Saturday, June 16, 2018

Mini Seattle family vacation

We just returned from a 4-day visit to Seattle.  Thanks to our Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credits, we were able to purchase 3 Delta Airlines tickets and split payments on our credit cards.  The total cost of the flights came out to be $748.80 and we got $600 ($300 Chase travel credit per credit card) off our tickets.  In total, we only paid $148.80 for a $748.80 flight.
Checking out our plane before boarding
While our son has been on many flights already, this was our daughter’s first time flying.  We thought traveling with a baby was hectic, but traveling with a toddler and a baby took things to a new level!
Thanks to our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards, we both have 5 years free Global Entry, which includes TSA Precheck.  TSA Precheck allowed us to completely bypass the crowded security lines at the airports for our flights.  With 2 kids, TSA Precheck was a huge time saver.  We were able to go through airport security without removing our shoes, electronics, liquids, belts, and jackets when getting screened. Our son always has so much energy and he loved running around the airport and exploring.  I don’t think he would have done well waiting in the long security lines. 
When traveling with kids, we learned that it was safer to bring our own car seats instead of renting them along with our rental car.  We bought the Cosco Seneca Next car seat, from Walmart for less than $40.  On our flight to Seattle, we brought the car seat onto the plane so our son could get strapped into it.  
Activity books helped keep our son busy during the flight

Things didn’t turn out too well since he didn’t like being confined to the seat.  We had to tough out a 20-minute toddler meltdown on the flight to Seattle.  On our return flight, we checked the car seat at the gate and our son had no issues.
We stayed at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Seattle Bellevue / Kirkland hotel.  We booked our hotel stay through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.  Their 2 room suite with king bed and living room was perfect for our family.  We wanted our kids to sleep in separate cribs in separate rooms so they wouldn’t wake each other up.  
We redeemed 48,650 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover our hotel stay, which would have cost us $729.76.  It was nice to enjoy free parking, breakfast and coffee daily.  Thanks to our Chase Ultimate Rewards points, we didn’t need to worry about planning for a $700+ hotel stay as part of our travel expenses. 
While there are many things to do in Seattle, our time was limited a lot of family events, including a wedding.

Seattle Aquarium
No vacation is complete for our son without a visit to the local aquarium.  Our son was so excited when he found out that we were going to see ocean animals that he kept repeating “go see sharks!” over and over again.  
One of our first stops in Seattle was the Seattle Aquarium, located on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront.  Our son really enjoyed looking at all the different exhibits that included multiple varieties of fish, giant octopus, jellyfish, sea otters, seals, birds, and more. 

While the aquarium isn’t very large, there are many open areas to explore.  Our son was a bit bummed to find out that the Seattle Aquarium doesn’t have a shark exhibit.  The only sharks they had at the aquarium were dogfish sharks, a small bottom dwelling shark.  Tickets to the Seattle Aquarium were $29.95 for adults and free for kids ages 3 and under.  We parked in a nearby lot for $10.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Since our son did not get to see enough sharks at the Seattle Aquarium, I decided to take a father-son trip to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma.  
The zoo is located about 40 minutes south of downtown Seattle and 30 minutes from the Sea Tac Airport.  The zoo is 29 acres in size with 367 different species of animals including tigers, monkeys, elephants, otters, penguins, polar bears, arctic foxes and several aquariums.  The zoo has plenty of nice walking paths.  Our son was most interested in seeing sharks, and the zoo had plenty of them to offer. 
We also got to check out the camels, tigers, penguins, seals, walruses and more.  Currently the zoo was under construction for another aquarium (Pacific Seas) - unfortunately that exhibit wasn’t open for us to explore (opens summer 2018).
Our son touched his first stingray here!
Tickets to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are an excellent value at only $17.95 for adults ($15.95 if purchased online).  Since my son wasn’t 3 years old yet, he got to go for free.  Parking here is also free.  This was such a fun place to spend half a day. 
Amazon Spheres
While we were exploring downtown Seattle, we stumbled upon the Amazon Spheres. This Amazon workplace is set up like a huge terrarium or urban botanical garden.  
The 3 intersecting Spheres have a unique architectural design that fuses modern building technology with biodiverse plants.  There are over 40,000 plant species here from 30 countries.  These glass-covered domes allow you to see Amazon employees working inside.  They are quite the futuristic site to behold. 
Amazon Go
Located next to the Spheres is the Amazon Go store.  Touted as having the “world’s most advanced shopping technology,” the Amazon Go store is basically a futuristic grocery store.  To enter the store, you need to download the Amazon Go app.  Camera sensors all over the store automatically detects which products are taken from the shelves and put into your shopping bag.  Once you are done shopping, you can just leave the store without waiting in any lines to get checked out.  
The Amazon Go store sells some ready to eat meal items and has a small seating area.  It was fun visiting Amazon Go, and getting a glimpse of what future grocery store shopping will look like.
We had a great time in Seattle seeing family and exploring some sites.  Since most of our finances are automated (bill payments, investing, and saving), we didn’t have to think about money on our trip.    We continue to strive towards financial freedom – and short vacations like this help us enjoy our journey!

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