30 Best Ways to Save on San Diego Zoo Discount Tickets


Cartoon man proud of getting a great deal on San Diego Zoo discount tickets. He's  petting a large pink piggy bank with a gold coin in front of a San Diego Zoo sign

Want to find legitimate San Diego Zoo discount tickets fast? Me too. I love a good deal. But no one wants to pay for a fake ticket. Here’s a chart comparing AAA, Costco, Groupon & 28 other coupon offers. Plus, promo codes that really work!

The best San Diego Zoo discount ticket deals are from the Zoo and authorized ticket sellers. It’s free for active US military, Guest Admission Pass holders, and teachers with field trips. It also gives seniors & students 10% off. Approved ticket sellers offer up to 30% off on hotel plus attractions packages.

Below you’ll find my San Diego Zoo Discount Tickets Comparison Chart. It lists the 30 most common cheap ticket options and the percentage discount you can expect. Read the rest of the article for how to get them and what restrictions (if any) there are.

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Save with a secret San Diego Zoo discount code on each 1-Day Pass. Go any day. Go straight to the gate. Click HERE to buy. Enter code at checkout. You’ll get your tickets by email. This code is only good at aRes Travel, the San Diego-based authorized ticket seller.

San Diego Zoo Discount Tickets Comparison Chart

SAN DIEGO ZOO DISCOUNT TICKET OPTIONS% Off 1 DAY PASSAvailability
SAN DIEGO ZOO DISCOUNTS
– Free DaysFREEOctober – kids only
– MembershipsUp to 99.6%Always
– Guest PassesFREEAlways – from Zoo members only
– Shoppers PassFREEAlways available. 1 hour time limit.
– Group Discount (15+ people)10%Always
– Group Discount (100+ people)15%Always – call first
– Seniors10%Always – at gate only
AUTHORIZED TICKET SELLERS
– 1-Day Pass from aRes Travel Up to 8.3%Always – Get discount code HERE
– 2-Visit Pass (Zoo & Safari Park) from aRes Travel 16.1%Always – Get $20 off HERE ($10 off each park). Scroll down to 2-Visit Pass
– Multi-attraction packagesUp to 20%Always – “Go San Diego” Explorer Pass
– Hotel & multi-attraction bundlesUp to 30%Always – Click HERE then scroll down to Hotel Packages or call 800-719-8961
– CostcoNALong ago
– Groupon16%Sometimes
– AAA Discount10%No online sales
PUBLIC SERVICE & ASSOCIATIONS
– Military Discount – ActiveFREEAlways – at the gate
– Military family members10%Up to 20% if purchased on base
– Veterans & retired military10%Up to 20%. Must buy on base
– FirefightersNA100% at Safari Park in Sept.
– Members of firefighters’ familiesNA10% at Safari Park in Sept.
– Law enforcement18%Only at SDPOA.org
– AZA membersNANever
TRAVEL INDUSTRY
– Airline employees10%Always – at gate only
– Cruise line employees10%Always – at gate only
– Travel agents10%Always – at gate only
EDUCATION
– TeachersFREEWith 15+ student group(see more details below)
– Students10%Always – at gate only with active student ID
WHERE YOU LIVE
– Southern California residentsNoneMust live in San Diego County
– San Diego County residentsNoneDiscounts on Annual Passes only
ONLINE SOURCES
– CraigslistUp to 50%Buyer beware
– eBayUp to 50%Buyer beware
– RedditUp to 50%Buyer beware
PRINT MEDIA
– Clipper magazineUp to 8%Sometimes
– Get1Free magazineUp to 8%Sometimes
Photo of koala saying" Click on my cute furry face for Surprise Savings on 1-Day San Diego Zoo and Safari Park tickets. You'll be sent a one-time email with a promo code and a secret link for your discount online purchase."

Is It Better To Buy San Diego Zoo Tickets Online vs. Gate?

