Wednesday, 4 July 2018

San Francisco in 34 hours (Part 1)

November 30, 2017
With my round-trip flight tickets from Chennai to Los Angeles already booked, I was browsing through Booking.com to find some cheap accommodation in both San Francisco and Seattle, as I was planning to visit either one of these cities during my USA trip in January 2018. That's when I came across this property named 'Hotel Zoe San Francisco' that had an excellent deal - a deluxe Queen room for just $60 per night inclusive of taxes for the dates January 24 - 25. That seemed promising as the rates in the other dates skyrocketed to 150$ minimum to 230$ maximum. This made me shortlist San Francisco instead of Seattle for this trip.

I went ahead and booked the property. It's so weird that recently they've changed the property name to 'Hotel Zoe Fisherman's Wharf'. Here is the link to the property in Booking.com. The rooms in the pictures appeared super cozy and the interiors were plush. I thought I was super lucky to get a room in a property like this for such an outstandingly low price. With this excitement, I went ahead and booked my flight tickets.

To book flight tickets, I decided to opt for multiple airlines this time. I always rely on skyscanner.com to check the prices and I was comparing the flight timings and fares of the available airlines - Delta, United, Scoot, Southwest, Alaska Airlines, and Virgin America. I was also checking with my peers and my cousin to figure out which airline is the best. I've previously had experience flying with Virgin America and they were the best in the whole of the USA, but this time I wanted to try something different. My thoughts were shuffling between Delta and United for the onward journey (from Los Angeles to San Francisco), but the prices seem to be close to 50$. That's when Alaska Airlines came to my rescue. The total fare was 39.20$ one way and it was operated by Virgin America. I locked this as I felt it was the best deal and moreover I realized that I will be having a tight schedule on day 1 hence I didn't want to take any risks opting for a different airline as I was afraid it might cause some delays. Since Virgin America is known for its on-time departure and arrival, I decided to choose this and went ahead and grabbed my tickets from the official Alaska airlines website. 

Now the next flight for the return journey - I was again looking for an airline with a better pricing. Since it was a late evening departure, I couldn't find flights less than 75$. United had a flight for 60$ but after watching the video about a passenger who was dragged out of an overbooked flight, I decided not to opt for that airline. I then noticed Scoot for 35$ but I was told that the chances of the flight getting canceled are high. That's when Southwest Airlines came to my rescue. Also, the flight was from Oakland and I felt it's for the best as I could have the opportunity to take a train from San Francisco to Oakland thereby covering an extra city. I booked the 6.30 pm flight to Los Angeles for 56.99$. 

With the flights booked, I was ready to design the itinerary for the two days - Jan 24 and Jan 25. Note that I've done all these bookings (hotel and flights) on the same day - November 30, 2017, which is almost 2 months before the trip and that's the reason I got the flights and hotels for such a good deal. It is always recommended to plan things well in advance. 



Note that I booked two different airlines because I wanted to experience other airlines as well. If I would've opted for Alaska Airlines, my round-trip fare would've come to 60$. I spent extra 30$ just for the experience. Also, I'm a guy who doesn't like to share the bathroom with the rest of the World, hence I did not opt for a dorm bed in a hostel, instead went choosing a room with a Private Bathroom. Also, note that I do not travel on a shoe-string budget and also don't visit most touristy (overrated) places.

Cost so far - 60$ for accommodation + 39.20$ + 56.99 $ for round-trip flight = 156.19$

The cost when converted to Indian currency accounts to approximately 10,620 INR

With the accommodation and flights booked, all that was left was to design the itinerary. I had two days - Jan 24 and 25. I had to accommodate a cruise trip in one of those days. After scratching my head for a while, I decided it is best if the cruise is scheduled for the second day early in the morning. After some online research, I picked Alcatraz Cruise. The cost of the cruise was 37.25$ and I picked the early bird slot that started at 8.45 am.


With the cruise booked, I decided to opt for a Hop-on-Hop-off tour, like I did for my Chicago trip. This time instead of choosing Big Bus, I opted for SF City Sightseeing bus tours. I booked their two days hop-on-hop-off tour ticket for 57.99$ including night tour and Sausalito tour.

Cost so far - 156.19$ + 37.25 $ for cruise + 57.99 $ for bus = 251.43$

The cost when converted to Indian currency accounts to approximately 17,097 INR

The expenses so far were shaping up extremely well within my maximum budget of 25,000 INR.

January 7, 2018
I didn't foresee the twist that arrived in the form of e-mail on Jan 7th. The e-mail was from the site Booking.com explaining an error at their part. My hopes shattered after reading the e-mail. I felt I was doomed as I had less than 15 days to opt for an alternative. The e-mail is self-explanatory.



I reached out to Booking.com and had them cancel this reservation. I was then furiously looking into various options but all the properties seemed to cost 150$ for a room with a Private Bathroom. The cruise was non-refundable and so were the air tickets. All I had to do at that moment was to shed some extra bucks on the accommodation.

After doing some research, I stumbled upon this property named 'Hotel Beresford' which had the room with Private Bathroom costing 103$. That was the cheapest I could find at that moment. Since there was a full refund option in case if the booking is canceled within 10 days, I went ahead and booked this. The extra cost of 43$ was added to my budget. I was not happy with the result.

January 13, 2018

I still had the option to get a full refund in case if I cancel the reservation with Hotel Beresford and Jan 13th was the last day to do it. I continued to search for different properties in SFO downtown, Oakland area, and all the properties seem to cost around 100$. I wanted my stay to be somewhere close to the Union Square such that I can experience the city life to the fullest and Beresford seemed to be the only option till I stumbled upon this wonderful deal in Booking.com. The deal was for the property named 'Amsterdam Hostel', which had a double room with Private Bathroom for 66$ with 10$ additional tax.

I began to regain my senses. I immediately booked the property and canceled my booking with Beresford. This way I had to spend just 16$ extra and I was much relieved with the result.

The reservation with Amsterdam Hostel was non-refundable and I didn't care much about it as I was sure I cannot find a better deal than this as the date was getting close.


Total cost - 251.43$ + 16$ = 267.43$, which is approximately 18,185 INR.

Continued in Part 2.

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