A shot at redemption

November 18, 2010 · 49 comments

golf fail

Many of you know Girl Ninja and I honeymooned in Aruba. We delighted in 8 days of pure epic awesomeness. As great as the week was, there was one major thing that kept our week abroad from being perfect…. ME. Well, maybe it wasn’t so much me as it was my frugality.

In my defense, we did have a really good time. We went shopping downtown and bought ourselves really nice watches. We went to the high rise district and ate at some fabulous restaurants. And we even took a 3 hour snorkel tour in some of the clearest waters in the world.

Even though we had our share of fun, I definitely let my frugality get the best of us. Girl Ninja made multiple comments about taking a Jeep tour around the island or how fun she thought it would be to rent jet skis. I, however, am a stupid guy and just thought she was throwing ideas out there, not realizing these were things she desperately wanted to do. Marriage communication fail!

How stupid am I for dropping $4,000 on our only honeymoon, but cheapin’ out on a $100 jeep tour? Slap me sideways and call me Susan cause I ain’t pullin’ that crap again. The Ninja household will now live by this mantra when it comes to vacationing…Go big or don’t bother going!

Fortunately, I have a chance to redeem myself. Girl Ninja and I recently bought tickets to San Francisco! We’ve never been before and are excited to play tourist. Our honeymoon was all about relaxing, but San Fransizzle is all about running around until our heads explode.

I have no clue where we are staying (thinking the Hyatt Grand), no clue what we NEED to do, no clue what we SHOULD do, and no clue what we should AVOID doing. We really only know two things…

1) Our dates of travel (MLK weekend in January)

and

2) I’m not going to be such a Stingy McStingysauce this time.

I’m super excited for an opportunity to show Girl Ninja I can let my hair down and have a good time (yeah that sounded super feminine, but I don’t care). Don’t you worry though, I’ll still try and save some coin by browsing the San Fran Groupons and other local deals. I’ll be frugal before the trip, but not while we are there!

My frugal do-over would definitely be my honeymoon stinginess. What would yours be? Ever regretted your frugality? Ever passed on a super good deal cause you thought you could find it cheaper, only to end up letting the initial bargain expire? When you vacay do you go BIG?!

p.s. if you’ve been to San Fran (or live there) I’d totally appreciate any recommendations on things to do!

p.p.s. You know my friends that had that Charity Water well fund? Well, many of you stepped up to the plate and donated and guess what… they raised 100% of their target amount! Yay for water!!!! You guys/girls continually rock my face off. Thanks for helping out.

{ 47 comments }

1 StackingCash

I work in the tourism business and it drives me up the wall when people come here with a portable kitchen and bags of groceries. They need to go back home and stay there. If you can’t find good, cheap food in Las Vegas, you are seriously mentally challenged. Perhaps I’m just too much of a foodie and figure that eating out is a big part of my vacations.

I always go big in vacation, within reason. When it comes to food and experiences I really go all out. When it comes to shopping I tend to hold back. I can honestly say I have no regrets with any of my vacations because of this :) Work hard, play hard!

We LOVE San Francisco! Don’t get a car unless you have a net worth of 2 million, parking fees will kill you. Walk, trolley, taxi, and ferry your way around, it’s a blast! This link is a good primer of what you should do in San Francisco to really get that full experience IMHO.

http://gocalifornia.about.com/cs/sanfrancisco/a/sfbest.htm

2 PennyPicker

SOOO agree about the food. DO NOT SKIMP ON FOOD. I think that the best part of a vacation.

3 StackingCash

Especially in San Francisco, probably some of the best food in the world!

4 StackingCash

By the way, we have been married for 9 years and my wife still makes “suggestions.” I yell at her and tell her she needs to be more assertive and make demands! Less regrets and less misunderstanding.

5 Larry

Parking fees are not the only issue in SF. I live 50 miles from NYC and am fearless driving in what I still chauvinistically consider the greatest city in the world; however, in SF if you park on the street you face the problem of the hills. If you don’t chuck your wheels properly, you risk having a runaway car and I’m pretty sure there are hefty municipal fines. Walk, trolley, use buses, but do not drive in SF.

