On my most recent trip to San Francisco, there was only one thing that my friend and I both felt we absolutely had to do: Alcatraz. I knew that it could be extremely difficult to get tickets, especially during the summer, so as soon as I firmed up our dates, I started looking. My first visit to the official Alcatraz Cruises website told me one thing: I was too late. Despite searching nearly three months in advance, tickets were sold out for all three days I was in San Francisco. I knew that if I wanted to, I would have to score last minute Alcatraz tickets.
Quickly, I Googled “how to get Alcatraz tickets when they’re sold out” or something like that. The options came up as getting up early to wait in line (ick!), paying for a tour that includes tickets (expensive!) or hope for that I could get returned tickets. Clearly, the best option was the third.
So I searched, and I searched, and then I searched some more. And then I searched some more. I searched until Alcatraz Cruises became one of my most visited sites. But still, nothing. No tickets magically appeared.
So I chilled out. Which, for me, is very difficult. You see, I am not a chill person. I am the furthest thing from a chill person. Yet I managed to chill out for several weeks. That doesn’t mean I never checked – I found myself checking when I was bored – but it wasn’t obsessive.
The week before I left, I started checking again. And I started seeing some tickets available. At first, they weren’t for the three days I would be in San Francisco, but gradually, they started appearing for July 27, 28 and 29th.
Unfortunately, I got a lot of annoying errors where I would see tickets available and then when I would click on them, they would be gone. This happened to me a lot. Probably four or five times. So I kept trying. I knew I wouldn’t be able to convince the friend I was traveling with to wake up early to wait in line; finding returned tickets was my only chance.
Finally, after seeing the dreaded “sold out” page several times, I refreshed and saw the options to buy tickets. This time, when I clicked on the link, it gave me option to buy. I did it! I scored last minute Alcatraz tickets!
As I mentioned before, there was another option if I wanted last-minute Alcatraz Tickets: waking up early and standing in line. I was never able to find out an exact amount of tickets that they sell day of, but the number seems to be in 50-150 range.
According to this website, after you arrive, they’ll eventually hand you wristbands We saw some people with their wristbands when we arrived at Pier 33. They were finishing up their purchases as the first boat was boarding, around 8:30. I didn’t get a chance to ask any of them about their experiences, but people had definitely bought tickets. If you’re coming from Europe or even the east coast, it might be worth taking advantage of the time change and getting up early to try.
On the Alcatraz Cruises Twitter Page, they occasionally hold contests and giveaways for Alcatraz tickets. I didn’t find out about this until after I got tickets, but it would definitely be worth keeping an eye on!