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.

Work Calls – The Non Update

Back to work.  Back to reality.  No more sleeping in, staying up late and eating out.  For now, our big adventures are on hiatus.  But we will have our little adventures, here and there, every week and every day.  Just a matter of perspective.  I still have a lot to write about our past few weeks and an analysis of our vacation expenses, so I’ll hunker down this upcoming weekend for the real update.  But for now, it’s time for bed!

Flight Delay Return: No Problem!

Our Southwest Airlines flight from SFO back to PDX was originally scheduled to depart at 5:45pm, but the plane we are on left Denver about an hour and fifteen minutes late, which means our flight has been pushed back to 7:00pm.  No problem!  Lisa’s mom’s flight on Alaska doesn’t leave until 6:55pm, which means that we’ll both arrive to Portland at about the same time, so we won’t need to wait around for each other.  The flight delay also means more time to enjoy our lounge, courtesy of Priority Pass, which is a credit card benefit for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and my Citibank Prestige card.  We entered at 3:45pm and have enjoyed the free flowing alcohol, comfortable seating, free WiFi, and plenty of filling food options.  Yet another lounge to cross off our list!


Lounge entrance







Hot and cold food choices







Dessert items, hot drinks and fruit







Alcohol selection







Lisa and her mom enjoy the amenities








Just in time too, because they started limiting the number of Priority Pass members shortly after we arrived

Shock From A Cancelled Flight and What to do Next

Labor day weekend getaway to San Francisco.  Flights booked two months ago on Southwest Airlines, leaving PDX at 5:45am and arriving around 7:45am.  We talked Lisa’s mom to join us – but she booked a separate flight on Alaska Airlines, leaving at 6:40am and arriving around 8:30am.  The plan was to travel together to the airport, get on our flights, then meet up in SFO and travel together to our hotel in San Francisco.

Since our flight was so early, we planned to leave our house at 4:00am to get to the airport, park and check in by 5:45am.  That meant we went to bed earlier than usual, around 9:00pm so that we could get a decent amount of sleep.  All went off without a hitch — up at 3:30am, on the road at 4:00am, parked and shuttle bus to the airport by 4:45am… however, while on the shuttle bus I checked my phone and found out that I received a text message at 11:29pm from Southwest Airlines.  “Your flight has been cancelled.”  That’s pretty much all it said, with the addition that I should call to rebook the flight.

Shock.  Flight cancelled?  What the hell?  Why?  What do I do now?  How can we get to San Francisco?

I called Southwest Airlines and spoke to a representative.  I asked if we could be re-accommodated to the Alaska flight.  Nope.  All she could do was either refund our mileage points or get us on the next Southwest flight to San Francisco.  And what would that be???  Well, there was a flight at 6:00am, stopping in Las Vegas and arriving to SFO at 10:35am.  But that one was already sold out.  There was another flight at 6:25am, stopping in San Diego and arriving in SFO at 11:05am.  That one was also sold out.  Both flights sold out probably because of the 5:45am passengers getting those flights rebooked earlier, but we didn’t read the message until about an hour before take-off so we were pretty much out of luck.  The next non-stop flight was at 12:45pm, arriving at 2:30pm.  Yikes.  There had to be something else we could do, right?

I looked up information on cancelled flights, and found out that the contracts state that the only obligation the airlines have is to (1) refund the cost of the flight or (2) get the passenger on the next available flight on the same airline.  And that’s it.  So there was no way for us to get on the Alaska flight, it had to be on Southwest.  What to do, what to do?

Once we were finally at the airport, we waited in line and made our way to a live Southwest Airlines human.  He couldn’t magically reinstate the 5:45am flight, but he could rebook us on a 6:00am non-stop flight arriving to Oakland by 7:45am.  It wasn’t SFO, but we could make it work.  That sure beat arriving in SFO at 2:30pm, and it beat having to pay a last-minute walk up fare at Alaska Airlines for $199 each person.  We took the flight to Oakland.

The rest of the story went like this:  we made it to Oakland and took the BART to downtown San Francisco.  Lisa’s mom got on her original flight to SFO, and she took the bus to downtown San Francisco.  We met up all around the same time.  So in the end everything worked out.   But I certainly learned from this experience.  I was dismayed to find out that the airline can pretty much cancel a flight for no reason and all I am entitled to is either a refund of my original flight or getting rebooked on the next available flight on the same airline.  It sucks that we never found out why our flight was cancelled, but I have a good idea.  I think that there just weren’t enough passengers on the flight to make it worthwhile for Southwest.  The reason why I think this is because Lisa and I both received very high boarding numbers, even though we did online check-in kinda late.  Usually, right at the 24-hour mark, you check in and if you are just even a minute slow, you’ll end up with a boarding priority number of B-1 through B-60 because so many people are checking in at the same time, trying to get those high numbers.  Well, Lisa checked in right at 5:45am and she got A23.  I checked in at 5:47am and got A24.  When we originally received those numbers, we were thrilled.  But now looking back at that, I think it just proved that there were not a lot of people on the flight at Southwest figured they could save money and just get us on different planes.  I have no concrete proof of this, it is speculation, but it seems likely.  But I will never know.  That’s the other thing I learned — if my flight is cancelled, I’ll never know the reason why.  It is just cancelled so there, so be it.  So be it.


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