San Francisco Labor Day Weekend for Under $650

Anatomy of Vacation Costs, San Francisco edition:

San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S, as well as one of the most expensive to visit.  However, we spent four days and three nights over Labor Day in the heart of San Francisco and our total expenses came out to just $650 total including airfare, one day car rental, food, hotel and baseball tickets.

This trip was a treat for Lisa’s mom, who lived in San Francisco in the late 1960’s and hadn’t returned for over forty years.  She did buy her own airfare there and chipped in for some meals, but otherwise the total cost is for all three of us was $650.

$55.15 Cantina restaurant
$8.00 Lyft to Ritz
$7.00 Beard Papas
$38.45 Cafe Roxanne breakfast
$53.00 Wine groupon + tip
$13.31 McCormick’s (with $25 gift certificate)
$50.00 Car rental
$8.00 Lyft to AT&T Park
$9.00 Uber to hotel from Ferry Building
$20.40 BART Oakland airport to downtown SF
$68.55 Buena Vista Cafe breakfast
$50.89 Mel’s Drive In with $7.50 free Groupon credit
$42.00 Chancellor Hotel breakfast
$5.00 Room tip
$34.30 Uber to airport
$20.00 Ritz room charges (bottle of wine)
$19.00 California Pizza Kitchen lunch
$22.40 SW Airlines tax
125 SF Giants baseball tickets
$649.45 Total
$1,350.00 Ritz Carlton hotel
$65.00 PDX airport breakfast
$350.00 SW Airlines RT for 2
$22.00 PDX aiport late snack
$1,787.00 Total value from point redemptions and vouchers



Food:  $347.35
Transport:  $172.10
Baseball Tickets:  $125
Other:  $5
Total:  $649.45

We stayed at the luxurious Ritz Carlton San Francisco, on the cable car line and just a block from Chinatown.  We redeemed our three complimentary nights to basically stay for free — this was a sign up bonus benefit for getting the Ritz Carlton credit card.  The normal bonus is two free nights, but last year they offered three nights so of course I snapped it up.  Regular room rates were $450 per night including taxes, so the value is right around $1350.  For our flights, I used the SW Companion Pass to fly Lisa for free (excluding taxes) and used SW Rapid Rewards Points to get my flight.  To save money on eating, I purchased one Groupon for Mel’s Diner, one Groupon for a wine tasting, and we used a $25 gift certificate that Lisa had as a birthday reward for the Landry’s chain of restaurants, using the credit to have happy hour at McCormick and Kuleto’s.  Finally, using Uber and Lyft turned out to be cost effective, as taking the regular public buses in San Francisco would have run about the same for all three of us ($9, or $3 each).  Taking Uber to the airport was just $5 more than taking a combination Uber and BART ride, but taking Uber all the way to the airport was super convenient and that gave us more time to enjoy the lounge perks at the airport.

We had a great time despite record breaking heat (106 degrees!), took in a Giants game, ate plenty, stayed in a fancy hotel and toured around the city all for under $650.

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Leg 2, Lake Como to Venice

Here is the breakdown of expenses for the second leg of our seven-week vacation.  This leg was a total of eight days, seven nights.


Transportation total:  $197.47

Lodging total:  $682

Food total:  $238.77

Attractions total:  $108.25

Miscellaneous (tips, souvenirs, etc.):  $65.45

Grand total:  $1291.94

Average per day:  $161.50

Attractions paid for with points:  $94.70


For this leg of our trip, we only used credit card points to book one Venice walking tour and one Venice food tour.  The rest we paid for, using Airbnb, Travelocity and for our lodging and buying our train tickets ahead of time to save on money.  For an overall average of under $162 per day, this fit right under our budget.

Vacation counter:

Leg 1 – $83.64
Leg 2 – $1291.94

Total value of costs paid for with points:  $807.70

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Leg 1, New York City

Here is the breakdown of expenses for the first leg of our seven-week vacation.  We spent three days and two nights in New York City.  Our entertainment activities included taking a free public walking tour of the New York City Library, walking around the Chelsea district, walking the High Line Trail, attending the Seaport Summer Concert as VIP guests (free with our Ultimate Rewards points) and touring the USS Intrepid Museum (free with our OMSI membership).

