For our last holiday this year, we planned a round trip through California 🙂 Although we have been to California several times, there are still so many places we wanted to explore together. And so our 14-day trip starts on a rather rainy Sunday morning at the airport in Frankfurt. From here we went with WOW air with a short stopover in Reykjavik to San Francisco.
Table of contents
Our travel plans for California
For our 2 weeks in California we have put together a beautiful self-driving route that includes city sightseeing as well as shopping and magnificent nature. Our start is San Francisco, where we have 3 full days to explore the city with all its sights. From San Francisco we continue with a rental car to Sacramento, the capital of California. From here it is about 190 kilometers to the beautiful Lake Tahoe. Along U.S. Highway 395, we drive over the 3,000 meters high Tioga Pass to Yosemite National Parkbefore heading back to the Pacific coast for Monterey Bay. Here is a Whale Watching Tour, 7 Miles Drive and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium on our list. The last part of the journey takes us along the Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1) with a stop at Hearst Castle to Los Angeles. All in all a beautiful route with a total length of approx. 1,500 kilometers 🙂
Our flight from Frankfurt to Reykjavik
The flight from Frankfurt to Iceland lasted about 4 hours and actually passed as if in flight. We slept a bit and watched a movie and we had already reached our intermediate destination Reykjavik.
Things to know about WOW air
WOW air is an Icelandic low-cost airline based in Reykjavik, Iceland. The airline was founded in November 2011 by the entrepreneur Skéli Mogensen and is still in its sole possession. WOW air currently flies from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik to 37 destinations in Europe, North America and Asia. The first flight took place on 31 May 2012 from Reykjavik to Paris.
ON its website, WOW air mainly offers cheap flights to Iceland (starting at 49 euros) and also to North America (from 119 euros). Furthermore, the airline is characterized by a very young aircraft fleet as well as the distinctive branding. The current fleet includes 20 Airbus aircraft (3 Airbus A320, 14 Airbus A321 and 3 Airbus A330).
The route network of WOW air
WOW air flies from Keflavik Airport to numerous destinations in Europe, Israel and India as well as several cities in North America. Berlin-Schönefeld, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main and Salzburg are served in German-speaking countries. In North America New York, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
The different booking classes
WOW air currently has 4 different booking classes,which can be selected according to your wishes and your own needs:
WOW basic is the cheapest and easiest flight ticket. Only a personal item (maximum 42 x 32 x 25 cm size) up to 10 kg is included in the price.
WOW plus is the fare, which includes an additional 1 piece of hand baggage (12 kg), 1 checked bag (20 kg) and a standard seat selection.
WOW comfy offers additional cancellation protection as well as a seat reservation. In this fare there is the best available space with more legroom (XL seat).
WOW premium includes 2 checked bags, one BigSeat (seat distance more than 94 cm), priority check-in (at various airports), meals on board and no change fee.
If the suitcases are overweight, the charge for checked excess baggage per kilo is 16.39 euros. At best, this should be avoided. However, since you can store a lot of hand luggage (up to 10 or 12 kg), we have also seen many people at the airport who have repackaged something directly at the counter to save money.
Our tickets were issued in the WOW comfy fare, which means we were able to choose our seats in advance and each had seats with a very large seat spacing. On Top we had a free meal on board.
Entertainment, Food & Legroom
Unfortunately, there is no in-flight entertainmenton the flights, no WiFi access or amenities such as pillows or blankets. Only on long-haul flights to North America can you rent an iPad on board for a fee of 25 USD, on which there are plenty of movies. On almost all flights, there are flexible power connections on the seats, so you can easily use your own tablet or laptop during the flight and always charge.
For this, the legroom of our XXL seatswas magnificent ! We can’t remember ever having had so much space on our legs on a plane. There is also enough space to push our backpacks under the front seat and still have space. Really great! Unfortunately, however, it has to be said that the seats were a bit hard and therefore uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there were also no adjustable headrests, but adjustable backrests. So our decision to take our own pillows on the plane was the right 🙂
Here is an overview of the different types of seats on board WOW air:
Standard – rear seats in the aircraft and in the middle row (seat distance from 73 to 76 cm)
Standard+ – seats in front of the aircraft and in the front area of the window row (seat distance from 73 to 76 cm)
Standard seat XL – seat spacing from 81 to 84 cm
Standard seat XXL – seat spacing more than 89 cm
BigSeat – The most comfortable and luxurious seat. It is particularly wide and has a seat spacing of 94 cm
The food is usually not included in the price (except in the WOW premium fare), which means that it is best to bring yourself something to eat or buy it on the plane. There is also the possibility to pre-order food online – the things that are offered here in advance are completely different and also look really tasty. For example, there is Caesar salad, chicken, vegan falafel, noodles and much more.