San Diego Zoo front gate sign

You are not required to purchase San Diego Zoo tickets online. But there are advantages if you buy online in advance. You don’t have to stand in long ticket lines. You can also save money on tickets (click HERE to get your promo code).

On busy days you may be turned away If you try to buy tickets in person after the ticket headcount is reached. This is more likely to be a problem on weekends and holidays.

NOTE: The Zoo charges a $1 convenience fee for online purchases


How Much Are San Diego Zoo Tickets At The Gate?

San Diego Zoo 1-Day Passes purchased at the gate are: 

  • $62 for adults. 
  • $52 for children up to 12 years old
  • FREE for toddlers and infants under 3 years old with a paid adult

There’s also a San Diego Zoo 1-Day Pass Plus which includes 4DTheater Experience. But those tickets are temporarily unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings.

What do San Diego Zoo tickets include?

San Diego Zoo 1-day passes include:

  • Free Parking
  • Guided Bus Tour
  • Kangaroo Bus
  • Skyfari
  • Keeper Talks
  • Animal Encounters
  • Zoo Zones Animal Exhibits
  • Shows (except 4D Theater)

For more details, I’ve written everything you’d want to know about what you get with your zoo admission fee HERE. It’s on my page comparing the zoo to Safari Park.


San Diego Zoo Free Days – When are they?

Obviously, the best-discounted deal at San Diego Zoo is free entry, right? Here’s the scat on all of the free days at the San Diego Zoo.

How Kids Free in October at the San Diego Zoo Works

During October, kids under 12 years old can get in free to the San Diego Zoo. They must be accompanied by an adult. There’s a limit of 5 children per paid adult. The best deal for this month is to buy a discounted adult ticket that allows you to bring in children for free. 

Unfortunately, your Southern California CityPASS, Go San Diego, and Balboa Park Explorer Passes are not eligible for special events like this. You also can’t use a AAA discount because it cannot be combined with any other offers. You’ll have to purchase a separate adult ticket. Click HERE for a discount code that will work on adult tickets during Kids Free in October.

EXPECT LONGER WAIT TIMES ON OCTOBER WEEKENDS. I recommend that you get to the Zoo early during October. Preferably when it opens. Wait times on Saturdays & Sundays can be up to 30 minutes.

Is February Free for Seniors at San Diego Zoo?

San Diego Zoo does not have a February Free month for people over 65. 

However, San Diego Zoo Safari Park has done this. 1-Day Passes are free there for seniors all February. But these tickets have to be purchased at the Safari Park gate. Present a valid photo ID with a birthdate showing that you’re over 65 at a ticket window in the Escondido park. Only one pass per senior. Standard parking fees still apply.


Which San Diego Zoo Annual Membership Is the Cheapest?

You can save up to 99.6% off the standard 1-Day Pass price if you visit the zoo daily for a year with the Resident Adult Premium membership. The cost is 29 cents per daily visit.  But what if you don’t want to come every day?

If you want to visit often on weekends, buy the San Diego Resident Premium Adult membership ($109). If you plan to see the animals during the week, purchase the San Diego Resident Adult Membership ($95). This membership level has all weekends and major holidays blacked out, that’s 123 days. Yes, I counted them all on their blackout date calendar. You can find the current year’s blackout dates calendar in the membership sections HERE.

You’ll find a chart with the least expensive San Diego Zoo membership options and their restrictions below:

