Trip Notes: A Father & Son 747 Trip To San Francisco

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My son Rafi is a bit of an aviation obsessive. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise considering the sheer number of flights that he’s been on. He says he wants to be a pilot when he grows up, but I won’t tell him just yet how improbable that would be as an Orthodox Jew…

He can tell you the name of an airline by looking at its tail as well as how valuable their miles are and which plane types they fly. For quite some time he had been begging to fly upstairs on a 747.



United announced that they would stop flying regularly scheduled domestic 747 flights last May. I figured I’d take the opportunity to take Rafi on a domestic flight before they were gone, and booked us business class saver awards from Cleveland to San Francisco via Chicago:



United started flying the 747 in 1970 and it appears that the final United 747 flight will be from Seoul to San Francisco on 10/29/17.

I picked Rafi up a little early from school, where he apparently managed to bump his chin that day. But that didn’t bother him one bit. I only wish I could have captured the excitement that Rafi had walking through the airport that morning, but my hands were full between my carry-ons and Rafi’s Evenflo Maestro travel carseat being pulled thanks to a GogoBabys Travelmate. He was excitedly telling anyone and everyone that would listen that we were going to fly upstairs on a 747. Several of the United agents also expressed their desire to check that off their bucket lists before the plane is retired.

After floating through the airport on cloud 9, Rafi dozed off in his carseat on the way to Chicago:

Every kid loves the Disney inspired tunnel connecting concourse B and C at O’Hare:
We stopped by the United Club where Rafi excitedly told the United agent about our upcoming flight. To my shock the agent then dug into her purse and pulled out a hot wheels car as a gift for Rafi to enjoy on the flight. The joy of a child truly is contagious.

And then came the “Wow” moment as Rafi laid his eyes on the 747:





We boarded and made our way upstairs to our seats…



Upstairs on the 747 is like flying on a private jet:



The overhead bins upstairs on the 747 are small, but there is a closet for carry-on luggage and there is convenient storage next to the windows.

Rafi was amazed at just how high off the ground we were:



And I had a present for Rafi as well, a model United 747:





Rafi got a kick out of finding exactly where our seats were on the model.

And he loved the ANA 777 Star Wars plane of BB-8 at the next gate over:



The business class seats are dated, but are lie-flat and perfectly comfortable for 2 people traveling together:



During the flight we walked downstairs and the flight attendants let Rafi play with the beverage cart elevator.

After the flight the captain invited Rafi to check out the cockpit, which is located upstairs on the 747:



Flying the 747 in the cockpit:



There was only one kosher restaurant in San Francisco, Sabra Grill.

I brought bagels with us, but I had planned to eat dinner at Sabra. However, when I called them from Chicago they didn’t answer their phone. I called several more times once we landed in San Francisco, but they never did answer.

I rented a car and we drove to the Fairmont San Francisco.

This was the original Fairmont hotel, named after James Fair and its location on top of Nob Hill, looking over the rest of the city.

And yes, this is also the Fairmont that mistakenly sold a night in a suite that awarded lifetime Platinum status back in 2011. They didn’t want to honor it, but I did my darndest to make sure it went through.

And 5 years later I used 2 free lifetime Platinum nights and a suite upgrade:



Rafi slept in a pull-out couch in the massive living/dining room:






Hallway between living room and bedroom:




Fairmont San Francisco lobby:



Fairmont San Francisco lobby:



Fairmont San Francisco hallway:



It was 8:50pm by the time that we got settled in the room.

I called Sabra for the 10th time that day, still no answer.

Earlier, I had told Rafi that we would get Shnitzel for dinner. He said he was hungry for that and not for another bagel. After letting him know that the restaurant was probably closed, we agreed to walk to the restaurant and see what the story was.

Sabra Grill is only 0.4 miles from the Fairmont, but the elevation change is huge. Going there was the easy part, it was straight downhill.