That said, it’s a great place to visit. The Wharf is touristy but still worth some time, and there’s no end of other things to do. I’m sure you can Google “things to do San Francisco” as well as I, so no more said there. But as I remember my last trip, my two best meals were at Boulevard and Zuni Cafe.

6 Victoria

Don’t worry Ninja, it’s not just you, my fiance Tom and I have the same miscommunications at times! However, he is learning to recognise when I say something ‘might be fun’ I probably really want to do it, and I am learning to say ‘I want this’ instead of ‘I’d like this’!

And a big ‘Oooooooh!’ to San Francisco. Tom and I have considered that as our next big vacation after the honeymoon (so probably 2012), so I’m looking forward to hearing all about your time there, and what you get up to!

7 Sandra

I got a 5 day city pass when in SF, it included all public transportation as well as reduced/free admission to some sights and a tour over to Alcatraz.

http://www.citypass.com/san-francisco

8 Sandra

http://www.citypass.com/san-francisco includes admission to some sights and public transportation

9 First Gen American

I usually don’t cheap out but it did drive me nuts paying for crappy food at Disney. We didn’t rent a car so we were stuck buying all the expensive crap there. I wish I could have just let go and figured it into the cost of being there, but it did irk me every time I had to pay for a drink.

I’d try priceline.com for your hotel. You usually can get a good deal on a 4 star place on that site if you’re in a big city. I’ve had great luck and to me location is the most important thing (which you can choose). I don’t really see much of a difference between a grand hyatt or marriott.

10 Rogue

oh yeah I did the price line negotiator thing for my birthday one year and got to stay the Hilton Gaslamp in San Diego for a great price (under $100 a night). It was amazing! I just said 4 stars in downtown for this price and thats what I got. We were very happy, but it did spoil my husband and now he wants to stay there when we go back someday for comic con, and well yeah..no way are we getting that deal during SDCC

11 Dolly

I am not sure if they still do Alcatraz tours but if so buy your tickets way in advance. When we were there we couldn’t find any unless we bought them from scalpers at 3 times the price. There was a two week wait for tickets. Scalpers can buy them and sell them legally as long as they add something to it. The added something was usually a walking tour of two blocks. RIPOFF!!!!! I was so angry I confronted a scalper on the price but he told me to take it or leave it. BF didn’t want to miss out since we were there already and it was something we wanted to do. So we paid… sadly.. but never regretted it. Sometimes you have to pay the price…

12 londonkiwi

Love San Francisco! Have been 3 times now. I would highly recommend a trip to Alcatraz. If you like wine, then I would do perhaps a night in Sanoma and sample some wine! Also, what about treating your gorgeous wife to a spa day?

There are also some great restaurants in San Fran!

13 Mo D.

I would be the one in mine and Hubby’s relationship that has a tighter hold on the purse-strings, but when it comes to vacations, like Stacking Cash, we go big, but within reason. I really don’t like shopping (I know, I know, I’m not a girl that way), so that allows us extra $ for excursions. We’ve saved up and researched what we want to do before we get there, so we already have an idea of what we’ll be paying… if we cop a bargoon, even better!! We put nothing on credit or use ATM’s when we’re away… all cash, baby!! I can’t say that my frugality has gotten in the way of our vacations, but Hubby does need to remind me from time to time that we’ve saved up for the trip and work hard all year… I have more issues paying for a cup of crappy coffee at the airport!

Last year’s trip was in Vegas, and Hubby had a little good luck at the slots; he won about $400 total… and he surprised me on our final night with a helicopter tour over The Strip… SPECTACULAR! We actually came home with about $500 after all was said and done… and we had a GREAT time!

San Fran is on my bucket list of places to visit, so I’m really looking forward to hearing about your trip!

14 Mysti

Vacation? What’s that? Never been on one. We didn’t even take a honeymoon (and we have been married almost 13 years).

