US California Trip (May 2017) – San Francisco Day 1 (GoCar & Pier 45)

We arrived in SFO bright and early at 9am on a Thurs (gained a day after having also departed at 9am on a Thurs woohoo!) Check out our post on how we survived our 15 hour flight with the kids here.

 
We breezed through immigration quite easily but ended up waiting quite abit for our transfer from airport to hotel. There were several options like airport shuttles to city hotels that charge on a per pax basis and honestly may have been faster, given that we waited 30 mins for our driver. However we didn’t know if the kids would be cranky after a long flight and whether we needed to deal with tantrums so we had preferred to pay slightly more for an option with a meet and greet service. We paid about USD110 or so for a meet and greet service that would chauffeur the 4 of us plus our 3 big suitcases in a huge MPV and send us directly to our hotel.

 
We arrived at our hotel (Hyatt Centric @ Fisherman Wharf) at 11am. Our room was ready shortly after our arrival (normal check in time is 3pm) but we decided not to bother freshening up in case we procrastinated and got too tempted by the beds. We headed straight for our planned activity which was just a 3 min walk away – GoCar.

 
We had pre-booked a 2 hour tour slot with GoCar, it is essentially a self drive tour using a 2-seater scooter car which was fitted with a GPS that will guide you along the route and give you a commentary of the sights on the route. There are options ranging between 1 hour to half a day but we chose 2 hours as we figured it was bearable for the kids and would be just enough to take them to nap time.

This was taken by Jah while I was driving!

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The pre-briefing – I promise I was not sleeping

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The kids totally enjoyed the novel experience of the ride and were happily pointing out the sights and views. Less ideal for the parents because we were focusing on driving the Go Car and ensuring that we were driving on the correct side of the road!

 
The GPS worked fine for us, up till our half way point at the Golden Gate Bridge and then it kind of all went downhill from there. (No pun intended) After a few detours because several roads were closed on the route and we couldn’t follow where the GPS wanted us to go. We found ourselves on the ‘fringes’ of the demarcated route which also meant that the GPS would stop working as it was no longer within ‘the zone’. By that time, we were past over our 2 hour tour time (which meant incurring extra charges on a per minute basis!!!) We were essentially circling round and round and the adults started to panic as we noticed that we were getting on busier roads with faster cars and no longer recognise a lot of the road names. To be fair we were given a hard copy map to use if the GPS should fail us but it was impossible for me to drive and read the map at the same time and my 6 year old passenger wasn’t much help at that point. Thankfully we had set up our mobile wifi by then and Joel reminded me that I could use my handphone GPS to navigate us back. Phew! We got back to the pit stop at 230pm (30 mins late) and the staff was nice enough to waive the extra time incurred because they realised that there truly were a lot of road closures that day.

It was truly a nail biting experience for us haha and a true test for any marriage I tell you!

We had a quick lunch at the Codmother (a fish and chip food truck) across from our hotel and proceeded to our room for a much much needed nap.

We dragged the kids up after a 2 hour nap and trust me it was an almost impossible feat but we had to make sure that we got dinner in those tummies and that everyone quickly adjusted to the US time zone.

Our hotel was located in the touristy Fisherman Wharf area close to Pier 45 so we took a slow walk down towards Pier 39 and found ourselves at the Crab House for a seafood dinner and a glorious sunset at 8pm!

The kids entertained themselves with carousels rides and a 7D shooting game at the pier after dinner. We had quite the blast before heading back to our hotel at 10pm. The kids definitely didn’t want their night to end but we decided to call it a night as most places were closing for the day and the adults needed their sleep. :p

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It was an awesome Day 1 to our much anticipated trip.

More on our trip coming up! ­čÖé

  1. How we survived flying 15 hours with the kids and coped with jetlag

Tips when booking on AirBnb

We have stayed at a few Airbnb homes over the last couple of years and most have been absolutely lovely. I basically scour the Airbnb portal for something in the area I want, at the price range I’m comfortable with and most photos are exactly as the house is (unlike some hotel photos shown on websites) so I know exactly what I’m getting. My main criteria is usually to ensure that the house is child friendly with toys for the kids so that I don’t have to pack to much of our own and know that the kids will still be entertained when we are at ‘home’.




However I am starting to realise (especially during our recent trip) that there are actually a few things which I should be looking out for when shortlisting my options apart from just looking at the area, price range and how child friendly the place is. So here are some things I would definitely start looking out/ taking note before I make my future bookings.

1) Look at the security deposit amount

When shortlisting or deciding on a listing, don’t just look at the per night rate or the total price (inclusive of service charge and cleaning fee). Take note of the security deposit amount that you might potentially have to pay if there are any damages or ‘disagreements’. The amount varies from listing to listing (decided by the owner) and is not charged upfront. It is held by Airbnb as a middleman unless and until the owner decides to claim against it then Airbnb would inform you on the claimed amount and get your agreement to deduct it from your card. While we don’t expect to damage anything when we lease a place, you might think twice or it might help you to decide between two listings if one was requesting for an extremely high security deposit (higher risk I suppose?)

2) Read the listing carefully and ask all your questions before committing

Just because your previous experience with a listing in a particular country had a hairdryer, a washer, a dryer, a heater etc, doesn’t mean it is a standard issue for all listings so make sure you ask. Dryers and heaters are a must in winter in my opinion and make sure you find out how many heaters there are, especially if there are several rooms in the house. You know what you need in order for your family to live comfortably so don’t feel shy to ask those questions.

3) Gauge the responsiveness

While it helps to read the reviews, I realise that the level of responsiveness of the host is normally quite a good indication of their commitment or ‘service level’. Also if you are having trouble contacting the host and it is less than 48 hours to your confirmed booking, you can reach out to Airbnb for their help. They will attempt to contact the host (which works wonders) or help with a rebooking if the host fails to respond. Note that is partly what you are paying Airbnb a service charge for.

4) House rules are important

Yes it is important to adhere to the house rules so that you won’t lose your security deposit but they are important not just for that reason. While it might be a pain to see a long list of house rules (what not to do, when to take out the rubbish, what to do before you leave and the list goes on). I generally found that the listings with more elaborate house rules were in better condition and were nicer places to live in while you basically just feel your way around those that were very laxed about their rules.

So yes we have had some awesome experiences and some not that great experiences on Airbnb. Will we continue booking through them? Yes probably, depending on the country we are heading to. Honestly some countries are more conducive for Airbnb while we are better off at hotels for some others. But I will definitely be referring to the above ‘tips’ for my future bookings. Hope they come in handy for you too ­čÖé

JahBella’s Mummy