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Our San Francisco Trip Budget

For the past 2 weeks, i’ve been keeping up with all of our San Francisco expenses for the simple reason that we wish we had this information during our planning stage! We’ve heard San Francisco is expensive, and we didn’t know if we would need $100 a day or $300 a day for food. We didn’t know if the City Pass was worth it, or if we should consider another option. Think of our budget as giving you the flexibility to increase or decrease your budget and better personalize your experience.

We purchased the city pass for this trip thinking the street car and MUNI bus would be a beneficial way to get around. The city pass also comes with tickets to the science museum, aquarium and a few other local attractions. However, we found that using an Uber to get around town was a better option. Our Uber rides only cost $7-$10 per ride, and we got some great local recommendations this way. The amount of time it took for us to stand in line and wait for a street car or bus wasn’t worth it to us. If we could do it again, we would skip the city pass.

We really enjoyed where we stayed. It was right in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf, so we could walk to dinner or grab ice cream at Ghirardelli. Our hotel was clean, our bed was extremely comfortable, and the complimentary breakfast was decent. If you want to go all out, you could stay at the Fairmont, Hyatt or Hotel Zephyr. We knew we would be out of the room a lot, so we chose a middle of the line hotel. If you want to save even more money, you could look into an AirBnb or Travelodge. If we go back, we will stay somewhere new just to explore a new area of town, maybe somewhere near Haight-Ashbury. Keep in mind that Fisherman’s Wharf is very dirty, very crowded, very touristy. If you want to see the real San Francisco, go deeper into town.

If I had to choose my favorite experience of the trip no matter the cost, it would be Coldplay, followed by the Giants game. California’s stadiums are some of the nicest I’ve ever seen. The food at the game is SO good, the atmosphere is wonderful, and the weather is lovely. Bring sunscreen because Tyler walked away a fried lobster and my head has been peeling through my hair the entire trip. Tyler’s chosen experience would be Coldplay, followed by biking the Golden Gate bridge with Blazing Saddles. He loved it!

My least favorite experience was China Town. It didn’t impress me much, and the food isn’t the typical Chinese food that you’re used to at home. There is some funky looking food in China Town! I also think the China Town in New York is nicer than this one.

Food wise, it looks like we spent around $100 per day on food. I think we could have eaten better as well as enjoyed a few more meals that didn’t involve a table number or standing in line. If you like the restaurant experience (and being waited on), I would increase your food budget. I know some that spent $200 a day solely on food.

If you have any questions about your San Francisco trip or ways to save/splurge, you are welcome to browse my past posts as well as leave your questions in comments. I’m happy to answer them! My whole goal on this blog is to make your life easier and provide you with real expectations for a hassle free trip.

Arrival Day:
• Delta Airfare with complimentary companion ticket (we have a Delta Sky Miles Credit Card) – $420.00 round trip for 2 people
• Airport lunch (Chick Fil A) and snacks for plane – $18.00, $25.00
• City Pass (usage of Street Car, Cal. Academy of Sciences, Bay Cruise Adventure, Exploratorium, Aquarium) $188.00 for 2 people
• Holiday Inn Express Hotel, Fishermans Wharf, 7 nights (complimentary breakfast) – $1700.00
• Fisherman’s Wharf Crab Chowder for dinner – $32.00 for 2 people incl. tip
• CVS run for chapstick, toothpaste, and makeup wipes – $15.00

TOTAL: $2,398.00

Day 1, Fishermans Wharf, China Town, AT&T Park:
• Starbucks morning coffee – $8.00 for 2 people
• CVS run for deodorant and shampoo – $9.44
• Giants game tickets – $110.00 for 2 people
• Giants game stadium food (1 hot dog, 2 hamburgers, 2 waters, 2 cokes, nachos, ice cream bar, peanuts) – $55.00
• China Town dinner at Begoni Bistro (impulse decision) – $55.00
• Uber back to the hotel – $10.00