Least Expensive San Diego Zoo Annual MembershipsPriceRestrictions
San Diego Resident Child
(Ages 3-17)
$62Includes blackout dates. Limited to less busy weekdays. Must live within San Diego County zip codes.
San Diego Resident Adult
(Ages 18-64)
$85Includes blackout dates. Limited to less busy weekdays. Must live within San Diego County zip codes.
San Diego Resident Senior (Ages 65+)$78Includes blackout dates. Limited to less busy weekdays. Must live within San Diego County zip codes.
San Diego Resident Premium Child (Ages 3-17)$62Must live within San Diego County zip codes.
San Diego Resident Premium Adult (Ages 18-64) $109Must live within San Diego County zip codes.
San Diego Resident Premium Senior (Ages 65+) $99Must live within San Diego County zip codes and present valid photo ID and proof of age upon your first visit to pick up membership cards and complimentary 1-Day Guest Pass.
Wildlife Protector Child (Ages 3-17)$62No residency requirement. Includes blackout dates.
Wildlife Protector Adult (Ages 18-64)$129 No residency requirement. Includes blackout dates. Free parking at Safari Park.
Wildlife Protector Senior (Ages 65+) $117No residency requirement. Includes blackout dates. Free parking at Safari Park. Must present valid photo ID and proof of age upon your first visit to pick up membership cards and complimentary 1-Day Guest Pass.
Wildlife Protector Premium Child (Ages 3-17)$62No residency requirement.
Wildlife Protector Premium Adult (Ages 18-64) $149No residency requirement. Free parking at Safari Park. Complimentary 1-Day Guest Pass.
Wildlife Protector Premium Senior (Ages 65+)$134Must present valid photo ID and proof of age upon your first visit to pick up membership cards and complimentary 1-Day Guest Pass. Free parking at Safari Park.
Eligible San Diego County zip codes page at San Diego Zoo website

Here’s the link to the San Diego Zoo annual membership page. It contains options from $85 to $10,000 per year for renewing members. Your annual membership card is good for both the Zoo and Safari Park.

Bob and I are Wildlife Protector Premium members. We find that’s the best deal for us because we often visit Safari Park as well and that membership level gives us free parking there. On Sundays, we usually take a walk through the entire zoo. We always visit the giraffes, cheetahs, koalas, Amur leopards, and the penguins in Africa Rocks. Stopping for a bowl of ice cream at Sabertooth Grill and elephant watching on their shaded courtyard tops our exotic mini-weekend getaway.

One of the primary benefits of the annual memberships at the Protector level and above is that they come with free Guest Admissions coupons. Each of these printed passes is good for one person for a one-time visit. Guests using these coupons can enter without the member being present. 


How to Find San Diego Zoo Guest Passes for Big Savings

Guest Admission Coupons are a terrific way to see the San Diego Zoo for free. But you have to know someone who’s a zoo member with guest pass privileges. And they have to like you enough to give you one (or two) of the free San Diego Zoo entry coupons that they got with their annual membership.

If you do know someone who has an annual pass don’t be shy. Tell them that you’re interested. Maybe offer to do them a favor in exchange for the passes. 

Also, ask them when they usually pay for their annual membership. Quite often people who have been Zoo members for a while won’t have used their guest passes by year’s end because they’ve taken all their relatives there in prior years. They’re more likely to say yes to your request if you ask in the month prior to their guest passes expiring.

Avoid buying Guest Admission Coupons being resold online. The San Diego Zoo website says that the re-sale of complimentary tickets, unused memberships, and guest coupons is fraud and a violation of the seller’s San Diego Zoo Global membership. 

If you buy one of these offers and try to use them at the gate they may not be accepted. And there are no refunds or compensation that will be given to you.


A San Diego Zoo Shoppers’ Pass Will Get You In Free, But…

The catch is that you must pay for the 1-Day Pass. And you’ll only get a refund if you return to the ticket booth window and ask for the Shoppers’ refund within 30 minutes. Or you can tell any shop employee that you need more time and they’ll extend your time to 60 minutes. 

Remember to leave for the gate about 10 minutes early. It can take that long to go from the Zoo exit to the ticket sales booth. And sometimes you’ll have to wait in line at the ticket sales booth.


How San Diego Zoo Group Discounts Work

10% Off the 1-Day Pass for groups of 15 or more paying visitors. This is great for large family gatherings, social group excursions or business team-building, or networking events. For youth groups discounts, see the Zoo’s Field Trip page.