Our vacations consist of driving 14 hrs to Grandma’s house.

15 TwinsMama

I can relate now that we have children. What we tend to do (since the cost for 4 can be outrageous) is plan to leave a day early and make fun stops along the way. Not sure where you are driving but try that next time if you can. We have found so many little pockets of culture and fun in places we never even heard of.

Plus the stops help with our sanity in being locked up with the kiddies for hours.

16 Amber, Blonde and Balanced

This is good to know, because we’re going on our honeymoon in 6 1/2 months! Although, our resort is all-inclusive, so I won’t have to worry too much about my frugality craziness. Actually, my fiance is more frugal than me, so I should be the one worrying! I don’t want to add in too many extras, but if the opportunity arises for a couple’s massage that isn’t included in our trip once or ten times, I hope he doesn’t turn me down! Have fun in San Fran!

17 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

One time I bought generic Cinnamon Toast Crunch. NEVER AGAIN!

18 TwinsMama

Kevin if you didn’t have a pic up…I’d swear you were my husband using an alias. He NEVER buys store brand cereal. Sure generic vitamins, detergent, etc. but never cereal.

19 PennyPicker

Ninja, you do realize how COLD its going to be right? So I suggest a lot of INDOOR activities. Although Chinatown is a MUST. I went in Feb and I froze my butt off, this coming from a someone from the Northeast. The hyatt is a great place to stay make sure to take pictures near the heart statue downtown(too cute!). Other than that the Bay area is awesome….to overpriced to live but great to visit!

20 StackingCash

Didn’t Mark Twain say “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” ?

21 Rogue

He actually didn’t say that
http://www.snopes.com/quotes/twain.asp
But its true…when the fog rolls off the bay it gets freaking cold! Which is why all the street venders sell sweaters in the summer.
I don’t remember if the winters are all bad, but in the summer you most remember a sweater.

22 Nicole

Recommendation: Don’t let any of the natives hear you calling it San Fran. That’ll peg you as a Southern Californian who can’t pronounce words with more than two syllables.

My favorite thing in the bay area is hiking. There are a ton of wonderful mountain trails all over.

23 TwinsMama

Okay where was my frugality (borderline cheapness) on my honeymoon? Completely gone because we purchased a vacation home! Someone should have slapped us silly. But it was our first purchase (that has since been sold) and was all wrong being that we didn’t own our own home. So count yourself lucky that you didn’t loose your mind…

Now what would marriage be without a few communication mis-reads???? Being sarcastic of course but get ready, that will continue as long as you are 2 people who became 1. Now I have seen those that are somehow over time morphed into 1 person and both think and behave alike…while they may love that…I love that the hubby and I are still able to think and behave differently.

Now, I think you are going somewhere with this one. I like that you were frugal. It’s who you are and because of that, it allowed GN to see that you are who you are and that’s okay. It helped her (I’m guessing since I’m a wife and have been there) learn that she too needs to adjust her expectations and awareness. Maybe she realized she needs to be a bit more expressive by overtly telling you what she wants instead of suggesting. This was good for both of you believe it or not.

Now go and have fun on your vacation. Just set a budget for while you’re there and then you can do whatever you both want guilt free!

24 TwinsMama

As you can see by my post…NOW is the word of the day! Sorry if it is hard to follow! :)

25 Doctor S

Amazing picture today. I like the fact that you learned from your mistakes from before. You right. You only go on that first trip once, but now you can rock out (within reasonable means). But that stuff will happen, as long as you acknowledge it and learn from it. Never make same mistake twice.

Def check out the outdoors in SF, go walking all over and utilize public transportation everwhere. Its awesome. I was out there 4 years ago, I need to get back.

