Everyone warned us that San Francisco was going to be expensive and told us to prepare to spend a lot, so we decided that we were going to do the opposite. We went to San Francisco with the idea in mind to spend less than $500 each for 3 days, 2 nights.
I’m talking airfare, entertainment, hotel, food, etc. Guess what?! We were successful! We actually spent less than $400 each!! And we had a damn good time, one of my favorite vacations yet. So I am here to share with you how you too, can avoid the high prices of San Francisco and have a vacation you will never forget.
PLUS it was a holiday weekend, as we spent our Labor Day here. 😉
Download Hopper. Like I’m not even joking, stop reading right now and download the Hopper App on your phone. I’ll wait…. Okay, now that you have downloaded Hopper you are on your way to cheaper, smarter traveling. Any time V and I want to go anywhere we put in a city and the dates we want to go and we just wait.
I will do a budget blog later that explains Hopper more, but it is pretty easy to understand. So we put in San Francisco for Labor Day weekend because I have always wanted to go there and we waited until the price was right. I suggest doing this at least 5 months in advance, because that’s always when I get the best deals.
We got ROUND TRIP TICKETS from HOUSTON to SAN FRANCISCO and back (because that’s what round trip means) for only $150 each. So obviously we hurried up bought them, and worried about the rest later. So first thing is first, decide when you want to go and put it in Hopper and then wait ’til the price is right. 🙂
For the ultimate budget hack, apply for United’s Credit Card, get the miles and fly to San Francisco for free! click here for the link
To save a little bit of money, we stayed in the Mission District. It was nice because it was a close walk to everything we did the first day, plus it was right next to the DART station, which I will talk more about under transportation. We stayed at Union Hotel and only spent $100 each for two nights.
I’ll be honest with you, it isn’t a 4 star hotel, but it was cozy, they gave free coffee, and there’s someone at the desk 24 hours a day. $50 a night each is a steal for San Francisco, plus it’s close to quite a few places to explore, so I do recommend it.
Maybe not for younger families, but for couples, friends, or solo travelers.
I say this mostly because of the community showers. There is one shower on each floor, plus two restrooms on each floor, and they all have separate rooms and lock so you don’t need to worry about privacy. This is actually pretty common in San Francisco for those hotels that will save you money.
So call your hotel ahead and ask if this is something that bothers you. If it does, you may need to splurge a bit for your hotel. To book this hotel and get a deal, click here.
What to Eat:
V and I always do this, even in Houston, but we split meals to save some money. As you know at restaurants here in America the portions are HUGE and in places like San Francisco, the prices are even BIGGER. This is honestly the biggest way to save you some money.
We are out of town, so it’s not like we are going to take home leftovers to even pretend we are saving money that way. We will split big meals, and then go to local stores or try little bakeries for affordable snacks/drinks in between. Here is what we did eat though, with the prices along the way.
Pizza by the Slice: Okay so I do not remember what this place was called, but I had it for lunch the first day. You will see a couple of these places walking around San Francisco and they have huge slices of pizza for cheap. I got a slice of pepperoni pizza for only $3.75 and it filled me up! Look for deals such as these while walking around.
Pancho Villa: If you took my advice and are staying in the Mission District, you lucked out. Both nights we ate burritos and they were soooo delicious! The first place we did this at was Pancho Villa, which is famous in San Francisco.
That being said, be prepared to wait in line for a bit, but it was worth it. V and I split a Super Burrito. The great thing about this place is they have free chips and a salsa bar. So between half of the burrito and the chips/salsa,
I guarantee you will be full. The burrito was only $10.45, so between all of that and 2 drinks, we only spent $7 each on dinner that evening. To check out their menu and get that mouth watering, click here.
Fisherman’s Wharf: So when in San Francisco you have to have some type of seafood, and where else would you go other than Fisherman’s Wharf?! They have lot’s of stands set up for you to grab a bite to eat, but note that this place is known for being pricey, so of course V and I split a meal. We got a fried seafood platter and two cokes and it cost us about $30!
