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Los Angeles side trips: San Francisco is quick and easy

carjumpRecently I discussed how quick and easy it was to combine a trip to San Diego, the Grand Canyon, or Santa Barbara with a trip to Los Angeles, and I got quite a few emails from people asking me about San Francisco. Well, yes, it is quite easy to combine those trips into one, though San Francisco is a bit farther than the others I mentioned, and also usually more expensive once you get there. Anyway, here are the details on adding San Francisco into your holiday.

A side trip to San Francisco

The cities are about 400 miles (620 km) apart, so this isn’t a drive you might do on a whim. The fastest route is the I-5 until you are almost there, but this stretch of freeway is almost scenery free, and there is a notorious speed trap in King City as well.

Flying between the two cities

The flight itself is only a bit over an hour each way, but the hassle of getting to and from both airports can make it feel like an all-day affair. There are also 5 airports in the LA area that have nonstop flights to the 3 airports in the Bay Area, so don’t just assume that LAX to SFO is your best bet. Sometimes it will be, but flights into Oakland or San Jose can be cheaper.

  • Los Angeles airports: LAX, BUR, LGB, SNA, ONT
  • San Francisco airports: SFO, OAK, SJC

One reason I didn’t mention this as an obvious side trip is that Los Angeles is fairly intense and also fairly expensive, and San Francisco is too. When I travel I like to mix and match destinations so part of my trip is a bit more relaxed and even cheaper. So with that in mind you might want to consider adding San Francisco to one of the other side trips discussed before. Cheap flights from San Diego to San Francisco are pretty easy to find, and the airport in San Diego is also very easy to reach from the tourist areas.

Going to Phoenix in between

This would be highly recommended as a way to string together a nice trip. You can rent a car in Los Angeles and then drive to the Grand Canyon on your way to Phoenix. Then you can take a quick trip to San Francisco from there, often with lower airfares. Flights from Phoenix tend to be cheap, partly due to the fact that Southwest and US Air have big hubs there. You can even pay for PHX airport parking while you are in San Francisco and the whole thing will still be far cheaper than nearly any other option. Phoenix is big and parking is plentiful and safe.