15% off the 1-Day Pass for groups of 100 or more. But make sure that you call the Zoo’s Reservation Sales Department at 619-718-3000 beforehand. They’ve also got meal vouchers that can be purchased at participating Zoo restaurants. this may help your group members save on purchasing entrees à la carte.


San Diego Zoo Tickets Senior Discount

10% off a 1 Day Pass for guests over 65 at the gate. You cannot order or pay for these reduced tickets online or by phone. The lower price will only be given if you present a valid ID with your birth date at a zoo ticket window.


Authorized San Diego Zoo Ticket Seller Deals are Often Best

There are a limited number of ticket vendors that San Diego Zoo Global has approved to sell tickets for them. Each of these companies must meet the Zoo’s stringent requirements or this privilege can be revoked. 

The Best SanDiegoing Ticket Deals Are From aRes Travel

My favorite authorized San Diego Zoo ticket seller is aRes Travel. This local San Diego company has been working with San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) since 1993 to create and improve its online sales system. All of the other online ticket vendors use the software interface that they developed and update to SDZG’s specifications. 

Here’s why I like them:

  • They’ve helped many thousands of San Diego visitors just like you save money with worry-free discounted Zoo tickets
  • 100% guaranteed authentic tickets. Obtained directly from the Zoo, Safari Park, and other attractions like LEGOLAND, SeaWorld San Diego, Disneyland, and many other southern California attractions
  • They’re always cheaper than San Diego Zoo gate prices Ask for your exclusive SanDiegoing discount code HERE.
  • Automatic email delivery to your inbox. 
  • Go straight to the gate. No endless waiting in line at the ticket sales window
  • Up to 30% savings on accommodation/ticket bundles for multiple theme parks and 100’s of hotels
  • They’re a San Diego company so they’ve got long-standing relationships with local hotels and attractions
  • Their CEO is a nice guy who took the time to answer my questions when I stopped by their office in Pacific Beach. At that time this website had exactly 3 regular readers, and one of them was my mom.

They do charge a $2 online convenience fee ($1 + the Zoo’s $1 online fee) for Zoo tickets. But that’s ok because you can actually talk to them if you need help by calling 800-719-8961. Google them to check out their great online reviews.


1 DAY PASSES

Rex the lion statue in front of the San Diego Zoo entrance.

Save up to 8% off 1 Day Passes to the San Diego Zoo.

The tickets are easy to use. 

  • Click HERE and I’ll send you a one-time email with the promo code or Call 800-719-8961 .
  • Click this link to go to the aRes Zoo Tickets page. 
  • Use the promo code at checkout
  • Your tickets will be emailed to you after purchase
  • Print out your tickets or show them on your mobile device at the gate
  • The Zoo ticket attendant will scan the QR code
  • You enter the Zoo and have a wonderful time 

Discounted 1 Day San Diego Zoo Passes


2 VISIT PASS

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park entrances

Save $20 off buying each adult pass separately at the gate. It allows you to spend 2 days at either San Diego Zoo or Safari Park or 1 day at each. And you

You do have to use both tickets within 1 year of the purchase date. Parking fees at San Diego Safari Park are not included. San Diego Zoo parking is free.

San Diego Zoo 2 Visit Pass: 

  • $104 per adult
  • $94 for children under 13 years old

ZOO MULTI-ATTRACTION TICKET BUNDLES

San Diego Zoo & USS Midway Combo Deal

USS Midway and Unconditional Surrender statue with San Diego Zoo koalas in the background of this photo collage.

Save $10 for each adult vs buying each of these tickets separately. You get a general admission voucher to see the USS Midway plus a 1-Day Pass at the San Diego Zoo. Guided tours are not included.

This is a good package for those looking for a full day of activities during extended Zoo hours in the summer or in December. Otherwise I’d suggest breaking it up into two days. Spend one at the Zoo and the next exploring the USS Midway and all of the waterfront sights. Finish your second day with dinner in Little Italy.   

