What would you do during a 10-hour layover at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) with two young children?
10-Hour SFO Layover
As much as I love flying nonstop, sometimes taking advantage of particularly attractive fare requires a connection and/or an extended the layover. That is the case for an upcoming family trip via SFO.
I’ll arrive around 10am and leave around 8pm, meaning a ten-hour layover there with a one-year-old and four-year-old.
The way I see it, my options include:
- Day room at the Grand Hyatt SFO for $159 plus tax
- Hanging out in the United Club all day
- Going into San Francisco for the day
- Same-day change to a later flight (unlikely, due to full loads)
I lean toward the hotel room or the United Club (with frequent trips through the terminal with my son to watch airplanes land and takeoff). If money were no object, I’d just book the hotel room either way, but I also don’t want to sleep all day before boarding a long overnight flight.
I’m also not sure that $159 is well-spent when I’ll take a shower at home before the flight, the hotel lounge will be closed, and I can lounge hop in the airport. As much as I’d like to be able to workout, that’s a darn expensive workout!
I love San Francisco and ordinarily would love to go into the City. I can use BART, Uber, or even rent a car. My son would love to ride the cable car and the weather looks pleasant.
But then what? Toting around a one-year-old isn’t exactly easy and what about our carry-on bags if we don’t hire a car?
So I lean toward a long day in the lounge and in the terminal (there are far worse airports than SFO for long layovers…) and maybe lunch and dinner at the Priority Pass restaurants in the terminal.
Still, I wanted to lay out my predicament and ask for your input.
Let me know what you’d do if you were in my shoes…
@ Matthew — No Brainer — Grand Hyatt SFO.
International Terminal G (connected post-security to United Terminal 3) has an outdoor observation deck that’s pretty nice. It’s an option for getting some fresh air & planespotting.
Have to agree. Especially if you can get a runway view, then you might not even need to take your son through the terminal, just hang out by the window with their plane spotting guide and binoculars.
You know these United Clubs just as good as any of us. However, I couldn’t see myself sitting 10 hours in a UC. Even the Centurion Lounge for 10 hours would be pushing it.
Agreed. I spend a couple of long layovers in the Centurion lounge but that was when I was flying solo — and it wasn’t 10 hours. With the kids, the Hyatt seems to be the way to go.
Since going into the city isn’t an option for you…
Go to the observation deck at Concourse G in the international terminal, otherwise I would just grab lunch at Yankee Pier (with Priority Pass) and sit at the Centurion Lounge or United Club.
If you want to lounge hop, Air France’s lounge in Concourse A has reopened I believe. Food was generally better than United’s but the lounge itself isn’t great imo.
Don’t do BART with kids… not with the roulette wheel of characters currently on it.
Renting a car for Pacifica or Half Moon Bay could be nice, so could pushing a stroller in Golden Gate Park or along the Great Highway beaches
Before a long overnight get the hotel room, it is better than the club as your kids can run around more and you don’t need to worry about them disturbing others (they can run around a little more) then you have a good place for them to take a nap. For that long of a layover for myself I would do that day rate.
It depends on the day of the week. Parking is easy on Sunday, and fairly easy on Saturday. Could be a good use of a free National rental day. Plus you could drive up to Twin Peaks and maybe even head to the beach for a little bit.
Unless you’re wrangling family/ go to the city.
Alternatively, Uber Lyft or hire a car and head down to the San Carlos airport to have lunch adjoining the ramp, then tour the Hiller Aviation Museum. Nice front cabin/cockpit/upper deck of a former UA 747-100 there.
Grand Hyatt SFO as your base AND go in to the city.
I second this. Take Uber or Lyft into the city, and go sightseeing. Don’t rent a car – it’s too expensive nowadays and going into/out of the rental car building takes too much of your free time.
And with two toddlers, you need a room as a base so you can drop your carry-on bags, and you can rest and freshen up before your next flight.
