Part 2 – A No-Kid San Francisco Getaway

My wife and I got married on April 3rd, seven years ago. We try to do a trip alone without our two daughters every year, even if it’s just for a weekend or a few days. Last year, it was the Kohala Coast on Hawaii. This year, we chose to go to San Francisco for a few days

We love San Francisco.

But, man, even a short vacation to San Francisco can be expensive.

In Part 1, I wrote about how we got there on Alaska Airlines by using our Alaska Visa Signature and award mileage. In Part 2, I will discuss how we used our Ultimate Rewards Points (the link takes you to Upgraded Points who has an awesome breakdown of how to earn and redeem points) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve for our hotel, how we got around, and what we did.

I include links because I find them helpful, not because my blog is monetized. It’s not. Not yet. Someday. Maybe. 

With that said, I must reiterate how expensive San Francisco is. Wow.

One of the most important things we did to save some money was to not rent a car. This also meant that we would not have to pay the ridiculously high parking fees. Plan to pay between $30 to upwards of $70. Per night! A rental car plus parking would cost us between $420 to $550 for a 4-day trip. No way. So what did we do instead? Public transportation and hoofed it. Uber and Lyft are available also, but being forced to walk allowed us to really focus on the areas around our hotel.

The BART station at SFO is at the International Terminal, which is perfect because that is where the Alaska Airlines gates are. It cost $17.90 for my wife and I, and it dropped us off at the Powell Street station. That also happens to be where a cable car turnaround is. The line was extremely long, so we skipped the cable car and scaled Powell Street instead. If you have a lot of luggage, have little kids in tow, or you’re a little out of shape, this will not be an easy hump – Marine talk for “hike.” At the top of Powell Street, you will hit California Street, which is such an awesome location if you like the cables cars because that is the only spot in San Francisco where both lines cross. It is also the location of our hotel.

Five years ago, during our last trip to San Francisco, we stayed at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins because there was a great deal on I’m not sure what it is like now, but at the time, the Mark Hopkins felt extremely outdated. The room was small and the furniture and decor felt “old.”  I remember looking out the window of our room, and across the street sat the Fairmont San Francisco. I’ve never stayed at a Fairmont property before, but after earning my BA in History, I interviewed for the clandestine service of the CIA. My interview was at the Fairmont Olympic in Seattle. The feeling I got when I walked in to the hotel lobby in my $200 Men’s Wearhouse suit was overwhelming – I felt like a brown James Bond. I killed my interview. Feeling underwhelmed by the Mark Hopkins, we walked over to the Fairmont. The lobby didn’t feel as open and dramatic as the Olympic, but as a former history teacher, I was instantly hooked by the story of the Fairmont and the pictures that adorned the walls. Presidents, celebrities, and of course, the pictures of the 1906 earthquake and fire that devastated the area drew me in. I vowed that we would stay here some day.

Unfortunately, the price always seemed out of reach for a young couple.

Enter, the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Thanks to the Points Guy, and what felt like a countdown on the site, we were able to get the card before the sign up bonus dropped from 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points to 50k. Initially, I thought it would be difficult to spend $4,000 on a credit card in three months because I hate debt and seeing a balance on my credit cards. I love getting rid of debt more than I like seeing returns on my investments! We focused on using the credit card like cash and paying bills with it. We hit the $4,000 spending minimum in the nick of time, but I’ve read about people having success calling Chase and asking for an extension. With the 100,000 points (plus another 4,000 or so from paying bills) sitting in our Ultimate Rewards account and our anniversary coming up, we pulled the trigger.

The hotel ended up costing us all of those points, but it was worth it once we walked through those hallways and up to our room on the 16th floor of the tower. What we did next is none of your business. Okay. We ate and drank way too much over the next four days. But that’s what my bike is for.