So this is definitely a place you want to share meals! It was overpriced and just alright, so I wouldn’t recommend it. The restaurant we ate at was Fisherman’s Grotto, so maybe go down the street a bit. Try clam chowder or crab cakes, that’s what I wish we had done.
We ate here for lunch the second day and decided that if we got hungry later, we would go to Chinatown for a snack, and that we did.
BBQ Pork Bun: It is even better than it sounds. The bread is so soft and the flavor is so savory! But the best thing about these hand sized Bbq Pork Buns are the price! You can get one of these for only $1.50!!!!
Where are these magic buns you ask? None other than San Francisco’s World Famous CHINATOWN. Chinatown is somewhere you have to visit when in San Francisco, and the cheap, delicious food just makes it even more of a must.
I suggest going here for breakfast or mid afternoon when you are in need of a snack. Do not skip out on these when in town.
Taqueria Los Coyotes: Okay like I told you, we had burritos for dinner both nights we stayed in San Francisco. We had to, they were just that good and right next to our hotel. Taqueria Los Coyotes is actually right across the street from Pancho Villa.
So if you are in San Francisco and want a delicious burrito, but don’t want to wait in the line at Pancho Villa, I suggest you go here. I had the Chips Burrito and it was only $9.95, and honestly I think it tasted better than the one we had at Pancho Villa.
V wanted tacos, so we did not split this meal, so with a drink I spent a total of $11.95 this evening. To check out their menu or see where this place is, click here.
Our final meal was at the airport, so I don’t have much more to tell. Other than things I have listed, we went to the grocery store for snacks/drinks/dranks and that’s how we really save some $$$. Whenever we travel we hardly stop at a bar for a drink or have breakfast in a restaurant, we just like to create our own money saving, grab-n-go.
Attractions and Landmarks
NOW to the good stuff! What you can see/do in San Francisco for little to no money! San Francisco has so many beautiful landmarks and attractions that cost $0 and you can just relax and take in their exquisiteness.
Again if you stayed in the Mission district, this is so close to you! It is literally an alley of free, beautiful, heart warming art. Each piece is enlightening and has it’s own story to tell. This will only take you maybe 15 minutes, but it is totally worth it. You can get great pictures here as well. To see more before you go, click here.
This place was so ALIVE when we went. I wish we had really taken our time and just sat here, but we were just passing through. There were people dancing, playing games, skateboarding, and just enjoying each other’s company all around.
It is a great and FREE public park to go and people watch and just be in the moment. This would be an ideal spot to pack a picnic and just relax for an evening if you have the time. For more on the park, click here.
AKA the houses from Full House. All Tanner fans out there know and recognize these houses from the opening credits of Full House, and that means it is a must when in San Francisco for you as well. Of course it is 100% free for you to go and see.
Actually the park right in front of the houses is called Alamo Square, so put that into your GPS. From the Square you can get great pictures of the houses. BONUS: To the left of the Painted Ladies there was a bunch of pop up art that was really fun to see and get some good photos of/with as well. For more on the square, click here.
Golden Gate Bridge:
Free. FrEe. FREE. Not only that, but an immaculate piece of architecture. Everyone will be seeing this on your trip I am sure, but make sure you go in the evening. We were told to
go in the morning, and when we got there the fog was so bad you literally could not see the bridge. Luckily we went back the last evening and got to see it.
When you go here they have a museum of sorts for you that tells you the history of the bridge and shows you the material of what it is made of. BONUS: If you want really good pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, go to Baker Beach which is to the left of the bridge, and you will LOVE your photos.
It is a little hike down and up, but so worth it. CAUTION!! This is a nude beach, so you may want to skip out on this if with the family!!
