We are planning a two week tour of Alaska while with visiting our son who is at University Alaska Fairbanks. Since we have a substanial number of reward points we would love to use them for this vacation. Any recommendation as to how to best use them - air fare, hotel accomendations (which will be limited to those cities that even have a Marriott), etc. Thanks.
Good recommendations from Pingreeman, which I will second.
I am a ten-year Alaska resident prior to retiring --- so can tell you that you undoubtedly will more than enjoy Alaska.
Keep in mind that summer weather - like many parts of the US -- can be changable. Be prepared for the state birds (mosquitos, not ptarmigans) and for changable temperatures. In summer, 80 to 90 degrees farenheit in Fairbanks (FAI) is not uncommon, nor is 30 to 40 degrees at night in oceanfront and some bush (rural) towns.
In Anchorage (ANC), all of the Marriott properties have good locations with a few fabulous locations --- and all are well managed (in my experience). If this is your first time to the Last Frontier (Alaska's motto), I strongly suggest you stay at the downtown Anchorage full-service Marriott. The 360-degree mountain/ocean views from the top-floor concierge lounge are nothing short of spectacular! Allow yourself a few hours in the lounge! On most days, the lounge has the best long-range view you will ever find of Mt. MicKinley and Mt. Foracker and the entire Alaska Mountain Range and most of the Chugach Mountains. Plus all of Cook Inlet and the north end of the Kenai Peninsula.
The most convenient Marriott property in Anchorage has to be the airport Courtyard. It is literally across the street (Spenard Road) from Lake Hood and lake Spenard, which together form Anchorage airport's water runway for float planes. I don't know of another major international airport anywhere else in the US that has a water runway on property and under control of its tower. If you stay at the Courtyard, allow time to walk across the street to observe float plane operations.
Not many Marriott choices in Fairbanks, but not to worry. The lone Marriott, a Springhill Suites right on the banks of the scenic Chena River in downtown Fairbanks, is more that adequate and - in my opinion - the best hotel in town by far. It is also a great base for tourng the city and burbs, and the nearby Alaska oil pipeline.
Try to set the trip for June. July/Aug is the rainy season and the weather is iffy! I would suggest you land in Anchorage and get your car there. Take the train to Whittier and take the boat through PWS. It's just a day trip and gives you what you want to see! See Anchorage then take your drive to Denali. Do Denali for a day or two (no Marriott there!) . If you can take a day trip by bus back into the park do it! it's the only way you will see the animals. Be sure to go to the visitors center. Continue on to Fairbanks. Make sure you go to the Esther Gold camp to eat and take in a show. Continue on to Valdez(a day drive) and catch a fishing charter. You can have your catch flash frozen and shipped for you. There you can put your car on the Alaska marine highway, back through PWS and you'll end up in Seward or Whittier. Another day drive and you will be back in Anchorage. This is the best trip Alaska has to offer. If you did not want to drive to Fairbanks you can also take the train to Denali and have your son meet you there. People are often disappointed that they never see Denali. it's out there from a few vantage points on the road but the weather has to be darn near perfect to see it. We lived in Fairbanks for 10 years and this is a trip we have done and suggested to people and it never disappoints! SHS in Fairbanks is nice and right in town. As you know there are a few to choose from in Anchorage. I know this was at all what you were asking for help with but I thought it might help! Enjoy your trip!!