26 Chris

So if you really want to make it up to wife ninjga you must stay at Hotel Vitale http://www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/sanfrancisco/vitale
Its right on embarcasero and across from the Ferry Building and right by the Bay Bridge- it’s nothing short of amazing. My wife and I come down from Sacramento and stay here at minimum of once per year. It’s not on the cheap side but worth every ninja dollar! It’s also across the street from one of my favorite restaurants of all time which is Boulavard. I think its a James Beards winner or something like that but their food is out of this world! Since you are on embarcasero you can take a cab (or a long but beautiful walk) to fisher mans warf and the Alcatraz tours. At night go out in the Marina, lower pacific heights, or north beach and don’t forget to grab a slice of pizza on your way home

27 Heidi

San Fran is amazing. It is actually the only city I can see living in if I have to return to California, cost be damned. I agree Alcatraz is totally worth it. Great views of the city and if you can catch a park ranger talk, I recommend it. My husband and I got to see parts of the island normally off-limits to visitors, learned a ton about the place you don’t get from the regular tour, plus its FREE!!!

Also, look into getting a passport for the public transportation. You can ride the streetcars, buses, and the famed cable cars all you want for only a little more than what roundtrip costs on the cable car alone (13 vs 10). Also, if you ride the cable car, hop on in the middle of a route instead of at the end, you won’t have to wait in line.

Consider checking out the Presidio of San Francisco. Especially the Palace of Fine Arts, its beautiful, when not under repair.

Fisherman’s Wharf is a must. See the sea lions at Pier 39 (they are so cute!), check out Boudin at the Wharf for great sourdough bread, and go to Ghiradelli Square. You get a free piece of chocolate just for walking into the store, and the ice cream sundaes are killer!

Our honeymoon, we went big!! We went to DisneyWorld for a week, stayed in the Grand Floridian, saw Cirque du Soleil, ate in the castle, and ate our way around the world at EPCOT. Same thing when we went to Europe. We bought scalped tickets to Phantom of the Opera on London’s West End, went to Paris Disney, and generally just had a blast. I’m totally the type for experiences, so we don’t usually go crazy expensive on food. Otherwise, we tend to just visit friends (Florida) and family (San Fran/Sacramento area) or take advantage of job perks that come with a job in the airlines (Hilton Head for free).

28 Jamie

My favourite thing in San Fran is actually FREE :) The Westin on Union Square has a glass elevator that you don’t need a room key to access. It shoots you up way over the city and the view is gorgeous. We rode it up and down quite a few times that week.

Enjoy your trip!

29 Lauren

Ninja, way to get good sense and travel up the coast to San Francisco. Great suggestions above, and I’ll add my two cents in:

A must-do is the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building (or even just the Ferry Building in general). During the summer they’re on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, but I don’t know about January. If it’s a nice day, you can make a long, leisurely walk down the waterfront all the way down to Pier 39 — it’s a bit of a trek, but really not bad if it’s a nice day.

Fisherman’s Wharf and the Bridge are obvious cross off your list things to do — you should see them — but don’t spend too much time there, there are better, non-touristy things to do. I agree about booking Alcatraz tours now, though — only time I’ve ever gone on one is when I didn’t live here. Every other time I’ve tried to take someone, they’ve been booked.

Chinatown is a must, as is shopping (or browsing and people watching) in Union Square. And if you get a chance, head up to Golden Gate Park for an afternoon. Beautiful botanic garden up there, as well as the Academy of Sciences, which I hear is phenomenal. (Still on my list of things to do.) And the MOMA is also a good stop if it’s a rainy day.

I agree about not renting a car. It’s killer parking in SF, Ninja. But DO rent a car for a day and go to Napa/Sonoma. You’ll find plenty of wonderful places, but I highly, highly recommend Vincent Arroyo up in Calistoga. Free tasting of everything on their menu, and they are hands down the nicest people you’ll meet on the wine trail. Vincent himself was there to help us when we went last spring. All reds, though.

Also — bring your rain gear! It can pour like crazy here in January, but I’ve also seen a January week where it’s 75 degrees and sunny. You may get lucky, but plan for rain, and plan your next trip in September, when SF is at its finest. Have fun!

30 Ashley

I was going to type up my own suggestions, seeing as I’m also semi-local (East Bay), but Lauren pretty much covered everything I was going to say! … except I’m me, and I can’t leave it at that.

