Last weekend, I embarked on a mileage run to sunny San Diego for some weekend-fun with friends. Luckily, my friend and I both cleared complimentary upgrades on both segments to SAN (EWR-IAH and IAH -SAN) as only United Premier Gold members. Our first segment included seats on United’s 767-400, equipped with new lie-flat seats, which is always a fun treat.
When we arrived in San Diego later that evening, we checked into our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott Downtown (great location in a historically-preserved building), and walked over to the Andaz San Diego for some roof-top drinks with some of our other friends. After a fun night at the Andaz, we called it a night to catch up on sleep.
The next morning, we returned back to the Andaz for a lovely roof-top breakfast. The good thing was: since we’re all Hyatt Diamond members from the SMD4 (including my friend who stayed the night at the Andaz), we basically were able to order and eat whatever we wanted from the menu for free, thanks to the generous breakfast credit for Diamond members. I enjoyed a delicious breakfast burrito, ricotta blueberry pancakes, and a berry smoothie.
After breakfast, we checked out of the Courtyard Marriott and checked into our new hotel for the night, The Bristol, which I booked using HotelTonight credits (related post). The Bristol is a short, five-block walk from the Courtyard Marriott and is a lovely, eco-friendly boutique hotel. After getting settled in the new room, we started off with the idea of going to the beach, but after a few half-joking comments about going to Mexico, that quickly became the plan instead.
Two out of the 3 of us had passports on hand (my passport’s permanent residence is in my purse – you never know!), and another had a Global Entry card but was unsure at the time if that would be sufficient-enough for him to exit. He elected to stay behind and wait for a few minutes for us to go in-and-out. We parked the car in one of the many lots designed for curious tourists like us (since the rental car did not have insurance coverage in Mexico), followed the pedestrian walkway to Mexico, and soon enough we came face to face with the metal revolving doors at the border.
As an east-coaster, this was exciting to me; I thought it would be a fun and novel experience to say I quickly walked-on over to Mexico, stayed for a few minutes, and then went right back through the revolving door leading to the U.S. Lots of my west-coast friends have done this several of times in the past, so it’s gotta be quick and easy, right? Silly for me to think it would be such a painless procedure. Apparently it doesn’t work that way… anymore at least.
When made it to the other side, we snapped our picture, and headed for the exit only to be surprised by a tremendous line to re-enter the U.S. I’m talking hours long. It was endless. And it was certainly not moving. Crap. Now what?
We decided maybe if we took a cab across the border, that’ll be faster since the car lane was definitely moving at a normal pace. A few minutes later, my friend and I piled in a van with 16 other people for $5 a head. I thought this was brilliant. “$5 for at least two hours of my time back is totally worth it”, I thought to myself.
Surprise surprise – after driving about 20 feet, and at the same time being just 50 feet shy of the exit booths, the van is now parked in a line behind 7 other vans. The driver gets out and starts talking with the other parked vans. Some other people in the van take out books to read. This, to me, meant that this was a normal occurrence and a lengthy process. He we go again.
After two hours, we finally made it to the exit booth and to passport control where we were questioned before being allowed back into the U.S. While waiting in that short line, I witnessed an arrest of someone trying to cross the border illegally, and listened to a disheveled American who was allegedly robbed of all of his belongings, including his passport. I wonder what eventually happened to him.
After re-uiniting with our friend who stayed behind, we decided that we still had time to catch the sunset from the “Top of the Hyatt” bar at the Hyatt Manchester on the harbor, which claims to have the best sunset views in San Diego. We each enjoyed a cocktail and enjoyed the beautiful panoramic sunset overlooking the city before heading to dinner with other frequent flyers and readers in town.
I absolutely love meeting new people in every city I visit, connecting with those who I’ve met at previous events, and having the chance to put faces to readers (hence the reason why I’m having a NJ reader dinner this weekend, come join!). With that said, I sent out an open-invite to dinner in downtown San Diego via Twitter. A nice group of us enjoyed delicious skirt steaks and laughs at an Argentian restaurant called Puerto La Boca before calling it a night.
The following day was also sunny and beautiful, but also our last day in town before our red-eye flights home. We wanted to take in as much of the gorgeous weather as we could. We opted to start the day off right with breakfast on the beach at Sheerwater, located inside the historic Hotel del Coronado, and then headed to La Jolla for a beach-view lunch during restaurant week at George’s on the Cove before heading to SAN to head home. Overall, it was a great weekend and my only regret is not booking more of the $161 mileage runs back to San Diego!
Cross the Border to Tijuana, Mexico: What You Need to Know
Tijuana, Mexico is less than an hour away from San Diego, While crossing the border into Mexico is as simple as walking through a revolving door, to re-enter the States, travelers must have certain documents [and spare time] on hand.
Getting to the border: there are a few options to get to the border. 1. you can take San Diego’s bright-red trolley to the San Ysidro stop, which stops adjacent to the pedestrian bridge leading to the Tijuana border. 2. You can drive down I-5 South and park at of the many designated parking lots on the U.S. side of the border for a small fee and walk along the pedestrian bridge to the border. or 3. you can simply drive through via the border inspection gates (just allow yourself plenty of time and a full tank of gas when returning, incase there is a 1-to-2 hour wait on the return).
Acceptable Identification to Re-Enter the United States: A passport or passport card, Trusted Traveler Program Cards such as SENTRI and NEXUS, or two proofs of citizenship (the most common being a drivers license and birth certificate, but military or federal ID also works). Children under 18 without a passport must present an original birth certificate.
Other Notes: be sure to give yourself plenty of time to cross back into the U.S. Long lines back in are extremely common and expected, especially on the weekends. Be aware of your surroundings, and cross during daylight hours – Mexico is not one of the safest places to go, especially at or near the borders, since there have been numerous reports of drug Cartel crimes.
What are some of your stories/experiences with a land-crossing to Mexico? Please share!