Why I booked a hotel near SFO — just to watch the planes take off

Mar 23, 2021

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I have always been fascinated by the fact that I could travel clear across the globe in a matter of hours. Places I grew up learning about in history or language classes came to life when I realized that I could actually see them in living color. I’ll never forget walking off of the metro in Barcelona my first night in town and being greeted by La Sagrada Familia. I still get goosebumps.

So even though I’m not traveling like I have in the past, I can’t help thinking about how easy it could be to visit the other side of the globe — doing anything but sitting in my house.

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As a sort of consolation — and in hopes of quelling my wanderlust — I recently decided to take a short “staycation” at a hotel near San Francisco International Airport (SFO), just so I could watch planes take-off and land. That’s literally all I wanted to do.

Spoiler alert: It was just what I needed.

Related: Review of the Grand Hyatt SFO

SFO is a great spot to plane-spot for AvGeeks. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I’m certainly not the only one who had to postpone a dream trip last year, but I’m still bummed about canceling an amazing points redemption to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We decided not to transfer our tickets to the rescheduled 2021 games — and thank goodness, since Japan recently decided that international spectators wouldn’t be allowed.

However, that also means that there aren’t any big trips on the horizon for us in 2021. While we do hope to spend New Year’s Eve in Hawaii this year, that’s still months away.

Related: How to choose the right Hawaiian island for you

Even though I’m one of the newest TPG writers, I’ve long researched points hotels and promotions as a pastime, so I knew that Marriott had a promotion where you could earn double points and double elite-night credits (with a stay of at least two nights). I opted in to the promotion and looked to see if SFO had any hotels that fit two criteria:

  • A property where I wouldn’t mind spending a couple of nights
  • A room that would give me a view of the runway

It also didn’t hurt that this stay (along with another one booked under for next month) put me closer to Platinum status with Marriott — something that eluded me last year.

Related: 3 reasons I loved my Marriott Platinum status last year.

I chose to stay at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront, where I could get a room with my desired view (as opposed to normal times, where the only views that matter to me are of the ocean). Because the promotion excludes nights booked with Bonvoy points, I chose to pay cash for the ~$150 room rate — which included parking. The stay would’ve also set me back 40,000 Bonvoy points a night had I used points, and I know that I can get a better redemption than that somewhere else — like the JW Marriott Venice (a personal favorite), where rooms can easily go for over $500 per night.

View of Tokyo, Japan
While my Asia trip will have to wait, a staycation at SFO was just what I needed. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Now, there’s no question that I would’ve preferred taking my reward flights to/from Asia with Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines, but I was happy to settle for a much safer alternative: a comfortable (and rewarding) hotel stay with views of SFO, the San Francisco Bay, and plenty of takeoffs and landings. I enjoyed the short getaway in a relatively quiet hotel not too far from home, and the change of scenery was a nice variation from my day-to-day routine.

But here’s hoping that the next time I see an airport, it’s because I’m actually going somewhere.

Featured photo by J Hopwood/Shutterstock.

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