Rent a car and go to someplace interesting, Mystery Spot, beach, or some redwoods parks. You’ll have around 4 hours of enjoyment for the kids if you consider the logistics. Plus you will have storage space for your luggage.
You can still have a great time in the city! Consider exploring Japantown for a bit. There are so many fun things to do there. As for your bags, you might still want a hotel room in the city for when your kids need a nap or a breather.
I think your plan of getting a day room at the Grand Hyatt (or a nearby hotel) to allow for a place to relax, take a nap, and have a base when you’re tired seems like the best option. It’s hard to predict how the day will go and there’s no point with the family being exhausted before an overnight flight.
You might consider taking a Lyft/Uber over to Coyote Point Recreation Area (or staying at a nearby hotel there) versus going into San Francisco. It’s just south of the airport with several excellent playgrounds, picnic tables, and also excellent plane watching. It’s a great place to stretch your legs, let the kids play a bit, and will be a bit more relaxed than trekking into the city.
Half Moon Bay, lunch, and a long walk on the trail along the beach.
As well, this would be a fantastic series to run in LALF. “10 Hours in…”
Leisurely lunch at the French Laundry followed by a wine tasting in Napa valley
Pretty sure they serve Sysco dinosaur nuggets on their kids menu.
The French Laundry restaurant is at least two hours north of SFO and that’s with no traffic. Add in the time to get the rental car, and to return it and get back to the terminal. Also, bring serious money, like, $200 per person for LUNCH. So five and a half hours to and from, two hours to eat … doesn’t leave much time. (Though the drive is pretty.)
I would take BART into the city and explore. It’s a two-stop ride on the airport’s train system from United. Ride the historic streetcars, walk along the waterfront. I personally do not use ride share services and they would only get stuck in traffic anyway (and they are contributing mightily to the traffic congestion in San Francisco).
I think he was joking.
The 500 mile San Francisco Bay trail goes near numerous hotels near the airport and offers an outdoor experience for you and the littles. Hotels may be cheaper than the Hyatt as well. Examples include the Sonesta and the AC Hotel by Marriott Oyster Point.
Sounds like you saved a lot in airfare by doing this? Why not out some of those savings to your hotel?
10 hours a long time after first flight. I assume you’ll be tired after waking up bloody early for the first flight? Definitely wouldn’t do the lounge if me. I’d head to the nearest big park (maybe Uber) and kick a soccer ball around, play in a playground. Then have a long lunch and maybe then head back to lounge. Keeping wife happy the main thing lolllll. Assume you have a flat bed awaiting at 8pm? Hopefully one year old takes big nap around midday. Could even split at that point. One person sits with 1yo in park other parent takes 4yo on an adventure. Then rendezvous to head back to airport.
Regardless who actually coined it, it’s true:
Bayfront Park runs up against the Marriott, which I think has a shuttle. You can do some relaxing outdoor plane spotting and get Starbucks etc. You can also get a runway-facing room for the day
Number One choice for SFO airplane watching!!!!! Junction for all 4 runways
This a fun kids museum not too far from the airport. Could be a fun half day.
Then spend the rest of the day in the lounge or observation deck.
Poop in the street like a native.
If a nice day, hire a car and visit the pocket beaches and beach towns on the peninsula. Can be there in 1/2 hr or so. If we’re an acquaintance of mine I would say swing by.
Get the hotel room. Use it to store your bags. Then get an Uber to Salesforce Park in downtown San Francisco. Take the kids for a walk and/or stroller ride around the entire park. There are kid play areas in the park and board games that you can play on the many tables there. Grab something to eat there (if open). Or, go to the Ferry Building for something to eat. This activity should only take a couple of hours at most. Return to your hotel room for a rest and shower. Then, board your next flight.
There is no one good answer. The United Club would start to get boring. Besides, I see it as an unnecessary Covid risk for a nearly 10 hour stay.
I recommend a hotel plus San Francisco trip if possible. When I say “San Francisco” it could also mean
1. Hiller Aviation Museum. I have not been there so my knowledge is based on the internet only.
2. cable car ride
3. view of San Francisco from Treasure Island (rental car is the best way)
4. a lobster by the Westin/Aloft/Sixt. I think it’s the New England Lobster and Market, Burlingame, CA.