Definitely recommend the Ferry Building and the Farmers Market, especially on a Saturday. Bring your appetite! The food there is amazing, and most of the vendors (hot food or not) will happily provide you with free samples. You can walk away with some gourmet food gifts if that’s your fancy by stopping at any of the stores inside the Ferry Building itself.

The Big Three tourist-friendly spots to hit: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39, which you can take a cable car along bay-side Embarcadero to see; Chinatown; the Golden Gate Bridge, which is likely best seen when you drive over it on your way up to Napa/Sonoma (and don’t forget to stop at the vista point on your way out – one of the best photo ops you’ll have of the Bridge + city); Alcatraz, and I third the recommendations to purchase your tickets in advance.

If you’re in to shopping, Union Square is great for the high end (and the beautiful courtyard-over-a-parking-garage that sits between Tiffany’s & Co. and the Macy’s building). You can get plenty of vintage and distinctly SF shopping if you pick a neighborhood that matches your flavor – and I highly recommend looking up the neighborhoods to get an idea what goes on within them. Descriptions (and stereotypes) are alarmingly accurate!

If you’re in to food, well, you can find just about whatever you want, wherever you want. There are food stalls and trucks as well as Michelin rated restaurants, and everything in between. Any cuisine, any price point. For kitsch, I highly recommend a stop at a bakery selling clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl (like Boudin, pronounced “bow-deen”) — just prepare to split it and still have food left over!

Cal Academy of the Sciences is worth a stop, as is the SF Zoo. Exploratorium is kid-oriented but, heck, I still have fun stopping there from time to time. ;) Golden Gate Park is ridiculously enormous and you can get lost in it no matter how many times you visit, but it’s quite the adventure! The Presidio is a beautiful stop. Especially nice if you’re curious how rich SF lives. ;) If you buy a CityPass, you get access to the buses and cable cars, the Exploratorium, the Cal Academy of the Sciences, SF MOMA, the Aquarium of the Bay (down at Pier 39),

A good day to cover a few things at once:

Get an early start down at the Ferry Building (take the BART down to Embarcadero, then walk toward the giant clock tower). Tour the Farmers Market, sample the produce, make a healthy breakfast out of it, and maybe even pack some produce for lunch later. Hop on the F-Market cable car and ride down to Pier 39. Grab some of Trish’s mini donuts (a must!) and wander around the shops (take a stop at Lefty’s if there are any left-handers in your life), say hi to the sea lions basking on the docks out in back. If you’re hungry for some lunch, break out some of your Farmers Market haul, or grab a clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl from the Boudin.

Rent a bike and peddle those donuts off, staying by the water. Veer off a little in a few blocks and stop by Ghirardelli Square, where you can check out Ghirardelli Chocolates (and maybe even eat one of the giant sundaes). Ride through The Presidio and up to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re feeling fit enough, or maybe just really wanting to work off those donuts and ice cream, ride across the Bridge and stop at the vista point for some snapshots. Then continue on to Sausalito or Tiburon. Once you’ve had a look around, take the ferry back across to return the bike. If you’re lucky, there’ll be some Guide Dog puppies-in-training on the ride with you. Even if not, you’ve seen a great deal of bay-side SF in a day – and experienced it, too!

okay, I could obviously talk about this forever. I’m available by email if you’re interested in other tips. I do love showing the City to people who are visiting, especially those who’ve never been before. Most of all, I hope you and your wife have a fabulous time! SF is a great vacation destination. :)

31 Ashley

On that bike tour note: http://www.travelzoo.com/local-deals/deal/219/

For $29, tax included, you get a bike tour (for one – just buy two of them) from Fisherman’s Wharf, through the Marina and Presidio, across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito. And then you get to keep the bike for the rest of the rental!

It’s about half off the regular price, and cheaper than an all-day bike rental itself. Pretty excellent deal!

Purchase by November 29, redeem between Dec 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011.

