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Whether flying domestic or international, the airports in the San Francisco Bay area are ready to make your trip an enjoyable one. Offering museums and spas, play areas for the kids, nursing rooms, delicious eats and even places for the family pet, you may find yourself not wanting to board the plane! The only question is, which airport should you choose? Keep scrolling to find out which of the three San Francisco airports are best for your family travel needs, including where to eat, what to see, and how to get there.
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Flying to San Francisco: Complete Bay Area Airport Guide for Families
The Bay Area offers sightseeing galore, like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the nearby redwoods. Then sample the tastes of San Francisco, like sourdough, chocolate and wine. Find streetcars, ferries and three different airports to get in-and-around San Francisco. You know you want to come. You just need to get here! Here are the details you need on the bay area airports.
San Francisco International Airport
Located 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco, the San Francisco International Airport is the closest to top attractions and sights in the San Francisco bay area. It opened in 1927. And its airport code is SFO.
The San Francisco International Airport isn’t actually in San Francisco. Its address is San Francisco International Airport in South San Francisco. So it’s closer to the San Bruno and Millbrae areas.
Still, it’s the second busiest airport in California (after Los Angeles International Airport) and the seventh busiest in the U.S. Additionally it’s a major hub for United Airlines and Alaskan Airlines.
Overcast weather initiates flow control, when the Air Traffic Control limits landings at SFO. Flights can only land on two of the four runways because the FAA mandates pilots visually see each other when landing side-by-side. And this issue happens about 20% of the time. Meaning SFO racks up the most flight delays of the three airports. For passengers with short layovers and international connections, it’s a consideration.
San Francisco International Airport Organization
Find four terminals with seven concourses and a total of 115 gates at SFO. About 50 different airlines operate out of SFO, depending on seasonal scheduling. It serves 140 destinations including many non-stop flights.
The International Terminal offers many destinations. And London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Vancouver and Seoul are the top destinations.
Domestics flights are available to most cities in the U.S. And LA, Seattle, Chicago, New York City area and Las Vegas are the top destinations.
San Francisco offers Clear at each terminal, a paid priority service that uses your irises and fingerprints for biometrics to check identity instead of traditional ID documents. And TSA Pre-check and Global Entry are available at SFO too.
Where to Eat at SFO
With over 70 dining or drinking outlets at the airport, find lots of options, including local institutions. Get your Mexican, Mediterranean, Vietnamese and California cuisine fix before flying out. Find burgers, salads and lots of coffee options as well.
- Boudin Bakery
- Bun Mee
- Gott’s Roadside
- Napa Farmers Market
- Peet’s Coffee and Tea
- Super Duper Burger
Transportation Options at SFO
Travel around the airport’s four terminals, the BART station (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the international terminal garages and the rental car area. Free.
Find the BART Station in the International Terminal’s Parking Garage G. The Antioch-SFO and the SFO-Millbrae lines offers service to the surrounding Bay Area, including downtown San Francisco. Use the SFO AirTrain to get the BART station. Purchase fare in the station.
Catch the Caltrain (the Bay Area commuter rail) at the BART Millbrae Station. Use the AirTrain to the BART station to continue on to the Caltrain.
SFO is serviced by RouteSFO, a bus to the Millbrae Station. Though for first time passengers use the BART for ease of use.
Ride Share and Taxis
Follow the signs to your ride at SFO to the following garage pick-up areas.
- Terminal 1 – B & C
- At terminal 2 – D
- Terminal 3 – E, F & F/G
Parking at San Francisco Airport
For those driving to SFO, it’s located off U.S. Route 101. Find several options for parking at SFO. And best of all, each parking area provides electric vehicles plug-ins.
International Garage G
International Garage A
Long Term Garage
Long Term Surface Lot
Got a Delay?
Flight delayed? Don’t sit and stew. Get out and explore. Airports offer unique features that most passengers miss running from one gate to the next.
Find a free yoga room in terminals two and three.
Find the SFO Museum’s exhibits throughout the pre-security sections of the terminals. Free.
Head to the International Terminal for the SFO Museum’s Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. Walk through the lobby, designed to represent the 1930s passenger terminal. Through the displays, get an overview of the West Coast aviation history along with visiting exhibitions.
Located on the departure level of the International Terminal before security. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and it’s free and open to all, not just passengers.
Traveling with Kids and Pets
SFO offers the following services for traveling families:
Rent car seats at the airport.
Find baby and nursing rooms in each terminal.
Play in the play areas in each terminal.
Get extra help with luggage at departure.
Arrange an Airport Butler for extra services.
Grab a coloring book at the SFO information desk.
Look out for the Wag Brigade, the therapy dogs plus one pig that roam the terminals of SFO.
Read More: Things to do in San Francisco with Teens
Top Airlines Operating Out of SFO Airport
Read More: How to Spend 1 Day in San Francisco with Kids
San Jose International Airport
Located three miles northwest of downtown San Jose, it’s the closest airport to a city center of the three bay area airports. Passenger service started in 1948 and its airport code is SJC. Additionally it’s also known as the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport.
Travelers based of the Silicon Valley use San Jose, like Palo Alto. The San Jose International Airport’s address is 1701 Airport Blvd. in San Jose. And it operates two runways.