TOTAL: $247.44

Day 2, Blazing Saddles Bike Tour, Sausalito:
• Bike rental – $100.00 for 2 people (one electric bike at $70, one mountain bike at $30)
• Trader Joes snacks for the bike trip – $8.15 (peanut butter pretzels, 2 waters, dark chocolate bar)
• Ferry ticket to return bikes – $20.00 for 2 people
• Lunch in Sausalito – $27.51 (2 sandwiches, 2 chips, 2 drinks)
• Saltwater Taffy – $10.00 
• Starbucks coffee in Sausalito – $9.20 (2 coffees)
• Pizza at Carmel Pizza$55.00 (2 large pizzas)
• Ice Cream Sandwiches at The Baked Bear$11.00 (2 ice cream sandwiches)
• Uber back to the hotel – $10.00

TOTAL: $250.86

Day 3, Alcatraz + Ferry Building:
• Alcatraz Tickets – $66.00 for 2 people
• Lunch in the Ferry Building – $47.00 (one salad, one hot dog, one sandwich, one cup of chili)
• Candy treats at Miette Bakery – $12.00 (one chocolate treat, one sour treat)
• Ghirardelli Square Sundaes – $29.00 for 2 sundaes
• Baked Potatoes for dinner – $19.00 (2 loaded baked potatoes, 2 drinks)
• Movie on demand – $3.00 (Escape from Alcatraz on Amazon)

TOTAL: $176.00

Day 4, Mission + Castro + Haight-Ashbury:
• El Farolito lunch – $23.00 (2 super burritos, 2 sodas)
• Starbucks – $12.00 (2 waters, 2 muffins, 1 coffee)
• Uber to Castro – $7.00
• Uber to Painted Ladies – $7.00
• Uber to Haight Ashbury – $8.00
• Uber to Embarcadero – $8.00
• Walgreens run (sunscreen, aloe, souvenir) – $29.00
• Starbucks collectible coffee mug souvenir – $12.00
• In N Out for dinner – $19.00

TOTAL: $125.00

Day 5, Bixby Bridge, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Monterey Aquarium, Carmel :
• Enterprise Car Rental – $265.00 with insurance
• Starbucks – $8.20 for 2 drinks
• Santa Cruz Corn Dogs for lunch – $9.00 for 2 corn dogs
• Santa Cruz slushies – $12.00 for 2 slushies
• Monterey Bay Aquarium parking – $10.00 (our tickets were included in the City Pass book, see arrival day)
• Souvenir for parents – $18.00
• Carmel dinner – $74.00

TOTAL: $396.20

Day 6, Sausalito, Muir Woods:
• Lunch at Caffe Tutti – $46.85 (2 drinks, 2 lunches, 2 desserts, cup of soup)
• Sausalito parking – $4.00
• Entrance fee Muir Woods – $20.00 for 2 people
• Gas – $30.00
• Dinner at Bistro Boudin – $88.00 incl. tip (crab macaroni and cheese, meatballs, appetizer, hamburger)
• Souvenir for family – $28.00
• Ghirardelli – $20.61 (2 hot chocolates, 2 ice creams)

TOTAL: $237.46

Day 7, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Coldplay Concert:
• Switched Hotels for one night for Coldplay concert (and close to airport for the following morning) – $175.00
• Wings for lunch – $26.00 for 2 people
• Dinner – $15.89
• Stadium Drinks – $12.00
• Stadium snack – $7.00
• Coldplay T Shirts – $80.00
• Coldplay Tickets (the whole reason for our trip!) $600.00 for 2 people

TOTAL: $915.89

Departure Day:

• Gas – $11
• Breakfast at airport – $10.00
• Lunch at airport – $12.00

TOTAL: $33.00

TOTAL TRIP COST: $4,779.85

• Most Expensive: Hotel Cost, $1700.00 for 7 nights (and one night at a hotel for Coldplay)
• Average spent on food per day: $97.00 (I would recommend increasing your food budget if you plan on making reservations at a nice restaurant / being waited on since you will end up tipping your waiter. We only ate at one restaurant that waited on us. Everything else involved standing in a line and ordering at the register).
• Most expensive activity: Giants game / Coldplay concert

Life Travel

San Francisco, Day 5: Bixby Bridge, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Monterey Aquarium, Carmel

Today was my perfect day, and my favorite day on our trip thus far. It incorporated everything I love to do – road trips, aquariums, fair food on the boardwalk, dinner by a fireplace, sightseeing.

We rented a car for our road trip today (which we will keep through Sunday for the Coldplay concert on Saturday, 30 minutes outside of the city). We had a list of places we wanted to visit, so Tyler put them in order of proximity, and then we were off! We also had a running bet that we would see 15 Volkswagen buses on the drive, so part of our trip was keeping our eyes peeled for them.