Palace of Fine Arts:
This is 100%, hands down my absolute favorite place in all of San Francisco. You will feel like you are in Greece when going here. It is right next to the Golden Gate Bridge, so be sure to stop here before or after. You will take gorgeous pictures and be in awe of it’s architectural beauty! T
his is another great picnic spot if you have the time, but it is a can’t miss spot for your trip. Again, entrance to the Palace of Fine Arts is FREE. To read more about it and be as obsessed with this place as I am, click here.
Now here is the first place I felt like I was in a tourist city. It is packed full of people and there is so much to do that can cost you a bit of money, but there are also some free things you can enjoy here. Pier 39 is home to a giant carousel, street performers, restaurants, sea lions, museums, Alcatraz, tours and more!
The free things to do here are see the Sea Lions and get a great view of Alcatraz. The Sea Lions are adorable and there are dozens of them just sun bathing and playing around right off the pier. Be sure to get your videos! Also, from here you can view the infamous Alcatraz Island.
If you have time I suggest a tour, but that will be pretty costly. The carousel is an inexpensive, family friendly attraction here as well. For more on what to do while at Pier 39, click here.
So I already mentioned this place earlier with where to eat, but there is so much more to do here. The thing I enjoyed most was the street performers. Be sure to take out a little money to give them for their entertainment services, I suggest anywhere from $2-$5 each one.
Another great and cheap attraction at Fisherman’s Wharf is Musee Mecanique. This place is AWESOME! They have dozens of antique games and only cost you $0.25 each. They do have some newer games too that will cost you more, but we spent about $3 here playing games from the 1950’s and had so much fun! For more on Musee Mecanique, click here.
When in San Francisco, we suggest you walk or drive down the most crooked street in the world, Lombard St. As for now it is completely free, but we heard they may charge within the next year, so get there soon! This is such a fun, unique experience that you have to do when in San Francisco.
Of course walking is the cheapest way to get around any city, as it is free. It also helps keep off those vacation calories! 😉 San Francisco is a walk-able city for the most part, but I do want to prepare you for hills. We walked the entire first day – from the Mission District to Alamo Square and in between.
We did Uber back that evening which cost us $8. The second day we walked from Pier 39 to Fisherman’s Wharf to Lombard ST to Union Square and all the way to Cupid’s Span, and I’m not gonna lie, we were tired, but it saved us quite a bit of money! So try to walk until you just can’t walk any more, and then push through.
Not only do you save money by walking, but you get to see and experience things you would miss by riding in a car/bus, such as the hearts around the city. Get out and explore San Francisco by foot, but there were times we did take other transportation, and here is what we suggest.
Take the public bus. It cost you only $3 for two hours, and this is what we used the morning of the second day. We took the bus from the Mission District to the Golden Gate Bridge. Ask the bus drivers for help, they were very friendly and told us which connecting buses to get on. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.
From the Golden Gate Bridge, we took the bus to the Palace of Fine Arts, and then afterwards over to Pier 39. From there we walked as I told you before. We were able to get to all three of those places in under 2 hours and so it only cost us $3! I do not recommend walking all of that, and we would have spent at least $20 on an Uber/Taxi.
This is what you need to take from the airport into the city. It was only $9 each way, so $18 in total. It takes you from the airport into downtown, so you just need to ask which stop to get off on for where your hotel is. It was easy to figure out, and if you do have questions, there is always someone working to help you out.
Do NOT take a taxi, it will cost you at least 3 times that amount. It only took us about 30 minutes to get into the city from SFO. For more information on the BART Train before you go, click here.
Total Spent: $350
So if you add it all up we only spent about $350!! On everything! So guys, this is why we say travel and travel often! You can do it, you just need to do some research before. And lucky for you, I’ve done the work for you. 🙂 We truly hope that this blog helps you figure out your upcoming budget conscious San Francisco trip!
Please comment below any budget tips you have while traveling so that you can help me and fellow bloggers out there. I love some good freebies, so help ya girl out! 🙂
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Until next time…. XOXO ❤