Part 1 – A No-Kid San Francisco Getaway


Iconic San Francisco Cable Car near Union Square

My wife and I got married on April 3rd, seven years ago. We try to do a trip alone without our two daughters every year, even if it’s just for a weekend or a few days. Last year, it was the Kohala Coast on Hawaii – yes, that is the name of the Big Island. This year, we chose to go to San Francisco for a few days

We love San Francisco.

But, man, even a short vacation to San Francisco can be expensive.

This is Part 1, detailing how we got there on Alaska Airlines. In other posts, I will write about where we stayed and what we did. San Francisco is a big city that warrants multiple posts. Something that I must put out there right away is that I do not get paid by any of the companies that I am writing about. I have added links only to give more information when appropriate.

The vast majority of the cost for our trip was covered by using a spending strategy with our Alaska Airlines Visa and our Chase Sapphire Reserve. Most of the credit goes to The Points Guy though, and I am constantly looking on that site for travel hacking ideas.

Because we’re based out of Portland, Alaska Airlines is the best and logical choice for us. Something I must highlight is their acquisition of Virgin America is already paying dividends, at least for us Alaska Airlines loyalists. When we boarded our flight for San Francisco, I could sense an immediate difference from my last flight on Alaska, which was actually operated by Skywest. Boo. I did not feel the same sense of Alaska Airlines friendliness, cleanliness, and attention to detail on that particular flight. Thankfully, I was flying to and from Austin, Texas for SXSWedu, an education conference on steroids. Austin has quickly jumped up to one of my favorite cities to visit. I was buzzing from the BBQ and 6th Street fun, so I didn’t mind the difference in flight experience on the way home. However, I will say that an Alaska flight operated by Skywest will make me want to look at another airline. As long as its not Frontier. I’m still waiting on that non-stop from Portland to Denver, Alaska.

Anyway, back to the San Francisco trip. The plane we flew to SFO had beautiful blue mood lighting, music, and free inflight entertainment on your own device. You can rent one of their tablets, but those weren’t available because this flight was so short. And to be completely honest, they’re clunky. I was happy to be able to use my iPad. Just be certain to download the app before you get on the plane or before you take off. There are a lot of choices when it comes to free movies and shows for all ages. Those small touches gave us good vibes for our trip, but it also gives me hope for a successful merger between these two awesome airlines, especially since we fly on Alaska a lot. Here is more info from their blog regarding what’s to come. I have never flown on Virgin America, so I cannot compare the two, but its cult following is definitely appropriate if these are the touches Alaska is choosing to poach from them.

After Alaska’s purchase of Virgin America, they restructured the rewards cost of short-haul flights. The PDX-SFO segment is only 500 miles. That put us firmly in the 5,000 miles price point. Another positive to this merger between the two airlines. My wife and I each have our own accounts and Alaska Visas, which makes sense considering we have two kids and each account gets one companion fare per year. When we fly to Hawaii in July, I will detail how we used miles and companion fare to get there. Here is some more info about changes to their rewards structure.

Round trip for two cost us 20,000 miles and about $24 in taxes. That saved us over $400 in airline costs.

One last point I’d like to make regarding Alaska Airlines and its purchase of Virgin America is how excited I am about the increased service all along the West Coast of the US, more flights to Hawaii, and new and increasing service to the East Coast. Starting in November, Alaska will begin service from PDX to JFK. My dad and grandparents live in Yonkers, New York, so I’m looking forward to that first Big Apple visit with my girls. My mom and brother live in Southern California, and we also make an annual pilgrimage to the Church of Disney. The new services and amenities are only strengthening our devotion to Alaska Airlines.

That concludes Part 1 of our trip to San Francisco, with my goal of highlighting how we got to San Francisco on Alaska Airlines. Look for Part 2, which will show how we used our Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to stay at the Fairmont San Francisco for free. Kind of.

[Bonus – Alaska Airlines is running a sale right now on miles where you can earn up to 24,000 miles!]