Our flight from Reykjavik to San Francisco
After a really very short stopover of only one hour at the airport in Reykjavik, our flight went straight on to San Francisco. We just had time to buy something in a small kiosk in the airport before boarding started again 🙂
The flight from Iceland to San Francisco lasted about 9 hours. We spent the time watching movies, eating and sleeping. Probably the most spectacular thing about the whole flight was the overflight from Greenland – what a view!
With WOW air to the USA – our conclusion
Overall we had a very good flight to the USA. If you are looking for a cheap flight and can do without all amenities (entertainment, drinks, food, pillows, blanketetc etc.), WOW air is a great alternative to the usual airlines. The stop in Reykjavik is usually very short, so you don’t lose as much time due to waiting at the airport.
For those who still want to afford one or the other delicacies on board, this can of course also be done at WOW air for additional costs. We found it a bit of a pity that there was not a single TV in the whole plane. The missing screen on the seat can be easily compensated with your own laptop, tablet or smartphone. But we missed a general TV that shows where you are on the route or how long you are still flying. So if you want to know how long you are still on the road, you should definitely look at your own watch beforehand 🙂
In summary, we can say about our flight with WOW air:Cheap basic price (you really only pay what you really need)
Possibility to make a great (possibly also multi-day) stopover in Iceland
New aircraft fleet
A long flight to the USA can be comfortably shared by the stopover in Iceland and so the legs are represented at Keflavik airport
Prices for drinks are perfectly fine (e.g. a bottle of water or a can of Pepsi costs 2.69 euros)
Rather hard, uncomfortable seats
No entertainment or flight information on board
How to get from San Francisco Airport to downtown?
When we landed in San Francisco, it took us about an hour to get through immigration. Especially when several machines arrive at the same time, the queue at the switches can become really long. After we had arrived and picked up our suitcases, we had to come from San Francisco airport to the city center, which is located about 20 kilometers to the north.
We had already looked at the various options that can be used:
(1) Car rental: You rent a car and – depending on the traffic conditions – you can be in the city center in 30 to 45 minutes. However, parking in San Francisco is incredibly expensive. This is usually (depending on the location) 30 to 50 USD per day. This should definitely be taken into account beforehand.
(2) Uber or Lyft: In the founding city of Uber and Lyft, you can of course also use these ride-sharing services. Costs start at about 26 USD upwards.
(3) BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit): The combined metro/s-bahn system connecting the largest towns in the San Francisco Bay Area also connects downtown. However, you must first use the Airtrain to get to the BART stop. The cost per ticket is about USD 9 and the journey time to Powell Street, for example, is about 30 minutes.
(4) Taxi: With the “quite normal” taxi – depending on the traffic situation – you need about 30 minutes to the city center. The cost is between 50 and 75 USD.
(5) Shuttle: SuperShuttle or GO Airport Shuttle are taxi services that carry several people at the same time. The advantage is the price (18 USD per person) and that you can be sold right outside the hotel door. The disadvantage for this is the correspondingly longer duration, as each of the 6 to 7 passengers is left out at its individual destination. Depending on the location of his hotel, this can take a while.
Normally, we always like to use public transport from the airport. But since it was already quite late and we didn’t want to wander through half the city with our suitcases, this time we decided for the provider SuperShuttle, who dropped us off at around 9 pm directly in front of our hotel.
Our Comfort Inn By the Bay Hotel in San Francisco
We really had a lot of trouble finding a hotel for our time in San Francisco.
The reason for this was the conference “Oracle OpenWorld 2018”which was held at the same time as our visit, which attracted numerous visitors to the city and therefore makes the hotel prices three times as expensive as usual. San Francisco is an expensive city in itself, but it’s really outrageous when it comes to trade fair times. Even the simplest motels with only one star cost well over 150 USD per night! The prices for a really good hotel, for example, over Booking.com were 600 to 800 USD for our period … per night. With 4 nights we had planned for San Francisco, it would simply not have been sustainable and who would like to spend so much money on a simple overnight stay ???