San Diego Zoo & USS Midway Combo Deal

  • $76 per adult (aged 13+)
  • https://reservations.arestravel.com/package/ticket/14310/7497

Or call 800-719-8961 and let them help make arrangements for your getaway.


San Diego Zoo & Old Town Trolley Tours Combo Deal

San Diego Zoo entrance and an Old Town Trolley tour car. Collaged together

Save $12.10 for each adult vs buying each of these tickets separately. You get a 1 day Old Town Trolley Silver Pass. Unlimited reboarding at 12 stops, free discount coupons, and a tour to Coronado included. Plus a full day at San Diego Zoo. 

Choose this San Diego Zoo ticket package for a two-day excursion that gives you a great overview of all that America’s Finest City has to offer. To make it special, have early dinner at Albert’s Restaurant in the Zoo then take an evening stroll around the Prado and Balboa Park fountains. The next day, tour the city and watch the sunset in a romantic restaurant overlooking the bay. 

San Diego Zoo & Old Town Trolley Tours Combo Discount Ticket Deal:

  • $89.90 per adult
  • $64.75 for children aged 3 – 11

Or call 800-719-8961 and let them help make arrangements for your trip.


Legoland California, San Diego Zoo & Safari Park Combo Deal

Three photos with deckled borders. San Diego Zoo entrance. Legoland entrance with characters. Safari Park entrance.

Save $24.49 for each adult vs buying each of these tickets separately. You get a 1 day pass to each of these popular attractions. Parking at Safari Park is not included. NOTE: Legoland California is not yet opened. This entry is for your planning purposes. Please check the operating hours prior to booking. 

This is a great bundle for a 3 day weekend getaway. Each of these attractions has enough to hold your interest for a full day. And kids will love it. 

Legoland California, San Diego Zoo & Safari Park Combo:

  • $196.50 per adult
  • $172 for children under 13 years old

Or call 800-719-8961 and let them help you make arrangements for your trip.


HOTEL AND ZOO MULTI-ATTRACTION PACKAGES

Lions, Tigers, and Baby Elephants, Oh My! – The San Diego Zoo or Safari Park Package

Collaged images of a tiger, elephant and baby, lion and the San Diego Hard Rock hotel.

You can save up to 30% off if you book your hotel and a San Diego Zoo 2 Visit Pass together. Of course the discount depends upon which hotel you choose. 

This deal is perfect for a short staycation for locals or a quick getaway for those traveling from Los Angeles or Orange counties. Choosing a hotel may be a difficult choice though, there’s over 110 to choose from. My advice is stay close to where you’d like to spend your evenings. 

If you’re looking for more of San Diego’s wild side, stay in the Gaslamp Quarter at the Horton Grand Hotel (scroll down the linked aRes page a bit to find this one). This historic boutique hotel has fireplaces in every room. And you’ll be right in the middle of our nightlife district. 

Or call 800-719-8961 and let them help you create a memorable weekend.


San Diego Family Fun Vacation Package

Leopard and her cub on a branch at San Diego Zoo.

This bundle is kid-friendly and up to 30% off on your hotel plus San Diego Zoo and other attractions. This build-your-own custom package includes the Safari Park and the Old Town Trolley hop-on, hop-off tour, and many more San Diego sights. Many of the hotels have FREE breakfast and parking. 

One of the over 125+ hotels featured in this deal is the very family-friendly Paradise Point Resort & Spa (scroll to the bottom of the hotel page). It’s a tropical-themed resort with a restaurant, 5 pools, a spa, and activities including those at a private marina where you and the family can enjoy kayaks, jet skis, and sailboats. It’s the perfect spot to recuperate after a long day walking through the Zoo. 

Or call 800-719-8961 and let them help you customize great family memories.

Other Hotel and attractions bundles from aRes Travel.