32 Trina

The last time we were in SF, we stayed in our timeshare (whoohoo), ate at Scoma’s (it is a seafood restaurant my foodie SF cousin recommend. I am not a foodie, so that is where we usually save money on trips) and made the obligatory drive down Lombard Street. The coolest thing I did on that trip was surprise hubby with tickets to Cabo for the weekend for his birthday…probably not on your itinerary for this particular trip, but I definitely recommend planning a surprise trip for GN at some point in your life. Super fun!
Everything everyone recommended above sound great. You are going to have a wonderful time.
Also, looks like you figured out what to do with that $500…;)

33 Finding My Way To Debt Free

I was fortunate enough to spend 5 fun-filled days in San Francisco. I recommend checking out the Citypass as others have. Things you must do – Muir Woods forest.
Things you should check out:
Alcatraz
Angel Island (can be a combined trip)
Sausolito, Tiberon – and eat at a restuarant in Sausilto that is floating in the Bay
Shopping in Union Square
Rent a Car and DRIVE the CITY – especially Russian Hill – it was like our own personal rollercaoster. Though I would more highly recommend the trolly cars and public transit – we ditched the car after the scare of our life on this drive!
Pier 39 and Fishman’s Warf – the Aquarium was really cool – and eat at Bubba Gumps if you get the chance.
Take a walking tour of the City and see the Painted Ladies – famous houses from all things San Fran on TV

Personally when I went we tried to do all the things that I saw in the the movie The Rock (Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage). Coit Tower, Lombardo Street, Chinatown.
Take a City Tour for sure!

However, we had a pretty good time taking a few out of city trips as well – Jelly Belly jelly Bean Factor was really cool in Fairfield CA (about 2 hours outside of San Fran), and taking a tour in Napa Valley Wine Country or down the coast to Montery and Caramel I’ve heard were really great. WE didn’t do those – ran out of time.

The biggest thing is pace yourself. And you absolutely should/MUST go to the Giradelli Chocolate place down off the wharf.

Above all – enjoy yourself.

Other notables – Wolf Gang Puck restaurant, CheeseCake Factory, Many tiny shops with pretty neat stuff all over the place.

Above all really enjoy yourselves while there!

34 Sara

Your wife is a lucky Girl Ninja to have a guy who can relatively quickly realize the error of his ways and actually redeem himself pretty quickly. I’m sure most men take about 10 years to figure these things out. ;P

Regarding SF, I recommend the 2 following nice restaurants:
- Chaya http://www.thechaya.com/ It’s French-Japanese fusion and SO delicious
- Town Hall http://www.townhallsf.com/ It’s a favorite after-work spot of those who work in the area, but that’s because they have a great wine selection and the food is so.freakin.good.

Also if you’re into modern art the MOMA there is really great, and if you wanna talk your lady on a cute lil excursion, cross the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, a cute little beachfront community that always reminded me of Italy in a way. http://www.sausalito.org/

Have fun, and maybe go spend that $500 you got for baby sitting there ;)

35 Honey

Eat everywhere in San Francisco, the food is amazing! Definitely to to The Stinking Rose, Herbivore, and Ali Baba’s Cave, but honestly anywhere you go is going to be unbelievable.

36 Crystal @ BFS

Thankfully, my biggest Stingy Mcstingyson moment was corrected after the fact at cost. When we splurged on a $2700 bedroom set with a $3000 Tempurpedic mattress, I thought our old nightstands would look fine with the new set and skipped the extra $200-$300 for one more nightstand. Yeah, our old nightstands looked miniscule next to our huge set – super tacky.

Luckily, after trying to ignore it for a month, I called in and asked for the additional matching nightstand. They wanted $75 to ship it but I said “Look, we laid down $5700 in one day, I would expect free shipping” and that worked. So yes, we are semi-crazy and spent a small fortune on furniture, but at least it all matches and looks great now…sometimes being stingy is stupid…

37 Ghenghy

Years ago, my husband and I were on a vacation and saw that a band we really liked was playing in a nearby club. The tickets weren’t cheap, but weren’t outrageous either, but we were feeling a little poor so we passed. I still kick myself for that. We had the money, it was just a mentality of being frugal, and we cheated ourselves out of a great experience. I don’t care much about buying things, but I’ll almost always shell out now for an experience that seems worthwhile because those are the things that always stay with you. When faced with unplanned “splurges” I ask myself if such an opportunity will ever come again and will I regret it if I don’t do it.

