Save Hundreds on Vacation by Taking Public Transportation

Three months before our first baby was due, we took a little vacation. You might know this type of getaway as a “Babymoon.” It was all baby and no moon, that’s for sure! 😉

All the vacations we’ve ever been on together have been road trips, except this particular one. We decided that since I was pregnant, it would be a lot quicker and safer to just fly to our destination. One of our travel goals is to go to all the major cities on the West coast of the United States, so we bought two plane tickets to the Bay area: San Francisco.

Transportation was going to be a huge issue once we got to San Francisco, so I had to do some research about how we would get around. I wanted to find the mode that was the cheapest as long as we could still do everything we wanted to do.

One sneaky way to save money on a big city trip is by taking public transportation. Find out how much you can save, even just over a long weekend, and you'll be passing up the car rental every time.Options for Transportation after Flying to Your Destination

  1. Car Rental
  2. Taxi
  3. Foot
  4. Public Transportation (buses and trains)
  5. Cable Cars
  6. Bikes

After going through each option and considering the pros and cons in my head, I decided to look closer into car rental and public transportation. There was no way I was getting on a bike at 6 months pregnant!

Car Rental

I’ve never rented a car before, so I had to do a bit of research. Unfortunately, I didn’t document my research when I initally did it two years ago, so I did a little research for the purpose of this post.

I went to and checked out car rentals in San Francisco in August. The cheapest rental was $35 per day and you are limited to two bags! This particular choice comes with unlimited miles. On top of the base fee there is Rental Car Damage Protection, which is another $9 per day. You also have to pay for your own gas. It all starts to add up very quickly, but for many people this is the only option because they really want to get around without relying on other people (i.e. taxi or bus) or their own abilities (i.e. walking or riding a bike).

Public Transportation

So I had to scratch the car rental idea and consider public transportation.

Not every city has public transportation, and even if it does, it’s not always great. This is why you should do a little research before your trip to make sure the public transit will take you to the places you want to visit.

The first thing I did in order to find out about San Francisco’s public transportation was simply googling “Public transit San Francisco.” I clicked on the first link that came up, which was the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Luckily, this website had all the information I needed, including maps, prices for fares, and even schedules. Our babymoon would be from Thursday evening until Monday morning, so we figured we should get at least a 3-day pass for the bus, train, and cable cars. As for Thursday and Monday, we would just have to pay the bus fare to go to and from the airport and hotel.

This option is definitely NOT for everybody. There were a few times on our trip that I wished we had our own car. I was six months pregnant and all that walking definitely made my feet start to swell. In fact, it was from that trip on until I had my baby that my feet were swollen 24/7. I felt like I had club feet!

A Little Story About a Taxi and a Crazy Pregnant Lady

On our first full day in San Francisco, we had tickets to get on the boat to Alcatraz. We had to be there by 10 AM. I should have known better, because my husband loves to take his time when we are on vacation, but I thought 10 would be a reasonable time and we would get there with plenty of time to spare. WRONG!

This is how it went down. We were all ready to go by 8:30. We left our hotel and walked a few blocks to the place where  we would catch the cable car to take us fairly close to the pier to board the boat for Alcatraz. One cable car started to come our way and we were getting ready to jump on, but the conductor yelled out that we had to wait for the next one. There were people hanging off the car! The next cable car went by about 15 minutes later and the conductor said the same thing. We were going to be late if we didn’t get on a cable car soon!

So I did what any pregnant woman in her right mind does on a hot day on the steep hills in San Francisco: I started to walk. It was a scene to behold! I was exhausted after just one hill, but I kept on trekking because I wasn’t going to miss that boat. No siree!

A few more cable cars passed us by and they were all full of people. Every last one. I couldn’t understand why, but I found out the next day that everyone boards at the beginning of the line for the full experience. Nobody takes the cable car to get anywhere on time.

How We Saved $60 on Vacation - you can too!We got to a point where I didn’t know which way to go. We didn’t have a smart phone or GPS to give us directions. I was getting really nervous that we would miss the boat (I think it was like 9:30 at the time), so we hailed a taxi. That was the first taxi I’d ever been in. It will also be the last one. We were in the taxi a total of 6 minutes, and we gave the taxi driver $8. It’s disgusting how much money they charge to ride in those!

Moral of this story: don’t plan on being to places on time on vacation unless you’re willing to spend some dough.