It was such a moody day today and perhaps the most foggy day we’ve experienced yet, which is why it made our road trip extra cozy and fun! We stopped at the Starbucks in Pacifica and began driving Hwy 1. Looking out at the Pacific Ocean with it’s moody waves and nippy breeze made the experience so memorable. We’d jump out at every stop and spot seals playing in the foam of the waves.




We spotted a whale carcass with a sign nearby that said how the whale died, which was by head collision with a large vessel. It was a sad sight (and smelly) but the circle of life, I guess. If you squint your eyes in the below pic, you’ll see the remains by the birds.


Our next stop was the Santa Cruz boardwalk. I’m so glad we came here! We were like big kids trying to decide what we wanted to eat, considering it’s probably not healthy to eat 3 funnel cakes for lunch. We settled on corn dogs and mixed our own slushies. It was a beautiful day in Santa Cruz.










I had to sport my food pins at the boardwalk!



After Santa Cruz, we drove 5 miles to Venetian Capitola, a charming (and colorful) 1920s Mediterranean-style hotel overlooking the beach!

About 50 minutes South, our next stop was the Monterey Bay Aquarium (below – I only took one photo, i’m sorry!!!). I am a total sucker for aquariums, and this one was officially THE nicest aquarium i’ve ever been to. Supposedly if you go after 2 PM the crowds die down. We had no idea and just happened to arrive after 2 PM, so we sort of had the aquarium to ourselves (give or take a few kids and strollers). This aquarium has awesome touch pools with manta rays and creatures you’d find in coral reefs.

The mission of the aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean. I really felt like they were doing that. They had exhibits around what we as humans can do to save whales, sharks, dolphins and turtles. They even pass out brochures teaching you what types of fish to eat and to avoid (because of extinction and overfishing). They have a pretty cool app that has similar info. Look them up!

They also have an area to walk outside and observe sea life right under the Aquarium (since the aquarium is located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean!) We saw crabs swimming around, and seagulls trying to catch them. It was really cool!

The town of Monterey is so clean and adorable. We talked about coming back and staying here!

With two more stops on the list, Bixby Bridge had to be one of them! The two lane road and turns on this mountain had my hands (and head) sweating the whole time, but it was worth it! We also drove over and past the bridge into Big Sur where we had to turn around because there were wildfires. We saw helicopters grabbing water and everything!

Side note: if you’re on Hwy 1 at night, it is terrifying. It’s two lanes on the edge of a cliff, no street lights and sharp turns. I was biting my nails the entire time. I would suggest leaving before it gets dark. And if you get car sick easily, this road does have its fair share of turns…though not as bad as Point Reyes. We tried to make our way out to see the Point Reyes lighthouse. NEVER AGAIN. I promise with every fiber in my body, it’s the curviest, most head spinning drive i’ve ever been on…in my entire life. Tyler had to stop a few times because I thought I was going to hurl. You could not pay me money to get on that road again.

Our last stop on this epic road trip was Carmel. By the time we got to Carmel, the sun was going down. I was kind of upset because we wouldn’t be able to see all the quaint homes (or take photos!) but we found the most charming restaurant for dinner, so all was well.

Boy does this town know romance! It has quaint shops, cobblestone streets, and our restaurant even had the fireplace going (since it’s so darn cold in Cali! I’ve had my jacket on the whole trip!) We also talked about coming back here for Valentine’s Day one year. We loved it.

This was also the first restaurant we’ve been to that actually served us. It didn’t involve waiting in lines, or grabbing a number, or a vibrating pager. It was really nice to be able to sit back, have a great conversation and enjoy an even better meal (we got the chefs special with a honey mustard salad, chicken and pasta and cheesecake for dessert). Highly recommend!

Total VW Buses: 9

Only two more days, and our trip is over. I plan on posting our budget at the end!

Life Travel

San Francisco, Day 4: Mission, Castro, Haight-Ashbury

Today was a good day! I had a feeling it would be. Our schedule finally slowed down a bit. We even slept in and missed our hotel breakfast (a first on the trip). That’s a good sign, right!?