San Jose International Airport Organization
SJC offers two terminals with 37 gates. And find 13 different airlines operating out of San Jose International Airport. Additionally those airlines serve about 50 destinations including many non-stop flights.
The International Terminal offers many destinations, including both of Tokyo’s airports, Guadalajara, Mexico, and London.
Domestics flights are available to most cities in the U.S. And top domestic destinations include Los Angeles area, Seattle, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
SJC offers two Clear stations, a paid priority service that uses your irises and fingerprints for biometrics to check identity instead of traditional ID documents. And TSA Pre-check and Global Entry are available at SJC too.
Where to Eat at SJC
Find 30 different eating and drinking outlets across the San Jose International Airport. Though stocked with familiar chains, find burgers, pizza, beer pubs and coffee bars at SJC.
Transportation Options at SJC
San Jose International Airport offers a free shuttle between the two terminals, the parking lots and the rental car center.
VTA Airport Flyer
The VTA (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority) Airport Flyer #10 offers service to Metro/Airport LRT station, Santa Clara Caltrain Station.
Take the VTA Airport Flyer #10 to the Santa Clara Caltrain Station to catch the Caltrain (the Bay Area commuter rail).
Take the VTA Airport Flyer #10 to the Mountain View-Winchester LRT to the Diridon Station for Amtrak service.
Take the VTA Airport Flyer #10 to the Santa Clara Caltrain Station. The Altamont Corridor Express offers service between San Jose and Stockton and departs from the Santa Clara Caltrain Station.
Follow the signs to your ride at SJC.
Terminal A Garage Stop #1
Terminal B Ground Transportation Island Stop #8 and #9
Parking at SJC
Find surface parking at SJC at several price points. Find electric vehicle charging in Lot 2 and Lot 5.
Hourly Lot 2
Hour Lot 3
Hourly Lot 5
Daily Lot 4
Daily Lot 6
Economy Lot 1
Got a Delay?
No one likes a delay. So distract yourself with the help of art. San Jose International Airport offers an Art and Technology Program audio tour. The artists who created the innovative art installation describe the project.
Traveling with Kids or Pets
Find the following conveniences at the San Jose International Airport.
Five nursing rooms in SJC
Outdoor Pet Relief area at each terminal
Two Pianos for passengers to play.
Find one of the therapy dogs or cats.
Top Airlines Operating Out of SJC
Oakland International Airport
Located 10 miles south of downtown Oakland, it’s across the San Francisco Bay from downtown San Francisco. It originally opened in 1927 and the airport code is OAK. Oakland International Airport was dedicated to aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh. And Amelia Earhart departed from Oakland on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937.
Oakland International Airport’s address is 1 Airport Dr. in Oakland. And it operates four runways.
Oakland International Airport Organization
OAK offers two terminals with 30 gates. And attached to Terminal One is the International Arrivals Building. So find 12 different airlines operating out of Oakland. And those airlines serve about 60 destinations including many non-stop flights.
International destinations from Oakland International Airport included several cities in Mexico, including Guadalajara, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Morelia. Though some of the flights are seasonal. And Oakland also offers a seasonal flight to Terceira, Azores.
Domestic flights are available to most cities in the U.S. And top domestic destinations include Las Vegas, Los Angeles area, San Diego, Seattle and Phoenix.
Additionally, Oakland offers TSA Pre-check and Global Entry.
Where to Eat at OAK
At the dawn of a new decade Oakland International Airport will transform its dining options. So see lots of new options throughout 2020 with regional flavors a focus.
Transportation Options at OAK
With an automated guideway transit BART is in front of the Premier Parking lot. And the departures are every six minutes at peak times.
Then it takes 8 minutes to get to the Coliseum Station. And you can purchase BART or Clipper Tickets at the Coliseum Station. So no need to purchase a fare at the airport.
The Amtrak Capitol Corridor offers service to Sacramento. And stops at the BART Coliseum Station. First take the BART automated guideway transit from the airport.
For other destinations consider AC Transit, a public bus system. Since it serves 13 cities, other BART stations, Amtrak stations and ferry terminals.
North Bay Options
For passengers headed to the North Bay, like towns in Marin and Sonoma counties, consider the Sonoma County Airport Express or Evans Transportation.
Follow the signs to your ride at OAK.
Located at the second island in-between Terminal 1 and 2 at 2E.
Parking at OAK
Find surface parking at Oakland International Airport. And it features electric vehicle charging at all parking lots.
Premier Parking Lot, right in front of both terminals
Hourly Parking Lot
Daily Parking Lot
Economy Parking Lot
Got a Delay?
Calling all aviation fans. If you’ve got some extra time the Oakland Aviation Museum located at the North Field. It showcases over 30 modern and vintage aircraft.
Located at 8252 Earhart Road, it’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission based on age and kids 4 and under are free.
Traveling with Kids
- Find two Mamava Lactation Suites, one in each terminal.
- Take in the kinetic sculpture or the window art wall, both in Terminal 2.
Top Airlines Operating Out of OAK
How to get Airfare Deals in San Francisco
- Consider alternative airports, like SJC and OAK for your trip. SFO is the premium airport with lots of different domestic and international carriers.
- Fly the first or last flight of the day.
- Get to know Southwest Airlines. It’s the top airline at San Jose and Oakland. And it offers fare sales twice a year.
- Consider flying on Saturdays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays when passenger volume is less.