My second most favorite city in the US is San Francisco. It's a slower, more cozy version of New York, but equally interesting, with all its historical nooks and crannies, all sights for sore eyes.
We visited San Francisco en route to our parents' place in Greenville, South Carolina last December 2006. It is our first major online planned trip and that yielded good results. When we filed for our respective leaves in the office sometime during August or September, my sister and I swam through websites catering to travelers on a tight schedule and shoestring budget. We used Yahoo! FareChase for easy comparison of flights' and hotels' rates. The flights we ended up booking not online but c/o the travel agency that plans their company's trips. We got a great deal: Manila to the US via San Francisco with free domestic travel from San Francisco to South Carolina and then South Carolina to Detroit to Manila all for less than a thousand US dollars per head. Compared that with the $500++ one-way trip from MNL to LAX via PAL plus the $200++ cost of traveling one way from LAX to Greenville. It really helped that we left on the last day of the off-peak season hence our excellent rates.
The hotel we did book online. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express near Fisherman's Wharf. Its location was perfect for walking to must-see places, or at least to the transport hubs to get to the other must-see places. Since we arrived in SFO at around 8am, the hotel allowed us to check-in earlier, which allowed us to roam around earlier since we only had three days there. Of course, it helped that the front desk officer was Pinoy.
While still in the RP, we surfed the official government site for travel to SFO, http://onlyinsanfrancisco.com. There we found a great tour package, courtesy of the San Francisco Comprehensive Shuttle Tours service. Excellent tour guide, considerate with regard to photo-op-hungry tourists, well thought of spots to visit. We booked a day before the tour- which is not advisable. Good thing there was still space in the tour, given the odd day of the month we were in town.
All in all, it was a great three days in San Francisco. We were combing through the city streets until 6pm of our last day, leaving enough time to get to the airport for 12.30am flight out of SFO. Planning was key, from arranging the date of our departure to get the best airline rates; to patiently rummaging through hotel websites to get the best value rooms; to comparing tour companies to maximize the limited time we had in the city. While it may not sound environment-friendly, we likewise grabbed any and all printed materials and maps we can get our hands on so we'll know how to fill our time with the must-do activities and happily find our way back to the hotel when we chose to get lost in the city's charm notwithstanding the chilly winds blowing into the city by the bay...
Long overdue post. One item in my to do list for the holidays - check!