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Golden Gate Bridge

How I Got A Free Mini Trip To California



Back in September I went to California for a day. I went for about 7 hours to be exact. It was short but sweet. San Francisco was the lucky city and I was able to hit up Pier 39 and chill on a beach with a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Actually…. here’s the exact view I had.


Golden Gate Bridge Beach


Beautiful, right? Definitely worth the short trip there. Especially since the view is priceless and the trip was free. Okay… not totally free. I had to pay for a bus ticket, the Uber to the beach and I also grabbed a bottle of Mountain Dew while I was there. But still… the view is worth more than the I spent.


How’d I get it for free?

I had a 7 hour layover in San Francisco on my way back from China.

Yup… you know those things you hate? Sitting around waiting for the plane to get there? If they’re over about 4 hours…. I love them.

So many people don’t realize that you don’t HAVE to sit in the airport during your layover. As long as you make it back in time to go back through security (remember that customs can take a lot longer) and get on the plane…. the airport doesn’t care. That’s why when I booked my trip to China, I was ecstatic to have my layover.


Because think about it….

There’s two choices:

  1. You can fly straight to your destination.
  2. You can stop somewhere – or possibly even multiple places – on the way there.

Both cost the exact same. And not all layovers are as short as mine was. I’ve seen layovers in Miami last 24 hours and WOW Air has layovers in Iceland for up to 7 days. So why get one destination in, when you can see more?


Related: WOW Air: How to Get Two Flights for the Price of One


The pros of layovers:

  • Layovers don’t cost you extra for the plane ticket.

I paid $0 extra for my ticket to San Fransisco. $0. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

  • You get to see more of the world.

If you’re a huge travel addict like me, chances are you’re going to go everywhere eventually anyways… so why not go for free while you can? Plus, it’s funny to see non-traveler’s faces whenever I say something like “Yeah, I went to China and California last week.”

  • It can give you a chance to grab something to eat with family and friends around the world.

The beautiful thing about flying to Europe is that there’s typically ALWAYS  a layover for me in New York – AKA where my best friend lives. So anytime a layover is enough time to grab a train to the city, she knows I’ll be giving her a call!


The cons of layovers:

  • You have to bring your carry on along with you during your layover.

This is #1 to remember. When I was in San Francisco, I ended up rolling my carry on along throughout the whole city. Yes… even the beach. It was kind of a bitch to be honest, but you learn from your mistakes!

  • You have a chance of missing your flight.

If you’re bad with time…. this might not be the best option for you. Rushing to the airport to catch your next flight is definitely a chance you may take. I was BOOKING it to the airport. Especially since I took Uber Pool and had to wait for the driver to pick other people up. BUT HEY! That’s the beauty of the travel life!

  • It requires an extra day of planning/vacation time.

I know the life…. you may only have one or two weeks vacation at work (heck… if that). Having to take an extra day off work may cost you a day’s worth of pay. This can be a tough choice to make depending on what’s going on in your life at the time.


My tips:

  • Use a backpack as a carry on!

Like I said, I learned from my mistake. If I know I’ll be going to a city for a layover, I’ll be packing everything into a backpack. Because carrying around a backpack is more convenient than rolling around a big carry on. Also, I suggest a backpack with a lock or something secure so no one tries taking anything out of it when you’re not looking!

  • Always give yourself extra time to get back to the airport. 

Even if you think you’ll be fine…. pretend you’re about to miss your flight. Missing out on your final destination isn’t worth it for a short layover.

  • Watch the times of your layover.

You don’t want a layover during the time you’re usually sleeping. You’ll either end up sleeping in the city and miss out on the point of the layover or you’ll stay up all night and feel miserable once you finally get to your next destination. Trust me, you don’t want to do that to yourself.

  • Make sure the layover is long enough.

A 7 hour layover was plenty to get to the other side of San Francisco, but what if my layover had been in Beijing? Would 7 hours be enough to go see the Great Wall of China? With the Great Wall being an hour and a half away from the Beijing airport (so 3 hours both ways), 7 hours would be pushing it if you want to walk a good distance of the wall and still have some extra time to get to the airport before your flight.


What all was I able to do during my layover?

A day in a city doesn’t seem like much but it’s always better than a day sitting in the office at home, am I right?

My short time in San Fran was great. I started off grabbing a ticket on the bus that led me straight to downtown. From there, I walked to the Pier – super easy walk. The time frame aloud me to walk the entire Pier (not just Pier 39)! Throughout the walk there was a nice view of the water along with little bits of art like this sculpture here:


San Fransisco Sculpture


I didn’t spend much time in shops throughout the walk. I focused mainly on checking out the views of the water because I knew all the good stuff was toward the end of the Pier. Once I got down to Pier 39, I started checking out the little shops. There was TONS of restaurants and different places to check out on Pier 39.


Pier 39 San Fran


There’s even a place where you can sit and watch a crap ton of seals just chillin’ and sleeping in their natural habitat. It actually amazes me how many of them there are in one spot.


Seals Pier 39 San Fransisco


After I decided I had sat and watched the seals long enough, I grabbed an Uber to the Golden Gate Bridge. I took a drive to the other side of the bridge so I could have a good view of the bridge AND the city at the same time – along with chillin’ on the beach. When I first got to the bridge, it was foggy and cloudy. It was almost hard to see the city from where I was. But within an hour, everything had cleared up perfect. Since it took me a bit to get to the beach, it worked out in my favor.

It was beautiful.


Golden Gate Bridge


……and it was also windy.


Windy Golden Gate Bridge


But more beautiful than windy.


Golden Gate Bridge


Want to know how I got to this spot? I’ll be writing a detailed explanation about it… Check back soon!


To wrap it up….


They are basically free day vacations!


Have you taken advantage of layovers before? Tell us your story in the comments below!



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