I'm going for the first time to California and I've got 4 days and or maybe 5 days. I'll be meeting up with my folks who too are vacationing. I believe they will be in the L.A. since they'll be visiting Universal Studios and DisneyLand. I hear so much good things about San Fran and so I would really like to visit there. I'm relying on public transportation and shuttle since I don't drive.
Should I do 2 days in SF and 2-3 days to cover LAX/DisneyLand/Universal Studios? Or should I save SF for another vacation and just spend 4-5 days in LAX/Disney/Universal Studios?
Probably depends upon two things:
(1) Are you parents going to see anything else in LA--or just Disneyland and Universal Studios?, and
(2) How much are you willing to "move it" a bit to see things?
If your parents are planning to go to the beaches one day, and maybe drive along the coast or down to San Diego one day or go to the Huntington Library and Gardens or to the Getty Museum, or to Venice Beach or to a soccer game with David Beckham and the LA Galaxy or take a cruise on a sailboat, then I'd just stay in LA and enjoy the time there------------------but----------------------
if they plan to spend all their time at just Disneyland and the Universal Studios, then I'd arrange to go to the airport and get a plane ticket to/from San Francisco.
Here's what you do in that case:
First you need to know this: Burbank Airport is very close to Universal Studios and Orange County Airport (in Santa Ana) is very close to Disneyland--either can be reached by car within 20 minutes from the amusement parks mentioned
So--let's presume that your parents plan to go to Disneyland on Days 1-2, drive to Universal Studios on day 3 and then go to Universal Studios on Days 4-5. You should:
Day 1---go with them to Disneyland
Day 2--either have them take you to the airport (Orange County/Santa Ana) early in the morning or get a shuttle there from the hotel and fly to the SF area (either SF Airport or Oakland airport)--spend the rest of the day visiting SF
Day 3 Visit SF another day
Day 4 Visit SF for most of the day, then go to the SF or Oakland airport and fly to the Burbank airport. Get a shuttle to their hotel or have them pick you up at the end of the day and spend the evening with them and have a nice dinner on the Universal Citywalk just outside of Universal Studios--or at a nice place in western Hollywood--or on Victory Blvd in the Studio City area
Day 5 Go with them to Universal Studios
Obviously, if they are going to Universal Studios first, then you fly out of Burbank and back into Orange County/Santa Ana on the return. Airline tickets to/from these airports are really cheap on Southwest as long as you book them early and arrange it so that you are flying mid-week and not on the weekends (Fridays and Sundays are the worst days by far). P.S And the other airlines fly in and out for cheap rates, too--and Jet Blue flies in/out of Long Beach, which is also not far from Disneyland.
P.S. You can get into San Francisco in less than one hour by taking the BART system from the SF airport or from the Oakland airport by taking the shuttle to the BART system then taking the BART system. It is also possible from the San Jose Airport--but that's confusing--so I won't explain it here--and I suggest you go to one of the other two airports. (If you have to go via San Jose, write me back and I'll explain how to do it from there).
Oh, and I forgot to mention. The flight time from the LA airport to SF is right around one hour.
Calcruzer has got it dialed in. Don't be afraid to split your time between LA and SF because there is a lot of flights around the clock and they are just about one hour in length. A lot of people commute to work or business on this airline route daily.
Have fun, and welcome to California.
Thanks all! Kudos to Calcruzer. That was really informative. I'm trying now to coordinate flights and metro/bart/shuttle transit plans on airports, universal studios, disney. However, I'm unsure of lodging. Should I stay in a lodging in/near Universal Studios, DisneyLand or L.A. ? I'd fly back to Canada departing from LAX. Many thanks!
The cheaper places to stay are probably near Buena Park (not far from Disneyland) or close to Disneyland in Anaheim. However, the nicer places to stay (if you don't mind the cost) would be just outside of Universal Studios (like at the Sheraton Universal or at the Magic Castle Hotel just a few miles away in Hollywood).
In San Francisco, good prices can be had at places near the SF airport (the standards like Best Westerns, Clarion, Holiday Inn, etc.), while the better places are in downtown (Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt), or near Fisherman's Wharf (Ramada, Holiday Inn). There are one or two places near the Oakland Airport also--but I wouldn't go far from the airport unless you get a place in Alameda, since the south end of Oakland is not such a good area--and if you go to places like Lafayette or Walnut Creek, the places to stay are fabulous, but quite pricey--and it's a long drive from the airport.
Hope this info helps a bit.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, there are good places in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach near the water--but, of course, these will cost more also.