We then grabbed coffee and rode BART to Dolores Park. I’ve been cold on this trip (go figure – I’m a Florida gal) so Dolores park was extra cold in the morning! The wind has been so crazy here. I don’t know why they call Chicago the “windy city”. If the wind was any stronger in San Francisco, you would topple over!

We had two Facebook recommendations to eat at El Farolito so we knew this would be a good spot for lunch. WOAH. Our tastebuds weren’t prepared for the awesomeness that we experienced! We both got the super burrito. I added chicken and Tyler added steak. We battled over who had the better burrito, and we never came to a conclusion because they were both so good. My chicken was so tender and flavorful!

My goal for today was to enjoy the scenery, sit on a park bench, people watch and gaze at houses. And that’s exactly what we did.

We stopped at Bi Rite Creamery and got two scoops of Salted Caramel and Creme Brûlée. The Creme Brûlée was my favorite! And the rainbow Castro sidewalks are completely up my alley.

We ended the night at In-N-Out and Neapolitan milkshakes!

Life Travel

San Francisco, Day 3: Alcatraz + Ferry Building

Today was a tough day for many reasons, with one reason being that I had to get on another darn ferry boat, and those things just make my head spin, not to mention we’re tired from going 90 to nothing! We’ve also been planning our trip around activities and excursions instead of food which means we haven’t been eating as well as we hoped. To dive into that a little deeper, we’ve had great meals! But nothing that has been memorable. I think that’s partially because we didn’t want reservations to hinder any plans, and I’m glad we didn’t make any because there really isn’t any extra time! All of our excursions have involved time sensitive activities with tickets: with the Giants game tickets in the middle of the day on Sunday, we had a late dinner; with the bike tour starting at 10:30 AM yesterday and lasting ALL day long, we had both a late lunch AND dinner; and with Alcatraz starting at 10:30 AM this morning, we had a late lunch. It’s been hard. I’m self diagnosed hypoglycemic so my blood sugar gets low, and I get serious headaches (regardless if I’ve packed snacks – nothing works as good as a meal!) And being in the city, you have to plan for where you want to go and how you’ll get there, which takes ubers, buses, trains and time. So if you’re already late eating, you’re only going to be eating even later (not to mention the lines!) I’d say this has been the hardest part of the trip.

It’s crazy how many foreigners are here. I can’t tell you the last American I’ve talked to! No exaggeration. Anyone I sit by, take a picture for, or talk to is foreign. We’ve met some wonderful people from Canada, South America, Australia and Britain. We’ve also met some not-so-wonderful people who just don’t seem to have any manners. No “excuse me”; no holding the door open for ladies; no offering the last seat on the bus to the only woman standing. Some even act like they don’t know how to stand in a line, and that lines don’t apply to them. The weirdest has been that they don’t move over on sidewalks and share the street. I always tell myself if my husband notices it, too, then it’s bad (because he’s usually a pretty chill guy) I know, I know, I’m in a city. I still find it strange that people don’t have common, polite character traits that I see at home. I’ve been spoiled by manners in the south and I’m proud of that!

But enough of the sour stuff. We went to Alcatraz today and it was awesome! The audio tour is so well played out, and it’s cool walking through jail cells and hearing the background noise of the inmates. If you haven’t purchased your tickets before your trip yet, you need to do so now! We played chicken with purchasing these tickets even after we read to order them ahead of time. When we went to order them a week before our trip, they were ALL SOLD OUT. We couldn’t believe it. We were so bummed. We called asking how we could get our hands on some and the only advice we were offered was to check back on the site since some may open up. To our excitement, we found 2 tickets – yes, just 2 tickets – 3 days before they were to be used, and we booked them! I really think we got lucky. FYI, we were also told to not buy Alcatraz tickets from street sellers as they are a knock off.

Where the inmates showered!

A typical inmate cell

Where prisoners were confined if they broke the rules - a pitch black cell.

Where prisoners were confined if they broke the rules – a pitch black cell.

Our Alcatraz tour took about 3 hours. We then rode the MUNI bus to the Ferry Building to get lunch and eat all the samples inside. Hehe.

I promised Tyler we would go to Ghirardelli Square and he has been waiting on go, so we caught the MUNI bus to Ghirardelli and had ice cream sundaes and banana splits!

