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First time to San Francisco area - where to stay with a car

N. Atlanta
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First time to San Francisco area - where to stay with a car

Hello all,

First post to San Francisco forum. We are looking to spend a week or so in San Francisco area end of April 2014.

Since it's my first time to San Francisco area, we want to see a lot, including day trips such as Yosemite, Napa, etc.

What area should we look to stay in? Should I rent a car for the week? We are open to staying in nearby towns to San Francisco also. And open to staying a week in one place whether it be a vacation rental or hotel. We are also open to staying in 2 different places if it will allow us to see more.

As you can see, I'm very early in the planning process. Any advice is welcome! This area is a little overwhelming to me because there is so much to do and see. Thanks in advance for any input, much appreciated!

San Francisco
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1. Re: First time to San Francisco area - where to stay with a car

Have a look at our Top Questions (right side of screen on a non-mobile device).

We recommend people stay IN SF to see SF. And not to have a car for the period of time while they are visiting. Renting one for a day trip would be fine but if you keep one for days you'll either pay a lot to park it overnight or your options for accommodations will be much more limited.

Yosemite is 4 hours one way away and not recommended for a day trip. But with a week you might consider spending a night at Yosemite. Lodging there books up a year in advance but cancellations do occur although it takes some effort to snag one. If you are interested in that, go to the Yosemite forum and look at their top questions.

Bloomington, Indiana
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2. Re: First time to San Francisco area - where to stay with a car

General advice of forum regulars is that you're better off NOT having a car while visiting SF. The city is compact (more so the main tourist area) with good public transportation. In addition to the actual cost of the car itself, you'll also see significant parking fees from your hotel (or self-park) or limit your hotel choices to those that offer free parking (which generally aren't as centrally located); have to deal with traffic headaches, one-way streets, hills; parking headaches & costs, . . . the list goes on.

This is true even if day trips are planned. The advice on this point is to rent the car for the day (maybe an overnight) for the specific day(s) you'll be needing it and then return it.

I'd suggest you consider doing Yosemite as an overnight (or two) rather than as a day trip. The roundtrip drive time to Yosemite from SF is in the 8+ hours range (w/o stops), making it a *really* long day and, even if you get up early & come back late, you could still easily spend more time on the road than at Yosemite.

Napa, Monterey, Carmel, and some of other closer places are easier to do as a day trip, but even some of these can be long days and you might want to make an overnight if there are a lot of things you want to do there. (As a quick aside, general opinion is that ~4 days is when you can start thinking about day trips, with ~7 days you'll have enough time to do much of SF and still have some time to see other things in Northern CA.)

As for area to stay, please check out the top questions (to the right), there are some that compare the main 3 hotel areas. These are: Union Square, Embarcadero & Fisherman's Wharf (that is the order they are usually recommended).

Also, probably worthwhile to check out more (all?) of the Top Questions. A lot of effort has gone into generating them and they really do reflect the collective knowledge of the forum for the most common questions.

That's it for now - hope it helps,


Okay Sal, who has got the tiara?

Edited: 16 July 2013, 17:14
San Francisco...
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3. Re: First time to San Francisco area - where to stay with a car

I would suggest start with a map of the bay area and then places such as Yosemite and Carmel and see distances. Most would suggest 3-4 days in SF and then you can decide if you want to do a tour to Napa/Sonoma or stay there or an overnight tour to Yosemite or you can drive there. It is best to see Monterey/Carmel by car with an overnight if possible. To do all the 4 places ideally would be 8-10 full days

N. Atlanta
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4. Re: First time to San Francisco area - where to stay with a car

Thanks for your replies!

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5. Re: First time to San Francisco area - where to stay with a car

Parking at a Union Square hotel can cost more money than you spend on renting a car for the day. Last fall, our car rental for the day was $45. The hotel garage charged $50 to park overnight.

Make those car reservations in advance. We often find that there is are people waiting for cars or being disappointed as we fill out the paper work and are on our way in minutes. Find out what time you have to return the car for a day rental.

6. Re: First time to San Francisco area - where to stay with a car

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