A month ago, this lovely little tweet came across my magical Travel Hacking Twitter list:

I immediately went to the site and found the furthest point I could travel using the promo. I wanted to pick a place that I knew I could easily cover in a day without much hassle - somewhere that was comfortable enough that I didn’t have to worry about figuring out transportation or getting lost or feeling like I needed to cram in a bunch of sights just to tick off all the boxes. It was between San Francisco and LA.

I’d been to both cities in August, but I have more friends in SF that I haven’t gotten to see in ages, so SF was the winner. I instantly booked my ticket and then texted/tweeted friends to see if anyone else wanted to join in the fun. Two responded: My friend since high school and constant travel buddy, Jimelle, and Kristen, my 18-year-old half-sister. Within an hour, we were all set to have a halloween adventure in San Francisco.

We put absolutely no planning into the trip other than knowing the Golden Gate Bridge was on the to-do list and so was a meetup with some of my SF friends. We winged the rest.

Our flight left JFK at 7AM, so with about 2.5 hours of sleep in my system, we picked up some bagels to go and took a car service there (in retrospect, the car service probably wasn’t the most economical option, but we priced Uber, etc and it seemed like the best option in our rush-decision-making.).  I hadn’t been on JetBlue in a few years, but after flying US Airways, Delta, and United so far this year, I can easily say that despite delays on both legs of the trip, JetBlue has the best level of service. I was super impressed.

Flying West

Flight Map

The weather when we landed was amazing. Sunny. blue skies, but not too warm: a perfect October day. I had planned to gather some of my SF friends in Alamo Square Park for a mini-picnic, but first we made a pit-stop at Smitten for some liquid-nitrogen ice cream. It’s overpriced, really, but still a pretty neat experience and a good quick sugar stop in Hayes Valley. I chose the Fresh Mint Chip:

Smitten

We then made our way to Bi-Rite Market to pick up some picnic fixin’s and scouted out a spot in the park. This is the only picture I took that whole time - and it was just to give people a location in the Facebook event where I was coordinating. Oops.

Alamo Square Park

We spent about an hour and a half in Alamo Square Park. It was so great to see some of my old friends (and meet one’s brand new baby!), but we had a short timeline and had to start the next phase of our SF adventure. We decided to go to the Golden Gate Bridge to get some photos before the fog rolled in. Our original plan was to get a Zipcar and drive to Marshall Beach since I hadn’t shot from that vantage point before, but we missed the exit and ended up going over the bridge. Oops again.

Golden Gate Bridge

We stopped on Hawk Hill for some photo ops. And since we were already on the other side of the bridge, we decided to throw away all of our other plans and drive north for oysters. A few trips back, my friend Josh introduced me to Hog Island Oyster Co and The Marshall Store on Tomales Bay. We opted for Marshall and ordered their grilled BBQ oysters (on the left) and raw (on the right). YUM. Luckily we got there just in time. This was the last order of the grilled oysters of the day. Close call!

Oysters

Oyster Sign

The drive up to Marshall is also really nice. I think it’s a great way to show off California to people who haven’t been before. You get some coastline, you get some rolling hills, some farms and cliffs. It’s like a tasting menu. Given the time, we didn’t get to take Route 1 the whole way (which is my preferred route for at least 1 leg), but it was still totally worth the detour.

Road trip

I didn’t get to take many (ANY) photos since I was driving, but here’s two that Kristen snapped:

On the road

Nice drive

We got back to the Golden Gate Bridge just as the fog was rolled in and the sun was setting, which made for some great light (again, driving, so couldn’t really pay attention to the photos):

Golden Gate Bridge Fog

After returning the Zipcar, we had 2 more stops on our list: Clarion Alley and, of course, some Mission burritos for the road.

Clarion Alley

Burrito Time

From there it was back to the airport for us! Our flight was delayed by at least an hour and we were all exhausted. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open long enough to make it to take-off.

Time for bed

Flight Map Home

We landed back in NYC around 5am (thanks to the time difference!) and were back home by 6am where I promptly zonked out for a much-needed 4 hour nap.

All-told, it was a pretty epic day. We covered a decent range of activities and by the end we all felt like we’d done everything we wanted to do. Mission: accomplished!

“It must be nice to be rich”

-Our Uber driver when we explained why we didn’t have any luggage

We did this whole trip for less than it would have cost each of us to buy a one-way ticket to SF.

Trip MapNot to mention, because all of our expenses for this trip were travel and dining, and both Jimelle and I use a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, we both earned double points for all of the expenses, netting each a few hundred bonus points for this trip that can be applied to award trips in the future.

Here’s a fun breakdown:

  • Miles flown: 5,160
  • Miles driven: 118
  • Cars taken: 5 (1 car service, 3 Ubers, 1 taxi)
  • Steps taken: 10,262 (which is, sadly, pretty low!)
  • Friends seen: 5 (+ 2 new ones!)
  • Oysters eaten: 14 (divided by 3)
  • Burritos consumed: 0.5
  • Waldos found: 3 (it was halloween after all)
  • Total free hours: 8
  • Dollars spent: $199.90 per person (This might go down to $178.24, we think our Zipcar was calculated incorrectly, so waiting on the review.)
  • Flying across the country to spend a few hours with your friends and eat your favorite foods: Priceless.

Even though I got to check off my bucket list item of “fly somewhere for lunch,” my favorite anecdote of the day is the fact that we each went through airport security at JFK with just our purses and a bagel in a brown bag, and when we went through airport security at SFO later that evening, we only had our purses and burrito in a brown bag. I think that sums up the day pretty perfectly.