The night ended with ordering dinner down the street at a Spud place. We loaded our potatoes, toted them back to the hotel and watched “Escape From Alcatraz” in bed. Much needed! I think tomorrow will be a better day considering we have NO plans and NO obligations.

Life Travel

San Francisco Day 2: Blazing Saddles Bike Tour + Sausalito

We had a late start today! We woke up at 6:30 AM for a hotel breakfast but came back to the room and laid in bed for another 3 hours. We’ve only walked around for a day and a half and our feet are already on fire! Tyler got a cherry red sunburn on one side of his face from the ballgame. Mental note: next time, bring sunscreen!

We had 10:30 AM reservations for a bike pickup at Blazing Saddles. Our plan was to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito. We stopped at Trader Joes for some snacks (peanut butter pretzels, waters and chocolate, of course).

Blazing Saddle’s staff was so much fun! They had a ton of energy and were so helpful in showing us how to get around town and also use our bikes (since I got an electric one – something Tyler would regret not getting later) *insert evil laugh* The staff even cheered us on when we came back from our ride!

Within 10 minutes of starting our self guided tour, we were grinning from ear to ear. Sunshine on our faces, 65 degrees, beautiful scenery of houses and parks and dogs swimming in the bay. This is when you really notice just how beautiful this city truly is!! The bike path was flat at most times, but there would be a stretch where it would go up a hill. A lot of people walked their bikes up it since it was so, so steep. This is when I was glad I had an electric bike. I was like a kid in a candy store. That thing was amazing!

Right before we went over the Golden Gate Bridge, Tyler stopped at the Golden Gate Visitors Center to get a stamp in his passport book. He tries to bring his book on every trip, and has stamps from the Elk refuge in Jackson hole to Great Sand Dunes National Park to the Washington Monument. It’s a fun hobby for him.

Now for the grand finale – when we made our way across the Golden Gate bridge! It was so loud from the cars! But still so beautiful. We probably stopped around 5 times to take photos. It was very surreal standing on a bridge I’ve only seen in pictures!!

San Francisco Day 2 2

San Francisco Day 2 4


San Francisco Day 2 5

After the bridge, we went downhill and around a few street corners where we found ourselves in Sausalito. It’s such a picture book type town where I imagine neighbors leave their keys in the car, their houses unlocked and know the mailman by name. Tyler thinks the houses on the cliffs look like Cinque Terra (though we’ve never been there before!) And nearby Tiburon is where my favorite actor lived – Robin Williams. It’s an absolutely stunning town and somehow I managed to get ZERO pictures of it! All in all, it was a must see place, and we spent our time eating sandwiches on a park bench and buying saltwater taffy (and we even talked about coming back and staying here!)

Since i’ve been in San Francisco, I forget that I’m not in the South and “yall” as well as other southern phrases are not as understood here. For example, at the Starbucks in Sausalito, we ordered coffee for the ferry ride back into San Francisco. Tyler ordered a “Care-ah-mel” frappuccino and the barista said, “I’m sorry??” followed by a blank stare, like we were speaking a foreign language. Tyler quickly realized it’s pronounced “Car-ah-muhl” here, reworded it and the barista said, “Coming right up!” We thought it was so darn funny!

Our bike ride lasted til 3:50 PM where a ferry picked us up in Sausalito and dropped us off at one of the piers in San Francisco. If you’re not a boat person like me (equilibrium issues), sit at the very top and get as much wind on your face as possible! Also, if you’re the first on the boat, you’re the last to get your bike out of a hundred bikes. This is when I beat my timely self up.

We ate dinner at what has probably been my most favorite so far on this trip : Carmel Pizza. I’m a huge sucker for a good Margherita Pizza and theirs was nothing short of perfection. We finished with dessert right next door at The Baked Bear. I got funfetti cookies stuffed with vanilla ice cream and fruity pebbles. I HAD NO IDEA HOW GOOD FRUITY PEBBLES TASTED ON ICE CREAM.

Hey, you wanna know what I really love about cities? The creativity. I’ve been following yarn bombers online for forever. Yarn bombing is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn. It can be on anything from cars to park benches to bike racks. This one was on a tree and I just about died.

San Francisco Day 2

I DIE. I immediately gasped for air and hugged it. Tyler kept saying, “I don’t understand.” He didn’t have to. It’s something i’ve been wanting to see for years, and I finally got to. This one goes down in the books.