Having lived in San Francisco for over 5 years, I wanted to evaluate what I love and what I dislike about the city as my travel base.
It’s an awesome city
One thing I always try to do is to live somewhere I’d like to vacation. For me, San Francisco is absolutely that. When I’m leaving an amazing trip, I rarely think, “Oh no, I have to go back home!” Instead, something I like about having San Francisco as my travel base is that it’s a city I like (sometimes love) and a destination I’d want to visit.
This makes travel much more enjoyable.
Great travel to Mexico, Hawaii, Asia, Alaska, and Australia
While New York City certainly has many advantages over San Francisco as a travel base, it’s much easier to travel to Mexico, Hawaii, Asia, Alaska, and Australia from San Francisco than it is from almost anywhere else in the country. Some may say Mexico is easier from New York, but this is really only true with Cancun/Tulum/the Yucatan. For travel to Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, Mazatlan, and almost every other destination in Mexico, San Francisco is closer, faster, usually cheaper, and has direct flights.
I really love having Hawaii less than 6 hours away. While it’s not an easy flight, the time difference between San Francisco and Hawaii makes it possible to take long (or even regular) weekends there. Generally, if you leave SFO Friday night, you’ll arrive in Hawaii in time for Friday dinner, and then if you leave at, say, 11pm on a Sunday, you’ll get home in time for work on Monday – something I’ve taken advantage of.
Also, while I love Europe, I am more geographically connected to Asia and Oceania, having lived on Guam prior to San Francisco. So, I really enjoying living in a hub with so many direct flights to Asia, Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland.
It’s also really cool being around 6 hours away from Alaska, which is something I’m finally going to take advantage of this year.
United/Star Aliiance Hub
Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with United, which tends to swing more heavily on the latter. That being said, of the 3 major U.S. airlines, United by far has the best mileage redemption program. Additionally, the Star Alliance has significantly more destinations than any of the other alliances, which I’ve found to be incredibly valuable while traveling the world.
3 airports (SFO, SJC, and OAK)
San Francisco has 3 airports which are close enough to fly out of, although San Jose can take about 1.5 hours to get to. Oakland Airport is a quick BART ride from the city (and I think it’s technically closer to San Francisco proper than SFO), and SFO is a breeze to get to.
Oakland brings with it a lot of great deals, particularly with Norwegian flying into/out of it. I haven’t flown from San Jose in a while, though I’m constantly seeing deals coming out of it, particularly with direct flights to Hawaii. Having 3 different airports to choose from is awesome.
Europe is too far away
It takes over 10 hours to fly direct from SFO to London, and that sucks. While San Francisco has direct flights to many European destination, such as Amsterdam, Paris, London, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Zurich, and Frankfurt, it’s just harder to get to.
The time difference between Europe and Pacific Time is also more substantial, making remote work a bit more difficult.
Not enough direct flights
One area of travel where NYC clearly has San Francisco beat is how many direct flights originate from NYC. From NYC, you can take direct flights to places all over Central and South America (like Buenos Aires, Rio, and Guatemala), whereas there are no direct flights from San Francisco.
This is getting a bit easier with Copa’s direct service from SFO to Panama, which is usually fairly reasonable and Avianca’s direct service to San Salvador. But still, San Francisco could use a little more direct service.
Far from the Caribbean
Perhaps this is because I’m a few hours away from catching a red-eye flight to a Caribbean beach (Caye Caulker, Belize), but it’s not ideal being 5-10 hours away from the Caribbean.
The only direct flight from San Francisco to the Caribbean is to Cancun, which clocks in at just over 5 hours. While having Hawaii “close” is awesome, the beaches sometimes can’t compare to the turquoise-tropical beaches which are so easy to get to from NYC.
The above is hardly an exhaustive list and please feel free to weigh in on what you think the pros and cons are of using your city as a travel hub!