38 Jenn

You need to eat at In and Out Burger! Unless you live in an area where they are plentiful (I’m in the south and am overjoyed whenever I can find one). Another thought would be to look into the redwood forrest.

39 Steph/seenonflickr

The Stinking Rose has AMAZING food for decent prices.

We also found and enjoyed a lovely fondue place – called Melt! – just the thing for a foggy San Fran day.

The public transit is AWESOME. (But you might want to work on your legs before you go – the hills are as steep as they say!)
But maybe rent a car for a day and drive across to see Muir Woods where the redwoods are – magical.

Yes, go to Alcatraz. (Bundle up.) And we got our tickets online about a week in advance, we were there in May.

40 MyMoneyMess

Wives don’t really make suggestions. If they say something along the lines of, “What do you think about ____?” They’re saying, “I want ___.” Sure that’s a generalization but it’s pretty much worked for me for almost 25 years. I figure if it’s important enough for my wife to bring it up, it’s important enough for me to take it more as a request than a suggestion. That doesn’t mean I throw frugality out the window. Fortunately my wife is as frugal as I am.

41 The Saved Quarter

I highly second the City Pass, and add the 49 mile scenic drive. It’s a really nice way to see the sites and get a tour of all of the neighborhoods in the city. It can be done by foot/bus/Muni but is easier by car; there are marked signs throughout the city. There is a book, not-so-coincidentally called San Francisco’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive (http://www.amazon.com/San-Franciscos-Mile-Scenic-Drive/dp/157061251X) that gives suggestions of where to stop and explore, little tidbits and history of the locations on the drive, and good directions. We live locally and this is our preferred route for showing friends around the city without missing any of the must-see locations. We bring rolls of quarters and drive, though.

I’m the frugal one on vacation, but I’m the frugal one in our marriage so it comes as no surprise to my husband! I am definitely not of the “go big or don’t go” persuasion; with that mindset, I’d never leave the house! My husband and I didn’t take a honeymoon, just a night in a hotel before coming back to move (bad idea! don’t move right after a wedding!) My budget doesn’t allow us to spend $4k on a vacation, but I’m a crazy planner and if I had that kind of budget, I’d find a cheap but nice place to stay, cook some meals in (because it’s cheaper, healthier, and easier, especially for breakfast with kids!), and explore all of the cheap and free activities in an area before trying the more expensive things like Jeep tours and scuba diving. Your way is probably more fun, but my way keeps me from gauging my eyeballs when reconciling the checkbook. :D

42 eef

San Francisco is so much fun! Going to be really cold though!
I happen to really like those hop-on-hop-off buses in pretty much any city. They take you to all the touristy places and most are good for 24-48 hours. We did one of the buses and San Fran since we didn’t have a car, and saw pretty much everything we wanted to see. It is very walkable though, and they do have public transport, so since you have more time than we did to plan you can probably figure out a cheaper alternative.

My stupidest frugal mistake of all times was probably when I was in Athens and my friends and I only have about 1/2 a day there before going to one of the islands. Well, we went to the Parthenon 15 minutes before closing and the gate attendant told us we only had time to walk up and walk right back down. And this cost 12 euro (which was about $18 at the time). One of my friends went, and the other one and I stayed at the bottom. The friend who went got some awesome photos and I… well, who the hell knows if I’ll ever make it back!
After that I learned to just DO IT and pay whatever, because seriously, missed opportunities suck!