Costco San Diego Zoo Tickets

1 Day Pass – Costco discount San Diego Zoo coupons are a bit like Bigfoot. Everyone’s heard about people who have seen them. And it’s plausible because Costco sometimes has insane deals. But they vanish into the mist when you go looking for them. 

Unfortunately, the last dated online reference to Costco discount San Diego Zoo tickets that I’ve been able to find is from 2010. And that forum post did not state a price for 1 Day San Diego Zoo passes.

And because of the Zoo’s recent policy of price parity among authorized ticket sellers those deals may never show up again. 

Check Costco’s Ticket Savings page for their latest offers, but don’t get your hopes up. The good thing about their offering was that you didn’t have to be a Costco member to purchase through their website. But non-members had to pay a 5% surcharge. And there was a shipping charge. 

Costco San Diego Zoo Ticket Bundles – There is an outdated PDF for the Go San Diego Card on the Costco website. But the last time that I searched for the card on their ticket page they showed me restaurant discount coupons. If you want the Go San Diego Card click HERE to go to aRes, our local San Diego authorized ticket source.


San Diego Zoo Tickets on Groupon

18% off a 1 Day Adult Pass – $49 was the price on Groupon’s late September 2020 offer. Unfortunately, their discounts don’t last long. If you go to their website now you’ll see the zoo’s standard ‘at the gate’ price posted. Use my aRes Travel discount code (call them at 800-719-8961 to get it) and save a few bucks. 


San Diego Zoo AAA Discount

10% off a 1 Day Pass – This discount ticket offer is only good at the park. You must present your American Automobile Association (AAA) Club card at the zoo ticket window before paying to get your ten percent off. The deal is good for you and 5 more in your party.

Keep in mind that you cannot combine a AAA discount with any other coupons or offers. So you can’t use it during the Kids Free in October event. 

But you CAN use my aRes Travel discount code (Just ask me and I’ll automatically send it to you. Or call them at 800-719-8961 for the code) if you buy your ticket online ahead of time. Save yourself a bit of cash. Load the ticket onto your mobile device (or print it). Skip the ticket window line!


Public Service & Associations

San Diego Zoo Ticket Discounts for Military

FREE 1 Day Pass to the San Diego Zoo

All active duty US military personnel can get 1 Day Passes free when they present their Common Access Card (CAC) or Uniformed Services ID Card at the Zoo gate. Complimentary admission will not be granted without that ID. 


Military Family Discounts

Screenshot of MCCS Camp Pendleton Latitudes Travel & Information Tickets & Tours home screen.

10% Off 1 Day Pass at the gate for spouses and immediate family members when you present your valid dependent ID card at any ticket window.

But your family members can get a larger discount (15% – 20%) if you purchase your tickets from your local base’s Ticket and Travel Office. The amount off varies by location.

Your base’s travel office also offers cheaper prices on 2 Day San Diego Zoo Admission Bundles and annual memberships. Check the current price list from Camp Pendleton HERE. Scroll down to the “Download ITT Price List” button to see it.


San Diego Zoo Discounts for Veterans & Retired Military

15% – 20% off 1 Day Pass – MUST BUY ON BASE. The 100% discount at the San Diego Zoo gate is only offered to active military. San Diego Zoo Tickets for retired military must be bought them directly from your local base at the Ticket and Travel Office. 

You can also find cheaper prices on 2 Day San Diego Zoo Admission Passes and annual memberships. Here’s the link to the Camp Pendleton list HERE. Scroll down to the “Download ITT Price List” button to see it.


San Diego Zoo Tickets Law Enforcement San Diego Zoo Discount

San Diego Police Officers Association logo art

18% off 1 Day Pass – MUST BUY THROUGH SDPOA.org. There are no direct San Diego Zoo discounts for San Diego law enforcement personnel and their families. But there is a significant price reduction if you purchase your tickets through the San Diego Police Officers Association website. Login, click on the Members tab and you’ll see the Theme Park Tickets category.

