How Much For a Family Trip To San Francisco?

Cheap vacation to Big Sur

As you read this, we are packing our bags for spring break. Many of our friends and family roll their eyes when we tell them we are headed off for another trip, thinking we spend thousands of dollars and that travel is beyond their reach. In reality, we pay a fraction of retail price for just about all of our vacations. Plus, we trim the fat from other areas in our budget so we can afford the amount we do spend. Cutting cable, buying used cars, and avoiding stores that might tempt us to spend money are some ways we save for the things we value with travel being very high on the list. For those of you who are curious, this is how much we will spend for a family trip to San Francisco.

Flights To San Francisco

We love to use credit card points and miles for air fare, but that usually means having to drive several hours to a major airport. Since we only have five nights for this trip, there wasn’t time for an extra day in the car. If we wanted to get to San Francisco, we needed to fly from closer to home.

We took advantage of the US Airways companion certificates before US Air merged with American Airlines. With the certificate that came with the US Airways credit card, we were able to buy one full price ticket out of Durango and get the other two for $99 each plus taxes and fees. That made the total airfare cost from our little, bitty regional airport only $708. That’s not cheap, but $236 per ticket is as good a deal as you’ll find without driving at least four hours, and we felt it was certainly worth it.

Hotels and Transportation

We will be renting a car once we land in San Francisco and driving south to Monterey. Then we’ll  stay two nights in Monterey and one night in Santa Cruz. After that we have two nights in San Francisco. This is how much sleeping will cost us.

  • Embassy Suites Monterey Bay, 2 nights-  80,000 Hilton Honors Points
  • Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley, 1 night- 30,000 Hilton Honors Points
  • Hyatt Regency San Francisco, 1 night in a club room- 21,000 Hyatt Points
  • Embassy Suites San Francisco Airport, 1 night-$149 plus tax. Paid for with $250 Hilton gift card won in a blog giveaway!

We earned the Hilton points from a 75,000 point offer on the Hilton American Express Surpass card. This card gives us 6x points on grocery purchases. By putting all of our grocery spending on the card, we rack up tons of Hilton points. They aren’t the best redemption value, but Hiltons are everywhere, and we love the Embassy Suites chain for their family features of free breakfast and snacks and the fact that every room is a suite.

The cost of the rental car will be $169.82 that we will pay out of pocket. We plan to return the rental car once we are back in San Francisco (valet parking at $60 a night, no thanks!) and either walk or take public transportation in the city and back to the airport. I’m not ruling out a cab if the weather is bad and we get tired. I’m not sure on the total cost, but I’m budgeting $75, also out of pocket. I’m not sure how much gas costs in the Bay area, but it’s probably not cheap, so we’ll set aside $40 for fuel.

Total out of pocket cost for hotels and transportation=$284.82

The beauty of this amount is that we have $302 in our “Party Money” fund from selling stuff, taking surveys, really any type of unexpected money that wasn’t earned from normal or side income. We sock it away in our little jar (it used to be in a box but one of our tenants left a nifty container behind) and pull it out for spring break.


We love to eat out on vacation, but we have rules. Breakfast comes from the hotel if at all possible. Luckily, we have free breakfast at all of our hotels and free evening snacks at all but the one in Santa Cruz. Lunch will also be on the cheap by making sandwiches from grocery store food or going to Subway in a pinch.

saving money for travel
Who would leave this gem behind?

Dinner will probably be our expensive meal, but we are not looking for Michelin quality. The eating budget is $80 per day or $480 for the week. Also in our “Party Money” jar, we have $500 in American Express or Visa gift card that were either given to us as gifts or earned in some strange way. One $200 gift card is for sharing a vacation story on a travel blog! Whenever any fairly easy opportunity to earn money or gift cards pops up, I’m all over it. Sometimes I feel it’s not worth my time, but it certainly adds up and seems worthwhile whenever we want to take a trip.


For sure we are going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and to Alcatraz. Besides that, we don’t have any activities planned. Hopefully we can do some hikes around Big Sur, and we’ll probably go to the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.

The aquarium costs $104.85 and Alcatraz will be $78.25 for the three of us. We’ll maybe throw in another $50 for entertainment just in case.

Total for entertainment on this trip=$203.10- a $50 statement credit from an offer from the Chase Hyatt credit card makes our out of pocket total. $153.10.

Basically once you subtract all of our party money and gift cards, the trip is only costing us the $708 in airfare. Considering this would be a $3200 trip, I’m OK with that!

Are you planning a spring break trip? How much do you spend on a five night vacation?

Big Sur image credit: Flickr



Snipon is owned and run by a small team who love to find deals on a dime along with the best sweepstakes and giveaways out there. We’re always scrolling the internet for the latest offers to share them with our community. Sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss another freebie!

Written By
Snipon is owned and run by a small team who love to find deals on a dime along with the best sweepstakes and giveaways out there. We’re always scrolling the internet for the latest offers to share them with our community. Sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss another freebie!
Hit Enter

Cookies help us deliver our services. By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. More information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.