After a long search, we decided on the Hotel Comfort Inn by the Bay. With 3 stars, it’s actually a standard hotel with an average rating on Tripadvisor. And even here we had an overnight stay incl. Breakfast still costatolls 310 euros per night!
The hotel is located right at the intersection of Lombard Street and the great Van Nees Avenue. The famous section of Lombard Street is only 3 blocks away (though steeply up). There is also a stop on the cable car route “Powell – Hyde”. Fisherman’s Wharf is about a 20-minute walk away. The area around the hotel has very little to offer. There are a few small restaurants and 2 small supermarkets.
Our room on the 7th floor was facing Lombard Street, one of the main connections to the Golden Gate Bridge. Accordingly, there is always a lot of traffic here. And since the windows are anything but soundproofed, it can also get quite loud. The air conditioning, which was installed under the window in the wall to the street, reinforced the whole thing once again. The only good thing was that we had a direct view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Almost all rooms have connecting doors to the adjoining rooms. As a result, we heard our room neighbours talking from 6 a.m…. if someone next door showers or hair-haired, the night’s sleep is unfortunately quickly over. Since a quiet room (besides the cleanliness) is one of our main criteria for a relaxing stay on holiday, this is really a huge minus point.
The room itself has a good size, so there was enough space for our two large suitcases. The free WiFi worked great and the beds were also very comfortable. Why the shower head (as so often in America) is mounted in the bathtub at a height of 1.50 meters, remains a mystery to us to this day. We may not have got behind it yet, but how can we wash your hair sensibly? Do you know this or have you understood why? The hotel offers a free breakfast right next to the lobby, which is also really ok for American conditions. Toast, muffins, bagels, jam, a waffle iron, scrambled eggs, sometimes bacon or ham, coffee, jog yurt, cornflakes and even fresh fruit such as bananas and apples. However, if the hotel is fully booked – as in our time – it is not so easy to find a free space in the breakfast room. We therefore had to eat twice in the lobby.
On a scale of 1 to 5 we would give the hotel 2 to a maximum of 3 out of 5 points. Just a normal mid-range hotel. However, we must also include in our evaluation the price we had to pay for the hotel. And for more than 300 euros per night, there can only be one point in total!
In the next reports we will take you on our 1,500 kilometer journey through California 🙂
All travelogues from California (2018)For our 2 weeks in California we have put together a nice self-drive route, which includes city sightseeing as well as shopping and great nature. Our start is in San Francisco and from there we continue with a rental car to Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Along the U.S. Highway 395 we drive over the 3,000 meter high Tioga Pass to Yosemite National Park before we head back towards the Pacific coast to Monterey Bay. The last part of the journey takes us along the Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1) to Los Angeles. All in all a nice route (see Google Maps) with a total length of about 1.500 kilometers 🙂
San Francisco: 2 weeks in California – Travel planning & our flight with WOW air
San Francisco: Tourist Attractions, Things to do & Photo spots
San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – Things to know & Photo spots
San Francisco: Alcatraz – Our travel guide for the prison island in San Francisco
San Francisco: Muir Woods – A visit of the Coastal Sequoia Trees in California
San Francisco: Cable Car – Travel Guide for the famous tram in San Francisco
Sacramento: Tourist Attractions & Things to do in the Old Town
Lake Tahoe: Tourist Attractions & the most beautiful photo spots
Bodie Town: The most beautiful ghost town in California
Yosemite Nationalpark: Things to know & Tioga Pass
Yosemite Nationalpark: Mariposa Grove & the Grizzly Giant
Yosemite Nationalpark: Glacier Point & the Yosemite Valley
Monterey Bay: Whale Watching with Discovery Whale Watch
Monterey Bay: The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Cannery Row
Monterey Bay: 17-Mile Drive – Travel Guide, Things to Do & beautiful photo spots
Highway 1: The Scenic drive between Monterey and Los Angeles
Highway 1: Hearst Castle – The castle on the Pacific Coast Highway
Los Angeles: 3 famous Instagram photo spots in Los Angeles