Once on the SDPOA.org members’ tab you’ll see these ticket deals:

1 Day Passes:

  • $49 for Adults 
  • $39 for children 3-11 years old

2 Day Admission Passes:

  • $89.60 for Adults
  • $79.60 for children 3-11

Tickets purchased through SDPOA.org will be delivered via email or sent to your mobile device. 


Are There Any San Diego Zoo Ticket Discounts for Firefighters?

There are no firefighters’ discounts for the San Diego Zoo. But…

Active US firefighters with a valid ID can get a free 1 Day Pass for the San Diego Safari Park during September “Firefighters Appreciation Month”. This is in honor of all the work that they’ve done protecting that park from local brush fires. 

For complimentary entry to Safari Park you must present your active firefighter ID with photo (could be either a department ID or Union ID) and a matching personal valid identification like a drivers license at a ticket window. You cannot get this discount by phone or online.


Firefighters’ Family Discounts at San Diego Zoo

There are no 1 Day Pass San Diego Zoo discounts for the families of firefighters. 

However, during September, San Diego Safari Park offers 10% off each admission for up to 6 people accompanying an active duty US firefighter who has a valid department or union photo ID..


Are AZA Member Discounts Available at the San Diego Zoo?

There is no AZA member discount at San Diego Zoo. SDZ Global is not part of the reciprocal American Zoological Association program. 

It is a member in good standing of AZA. But unlike many of the other member zoos, it is fully self-supporting and does not receive any city, state or federal funding. It’s conservation mission is funded primarily through gate admissions and sales within the zoo and Safari Park. 


Travel Industry Ticket Deals at the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Airline and Cruise Lines Employee Discounts

Airline and cruise company employees and one guest get 10% off 1 Day Pass at San Diego Zoo. You cannot get this deal if you pay online or by phone. To take advantage of this offer present your company-issued photo ID or CLIA card before paying at the zoo ticket window. 


San Diego Zoo Travel Agent Discounts

People in the travel industry get 10% off 1 Day Pass to the San Diego Zoo. This also applies to one guest. It doesn’t matter if you’re a travel agent, wholesaler or a tour operator. All you need to do is show your up to date IATAN ((International Airlines Travel Agent Network) or IATA card with a photo ID prior to paying at any Zoo ticket window. 


Educators Can Get in Free at the San Diego Zoo If…

They Bring Their Students

Teachers who are supervising students on a curriculum-focused field trip can get in free. In fact, 1 free supervising adult is allowed for every 4 students. There’s a 15 student minimum. Please check the Zoo’s education and field trips link HERE for information and online applications. Double-check for black-out dates, geographical limitations, and other restrictions that you need to know about.

California educators are encouraged to check the CTA Member Benefits website for discounts and offers that you can use to visit the zoo on a personal trip or vacation.  


How to Get Your San Diego Zoo Student Discount

Students get 10% off 1 Adult 1 Day Pass to the San Diego Zoo. This deal is available for all students 12 years of age and older. These passes can only be purchased in person. You must present your valid student ID before payment at any ticket window.

They are good for high school students as well as college and those pursuing graduate degrees. And to answer your question before you ask, the following university IDs are valid for the reduced price entry.

  • UCSD
  • UCLA
  • USC
  • UCI

Is There A Residents’ Discount for San Diego Zoo Tickets?

There are no 1 Day Pass San Diego Zoo deals for locals. However, San Diego Zoo Global does have annual memberships that offer significant savings for California residents in San Diego County zip codes. These zip codes cover southern California from the Mexican border up through Anaheim. 


How to Avoid Online San Diego Zoo Ticket Scams 

cartoon drawing of a masked online criminal at his computer.

1) The first rule to avoid being the target of a fraudulent San Diego Zoo discount ticket scheme is DON’T GET GREEDY. If the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is.