$398.00 PDX – JFK flight; Delta miles equivalent
$315.00 NYC Best Western (Chase Ultimate Rewards equivalent
$2.79 Cough drops
$20.00 Subway fare ($10 each)
$17.00 Airtrain and subway fare ($8.50 each)
$6.00 Airtrain fare
$11.95 Shake Shack
$5.40 Pizza
$10.00 Cheesecake slice
$2.00 Bar tip
$5.00 Kiss my Pizza
$3.50 Dough donut


We rode public transportation in New York City, had free breakfasts in our hotel, and ate dinner for free at the airport lounge before our flight to Italy.

Food (includes cough drops):  $40.64

Subway:  $43.00

Flight and hotel paid with points:  $713.00

Total actual money spent in New York City over the 4th of July:  $83.64

Vacation counter:  Leg 1 – $83.64

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Weekend Cruise from Los Angeles

Here are the exact costs from last month’s three-day cruise out of Los Angeles…

$718.16 Carnival Cruise fare $906.86 TOTAL
$77.70 cruise tips 3 days
$158.00 Airfare SW
$10.00 MAX tickets $302.29 Daily average per person
$5.50 LAX to pier transport $151.14 Daily average per peson, per day
-$130.00 Onboard cruise credit
$27.50 Lyft fare from pier to LAX $796.00 Cruise only portion with tips
$5.00 Elephant’s Deli dinner PDX $265.00 Daily average per person for cruise
$15.00 Souvenirs $133.00 Daily average per person, per day for cruise
$20.00 Extra drinks on board


Our cruise fare came plus tips came to almost $800, which breaks down to around $265 per day and $133 per person, per day.  This is not the sweet spot of cruise deals and one that we would probably pass on.  However, the dates were just right and we were just looking for an excuse to use an unused Southwest Airlines credit, so that is why we picked the cruise we did.  It also helped that we were able to get $130 in shipboard spending money, so when we factor that bonus in the cost of the cruise ends up being $800 – $130 = $670, bringing down the per day cost to $223 and then only $112 per person, per day.

Our airfare on Southwest was only $158 round trip and the reason why that fare is so low is because we have the Companion Pass, which allows Lisa to travel for free as my companion.  Without that pass, the cost would have been $316 round trip.  Our only other expenses were transportation related on public transit and one Lyft ride.  Food was covered by our Priority Pass lounge pass for Friday breakfast and Sunday lunch, and we bought dinner at the Portland Airport Sunday night at Elephant’s Deli (using their 50% off evening discount).

In total, we spent just a shade over $900 for our three-day weekend and that covered everything from food, airfare and cruise fare.  While our aim is to be under $200 total per day, given the circumstances that we just needed a short weekend getaway, $300 per day was doable and necessary.  Despite the short duration, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and if the timing, cruise fare and the airfare were right, we would definitely do it again!

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Weekend Getaway in Seaside

Here are the final expenses for our just completed weekend getaway in Seaside.  We scored a great deal on Living Social for the room, and to save costs we ate cheaply in the room with groceries (the room had a fridge for all that cheese we ate!).  Eating out, we only got some breakfast sandwiches to-go at McDonald’s, and ate out for dinner once and lunch twice.

$162.00 Seaside Inn Living Social – 2 nights $281.31 TOTAL
$17.37 Hotel tax 2.5 days
$11.76 Grocery Outlet food / groceries
$36.50 Osprey Cafe lunch $112.52 Daily average per person
$14.20 Tom’s Fish and Chips dinner $56.26 Daily average per peson, per day
$4.00 McDonald’s
$3.59 McDonald’s Lodging $179.37
$15.89 Red Robin lunch Dining $85.94
$13.00 Gas Transportation $13.00
$3.00 Hotel tip Total $278.31