San Francisco is easy to get to from three major airports. When you are looking for deals on flights, do not limit your search to just one.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is less than a 20-minute drive from the heart of the city, making it the most obvious choice for travelers who want easy access to the city center from the airport. It is one of the busiest airports in the country; in one recent year, more than 45 million passengers passed through it.
The moment you arrive at the airport, you can start your vacation. Enjoy the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library, and some eye-catching art displays right there at the airport.
Because SFO is the main go-to airport for travelers to the city, it may cost you more to fly there than to one of the other nearby airports.
It takes about 25 minutes to drive from Oakland International Airport (OAK) to the San Francisco financial district, so it is close enough to the city for convenience. Another prime advantage of OAK is its reputation for on-time flights, even when the weather is less than ideal (which makes it a particularly good choice for winter travel). OAK is smaller than SFO; it has only two terminals compared to SFO’s four.
This airport is almost 50 miles from San Francisco’s heart, so taking a taxi or hotel shuttle from San José International Airport (SJC) to your destination isn’t a realistic option. Still, if you are renting a car for your vacation, all you have to do is walk across the street from the main terminal, sign on the dotted line, and get cruising down that California highway toward the City by the Bay.
There are no hard and fast rules about which airport in the San Francisco area is cheapest to fly into. However, it isn’t unusual for flights to San José to have a more appealing price tag than those to SFO or even OAK.
The airspace around the City by the Bay sees birds from almost any airline you could think of, including popular domestic airlines like Southwest Airlines* and American Airlines. However, in terms of both service and value, Jet Blue stands out. They hold a reputation for offering reasonably priced flights, and, according to the 2013 Airline Quality Report, they are the second best American airline. The report took into account such things as punctuality, baggage handling, and customer service. Jet Blue flies to all three airports in the San Francisco area.
Another perk of Jet Blue is that they treat their regular customers well. U.S. news gave then a nod as the airline with the best rewards program. The points you earn can go toward future vacations to San Francisco or anywhere else in the country that is calling your name.
Virgin America is another highly rated airline. However, they fly only into SFO, not OAK or SJC.
The San Francisco tourist season lasts from January 1 to December 31, but some times are less busy than others, and that is when you’re likely to get the best deal on a flight. Autumn (September and October) is an awesome time to visit; the weather is pleasant, and in the mornings you can experience that famous San Francisco fog. Also, there are fewer crowds in autumn than in summer, and a lower demand for travel translates into lower flight prices.
However, if you really want to score the best deal on a flight, go in winter. True, you may not get all the California sunshine you were hoping for, but that is the perfect excuse to take a road trip south to the central coast.
The weather may still be a tad chilly in spring, so bring a light jacket. However, the crowds are thin and the prices are reasonable. Spring in San Francisco sees some fun events, too, like the Uncorked! SF Wine Festival and the Alcatraz Challenge.
Whether you are making the short hop from Seattle to San Francisco or zipping across the country from New York, it is nice to know about how long the flight will take and how far you are going. Here are some of the most common routes to The City by the Bay.
The flight from SeaTac International Airport to SFO only takes about an hour and a half. It is a quick 670 miles – just enough time for you to have a snack and finally watch the latest episode of your favorite show.
Flying from LA to SFO only takes about an hour, which makes it a convenient flight for people who don’t want to endure the nearly six-hour drive between the two cities. When you factor in traffic and the price of gasoline for the road trip, flying looks like an even better option.
If you’re retreating from Texas heat for a refreshing stay by the bay, expect your flight to last around four hours. Try to get a window seat; the views of Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona are gorgeous.
Had enough of sweet Georgia peaches for now? It takes less than five hours to go from Atlanta to San Francisco if you book a nonstop flight. With the Atlanta airport's reputation for on-time departures, you can expect to get to your destination with as little hassle as possible.
This cross-country journey takes you 2,500 miles and lasts around five hours – if your flight ever gets off the ground. Newark International Airport often has delayed flights, so brace yourself for a wait if that is your departure point. JFK Airport sends their birds off in a more timely manner.
One of the biggest advantages of choosing SFO over Oakland or San José is how easy it is to book a hotel that offers shuttle service from the airport. Places like the affordable Embassy Hotel and the upscale Mandarin Oriental make it easy for their guests to get from their flight to a good night in a cozy room.
If, however, you choose to fly into Oakland or San José, you'll have to search for other options. From Oakland, you can take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, which is usually on time and always affordable. A taxi from OAK to downtown San Francisco can cost around $50.
Bound for San José? Renting a car is probably your best option. However, if you prefer to leave your driving hat at home, you can take the Caltrain between the two cities. The trip takes about an hour and forty minutes.
San Francisco has no shortage of things to do. You can feast your eyes at Fisherman’s Wharf, get lost in the stories that surround Alcatraz, indulge in the nostalgia of cable cars, and snap some Facebook-worthy photos in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Before you dive right in to the wonders of the city, however, you may want some time to unwind. If your hotel is in the downtown area, stop by Gary Danko for a fine dining experience. If the prices there make you balk, try R & G Lounge, a highly rated Chinese restaurant that serves up some mouth-watering seafood.
If you aren’t sure what to do or where to go when you arrive, you can talk to your shuttle or taxi driver; they're usually locals eager to offer their insights on the area (don’t forget to tip). A hotel concierge is another excellent resource that can help you get your vacation off to a great start.
Ready to hit the skyways and soar into the City by the Bay? Search for deals on flights to all the area’s airports, time your visit when crowds are sparse, and start packing your bags. San Francisco in all its hipster glory and old town charm is waiting to welcome you.
*Flights not sold by Hipmunk
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.