San Francisco is a must-visit destination for overseas and domestic travelers alike, for sites like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Lombard Street. The food is enough to make anyone want to stay, from the fresh seafood to various ethnic fares.
Travelers who have never been to San Francisco might imagine it to be like the rest of California: warm and sunny year-round. But think again. Since San Francisco is located on the bay, it gets brutal wind that keeps temperatures low, despite sunny days. I assumed I could wear shorts and dresses in June, which turned out to be a big mistake. San Franciscans have a more dressed-up style, so you might prefer to look professional.
2 long sleeved shirts – Solid colored shirts usually do best so you can mix and match.
1 sweater – I wished I had a chunky sweater to keep me warm during my trip.
1 pair of jeans – Make sure they’re a nice pair, dark wash and no holes.
1 pair of black pants – Jeans aren’t always appropriate, so it’s good to have a backup.
1 scarf or pashmina – As with the jacket, you may get cold very suddenly and a scarf is ideal for this purpose.
1 cardigan – Dress up your solid colored shirts for a night out.
3 pairs of underwear – ExOfficio is the way to go! They look cute and are functional.
2 pairs of socks – I swear by my Smartwool socks!
1 pair of comfortable shoes for walking – I rarely took public transportation in San Francisco and instead walked mostly uphill! Your feet will thank you for packing comfortable shoes.
1 pair of basic flats – For a night out it’s best to have something a little dressier.
1 pair of boots – Ankle boots are the best of both worlds, keeping your feet warm and looking stylish.
Soap or body wash – Whichever you choose, make sure it smells nice. I always pack Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps for their multi-functional abilities.
>>Check out the best toiletries for carry-on travel.
Diva Cup – Don’t let your time of the month weigh down your trip.
Toothbrush and toothpaste – I recommend Lush’s solid toothpaste as a unique alternative to the tube.
Hairbrush and hair ties – I kept my hair pulled back for most of the trip, but I was glad to have a hairbrush ready to pull the tangles out.
Protection from the Elements
1 hat – If nothing else, pack any sort of hat to keep your hair from getting too unruly.
1 windbreaker – If you’re planning a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, a windbreaker will be useful.
1 umbrella – Rain can appear out of nowhere so pack a travel-sized umbrella.
1 pair of sunglasses – Keep your eyes safe, even if it’s not summertime.
Sunscreen – I got sunburned even though it wasn’t warm. You can never be too careful.
Book a San Francisco Tour Before You Go
Alcatraz & San Fran City Tour – $79.00
Combine a San Francisco City Tour and guided visit to Alcatraz for the ultimate introduction to San Francisco! You’ll enjoy the beauty and attractions of everyone’s favorite city, in addition to a scenic ferry ride to Alcatraz Island for an audio walking tour.
Classic San Francisco Bike Tour – $89.00
Explore San Francisco’s defining districts and lesser-known neighborhoods on this 4.5 to 5-hour bike tour. During your approx. 12-mile (19.5-km) route, cycle through the Mission, the Castro, Civic Center, bohemian Haight-Ashbury and more as you learn about the city’s history and landmarks from your knowledgeable guide. Avoiding the majority of the city’s famous hills, see the iconic ‘Painted Ladies’ of Alamo Square and get up close to the Castro Theater, City Hall and other famous sights. Numbers limited to nine people, ensuring a small-group experience.
These tours, and more, are available for booking through Viator, our affiliated travel resource.
iPod – Keep yourself entertained on flights and bus rides.
iPhone – There are a number of great iPhone apps for San Francisco, namely the MUNI public transportation app, Kayak, Afar, Scoutmob and Hipmunk.
Adapters and chargers – If you’re traveling from abroad, don’t forget your adapters.
Eye mask and ear plugs – Travel essentials for any destination. Always good to have a few items that help you sleep.