Tuesday, November 18, 2014

San Francisco April 2013

One of my favorite travel stories to share with my friends about the use of miles and points is my family trip to San Francisco in April 2013. I booked four round-trip flights on United from BWI and seven nights stay at the Westin Market Street in the financial district. Total cost out of pocket for the flights and lodging was less than $50. The flights were booked for 25K United miles each, plus the nominal booking fee mentioned previously. The hotel stay was thanks to 72K Starwood Preferred Guest points, AKA SPG points. I got the 100K United miles thanks to credit card sign-ups for my wife and me for the Chase United Explorer card. Two United Club lounge passes were included in the CC sign up which made the waits at the airports more bearable. The SPG points were also collected with multiple sign-ups for the American Express SPG card.

With the flights and lodging completed, I wanted to nail down the rest of my trip. I wanted to rent a car for the week, but with hotel parking @$50/night, that would have cost me $350, more than the cost of the rental. Now what? SF has Zipcars aplenty, and conveniently, there was a location in the garage across the street from our hotel. I was a new Zipcar member and received a credit upon activating my account. So much for the rental car. Not a big loss. We were walking distance to the famed cable cars, as well as the classic streetcars. And I could still have access to a car when needed, like when we went to John Muir Woods and got to see the redwoods.

As for activities, I was a big fan of the Paris Museum Pass, and figured that SF must have one too. They do, the City Pass. That worked out great for my family. Entrance to the Academy of Sciences, DeYoung Museum, and Alcatraz was included, as well as unlimited public transportation including the cable cars. Sadly, the Exploratorium was closed when we visited. But that does give me a reason to visit SF again.

But what about activities not included in the City Pass? Or dining? I love Groupon and Living Social. But usually receive emails highlighting deals only in my local area. About 5-6 months before my trip, I signed up for the SF deals to be emailed to me. Thanks to those deals, I rode a Segway, biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, and sailed under the Golden Gate at discounted prices. We had about 5-6 meals discounted as well, including a couple at Fisherman’s Wharf, and Little Italy.

Bottom line, I could have paid for my flights and lodging, but that would killed our budget and not left anything to do in SF except for free events. By using my miles and points in combination with the City Pass, Zipcar, and online deals, we made the most of our week in San Francisco.

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