We are back from our 12 day trip to California with 3 teenage boys. Some of our adventures include: a 6hr flight delay, lost keys, keys locked in our rental van in Yosemite, and delayed luggage!
The best priced flights I could find were to and from San Francisco from Memphis. I tried about 6 cities at least. We arrived at the airport on a Saturday afternoon to find out that because our plane had mechanical issues, we would be delayed 6 hours in leaving. We couldn't fly out until 7p.m. which meant we would have to stay in Salt Lake City, our transfer airport. All of the Delta workers were trying to find alternate routes for the passengers so we stood there 1 1/2 hours until she finally told us she couldn't find anything else with 5 open seats.
American Express Skymiles advice:
This may be completely obvious to some people but I didn't realize that if I didn't buy all 5 tickets in one receipt, we wouldn't get the priority boarding or free checked bags perks. I had heard "everyone in the cardholders party" description for it. Since our AMEX is technically in my husband's name first and mine is secondary, we had to go through a long mess to get our first bag free for all 5 of us and we still couldn't get all zone 1 boarding. Yes I paid for the tickets with skymiles amex but that doesn't really matter. It is a long story why I got three of ours on another day but I will never do that again. My husband and one son got to board in zone 1 while the other 3 of us waited. I gave him our biggest carryons to take with him before the plane got crowded. I had already learned that if I fly by myself I couldn't get the checked bag with just my card but now I will also be careful on family trips to purchase all 5 tickets at once together.
Delta didn't offer any meal vouchers; my husband had to ask for them. They gave us each $6.00 per meal for that evening and breakfast. That would be great if the airport had 1985 prices! The worst part of the delay was that it was my son's 13th birthday. The flight attendant gave my kids free snack packs on the now half empty plane though to help make up for it.
Comfort Inn Airport Salt Lake City
Flying towards Salt Lake City, we could see the fire plumes. We wondered what it could be and then we saw on the news about the wildfires. Delta put us up at the Comfort Inn Airport location. The front desk worker was really nice even though she was really busy. The hotel was pretty crowded with a conference. The hallways were burning up with no AC! We ate in their restaurant which was ok-typical cheaper hotel restaurant. The rooms were good and clean but a little worn out. There was even a cigarette burn on the bedspread but their rate is less than $100.00. We got two rooms since there were 5 of us.
The hotel shuttle van only holds 9 people so you have to reserve a spot. The 7 a.m. was full, so we had to catch the 6:30 a.m. one. We barely made it. Since we only had our carryons with us, we looked a little frightful I am sure. I only had time to grab our toothbrushes and pajamas when Delta told us of our new layover and took our checked bags. Of course, our flight to San Francisco was delayed 30 minutes more that morning.
Avis San Francisco
We finally made it and my husband took the rental car "monorail" that SFO has to pick up our van while the kids and I got our bags. SFO got the luggage out both times we flew in there. I used his corporate id to reserve our car rental. For one week's rental for a minivan, it was $620.00 which included our mileage. We switched the 2nd week for a smaller Chevy Impala which was $162 for 5 days. We saved money by switching out in L.A. to the smaller car.
Long lines at Avis
My husband said the lines were really long both times we went into SFO. Since he had a priority card or whatever it is called, he was able to walk straight to the vehicle and save a lot of time. The one caveat of that is that if you have a problem, you have to stand in line anyway. When we came back through at the end of the trip, we got a really dirty car but you hate to waste 45 min of vacation to tell them.
Hyatt House Hotel Belmont
I just wanted to mention this because this is where we would have stayed if we had made it the first night. It was $160.00 with AAA discount. The nice thing about it is that it has 2 bedrooms. We could have had a king bed in one room and 2 queens in the other plus a sofa bed and kitchenette for that price! It is about 10 miles below the airport so maybe not the most convenient. If you have 3 kids like me and get tired of trying to find a place with 3 beds this would be awesome! A lot of "suite hotels" just have a king and a pullout bed which really doesn't get you anywhere.
Our gps couldn't get a signal in a great part of San Francisco. Luckily I was old school and brought city maps and a California map. We knew it wouldn't work going to Big Basin Redwoods State Park so I printed those directions too. It was sketchy all over that area, including Monterey and Big Sur so don't rely on just it by itself.
Next: Big Basin Redwoods, Monterey, Big Sur
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CA family trip Big Sur, Yosemite, L.A., San Fran June July 2012