Traveling via plane is fun — jet-setting over beautiful blue waters or rolling hills, taking in cloud formations, and landing in a completely different location in a matter of hours is unlike anything else.
The whole navigating the airport part? Less exciting, and sometimes pretty stressful. To help make your time at San Diego International Airport as smooth as possible, we’ve created a guide that covers everything from parking and food to details on the airport’s 75+ nonstop flights.
What to know
- TSA | Peak screening hours are typically between 5-7 a.m., 9 a.m.-1 p.m., and 7-9 p.m.; you can check TSA wait times via the agency’s app. The San Diego International Airport’s website also offers helpful info on security + regulations. Departures only occur between 6:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m., so the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority tells SDtoday that mornings are peak hours at SAN. The busiest days to travel are Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays.
- Map it out | If you’re like us and need to completely visualize a place before you step foot inside, this interactive map of the entire airport will be your saving grace.
- Reminder | By May 7, 2025, you will need a REAL ID to board commercial flights in the US.
- Flight status | While we recommend staying updated via your respective airline, you can also check the airport’s dashboard for your flight status in a pinch.
Current airport updates
The San Diego International Airport is currently undergoing a massive, $3.4 billion project to replace Terminal 1 designed to improve transportation, mobility, and access to SAN for locals + visitors.
The “New T1” will bring 30 new gates, a parking plaza for 5,000+ cars (set to open by fall of 2024), a post-security outdoor seating area, new lounges with outdoor decks, and fresh restaurants + retail. In June 2023, SAN announced its first round of new food spots coming t the terminal in 2025 + 2028, including local favorites Puesto, Parakeet Cafe, Better Buzz Coffee Roasters, Mostra Coffee, Kettner Exchange, and Cutwater Bar + Restaurant. The New T1 will be completed in three phases through 2028.
New T1 construction is currently impacting airport parking. The Terminal 1 lot is permanently closed and the only long-term parking is in the Terminal 2 Parking Plaza, so reservations are strongly recommended. The Airport Authority tells SDtoday it’s best to arrive at SAN with plenty of time — no matter which terminal you’re flying out of — to factor in these changes + potential construction-related delays.
Parking, shuttles, and rideshare
Not everyone has a bestie who will drop everything to pick them up from their 3 a.m. landing. Here are the current parking options at SAN:
- Short-term surface lot next to Terminal 2 Plaza | $14/Max 3-hour parking (Pro tip: Enter the plaza, turn right toward uncovered side, and follow the signs)
- Cell Phone Lot | Free | Due to New T1 construction, this lot has moved to the Terminal 2 Parking Lot, with access off McCain Road. (Pro tip: This lot is open from 5 a.m.-12:30 a.m., and you can wait up to 60 minutes — but there are only ~70 spaces)
- Terminal 2 Parking Plaza | $32/day (Pro tip: Book online in advance to save money; this lot is covered)
- Curbside Valet | $40/day (Pro tip: Make a reservation)
The Terminal 2 Parking Plaza provides easy access to both terminals and all airlines.
Hate the thought of driving yourself? Try out a shuttle, public transit, rideshare, or taxi service that will take you to and from the terminal. These are suggested by the San Diego International Airport:
- San Diego Flyer | Shuttle | This free shuttle bus runs daily between the Old Town Transit Center and the airport, with arrivals every 20-30 minutes starting at 4:45 a.m.
- Terminal Loop | Shuttle | Runs between Terminals 1 and 2 daily from 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Rental Car Center Shuttle | Runs between SAN + the Rental Car Center, 24/7.
- MTS Route 992 | City Bus | This public transit route stops at both terminals and operates between 5 a.m.-midnight every 15 minutes on weekdays, and every 30 minutes on weekends + holidays.
- EZ Ride | Shuttle | In addition to airport transfers, this company offers rides to San Diego hotels, the San Diego Zoo + the San Diego Convention Center.
- Sea Breeze | Shuttle | Like other off-airport shuttles, find this one at the Transportation Plazas across from Terminals 1 + 2.
- Yellow Radio Service | Taxi
- Orange Cab San Diego | Taxi
To access the rideshare pick-up location out of Terminal 1, exit the baggage claim, use the new pedestrian crosswalk, and head to the Ground Transportation zone. For travelers out of Terminal 2, use the main crosswalk and head to Transportation Plaza, where you’ll find rideshare pickup in the second lane on the right. Rideshare travelers can be dropped off curbside at both terminals.
SAN offers 77 nonstop flights — 66 domestic that go to various US regions, plus 11 international flights to 5 countries. Here are 8 nonstop flights to nearby locations.
Pro tip: Remember that flight times and schedules will often change — you should rely on your respective airline for exact timing and to stay updated on any changes.
- Cancun, Mexico | Alaska
- Denver, CO | United, Southwest + Frontier
- Las Vegas, NV | Southwest, Spirit, Frontier + Allegiant
- Los Cabos, Mexico | Alaska + Southwest
- Phoenix, AZ | Southwest, American Airlines + Frontier
- Portland, OR | Alaska + Southwest
- San Francisco, CA | Alaska, United + Southwest
- Seattle, WA | Alaska + Delta
Food and drink
SAN is a hub of eateries with dozens of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops for fliers to dine before or between flights, like:
- Bankers Hills Bar & Market | Terminal 1 East, Gate 7 | Menu highlights: A mini version of San Diego’s restaurant featuring craft cocktails + artisanal eats like the Marinated Steak Street Tacos.
- Pacifica Breeze Café | Terminal 1, pre-security | Menu highlights: Breakfast items, soups, salads, sandwiches, and of course, fish tacos.
- Urban Crave | Terminal 2 West, Gate 48 | Menu highlights: Angus beef burgers, chorizo breakfast burritos + beer.
- Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar | Terminal 2 West, Sunset Cove | Menu highlights: Small plates like poke and ceviche, plus wraps and plenty of bubbly.
- Stone Brewing Company | Terminal 2 West, Gate 36 | Menu highlights: Soft Hemp Seed Pretzels, the Arrogant Bastard Chicken Sandwich, and lots of beer at this local craft brewing staple.
- Phil’s BBQ | Terminal 2 West, Gate 46 | Menu highlights: Local barbecue favorites like ribs + chicken — with all the fixings.
- Elegant Desserts | Terminal 2 West, Gate 38 | Menu highlights: Grab a donut from San Diego’s famous Donut Bar.
Update: 19 new restaurants will join SAN’s New T1 — some landing in 2025, and others in 2028. New retail shops are coming, too.
Bonus: Don’t miss the public art + exhibitions around the San Diego International Airport, the Spirit of Silence meditation room in Terminal 2 West (across from Stone Brewing), or the Warwick’s bookstore in Terminal 2 West, near Gate 47.