Alaska With Kids, July 2021, Part 1 — Getting There

Seward, Alaska
Sophia and Zoe in Seward, Alaska

We dreamed about going to Alaska for a very long time. The Last Frontier has so much to offer for the great outdoors, breathtaking sky tall mountain ranges, glaciers, pristine fjords, wildlife sightseeings, you name it. However, with the pandemic and the new baby it was hard to plan this trip since there were so many unknowns in the equation.

Alaska is a huge state and considering that it offers varieties of experiences for all kinds of travelers, you really need to narrow it down to places and activities that you’re the most excited about and you need to properly estimate your abilities if you’re traveling with kids.

We needed to take into the account that we were bringing two kids along and one of them was an infant. Since Zoe wasn’t our first child and we had prior experience with going places with Sophia when she was little, it was a bit less overwhelming but nevertheless the trip had to be planned to a tee.

We started planning our trip by putting together the list of places that we wanted to see and dropping pins on the map: the Denali National Park, Portage Glacier, Byron Glacier, Exit Glacier, Seward, and others.

Alaska trip map

Booking the trip

Once we had our itinerary planned, it was to time book flights and hotels. We booked our outbound flight with United Airlines using 15,000 United miles + $5.60 in cash (45,000 miles + $16.80 total for 3 tickets and a lap infant). The miles were transferred from the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and it seemed like it was a good redemption value. Given the cash rates and available points in our stash, we decided to pay for our return flight on Alaska Airlines with cash. Conveniently that cash spent on the tickets also went towards the minimum spending requirement for an Alaska Airlines credit card signup bonus that we were working on at that time. Also, as a nice perk of the Alaska Airlines credit card we got our bags checked for free. That was great because in addition to our usual checked bag we decided to bring along the amazing Ultimate Travel Crib by Lumiere Baby for Zoe. Even though that crib was portable and compact, it was not compact enough to qualify for carry on, so it had to be checked.

When we had our flights lined up, it was time to book hotels for our stay in Alaska. Since we wanted to see many places while we were there, it was quite challenging to book multiple hotels due to seasonal availability (usually summer months are the most sought for) and the fact that people who starved for a vacation during the coronavirus pandemic also started booking Alaska trips. So, this is how it went:

  • We used 2 Free Night certificates to book a room at Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown for our first two nights in Alaska.
  • Then we booked a Hotel Seward room in Seward with cash using the Chase Travel Portal which earned us 5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per cent (you can read more about spending Chase Ultimate Rewards here).
  • Next was Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge also booked using the Chase Travel Portal.
  • For our Denali stay we went with the McKinley Chalet Resort (paid with cash and earned some Ultimate Rewards points on the way on our Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card), that was our favorite hotel during our time in Alaska.
  • Alaska is huge and infants are not the most tolerable kind on road trips so we decided to spend another night in Anchorage before heading down to Girdwood. We booked Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown for another night in Anchorage, this time we used 12,000 Hyatt points.
  • And the last hotel that we booked for our trip was Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, also booked on the Chase Travel portal.

We planned to see both Kenai and Denali National Parks in Alaska which are 6 hours of driving apart so it was crucial for us to rent a car for our visit. We went with Avis since we had a preferred status there as well as a discounted corporate rate.

Toyota 4Runner rented at Avis in Anchorage
Our cool Toyota 4Runner that we rented via Avis

A few things to note about Avis Car Rental at the Anchorage International Airport:

  1. It’s a local franchise, which means you’ll have to wait in line instead of breezing straight to your pre-assigned car, and you won’t get frequent flier miles with your rental.
  2. Make sure that you have your corporate I.D. with you when you pick up your car, because it will get looked over at at the counter.

San Francisco → Anchorage

We recently got the American Express Platinum card which was offering a 100,000 Membership Rewards points signup bonus (that you can transfer to airline and hotel partners) + 10x on Groceries & Gas. It had a $550 Annual Fee at that time, so we wanted to maximize all of its benefits, such as the $179/year CLEAR credit.

CLEAR is a biometric identity verification platform you can use to skip the line to have your I.D. looked over by TSA.

Once we got to the San Francisco International Airport we went straight to the CLEAR counter where we were greeted by friendly employees who helped us setup our CLEAR membership. The CLEAR membership usually costs $179/person but if you have a Delta Airlines SkyMiles account, you can get it for $109 (primary member) + $60 (spouse) which falls under the $179 Platinum credit, so essentially we both got it for free.

Next, we wanted to try out the American Express Centurion Lounge at SFO, which is included with your American Express Platinum card. There was a small caveat, before we went to the airport we learned that sometimes there could be a long line to get in, which is not ideal when you have two small kids that can get bored and impatient quickly. However, there’s a trick to circumvent that, by using the American Express app you can get into a “virtual” line, so we did exactly that right before going through TSA. Our turn came up right on time when were done with security checks.

When we got to the lounge, we were greeted by our names which was a nice touch. We loved the lounge, the food was great and free drinks were oh so welcome after the stress of going through TSA with two kids. For some reason TSA decided to inspect the entire contents of one of our backpacks, in the end they weren’t even sure which item triggered the check at the scanner, probably it was a baby butt cream or something.

American Express Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Sophia enjoying her food at The Centurion Lounge, SFO

After we enjoyed our meals and drinks in the lounge, it was time to board the plane and be on our way to Alaska.

On a plane from SFO to ANC
Flying over Alaska
Flying over Alaska

A non-stop flight from San Francisco to Anchorage on United Airlines was great. Well, except that part where we needed to entertain an infant for 4.5 hours.

When we arrived in Anchorage just an hour before midnight it was still very bright outside, as you would expect it from the land of midnight sun.

View from the Albert Loop Trail in Chugach State Park near Anchorage
View from the Albert Loop in Chugach State Park

Continue reading about our Alaska trip in the Part 2 — The Ultimate Alaska Itinerary with Kids →

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