There’s luggage storage in the landside of the International Terminal. It’s some store front. You can store a carry on bag there and possibly snap a lock on it to reduce the chance of sticky fingers but not really a criminal hell bent on stealing.
Rent a car and take the kids to the Exploratorium. Burn off some energy at Crissy Field with a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
This, but take BART then walk from the Embarcadero stop. It’s a really nice walk along the piers, and if the kid get tired, you can jump on the muni car. Then Uber back to SFO.
Why not just rent a car to get downtown, leave the luggage in the trunk, do fun stuff downtown and have your oldest burn off a little energy? That shouldn’t cost more than the day room and if the weather looks bad you can cancel the rental and go with plan b.
How UBER or LYFT to Downtown Burlingame. It’s a nice downtown area and kid friendly.
There’s also another observation deck in T2 (called the SkyTerrace). Great views as well!
I’d eat at one of the two Priority Pass restaurants first, then go get a hotel and relax or nap and then eat at the other Priority Pass restaurant before flying out. LOL.
Option 1 – if your kids are good in the car, rent a car and drive somewhere where Augustine can burn off some energy but that’s easy enough to push around a stroller. GG Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pacifica or Half Moon Bay beaches, etc. Then when it’s nap time, strap them in and drive around while they snooze.
Option 2 – if you can’t get a car and/or your kids don’t do so well on the road, get the day room at the GH. You’ll thank yourself at nap time when you’ll have a nice bed for them to lay down in, a private bathroom to get them changed, etc.. Take the Westin/Aloft/Marriott shuttle to have lunch or dinner at New England Lobster Market and then planespot with Augustine at Bayfront Park.
San Franciscan here! Do you have a stroller for the 1 year old? If so, here’s what I would do:
– Grab BART — kids love it — and ride to Glen Park. It’s the second stop in the city, and is a very cute neighborhood.
– Leave the station and pop into La Corneta (taqueria) or Canyon Market (fancy grocery) and pick up some food for the family and wine for the adults
– Walk a few blocks down Chenery Street to Glen Canyon Park, SF’s least well known treasure. There’s a huge recently renovated playground for the kids, accessible trails to explore, and fun family times.
– After a few hours of exhausting the kids, walk back to BART, head back to the airport, and enjoy dinner in the Centurion Lounge or UC while the kids fight a losing battle to stay awake.
– Board your flight with sleepy kids and enjoy the ride.
Hello everyone. I really appreciate all the input. Now I’ve got a difficult decision to make!
You don’t really have a 10 hr usefull layover. Even if your plane arrives ontime, by the time you deplane, get a car rental or get on BART, deal with traffic and parking and crowds and then return to the airport and go through security and walk to the gate.. you’re layover was really.. like what? I’d go with my previous advice. (Both Priority pass restaurants and a hotel) LOL.
Last time I landed in SFO I was sitting in my National rental car 30 minutes after touchdown (including passing immigration as a foreigner).
I think returning the car 1 hour before takeoff is reasonable of you know your way around.
This leaves 8.5 hours. If not rush hour, that’s a lot.
Matthew can probably shave some minutes off this.
Rent a convertible and take a scenic drive from LA to SF on Pacific Coast Highway, late lunch in Carmel and arrive in time for your evening flight.
The best way to say goodbye to California before spending time in the Black Forest.
We actually did think about doing this (also thought about taking the train up). Good suggestion. But with gasoline pushing $5/gallon, that is also not a cheap option!
In case you decide on Golden Gate Park, pay for parking in one of the museum undergrounds. The free, on-street parking is a prime target for homeless vandals who live in the park (speaking from experience, here). We were one of about a half-dozen vehicles whose windows were broken and belonging stolen during a visit to the California Academy of Sciences. You can read the write-up on TripAdvisor. (Footnote: At the time, we were semi-“native,” living in Sonoma County.)
