March 1, 2015

STOP Choosing The Wrong Airport To Visit Yosemite

Dreading the hassles involved in today's airport travel? We dislike arriving earlier than ever before, taking off shoes, pulling out laptops, and wondering what's really happening to our molecules inside the human scanning machine. Now, with COVID-19, add on top of that health and safety stress. Imagine if you chose the wrong airport for your trip, adding time and disappointment to an already tedious process. So many people do just that!

When traveling to Yosemite , a place that by its very nature is away from it all, choosing the right airport isn’t always that easy. Lucky for you, we live and work in Yosemite and travel often, so we can help.

Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT)

The name says it all! This airport is the closest to Yosemite National Park. Your drive to the home, via the South entrance, requires about 2.5 hours. As an added bonus, the route along Highway 41 offers the best grocery shopping, which you will do in Oakhurst, CA. This airport even has a paid bus service that goes directly to Yosemite (YARTS). New in 2021, Fresno is served by Southwest Airlines! We could not be MORE THRILLED. Pitfalls? Fresno is a small airport-- schedules are limited, with only 11 U.S. cities served with direct flights (and 4 in Mexico). Rental cars can be more expensive here. We LOVE this airport when the flight schedule and rental car budget fits with our plans.

Sacramento International Airport (SMF)- Locals’ Favorite

In this case, a perfect set of compromises makes it easy for us to choose this airport over and over. Just a little farther than Fresno, but closer than the Bay area, your drive to the home, via Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat entrance, will be about 4.5 hours. Prices tend to be excellent. Airlines offer more robust schedules at this port. The drive itself is mellow, straightforward and usually traffic free. Rental cars tend to be affordable, gas station for cheap rental car re-fueling is on site, and the entire process feels easy. This is your airport if you plan to visit Tahoe on your trip, as it is nicely located in between Yosemite and Tahoe. Pitfalls? The only reason to NOT choose Sacramento is if you are visiting other areas on your trip, such as San Francisco or the coast OR if Fresno works out perfectly for you.

Bay Area Airports-Including SFO and Oakland (OAK)

Getting in and out of the Bay Area is a hassle. Period. You risk suffering in city traffic to get to Yosemite, a drive that should take less than 4 hours but can easily turn into 6+. One morning, I wisely left Yosemite at 2 am for my 9 am flight, and I still hit traffic so bad I returned my rental without refueling. Ouch! So, why would you even choose a Bay Area airport? If you are seeing San Francisco, wine country, or the coast on your trip, then it does make sense to fly into one of those areas and go out and back to Yosemite in your rental. Avoid peak traffic, pack a dose of patience. Consider doing without a car during your San Francisco stay; then rent a car just for the out-and-back to Yosemite from a non-airport rental. Top picks: SFO works great for international travel or might have a flight that is perfect for you. We use Oakland and have good experiences there. TIP: use the search option for “all Bay Area airports” on sites like Expedia to easily compare prices and schedules on the Bay Area airports as a whole.

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