43 NoDebtNewlywed

Husband and I stayed at the Fairmont (ridiculously good deal) last time we went. That was a great experience–but only f you get a great deal. I’ve heard the Monaco chain is a great experience (http://www.monaco-sf.com/). They offer lots of luxury complimentary extras; those make any trip enjoyable. I also agree with the previous posters–no car! You will be miserable trying to find parking. Husband and I walked everywhere (including the trek to and from Nob Hill to the wharf for the Alcatraz tour, and back again). Tell Girl Ninja to take comfortable shoes–they’re much needed with the walking. Alcatraz was an awesome experience, make sure you EAT WELL before the trip–there is no food allowed on the island, and being hungry is never fun. Other great things to try: Boudin’s, Burma Superstar (their walnut shrimp and rainbow salad are amazing), Lefty O’Douls is a cafeteria-style pub that had the most amazing roast beef sandwiches–husband and I still talk about them! Enjoy the trip–and whenever GirlNinja mentions “what if we were to…” take it as “I want to do this.” Words of wisdom–husband and I went through the same thing :)

44 Kelly

You’ll have a great time in San Francisco! I went a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. Two things I would recommend – first, do a listening tour at Alcatraz. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I think it’s just one of those things you need to do if you’re in the city. If you like to be scared, try the night tour! I really wanted to do that, but my family said no way. The other thing I did that I thought was really fun, was bike across the Golden Gate bridge. They have rental bike companies set up all over the place. Depending on where you start though, there can be some big hills!

45 Mel

I recently decided to “punch debt in the face” and have enjoyed lurking on your blog thus far. I live in the Bay Area and I love food so here are some of my suggestions:

Coffee that redefines caffeinated:
-Blue Bottle
-Philz

Brunch:
-Dottie’s True Blue Cafe (Get there super early or fairly late, and located in the Tenderloin where some may not feel comfortable venturing.)
-Brenda’s French Soul Food (Located on the outskirts of the Tenderloin, near City Hall.)
-Sears Fine Food (Near Union Square and…THE MALLS)
-Mama’s on Washington Square (Near North Beach/Little Italy)

Sandwich Places:
-Naked Lunch (Only open for lunch, not open on Sundays. Fair warning, it is located in an area which consists mostly of clubs/bars/strip clubs.)
-Molinari Delicatessen (Old school Italian deli.)

Chinatown:
-Golden Gate Bakery (For pastries, on Grant Ave)
-Gold Mountain Restaurant (For Dim Sum, on Broadway)

Ice Cream (Alternatives to Ghiradelli Square):
-Bi-Rite Creamery
-Mitchell’s Ice Cream
If you guys do go to Ghiradelli Square, you guys must stop by Kara’s Cupcakes for a cupcake.

Etc.
Do not eat near Pier 39 unless you are going to eat at In-N-Out (the only one in the City!) If you are looking for good seafood, try the Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Building or Swan Oyster Depot. When wandering around Golden Gate Park, Park Chow is always a good stop for dinner.

Dinner:
If you guys go to Napa, stop by Dopo in Piedmont/Oakland on the way home. Italian food that tastes like italian food in Italy. Reasonable prices for the quality of food. An alternate Italian food place is Tommaso’s Ristorante Italiano which is in the City.

Public Transportation:
Totally agree with everyone who has recommended getting a Muni Visitor Passport. It’s worth it considering that one cable car ride costs $5 each ride. Also, most hotels in SF charge an exorbitant amount for parking ($50-$100) and they will charge you every time you pull your car out. And street parking is not only also expensive (25 cents for 6 minutes) but also hard to find.

46 shana

SF is awesome. There are tons of things to do there – it all just really depends on what you two like to do. Some of my favorites: Coit Tower (one a clear day you get a nice view of the City and inside are murals from the 1930s by Diego Rivera), Grace Cathedral (it’s just beautiful – reminiscent of some of the cathedrals in Europe), Musee Mechanique (quirky little museum with lots of old carnival type mechanical things), Academy of Sciences (just plain amazing), Palace of the Legion of Honor (art museum). I like to grab some Dim Sum in Chinatown and there are some places nearby for afternoon tea. January is normally pretty rainy up here so bring an umbrella.

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