We got the restaurant, which is located on the 2nd floor, and lo and behold there was a couple eating at one of the tables. But that’s when we were told that the restaurant had just closed 5 minutes ago at 9PM. I explained that we had been traveling all day and asked why they never answered their phone and he said they didn’t get any phone calls that day.

But the couple that was dining chimed in that they too had called several times that day to no avail. I guess I’m not surprised to find only 1 other table occupied when they don’t have a working phone system to let people know they are open…

In the end they agreed to let us sit down and eat.

The food was adequate with prices in line for what you would expect given the high price of San Francisco real estate and their lack of competition.




Though the next night was when that lack of competition really shined through. (In June I ate in Oakland with much better results)

After dinner we hiked up that hill, Rafi took a quick bath, and we quickly fell asleep for the night.

For Wednesday, I had a full slate of activities planned.

We started the day by taking a cable car east from the Fairmont until the end of the California line. I bought an all day pass for $21. Rafi was 4 at the time, so he got to ride for free and had a blast.






Then we switched to the F-line streetcar to Pier 33 where we would catch the early bird 8:45AM ferry to Alcatraz Island. My ferry ticket was $33 and once again Rafi went for free due to his age.


Before you go into line for the ferry you can look at a model of the island:



And view quotes from famous prisoners:



The ferry ride itself is very scenic. When I showed Rafi the Golden Gate Bridge he pointed out the Bay Bridge which he coined the Grey Gate Bridge for the rest of the trip.


Alcatraz Ferry:









Alcatraz Island:




Of course, Rafi was too young to comprehend the history of the place, but he sat through a short video and I figured it would be worth walking around the island.

I didn’t realize how steep it would be to hike up to the old prison cells, but we were able to take a tram to the top. Officially the tram is intended for the elderly and handicapped, but there was space for us and we didn’t have any problems hitching a ride.




We looked at the old dining hall that had a menu that was looked better than any yeshiva I had ever attended 😉



And you can even walk into an old cell, though since someone got stuck inside they no longer let you close the doors:









We watched a demonstration of the closing of the cells, though Rafi wasn’t thrilled with how loud the noise was. Well, hopefully that will teach him to stay out of trouble 😀


Did you know that Native Americans occupied Alcatraz after the prison was closed?



Flowers spring on Alcatraz Island:












After a couple of hours we caught a ferry back to San Francisco and ate the bagels I had brought from Cleveland:






At this point, we got a kick out of how many modes of transportation we had been on in the past 24 hours, so why not try one more?

So we took a pedicab from the Alcatraz ferry to the nearby Exploratorium. The driver asked for $20 but happily settled on $5.

Rafi was a bit unsure about being that high up with no seatbelt:



Between the 737, 747, rental car, cable car, streetcar, ferry, and pedicab, I’d say we covered the transpiration aspect of the trip!

We got free admission into the Exploratorium thanks to the Chase Private Client Arts & Culture Card that I had obtained to help with 5/24 woes. Not a bad deal in a museum that would have charged $30 for me and $20 for Rafi!

The Exploratorium is awesome. There were tons of hands-on exhibits that were fun for Rafi and for me and I can highly recommend it for anyone going to San Francisco.









Just in case you were tempted…



Leaving our mark on the walls:



And if your slinky needs to go on a diet:


The Exploratorium had a porch to view the surroundings. Rafi was devastated when the wind made off with his Yarmulkah while he was admiring the “Grey Gate Bridge.” The staff at the Exploratorium were awesome though and helped us quickly get downstairs where I was able to track it down and get it back for him.



We arrived at the Exploratorium at noon and stayed until 3:30PM. We could have easily spent another couple hours there without getting bored.

We then hopped on the F-line streetcar to Pier 39:



Rafi bought a Golden Gate Bridge keychain for himself at one of the souvenir stores at Pier 39 and a cable car keychain for his sister, Talia, back home (although at 2 years old then, she was pretty sure it was pronounced table-car).

