We are about five months away from our wedding, and a number of you have been asking for information about various things like car rentals, hotels, tolls and what we ourselves will be doing after the wedding. So here is hopefully useful information.
Niall and Megan’s schedule
Thurs 24th October: Arrive in SFO from Dublin and stay overnight in a hotel very near the airport.
Fri 25th Oct: Rent a car from SFO and drive to wedding accommodation in Wawona. We will stop in either Modesto, or Merced (Merced is the last Walmart before Yosemite). We have a large single cabin for four nights (no 3⁄67 on https://wedding.nedprod.com/accommodation/), and the other three cabins for the two nights of the wedding (Sunday 27th & Monday 28th). We may be able accommodate some early arrivers in our cabin on floors, sofas etc if you want to see more of us or Yosemite, but expect to be put to work preparing for the wedding if you do! Also, advanced notice would be greatly appreciated if you do decide to turn up early (i.e. before Sunday).
Sat 26th Oct: Prepare for the wedding
Sun 27th Oct.: Expecting most people to turn up today! One of us (probably Niall) will take the children to the main park (ideally Tuolumne Meadows, if the roads are still open) to keep them out of the way of all the preparation. He could do with helpers to corral. Welcome BBQ dinner with all of you!
Mon 28th Oct: Wedding ceremony & Reception (watch https://wedding.nedprod.com/timetable/ for updates)
Tues 29th Oct: Brunch at Big Trees Lodge then go visit the Giant Sequoia Trees nearby, after which we return to San Francisco sometime in the afternoon.
On the three nights from Tuesday 29th Oct until we return to Ireland on Friday 1st Nov, we shall be staying at the Good Nite Inn, Redwood City, half way between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. It was chosen mainly because it is not insanely priced, and there is free parking for our car rentals. Accommodation is quite basic, perhaps too basic for some of you. Anyway if you wish to join us, here it is: https://www.booking.com/hotel/us/good-nite-inn-redwood-city.html?label=gen173nr-1FCAEoggI46AdIM1gEaGmIAQGYATG4ARfIAQzYAQHoAQH4AQKIAgGoAgO4AqW0h-cFwAIB;sid=62fa91f2b253887346439deef2159216;all_sr_blocks=7788408_102369030_1_0_0;checkin=2019-10-29;checkout=2019-11-01;dest_id=20015482;dest_type=city;dist=0;group_adults=1;group_children=0;hapos=1;highlighted_blocks=7788408_102369030_1_0_0;hpos=1;no_rooms=1;req_adults=1;req_children=0;room1=A;sb_price_type=total;sr_order=popularity;srepoch=1558305454;srpvid=b8d99f17d7ef00c6;type=total;ucfs=1&#hotelTmpl
Wed 30th Oct: Niall and Clara shall be going to Alcatraz on the 12pm ferry. YOU MUST PREBOOK TICKETS 90 DAYS IN ADVANCE FOR ALCATRAZ USING https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/ If Alcatraz doesn’t interest you, Megan and Henry will be going elsewhere fun, yet to be decided.
Thurs 31st Oct: spending our day around the Wharf area.
You are all welcome to join us in our tourist stuff if you wish. We chose the two above because we didn’t see those last time we visited. There is a plethora of things to see and do in and around San Francisco. Just be sure to check ticket prices first (museums especially), Niall got quite a shock to his wallet last time we visited.
Fri 1st Nov: Fly back to Dublin from SFO
Hotels around Yosemite
For those of you wanting to stay on, or arrive early, in Yosemite, these are the three choices within the park itself:
Half Dome Village (budget tents, including heated tents, some cabins)
Yosemite Valley Lodge (mid range motel like rooms)
The Majestic (high end, fancy)
All these book out long in advance, and are not cheap. But you literally are in the park itself, no driving needed. You can severely reduce the cost if you stay outside the park, and drive in.
