yummy and did smell like blueberries. The table next to us were several young men all celebrating their soon to be wed compadre. What fun. We thought it would be way more crowded but I guess we were there a bit early. By the time we left at 8 p.m., the place was filled up and a crowded was waiting outside. It was a beautiful Saturday evening and everyone was out to enjoy it.

We walked around Little Italy some more after that and down to the harbor. Lovely evening/night to be out.

The morning of Day 2 we had some time to kill, so we walked the harbor walk. It was a beautiful morning and the USS Midway was showing off. We have toured the Midway before. Llama highly recommends visiting if you are in San Diego.

Day two of San Diego Vacation took us on the Coaster, a transit train that runs between San Diego and Oceanside, CA. The roundtrip for both of us cost $19.25 and worth every penny. The hour long trip was comfortable in the clean, refurbished train. Llama saw the Pacific Ocean. Llama highly recommends this train for a fun excursion up the coast. We virtually had the train to ourselves. The conductor told us that ridership was really off since COVID, but that the train right before us carrying Padres and Dodgers fans to the game that day was PACKED. One thousand riders with standing room only. Glad we were on a different train.

After a charming and relaxing train ride from San Diego to Oceanside, Llama’s first order of business was getting a light snack. Michael had seen on a video about Hello Betty, that this restaurant had great fish tacos. So we sat outside on their patio enjoying the beautiful weather, had some bar drinks and a nosh. Michael had a fried cod fish taco and Karol had a fried avocado taco. Yummy!

Llama and friends visited the Historic Oceanside Pier. This wooden fishing pier stands 1,942 feet long. We met the nicest fisherman who explained what they were catching that day. The beach was going through some restoration dredging so the fishing was off. However, we saw a couple of stingray catches. Beautiful day on the pier.

We loved watching the surfers as well. Karol has tried surfing once and can appreciate how hard it is. The waves weren’t the best but these surfers were giving it their go.

Come to the Dark Side, we fish!

Look who I met on the Oceanside Pier. And of course Darth Vader chooses a Saber Rod for fishing.

Darth’s friends were hilarious and let me grab a snap with DV.

Right across from the foot of the Oceanside Pier is the “Top Gun House”. This house was used in the film and has since had hotels grow up around it. There is a motorcycle out front also, but it was covered up when we visited. Though you can look in the windows, there is not anything to the interior. It looks like it has been a gift shop at one point. We wondered if they were working on renovating it?

After a comfy ride back on the Coaster, Llama decided we must have pizza if we are going to stay in Little Italy.

Fillipis Pizza Grotto started first as an Italian grocery in 1947. The little restaurant began in 1950 and took off. This location is huge and they have other locations up and down the coast.

The tables are snug in there but the bonus we sat next to a charming couple who moved here after WWII. She was originally from England and he was from New York. He was a Navy Captain and that is why they moved to San Diego. They have lived in San Diego for 62 years. She was fascinated by the technology that is available today and loves her cellphone. He, on the other hand, doesn’t own a phone. Cute couple. We really enjoyed talking to them.

From one of the oldest Italian restaurants to a hip ice cream place, we finished our time in San Diego at Salt & Straw. This Oregon-based shop has interesting flavors including some invented by kids. Llama of course had to have The Adventurous Llamanaut. This ice cream was “Invented by Asher, 7. We go intergalactic with pink and blue marshmallow “milky way” fluff glistening against purple-y pitch dark cherry ice cream.” It was really, really good. Way to go Asher.

Well, that wrapped up our little get away. It was relaxing and fun.

We will be back San Diego.


We spent $449 for the 2.5 days, a bit more than we usually do but ate all our meals out and had some Uber trips. Of course these costs were put on a credit credit card to earn our next trip. FYI, it was actually preferable in most places to pay by card, even better with Google Pay or Apple Pay. Not debating the cash over card thing, just the observation. You do you.


SW Points 39925 $0

Companion Pass 0 $0

Taxes & Fees $22

Early Check In $80

EC cc Offset -$80

AirBnB in Little Italy

3 nights $337.72

Venture Points -$337.72

Souvenirs $17

Uber $124

Train & Trolley $23

Airport Parking $24

Food $212

Airport Food $27

Total out of pocket $449

I did have one expense not included in the total. When I got to Sand Diego I realized I had forgotten my tennis shoes. Opps! Off to Big 5 Sporting Goods I went for a new pair of New Balance. I was in need of a new pair anyhow, so that’s okay. In my usual fashion, I found a pair on sale, the socks I needed to also buy were 1/2 price if I bought shoes, and they had a 10% off if you joined their email list (that’s why I have a junk gmail account). Worked for me. This was an extra Uber trip, but the Big 5 was 1/2 mile from Old Town San Diego which was one of our planned stops, so that worked out.

Llama travel hacks many of his adventures. He was blessed to be able to take this trip and he knows it.

If you would like to travel for free or nearly free, you can utilize credit card rewards to do so. You can use our links to get started. As always, ONLY do this if you use credit responsibly. Llama is not a financial advisor. He does get a small referral bonus of travel miles to keep traveling for you using his link:

Capital One Quicksilver Card https://capital.one/3wOZCIu

Capital One Venture Card https://capital.one/3v9ICN3

Chase Sapphire Preferred https://www.referyourchasecard.com/6a/J2MLH2VJK8

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