Wednesday, January 30, 2013

We're going to Alaska!

Have you ever done anything crazy like book a trip to Alaska in the middle of winter? Because that's exactly what I did last week. Why, you may ask? Well, if you follow me on twitter (@hulagrrl210) it's no big secret that I like to ski. As a Tahoe season pass holder, Vail's social media invention EpicMix spams my followers every time I hit the slopes. Of course I could disable it, but I like bragging about my accomplishments such as 150,000 vertical feet so far in the season and mastering the Nevada side at Heavenly in one day! Anyway, I have a cousin in Anchorage who knows how much I love to ski and who keeps inviting me up to check out the 49th state. That combined with watching perhaps a few too many Warren Miller films lately and some newly acquired Alaska Airlines MileagePlan miles gave me the idea...we're going to Alaska!

image courtesy travelalaska.com
It's just me and the baby this time. Unfortunately, my husband has to work (someone has to right?) so let the solo-mom-baby-wrangling adventures begin! It turns out there are some "logistics" involved in figuring out how to get a kid, all of his #$%*, my skis, poles, boots, and a bunch of survival gear winter clothes on a plane to and from Alaska. United has spoiled me over the years with their generous 3x's 75 pound baggage allowance for Premier Golds/Platinums, but we're not flying United this time- mainly because it costs as many miles to fly to ANC as what we're paying to go to Singapore, Bali, India, and now Hong Kong next month. When I checked with UA, the only thing available was a Standard First Class Award (via DEN) for 50,000 miles each way! Yeah, not thanks. So once again Alaska Airlines is stealing away more of my business from United.

Unfortunately, I don't (yet) have any status with AS so we're just going to have to rough it with the standard (paid) 2x's 50lb. baggage allowance. Since baby's first trip and the infant carrier days, we've transitioned him into a Britax Marathon car seat and use a Go Go Kidz TravelMate to wheel him around the airport. Those come on board with us. We then use the stroller as a makeshift luggage cart and check that plane-side. Then CJ has his own massively-large Dakine Split Roller duffle bag that holds his Pack-n-Play and whatever else baby needs when he goes on vacation (a lot of diapers, wipes, clothes, toys, food, etc.). We then usually have our own individual carry-ons, plus the diaper bag, and an additional check-in bag (or two) for mom and dad. This works out great when we have two adults (and no heavy ski boots). Not this time! Luckily, my cousin's wife says they have a Pack-n-Play we can use, and I'm figuring without much use for the stroller in Alaska in the middle of winter, I might actually be able to pull this one off with one check-in (my skis padded with winter jackets and whatever else I can cram in that bag) and a carry-on roll-a-board or backpack (with ski boots). A diaper bag is a "personal item" right? I know I'm really pushing it with the carry-on allowance, so worst case scenario I pay extra (grrrr), CJ's giant duffle bag comes too and without the Pack-n-Play, if I put the ski boots in there, we still have hope of coming in under 50 lbs. Glad we got that all figured out!
Guess whose bag that is!
Now, you also might be wondering how a life-long loyal United customer ends up with a bunch of Alaska MileagePlan Miles. 25,000 miles came from a targeted promotion for Northern California residents flying to Hawaii. A few more miles came from actually flying to Hawaii (2 times now with AS) plus a trip home from Las Vegas on Delta. More recently I got a 25,000 from a Bank of America-Alaska Airlines credit card sign-up ($75 annual fee). Add in the various other routine daily activities of a self-confessed mileage junkie (e-Rewards, e-Miles, etc.) and before you know it, I had over 75,000 miles in the bank- more than double what I need to make it up to Anchorage and back. Award availability on Alaska Airlines was surprisingly good given the last minute nature of the trip. I was able to get very good mid-day timings with minimal layovers for 32,500 miles (12.5k + 20k). There were some cheaper options, but I figured going via SEA and PDX then getting to ANC at 1 or 2 in the morning would make me a bad mother, and an even worse house guest. In the end it was well worth a few extra miles to travel in the middle of the day. I only bought one ticket for both of us, which is something I like to do on domestic award travel as long as there appear to be a lot of empty seats at the time of booking. The airlines will usually let you bring your car seat on board and take up an extra unoccupied seat. While I typically don't like to "lapchild", this is something I have done before on United. Alaska's policy is very generous in this regard, and all they ask is that I provide them with a birth certificate (or passport) to verify that my child is indeed under 2 years old.

An example of some flights we won't be taking

 So after having kids, it turns out just a bit more planning goes into these last-minute, impulsive-behavior-driven trips as I continue to chase my dreams of being a jet-setting, snow-bunny, surfer-chick, still-20-something (for a few more weeks anyway), life-loving, sometimes-crazy, young adult. Of course, none of this would be possible without having one of the greatest little guys around, and he really is such a good sport on the plane (and in the car) when we drag him along on all of our travel adventures. Also special thanks to my awesome cousin Steve, his wife Lisa, and their beautiful family for the invite and for taking us in. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful relatives and I can't wait to check out the snow in Alaska!

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