Take your kids to San Francisco. Show them how a brainless liberal Government can turn one of the most beautiful cities in the world into a dumpster. Walk around Market St and they will be able to see hundreds of homeless people living in tents, urinating and defecating on the streets in daylight while they inject themselves with drugs or smoke crack. The city stinks and they will see tents all over the place.
Sorry, you don’t want your kids to see all the above but that is unfortunately what my kids saw there last time we visited San Francisco. So sad.
I’d recommend grabbing BART to the Embarcadero. There are historic street cars (F Line) that run up to Fisherman’s Wharf from there (cable cars aren’t running until the early autumn so that’s probably the next best thing for the kids). It’s a bit touristy up there but the kids would love the ice cream at Ghirardelli Square. Not sure if you’d have the time, but there’s also the option to tour Alcatraz which includes a cool ferry ride across the bay.
With kids that young, I highly recommend curioddessey in the coyote point marina. It’s a great museum, zoo. It’s close to the airport, weather is great (no marine layer or winds). Nearby San Mateo has great eating options and a Caltrain station that a 4 and 1 year old would love to watch trains go by. If you feel like getting a nice walk/hike in nearby crystal springs reservoir is a nice beautiful kid friendly walking/biking path.
If they are up for a short train ride you can take Caltrain down to Palo alto/cal ave or mountain view. They all have kids friendly and easy to navigate “downtowns” with great eating options and parks.
If you are coming through on a Saturday or Sunday they have great Farmers market on those streets.
These were things I did when my kids were young and they loved it.
CAUTION! Just read this. In Oz, they thought they got Covid tackled but didn’t because the Delta variant is so bad that people with no contact with each other in different hotel rooms got it. See paragraph 14 of this.
What can you do? Try outdoor stuff as much as possible. Another study shows N95 masks are very effective in preventing Covid but surgical masks not too good. Cloth masks even worse. So be careful and don’t assume you’re ok. Instead, look for continuous improvement.
The kids are not vaccinated and some adults are vulnerable even if vaccinated, maybe 1 in 20 or 30, which means millions.
There are two good priority pass restaurants at SFO, and with United club and Centurion, plenty to do at the airport.
Don’t take kids into San Fran..It is scary enough for adults to see… How many cars get broken into daily??? hundreds so no car no city… Stick with the Hyatt- If their restaurant is open..good food or if not only a little take-away market. If you get a room airside they have binoculars in the rooms so you can really planespot and relax..then hit the lounges closer to air time.
Wow..hundreds of break-ins every day???San Francisco sure does sound dangerous….Maybe should call it Baghdad by the Bay.. nOt San Francisco Bay
As a San Francisco resident and volunteer at the SFO Museum and Library ( which is closed until November for renovations) I agree that having use of the airport Grand Hyatt would be nice, I recommend doing the rental car/peninsula option.
First off, downtown is not yet back up to speed and the cable cars will not be running again until September at the earliest. But, this could be a good alternative:
1) Take the airtrain to the CONRAC for a car. Your 4 year old will dig that ride.
2) Drive the quick 23 miles to the coast toward Half Moon Bay via 101 N to I-380 to I-280 to Hwy. 1 and stop in for lunch at one of the places in the Pillar Point Harbor. This is at the south end of the Half Moon Bay airport. Then go for a stroll toward Mavericks Beach and the Pillar Point lighthouse. These are paved trails.
3) Continue south on Hwy. 1 into Half Moon Bay’s quaint downtown where I am certain you can find a coffee or espresso that meets your discerning tastes.
4) Finish the loop back toward SFO via Hwy. 92 eastbound then 101 N.
5) Drop off car then take the airtrain back to the terminal
Change your flights so you don’t have a ten hour layover.
BART is super easy usually, but the trains only run every 30 mins nowadays because of COVID. Also, the weather here in SF sucks — we’re getting a good dose of the “June gloom.” I’d just stay in the United Club — the one in concourse E just reopened!