And then Rafi spotted the 2 story carousel and he of course needed to ride the top and bottom floor:









After the rides we watched a very talented performer that had Rafi enthralled:



From the end of the pier you can view Alcatraz Island:



Rafi was a kid in a candy shop when we stopped by the Candy Baron and chose some Jelly Belly goodies. The smile from that store took a while to wear off:



Thanks to the all-day transit pass we hopped on the streetcar again to take us to Fisherman’s Wharf:



It was about 5PM by then and we were hungry, so we took the Powell-Hyde cable car back to the Fairmont:







From the Fairmont I picked up my rental car and we went back to Sabra Grill.

We parked by Dragon’s Gate, the “entrance” to Chinatown and down the block from the restaurant:






I ordered a felafel plate, which again, was fine. Nothing special, but edible.



I ordered a shnitzel in a pita for Rafi with no techina/hummos, but they delivered it with the sauce. Rafi wasn’t even going to look at it with the sauce on it so I asked if they could redo it. They said they couldn’t, but they brought it back “wiped off.”



So I ordered another plain piece for him and this time it came burnt. But after they promised Rafi a treat he ate it. (Side note: Please ask the parent before offering treats.)

Well the treat was a lollipop that was permanently fused to the wrapper. So that went into the trash and luckily Rafi still had his Jelly Bellies.

No trip to San Francisco is complete without a drive down the crazy curvy incline of Lombard Street. Rafi couldn’t control his laughter as he imagined what the street’s designers must have been thinking:



For the finale, we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge:



And arrived at Battery Spencer at 7:30PM.

The views of the bridge from there are just stunning. It’s such a serene place:








We stayed there for 45 minutes to watch day turn into night:




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And then it was back to the hotel to take a bath and catch some shuteye before the 8:40AM flight back home the next morning.



A record of the day’s activities as tracked by the creepy but cool Google Location History:



Before boarding we took the time to admire the beautiful plane once again:



And Rafi held up his model 747 to size it up:










Onboard the flight the crew was happy to warn up our double-wrapped sandwiches from Sabra:





And Rafi had lots of fun checking out the cockpit:













Rafi asked the captain how much longer United would fly the 747 and the captain shook his head wistfully and said hopefully not until he’s forced to retire at 65.

Back in Chicago we went to the club and the Queen of the Skies was right there to greet us:




We caught an earlier flight back home to Cleveland and on the way we passed by this Lufthansa 747-8I, the new generation of 747s that has not had much success among commercial airliners. It’s only flown by Air China, Korean, and Lufthansa.


As I’m showing these pictures to Rafi, he reminds me that we also saw a plane with USAirways livery next to the Lufthansa 747, something he found quite humorous given that they were already merged with American.

It was a whirlwind 36 hour trip, but it’s been 9 months and Rafi still talks about it all the time.

The only question is where should we jet off to next time?

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42 Comments On "Trip Notes: A Father & Son 747 Trip To San Francisco"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

too tired

There is a well-known frum pilot who lives in Baltimore- but he flies cargo planes and fed-ex flights, I think, not passenger runs.




Rafi is lucky to have you as a dad!


What are your thoughts on this?
(On second thought, what do you know about economy class products 😛 )


there is a frum delta pilot in stl

avraham s

There are frum commercial pilots. Not many, but it can be done.


How far in advance did you book Alcatraz tix they are pretty hard to obtain for a decent price day of


SF just got a new kosher spot called Taboon SF. I was there last week and its great and across the street from Chabad of SF……its dairy and to go style


Beautiful !

How did you get so much room on the cable car ? In August, we had to wait an hour in line to stuff into a standing room only car. At least the wait at Fisherman’s wharf has fantastic views.

A write up of San Francisco should mention that it’s quite chilly. No short sleeves. In August it was 66 degrees

Captain Nate

Iv done my 100 hours PPL training in Daytona beach Florida. It’s possible to be a frum Jewish pilot and work for regional airlines but very little pay…

Your def the coolest dad right now ! He’s so cute
Reminds me of myself when I was his age and an aviation dreamer …

Kol hakavod Dan


@Dan what a great dad! Props

Rodrigo from Brazil

Being an aviation lover mostly due to my father’s influence, I must say your trip notes almost brought to tears.

