First Timer's Guide to San Francisco

by - 1:30 PM

One of my best friends, Lisa, and I decided to take a spontaneous trip out to warmer weather! I decided on San Francisco, through a random conversation with another friend. I started planning the sights and destinations inside of San Francisco that I wanted to see. Lisa hopped on board. We booked our room and tickets then we were out of the cold, wet, and gloomy city of Milwaukee in less than 3 weeks!

Just like my first timer's guide to NYC, I'm going to try and share as many details as I can about our trip, how we figured things out, how we got around, and our entire itinerary so that anyone (especially other first timers) can plan their own!

Choosing Where to Stay
First, where we stayed. I found the Lombard Motor Inn through reviews and prices on When traveling, to me it's easier to pay a little bit more to stay closer to the heart of where you need to be instead of booking someplace cheaper and farther, thus relying on the need to rent a car. Staying at the Lombard Motor Inn was perfect for us because it wasn't too far from everything and we were able to utilize public transit.

The wifi can be spotty. The beds are amazing. The bathrooms are clean. The flat screen tv is lovely. We got a room on the third floor facing South, so we didn't have much noise getting into our room. I was hoping for a room with a view but oh well. 

But the best thing about San Francisco is that it's about 7 by 7 miles. Many of the sights and destinations that are popular for tourists can be grouped together for easier visiting and navigating. 

Getting to the Hotel from the Airport
We took a taxi cab to the hotel from the airport. Taxis are easily located where the ground transportation is. It's about a 30 minute drive and about $60 one-way including tips, we split the cost in half so $30 per person for two people.

Getting Around the City
Public Transit.

Our Itinerary
Check out our full itinerary here with all the details including where we ate, point-to-point instructions, and alternate trip suggestions. For a downloadable copy, click here.

What to Be Careful Of
The weather can change in an instant. San Francisco is prone to rainy days so bring an umbrella, some cute boots, and extra socks in your travel bag.

Practice common sense just like with any other unfamiliar city you would travel to. Do not keep money, cards, or wallets in your pockets as these can be easily pick-pocketed in the crowds you'll be walking in.  We carried a backpack and kept most of our valuables all the way at the bottom of the backpack. 

Total Cost of Trip:
~$200 - Hotel Stay for 4 days ($400 total, we split the cost)
$15 - Breakfast first day
$30  - Cab fare ($60 total + tip)
$2 - Bottled Water
$36 - Souvenirs at Pier 39
$40 - Dinner at Pier 23
$3 - Donut Breakfast on Day 2
$15 - Lunch from Warming Hut: sandwich, chips, bottled water (which were really good btw)
$20 - Souvenirs from Fisherman's Wharf
$8 - Cupcake and iced coffee from Cup&Cake Cafe
$8 - Dinner at In-N-Out (Burger, fries, drink)
$18 Breakfast on Day 3 at Little Skillet
$4 - Starbucks 
$80 - Shopping
$8 - Japanese Tea Garden Admission
$20/2=$10 Row Boat Rental at Golden Gate Park
$5 - Food in Chinatown
$5 - Chinatown Souvenirs
$20 - Bus Fare for entire 4 day stay
$30 - Cab Fare to airport ($60 total plus tip)

Grand Total: $557 (not including airfare)

Pretty awesome considering it was both our first time in California. If it weren't for all the shopping and souvenirs, the total cost would be much less. Our choices in where to eat were based on local popularity, relative proximity to where we would be exploring, and online reviews by others who have traveled to SF. A lot of research and planning went into this trip, as we do with every other trip we take, to ensure the experience is saturated in local experiences unique to that city. Lisa and I were both so happy with how our trip went and I would love the opportunity to go back someday.

In case you missed it, read about our entire trip here!
San Francisco Day 1! - Lombard St, Piers, Seafood
San Francisco Day 2 - Golden Gate Bridge, Marshall Beach, Fisherman's Wharf
San Francisco Day 3 - Brunch, Westfield Centre, Tony's Pizza Napoletana
San Francisco Day 4 - Japantown, Golden Gate Park, Chinatown

Happy Travels!

- Vicky

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