Pros of Public Transportation

  • It’s a really great price compared to many of the other modes of transportation
  • Many of the buses and railways pass by major tourist attractions, hotels, and airports for easy access
  • Everyone can enjoy the sights while riding since nobody has to drive
  • You don’t have to worry about parking (both parking costs and lack of parking spots in many cities)

Cons of Public Transportation

  • If you have somewhere to be at a certain time, you have to work around the schedule of the bus or train
  • There are frequent stops
  • Most of the time, it can be very crowded
  • It doesn’t go everywhere you want to go
  • It might be off schedule and you’ll have to wait even longer for the next one to come

Consider this…

If you do decide to take public transportation on your next vacation:

Consider the time of year and weather in the city where you are going. You don’t want to be stuck on a bus that’s caught in a snowstorm. I guess you wouldn’t want to be driving a car and get caught in a snowstorm either.

Consider how your kids will behave. We were a couple without kids when we traveled by public transportation in San Francisco. I don’t know how it would work out with children, but I bet most kids would love to get on the bus or train!

Cost Savings

If we had decided to rent a car from Thursday after getting off the plane until Monday morning when we got back to the airport, we would have paid a minimum of $140. Adding on the damage coverage would have rang us up to $185. I know if we had rented a car we would have gone to more than just San Francisco, so our gas bill would have put us well over $200.

Instead, we paid $79.20 to use public transportation. I included everything we used from the time we got there until we left, which was AirBART, BART, the bus, a taxi, and a 3-day MUNI Passport for each of us. We saved at least $120 just by taking a different mode of transportation.

Have you had experience taking public transportation on vacation?

Photo credits: “Backseat Evag Bus Eat Essener Verkehrs Ag” by Nopse and “Taxi Cab Taxicab Taxi Cab New York City Nyc” by RyanMcGuire are both licensed under Public Domain CC0 on Pixabay
Linked to: Hump Day Happenings and Thrifty Thursday

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  1. Great ideas! Cannot believe you walked through San Francisco pregnant! Wow! You’re a trooper!
    Tiffany recently posted…Top 10 Tips for Avoiding Stress on your Baby’s Blessing/Christening DayMy Profile

  2. Great ideas! We went on a baby moon when I was pregnant too! We drove about 45 minutes to get to San Diego and it was so much fun! Yes I was huge and waddling around (I think I was about 7 1/2 months), but it was a nice little get away! Thanks for the tips on public transit! 🙂
    Valerie SmartMomFinance recently posted…7 Habits of Smart Moms on Grocery shoppingMy Profile

    • Too fun, Valerie! You live so close to San Diego, I’m jealous! I think it’s important to do one last Hoorah before a new baby enters your life, because your relationship will never be the same!

  3. I am used to using public transportation so that wouldn’t be a huge deal to me. However, I admire you for walking all over SF at 6 months pregnant!
    Ana Lynn recently posted…My Work At Home Mom ScheduleMy Profile

  4. We are lucky enough to travel around the world, and have used public transportation everywhere! Your blog post was wonderful! I blog about our travels and hope you will stop by for a visit!
    Karan Mccaughey recently posted…The forgotten Faroe IslandsMy Profile

    • Yes, you are VERY lucky! I hope we can travel more with our kids! Public transportation is definitely easier to use in some parts of the world, I’m sure. Thank you so much for coming by, Karan, and I’ll be sure to check out your blog!

  5. This is a great way to save money! Thanks for sharing with Hump Day Happenings.
    Jenna @ A Savory Feast recently posted…Ultimate Chicken & Avocado SandwichMy Profile

  6. Ha ha ha! This made me laugh because it sounds just like the business trip to Dallas my husband had, which I got to come along to. The train and bus system is really pretty good there, but we were trying to find a particular church to attend on the Sunday we were there, and we rode around and walked for about 3 hours and never found it! It’s all an adventure though, right?
    Made From Pinterest recently posted…Share It Thursday #55My Profile

    • That is the greatest thing about traveling. Sometimes you get lost and then have a ton more fun, and at least we both got great stories! Thanks for popping over!

  7. Kelly says:

    When my husband and I go to visit Las Vegas we always take a shuttle to the hotel and get a 3 day plus bus pass to get up and down the strip easier or even to get us down to Old Vegas aka Fremont Street. Or when we visit DC we’ll stay on the out skirts of the area and take the metro into and out of DC. 🙂

    • It’s definitely worth it in those big cities where transportation is pretty good and you’ll be staying around the city. Thanks for your input, Kelly!

  8. Public transportation is awesome, the first time I decided to visit Seattle I stayed in a certain radius near my hotel because I didn’t plan ahead when it came to transportation and we didn’t have a car. Fast forward, I now recommend public transportation and offer tips to people traveling to Seattle. But also like you said, there are some cons to taking the bus.
    Orca Card Seattle recently posted…Pierce Transit Route 1: Spanaway to TCC Transit CenterMy Profile

  9. What a great post! Love these saving money tips. We love saving money because saving money means more travel! 🙂 Talk about a win/win!


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