Rafi seems to be a fantastic kid and for sure has good taste – 747s are definitely the finest aircraft to fly in. I’m gonna fly for the first time on 787 in 20 days from now, but 747s are much more charming!


They’ve renamed the place to “Frena”


Hi Dan! Great write-up!! Did you get a few LS deals? How do you have 2 free nights?


Awesome stuff Dan


@dan Beautiful trip, BTW I know more then one frum pilot. Flying passenger is not such a big deal. The hard part is flying commercial passenger international.
Because you have to amass x amount of flying hours before you can go international and being the new guy they make you fly the bad flights like weekends.


You are definitely a contender for Dad of the Year. Thanks for all of your work on this blog – I’ve been following for years.


I know 1 frum pilot that flies intl commercial. Senior pilot now, been flying for 20+ yrs (he was supposed to fly the Boston 9/11 plane but hashgacha pratit saved him). When there’s a will, there’s a way!


Amazing TR!
Thanks for sharing
Rafi is a lucky kid


Dan you should really open a YouTube channel for all your credit card seminars, and also please make a category for teens, on how to start building a credit score, best cards etc.


I know a frum pilot who works for Delta and flies widebody aircraft. He’s been doing it for at least 20 years now.


Are those the with it Chabad yarmulkehs for kids with cool dads or is that the go to kippa in your kids school?


Fyi, taboon has changed it’s name to frena. Try the sambusak, it’s delicious 🙂


Touro University California in Vallejo (at the entrance to Napa) has a kosher cafeteria.
Under supervision of Chabad of Napa.
Food is excellent.
a little out of the way if staying in SF, but if you’re in the area its worth a stop

dfw jon

So cool Dan and Rafi! Also, Rafi was sporting an awesome t-shirt there. You are a wonderful father Dan. Thanks for sharing and keep him dreaming big.

Deal and Transit Lover

Great trip report! The only important transit modes you missed were BART and the modern LRVs that MUNI has. We were in San Fran last Feb and also found Sabra a bit odd but it served its purpose. We took Amtrak there from NYC. Amazing trip. And my primary goal while in San Fran (we only had 6 hours) was to ride the entire Cable Car system, which I did. Also rode only the portion of the F-line streetcar that was running (it was short-turning due to SuperBowl related street closures). Anyhow, very cool trip with your son. Oh, the only time I was on the upper deck of a 747 was on an El Al birthright flight to Israel. My seat was down in coach but my friend was given a seat upstairs in business class. So early in the flight I went upstairs to visit him. I was there like three minutes and then the stewardesses kicked me out.


Thanks Dan. I’m going the end of February, so this hit me on the right time. I’m up to page 18 in the dedicated SF thread on DDF!

Kosher really needs an uplift!!


Just a PSA: I was in San Francisco last week and parked right near pier 39 and my car was broken in to and all the suitcases were stolen from the trunk. The police won’t do anything. Be very careful!

Travel Agent Life

That moment when you realize you can travel anywhere anytime – but your wife isn’t coming – so you wait until your children are big enough – and you start pursuing those travel dreams!
By the time your son is 18… Be”h… you 2 will have quite some more stories.


Dan, this makes me so happy. It’s so wonderful that you are able to use all your points and mayven-knowledge to give your family the time of their lives.
Don’t stop being awesome!
-Aviv K – LA, CA


I don’t think that it’s possible to be a frum pilot. Here’s why:
There is a yichud issue. For starters you may be teamed up with a female pilot or copilot. Even if not, if either the pilot or copilot goes to the bathroom the new policy is that a flight attendant goes into the cockpit so that there’s always two people there. Well if your flight attendants are all female you will for sure have an issue.


How much money did this trip cost you? How much would it it have cost without all your discounts? I was wondering how much you chage to plan a trip like this for someone else?
Thanks Dan, a great write up and I”YH many more.
From a fellow danser