We stayed in Mariposa when we visited, at the Quality Inn Yosemite Valley Gateway, which we chose because it was cheap. It was perfectly fine, and we’d have no trouble recommending it. Mariposa is a nice little town and about an hour’s drive in to the park. Oh, and they have a surprisingly good Chinese restaurant/takeaway. Like, far, far better than it should be for somewhere so remote.
It is a four hour drive from San Francisco airport to Yosemite. It is an hour from our cabins to the main area of the park (where the ceremony will be held on Monday), even though our cabins are within Yosemite National Park. You will need to pay US$30 PER CAR when entering the national park, just before you reach our cabins. You only pay this once and it is valid for seven days entry/exit. So you really do need a car, unless you can’t drive, in which case please let us know so we can help.
You can rent a major brand (Dollar Thrifty) rental car from SFO for about €150 for 7 days from https://www.kayak.com/cars, which is generally the cheapest car rental price comparison website in the US.
You then have two choices for insurance. Either you buy insurance from the car rental agencies (expensive) or you buy third party car hire excess insurance (much cheaper) from https://carhireexcess.ie/ . Remember to INCLUDE Supplemental Liability Insurance. The current cost for 7 days is €50. If you refuse to buy insurance from the car rental agency, they will reserve up to $1500 on your credit card. If you do not have the appropriate funds on your credit card, they will insist that you buy their insurance. Each car rental agency’s reservation requirements vary; some are only $400 instead of $1500. As a general rule, the cheaper the rental, the higher the credit card reservation.
When you rent the car, you will be offered a toll pass for all the San Francisco tolls. It is charged daily, and it won’t be worth buying unless you’ll spend all your time in San Francisco. Tolls are charged on every bridge ENTERING San Francisco only. Exiting is free of charge. Entering not via a bridge is free. Tolls are paid by you registering your rental car’s plate number at https://www.bayareafastrak.org/en/guide/visitorsRentals.shtml for the time you are there. You may be able to pay cash at some tolls as well.
Be aware when overtaking that some leftmost lanes on freeways are tolled as “express lanes”. If you go into them, you will be charged. These are clearly marked, and have cameras overhead, so they should be obvious.
If you are driving from SFO to Yosemite via the most direct route through Modesto and Merced, there are no tolls. Only upon return would you pay a toll on the inbound bridge across the bay.
Given the cost of the flights and hotels and health care, anything going wrong can get very expensive very quickly e.g. Icelandic volcano eruptions, breaking an arm etc. We purchase an annual worldwide incl USA multitrip family travel insurance from https://www.multitrip.com/ie/ for about €160/year, it covers any travel disruption, medical bills etc including in the US. Single person cover for the week is currently €42 per person. Once-off family cover for the week is currently €100 for the family. There is a low, medium and high tier of cover; however, note that the coverage limits of the lowest tier aren’t sufficient to cover say a car accident in the US, where medical expenses are extraordinarily high. You will need the middle, or even the top, tier.
Booze and weed
We shall be providing free alcohol at the wedding reception that we will bulk buying on our way to Yosemite. There will be a bar person to dispense said same alcohol during the dinner, because State licensing laws prohibit people helping themselves, so we have to employ somebody to do it for us.
There is a surprisingly well stocked small shop in walking distance of our cabins in case we run out of anything.
Marijuana is legal in California, and can be purchased at any one of a number of dispensaries. You can find a map of all of them at https://www.thecannifornian.com/cannabis-news/california-news/legally-buy-recreational-marijuana-california-starting-jan-1/. The last dispensaries before Yosemite are in Modesto. PLEASE NOTE that it is very illegal to drive when stoned, same as when drunk. Note also that the roads in Yosemite often have sheer drops of several hundred feet on one side. Not getting distracted by the truly lovely scenery when driving is hard enough when completely sober. All of the cabins have a strict no smoking policy, and large fines will be incurred by us if this rule is broken, so please do not smoke in your cabins!!
We are by no means experts in California, but if you have any questions which we did not answer above please drop us a line!
We’ll be back in contact again about 90 days before the wedding with more information (e.g. ESTA visas). See you all there!
Niall, Megan, Clara and Henry.