2) Deal locally, face to face. You can avoid most scams this way according to the Craigslist About Scams page

3) Pay with a system that protects your identity and offers buyer protections like Google Wallet, Apple Pay, or Payoneer. If you use PayPal, make sure that you add on the Buyer Protection fee. That’s only a per-transaction fee of 3.1% + $0.30. That’s a very cheap price for peace of mind. 


San Diego Zoo Prohibits Ticket Resales

The San Diego Zoo states on every ticket that they are non-refundable and are not supposed to be re-sold. Unused memberships, complimentary tickets, and guest coupons cannot be transferred either per the legal terms of the San Diego Zoo annual membership agreement.

While I do recognize that sometimes people buy tickets in advance and cannot use them due to emergencies I also realize that it doesn’t happen often. There’s a good chance that the cheap zoo ticket listing that you’re looking at is a scam.

Buying unused memberships is especially foolish. Members must show a photo ID along with their annual membership cards at the gate to enter. If you’ve bought an unused membership online your ID won’t match what’s in the Zoo’s membership database. 


Is Craigslist a Safe Place to Buy San Diego Zoo Tickets?

Purchasing cheap San Diego Zoo tickets on Craigslist is a gamble. I am not aware of any authorized ticket sellers that list their inventory online on Craigslist.  Even if they are legitimate, unused tickets you’re dealing with someone who has already broken their agreement with the Zoo. 

If you do choose to purchase your San Diego Zoo ticket on Craigslist PLEASE read this page first! Here’s a link to Craigslist’s Avoiding Scams page.

Some people have had success if the Craigslist post says “pay after entry”. That usually means that the person selling the entry pass is a member who is selling their guest passes. The zoo member brings you in through the gate as their guest and you pay them the agreed amount after you’re inside. 

eBay – Looking for cheap San Diego Zoo tickets on eBay is risky. Go to their Security Center page and their  How to recognize scams section and stay safe when you buy online.

Reddit –  I’ve seen a few meet-ups and deals for San Diego Zoo passes made in these forums. However, they’ve been mostly the “pay after entry” variety. 


Where to Find Printed San Diego Zoo Coupons

Local magazines and coupon newsletters sometimes offer significant coupon deals. If you live in San Diego check your mailbox. Staying at a hotel? Take a look at the brochures and flyers near the front desk.

The almost 10% discounts in this type of publication may be a thing of the past. It may be due to cost-cutting measures instituted by the Zoo after the COVID-19 closures. Or it could be because of the new policy of price parity among authorized ticket sellers. 

Clipper Magazine – This direct-mail publication has printed $5 off coupons for the Zoo in the past. But I haven’t seen any coupons there since late 2019. 

Get1Free Coupon Magazine is another direct mailer that’s also printed fiver discounts off for the San Diego Zoo. And like the Clipper, those coupons have not been available since the COVID lockdowns. 


Closing Thoughts on San Diego Zoo Discount Tickets

I’m a member of the zoo, so I save every time I visit. But I totally understand the desire to buy cheaper tickets. Saving money makes my inner frugalista happy. You’re probably the same.

But please keep in mind that the Zoo is a fully self-supported non-profit that is dedicated to ending extinction world-wide. It’s able to do it’s conservation work because you contribute by buying tickets. So take legitimate discounts, but don’t cheat. Bragging about stealing from animals facing extinction is not a good look on your social media feed.

Orangutan with white type which says, "I don't always give tips on getting cheap San Diego Zoo tickets...But when I do, it's on SanDiegoing.com. Stay Thrifty My Friends."

I hope that between my San Diego Zoo Discount Tickets chart and the detailed explanations of each savings option that you can find a cheaper entry pass that works for you. Now go and get a great deal for yourself with one of these San Diego Zoo discount ticket options.

Nancy Ulrich

I'm nuts...about animals, polymer clay, mixed media art & husband Bob. Happily planted in San Diego among good friends, family that I would have chosen if given the choice and optimism for a bountiful future for us all.

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