Here's what it's like to fly from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Chances are by now you've seen or at least heard that on a return trip from Lake Tahoe on my birthday weekend, I hit a bit of a traffic snafu. Make that a 12-hour snafu! With snowy conditions and road closures, that's how long it took for me to get from South Lake Tahoe to the North Bay.

COMMUTE CHALLENGE: By plane or by car - here's the fastest way from Bay Area to Lake Tahoe

I documented the journey and based on your responses I certainly wasn't alone. It had us wondering, what's the ideal way to get to and from Tahoe. Could it be done faster or for less money by flying?

So we set out on a Tahoe travel challenge. I was up against my colleagues Juan Carlos and Melissa. They'd be driving and I'd be flying.

The plan was for us all to leave the station at 900 Front Street at the same time this past Friday. At 6 a.m, my cab driver was patiently waiting outside the TV station as Juan Carlos frantically searched for his cell phone. I realized, if I hit a delay, say my flight was stuck on the runway, he and Melissa probably wouldn't stop their journey to wait for me, so I decided to get a bit of a head start.

I officially left KGO at 6:05 a.m. I could see Juan Carlos sprinting to his car as I got in the cab to head to Oakland International Airport for my Southwest flight to Reno. My am show collegues had their doubts about me being able to win this challenge with all except Reggie Aqui betting on my competitors.

We arrived at the airport at 6:29 a.m. I never check a bag but as part of the challenge we wanted me to simulate what other travelers would likely do so I did. When Reggie saw that he switched his bet to the others beating me!

I got slowed down going through security. I was so focused on my social media posts (Twitter and Facebook Live) that I forgot to take a giant bottle of water out of my carry on. Doh!

I was at the gate by 7:29 a.m., but again I was moving pretty leisurely. I stopped to grab snacks and of course more social media posting.

Around 8 a.m. Southwest began boarding. I unfortunately was in Group B. If you've ever flown Southwest you know they don't assign seats ahead of time, but rather you check in a day before your flight and receive a boarding group based on what time you check in. Then, when you get on the plane you pick your seat.

Once I boarded, I chose a window seat in the second row next to a Mill Valley couple who shared with us that they always fly to Reno and then drive to Tahoe.

A lot of viewers were asking me why I wasn't flying directly into Tahoe. That's because there are no commercial flights. So your best bet is Reno and then a bus, car rental or ride share.

By 8:18am I was snug in my seat and ready for a nap!

The flight itself was super short. We took off at 8:26 a.m. and we landed at 8:59 a.m.

By 9:15am I was scooping up my checked bag.

Here's where my competitors (colleagues) began to gain on me. The first shuttle bus available was not until 10:30 a.m.

Had I rented a car or taken a ride share we probably would have had a closer finish. I spent the next hour plus sitting on the floor of the airport charging my phones and doing lots of social media posting.

As far as costs go, at this point, I had spent the following: $147.77 for the flight (which was last minute and would have been closer to $70 had we booked in advance), $65.60 for my cab to the airport and $29.75 for the shuttle bus to Tahoe.

The shuttle arrived at 10:28 a.m. Once I boarded I met another woman who had flown in from Oakland and told me she flew and was taking the shuttle bus because she wasn't old enough to rent a car. By 10:34 a.m. the bus was rolling!

It was actually a really fun bus ride! (For a bit anyway.) The driver was playing classic rock and the view was gorgeous. I was enjoying myself! That is until we hit a road block. More on that in a moment!

At 10:50 a.m. my competitors arrived in Tahoe. Meantime at 11:32 a.m., I was still four miles from the state line. At 11:37 a.m., we hit that aforementioned road block. I asked the bus driver and he told me it wasn't a tire check point.

We could see one law enforcement vehicle and another driver told us that Caltrans was also on the scene. We were stopped for more than 20 minutes. At 11:59 a.m., as the road block was re-opened, we discovered we had been stopped for a fallen tree.

At 12:07 p.m., I finally arrived! Juan Carlos and Melissa were waiting for me and Melissa even handed me a much appreciated cup of hot chocolate! I was definitely in second place.

VIDEO: Melanie arrives in Tahoe and compares notes about her trip.

All in all, it was a really easy trip and definitely an alternative option for getting to Tahoe. A few factors might have scored me a first place win. Had we chosen to meet on the North Shore, I would have had a shorter commute from the airport. Also, had we done the challenge on a Friday afternoon when traffic is worse or during a snow storm, I likely would have beat my colleagues.

VIDEO: Melanie talks to Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority about travel tips.

I drove home with Juan Carlos and Melissa and my legs were pretty cramped in the back of the car. Flying was definitely the more comfortable option even if it wasn't faster or less expensive this time around!


  • Commute Challenge: By plane or by car - which way is fastest from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe

  • Commute Challenge: Driving from Bay Area to Lake Tahoe

  • Commute Challenge: This might be the fastest way around the Bay

  • ABC7's Melanie Woodrow reports traveling 13 miles in 7 hours from Lake Tahoe to Bay Area

  • VIDEO: Watch the latest AccuWeather forecast

  • How to drive safely in snow

  • Tips for staying safe while hitting the slopes

  • How to prepare your home for winter storms

  • TIPS: How do you recover from hydroplaning?

  • TIPS: Here's how to use sandbags and prevent flooding

  • Tips to help you drive in dense fog

  • Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.