Legoland California Tips
Many in the points and miles hobby love theme parks. When the worlds collide, and you can use points and miles to fund a trip to a theme park, it is a win-win. Whether you are a theme park fanatic or just want a great family trip, Legoland California is a fun option. These trips can get VERY expensive, but there are plenty of ways to maximize your trip and still save money. Having just returned from another visit, I wanted to share my Legoland California tips that will help you maximize your trip.
Location & Getting There
Legoland California is located in Carlsbad, California, which is about a 35 minute drive from the San Diego International Airport (SAN), but is an hour or more during peak travel times. The theme park is a 60-90 minute drive from many of the L.A. area airports, if trying to go that route or combine with other parts of a trip. I find San Diego International Airport is an easy airport to navigate and it is my preferred option. A rental car is a must for this trip, as Legoland is spread out and there is lots to see and do.
Theme Park Tickets
Theme park tickets are always an adventure and usually have a plethora of ways to save, albeit one where points are usually not a lot of help. Some portals may have Legoland tickets, but I prefer going a different route. You can open a new card to earn a sign up bonus with the spend, like I did, or perhaps use a card with a category bonus. An example of this is the Chase Freedom Flex with 5x earnings last quarter on entertainment. Regardless which you pick, there are plenty of ways to buy tickets for Legoland California.
Regarding type of tickets, there are multiple ticket options and may vary based on your needs. I prefer buying the resort hopper tickets, which include the Sea Life Aquarium. If water parks are your thing, then definitely include that as part of your hopper ticket. We did that for the first time and loved it!
ToP Legoland California tip: Once you purchase your tickets, be sure to review park operating hours and policies, as some parks require reservations. The website makes it easy to determine and gives you the steps.
I recommend signing up for direct emails from the Legoland California Park. They routinely send out discounted offers and specials in regards to tickets. Look at multi day passes and hoppers vs the single day as well to compare. Booking direct will be the easiest and a one step stress free purchase but may not be the cheapest.
Third party site or outside travel agencies (OTA) can be perfectly acceptable way to buy and save on theme park tickets. I will give you some options that I have used. As with any third parties, always do a little research on some key factors. This may include how the charge will code on your credit card (travel, entertainment, or general). Do a test booking to go as far as you can to see a final price. This will account for any hidden fees or taxes. Then you can compare these numbers to the theme park prices.
The City Pass site is popular for those traveling in many places and an viable option for Legoland. If doing more then Legoland California this is a great way to combine activities over the course of your stay. You can stack your savings or earning here with a shopping portal potentially as well.
Look at discount sites like your cell phone carrier. T-Mobile has a discounted site for theme park tickets and offer substantial discounts. Some employers may have a similar type site.
Sites like Undercover Tourist are popular for Disney fans and codes travel. The Legoland California options are limited and more towards selling you the City pass but something to keep in mind. It is known to code travel for purchases as well. I would also check places like AAA and Costco Travel as other possible options. Finally, Lego and Legoland have gift cards although not as widely available as Disney gift cards as example.
The Carlsbad area has plenty of hotels to choose from, including two Legoland hotels on-site. However, my general opinion on the hotel front is that everything is not as awesome. Poor reviews on many of those properties will catch your attention and you will need to sort through them diligently. Everything from budget hotels to luxury hotels are in the area. Since these trips have been specifically for Legoland, I spend most of the day at the park. Therefore, I tend to look for the greater value and less luxury. With that being said, do your research and there are some gems still out there.
Marriott and Hilton will give you the most properties to choose from, as well some smaller hotels and non-chain brands. Hyatt has one budget option but be warned: my stay at the Hyatt Place in that area was my single worst Hyatt experience I have ever had. If you want a more luxury Hyatt experience, there are two other options in Oceanside, which about a 15 minute drive.
ToP Legoland California tip: My go-to hotel chain for this area is Marriott. Of our 3 trips to Legoland, we've stayed at Marriotts twice and had great stays both times. Marriott gives you solid budget options that are close to the park. Additionally, there's lots of Marriott options for using free night certificates. For luxury options, Marriott offers a Westin and a Sheraton, which are basically at the resort. In fact, the Sheraton has a private Legoland park entrance. Legoland offers deals at time on their own branded hotels. I will say I have looked at this option before when they have had sales. It can actually make the price very similar to the the adjacent Westin and Sheraton.
Other Legoland California Tips and Thoughts
Just a few other Legoland California Tips to help you plan accordingly.
- Most hotels are about 15 minutes or less from the park
- The park does not have the normal late hours you might see at other theme parks
- Parking is $30
- Food prices are reasonable for a theme park with plenty of options plus you can bring in snacks and bottled waters. Kids meals are about $11
- Pack accordingly with a change of clothes, to include swimwear. There are a couple rides in the main park that you also include water and may cause you to get wet
- If staying for multiple days, plan a beach day or Carlsbad day in between the parks.
- Almost everything purchased in the park coded as entertainment.
Now that I have given you some Legoland California tips, I thought I would share my most recent booking experience. I booked this just one month before travel, which limited some opportunities. I will note that I utilized bank bonuses to help with any of the cash portions of the trip.
We flew Delta from Seattle (SEA) to San Diego (SAN) booked as two one-ways for me and my son. I booked one way at 7,000 SkyMiles per person. The return was 14,000 per person. I was limited to specific times and dates and felt good with those prices. At 21,000 SkyMiles and $11.20 each, plus a 15% points savings for holding a Delta card, I got about 1.7 cents per point overall on my Delta SkyMiles redemption.
I booked direct with National to take advantage of my Executive status. I do have access to a corporate rate and paid approximately $160 for my rental. The San Diego International airport has an offsite rental location for all rental cars. There is a shuttle from the terminal, which is about a ten minute ride.
I booked the Springhill Suites in Carlsbad which had solid reviews across several booking platforms. I utilized a Marriott free night certificate plus 3,000 Bonvoy points for one night and 38,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for the second night. This was a 0.9 cents per point, which is a win with Marriott Bonvoy points. There was a fee for parking, but no resort fee at this property. It is important to note that Marriott does NOT waive either of these fees, regardless of status or if you are on a cash rate or points redemption.
Overall, I was impressed with the hotel room and value and would stay here again. A couple minor service aspects were lagging but, again, it was a solid stay overall. The hotel is on a busy street, but provides some great views from the street side if you have a balcony. For our last night, I again booked a Marriott property and stated at the Courtyard Liberty Station. This property is very close to the San Diego International airport and I dropped off the rental car ahead of time and used the their free airport shuttle to get back to the hotel.
Theme Park Tickets
I utilized the T-Mobile deal I outlined above. I paid just $238 total for two of us for a two day park hopper that include the waterpark, aquarium, and main park. This was well below the $388 direct booking price, as savings of . The charge coded as entertainment for me. I used my Chase Ink Business Preferred as I was working on a sign up bonus (SUB) rather than my Freedom Flex 5x category option.
Legoland California Tips: ToP Thoughts
Theme park trips can feel stressful, expensive and all come with their own nuances. There are plenty of ways to use points and miles to fly and stay there, while earning on the other items. Using some basic Legoland California tips can help make your trip more enjoyable. Have you been to Legoland or Carlsbad? What are your favorite tips? Come over to our Facebook group and share!