Scott McMurren

Are you prepared for the upcoming holiday season? This is not about the recent State Department travel warning . That’s a separate story, best summed up by reminding people to be aware and to pay attention to current events. This is important: The "warning" is a lower-level notice than an "alert" and does not mandate that people stop traveling completely. There are a host of gift ideas that can help you be better-prepared, safer and more comfortable both for domestic and international travel. Further, these gifts for those on-the-go need not bust your holiday budget. Tina Baugher runs Mermaid Imports at 209 W. Dimond Blvd. in Anchorage. Almost everything is imported from Asia. One of her go-to travel accessories is simple: a fan. “Imagine being stuck on a hot bus or waiting in a stuffy...Scott McMurren
Travelers are a flexible lot. They’re able to bob and weave through a crowd and handle changes easily. That’s good, because there are lots of changes on the horizon in 2016. Here are a few hints at what’s coming. Mileage hounds: American Airlines is credited for starting frequent flyer loyalty schemes with its “AAdvantage” program in 1981. Today, the airline is the last big holdout for mileage-based frequent flyer awards. Other mega-carriers (Delta and United) have devalued their mileage programs and reworked them to reward those who spend more money, as opposed to those who simply fly more miles. Now that American has gobbled up USAirways to become the world's largest airline, it announced it was doing the same, starting next year . American is the biggest domestic mileage partner for...Scott McMurren
This is the time of year when folks are having second thoughts about Thanksgiving and Christmas travel. Perhaps the family couldn’t make plans in advance — or maybe friends in the Lower 48 decided at the last minute on a holiday reunion. After hearing about the great rates all summer long, holiday travel prices can be shocking. Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away. To fly from Anchorage to Seattle the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 25) and return the following Monday (Nov. 30), it could cost you between $750 and $850 round-trip. If you want to use Alaska Airlines miles, it will cost 60,000 miles. You can pick and choose your dates and bring the cost down a bit, but this is the busiest travel weekend of the year. Over the Christmas holiday, the story is a little better, since you...Scott McMurren
Are you ready for your holiday trip? Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it’s the busiest travel weekend of the year. Then there’s the Christmas break, which is between Dec. 17 and Jan. 4. It doesn’t matter where you’re going -- you’re going to have plenty of company. Let’s assume you’ve already got your tickets to fly south. That’s just the beginning. Here are some timely tips to make sure you are well-prepared for your holiday journey. Global Entry: If you don’t mind trading your personal information and $95 for a pass to TSA’s pre-check line, sign up for “ Global Entry .” Designed primarily for frequent international travelers, Global Entry lets you re-enter the U.S. using a kiosk at the arrivals lounge instead of going through the line. But admission to the pre-check line is a...Scott McMurren
Do you remember your first train trip? Our family traveled cross-country by rail in the 1960s. It was a great adventure, starting at Union Station in Portland, Oregon. It wasn’t as glamorous as jet travel, but I stayed awake all the way to our first connection at Council Bluffs, Iowa. There were interesting people on board, a dining car and an ever-changing landscape outside. It was another 14 years before my first trip on the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Fairbanks. In between, I took a couple of rides on Amtrak ’s Coast Starlight from Portland to Santa Barbara. I also had the chance to hop aboard VIA Rail Canada ’s Canadian train from Banff, Alberta, to Vancouver, British Columbia. Few people will disagree that riding the rails is a great way to travel. But in the Lower 48, Amtrak...Scott McMurren
It’s important to regularly examine the ever-changing basics of traveling from Point A to Point B. But it’s more important to figure out why you want to go. Sometimes, the "why" event comes with little or no notice. Maybe it's an impromptu reunion or surprise tickets to a concert. Perhaps it's a last-minute business opportunity. Last week, for me, it was a memorial service for a dear friend. Making a personal appearance is so important -- and frequent, affordable air travel options make it possible. There are some tricks to getting short-notice bargains, though. Once you’re within 21 days of departure, many airfare prices go up. For example, a one-way ticket to Seattle with 21 days’ notice is $142. The walk-up rate is $441 each way. If you need to go south right away, it’s helpful to have...Scott McMurren
Now that Alaska Airlines ’ PFD airfare sale is over, all the ticket prices have gone up, right? Wrong. Delta’s special PFD offers are available for purchase until Oct. 19. That means on some competitive routes, Alaska Airlines has kept its prices low. On other routes, Alaska let the fares drift a little higher -- but not too much. Alaska Airlines makes a bigger fuss about the PFD sale than Delta. To Delta, the bigger picture is its battle with Alaska Airlines in Seattle . So many of the best fares to or from Alaska have changed a couple of times since they were announced. That’s good news for travelers -- since the fares went down. Not all of the prices to all of the cities are available for the same time. Predictably, fares are higher around Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break. But...Scott McMurren
It’s October and the busy summer travel season is officially over. But before everyone in the travel business leaves town, they meet up for an annual convention. It’s here, at the Alaska Travel Industry Association meeting, that travel and tourism professionals learn about trends and what’s going to be new for next year. The buzzword at this year’s Juneau convention was “Arctic.” Just last month, Alaska hosted the sightseer-in-chief, President Barack Obama, in Anchorage, Seward, Dillingham and Kotzebue. President Obama clearly had a great time, while highlighting Alaska’s Native culture and the challenges surrounding climate change. Whether it’s offshore drilling, cruises through the Arctic Ocean, thawing of the permafrost or the unique lifestyle of the Arctic’s indigenous people, the...Scott McMurren
Both Delta and Alaska came out with impressive PFD airfare sales last month. But something wonderful is happening: More cities now are on sale and the fares keep dropping . It’s not unusual for fares to change every day. But the competitive pressure is causing fares to sink further for travel through May 2016. For example, Alaska Airlines initially offered fares to Seattle for $99 each way. But when Delta came out with $79 fares from Anchorage to Seattle, Alaska responded with a limited number of cheaper seats at $79, but only on northbound flights starting in November. From Anchorage to Los Angeles, Alaska first announced nonstop flights for $149 each way. When Delta started offering LA tickets for $118 each way, Alaska dropped to $139. Several readers contacted me regarding fares to...Scott McMurren
Are you going to buy airline tickets with your Permanent Fund dividend check? This is a good year to do it, since both Delta and Alaska Airlines are offering up some excellent fares from Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks to the Lower 48. Alaska Airlines is also offering big fare cuts for rural Alaska travelers to popular destinations like Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver and San Diego. As usual, there are rules, blackout dates, exceptions and more than a few surprises once you get into the details of planning your trip. Both Alaska and Delta requires a 21-day advance purchase for the PFD fares. First, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for travel between now and mid-May. Alaska Airlines mandates that travelers purchase all of their PFD tickets by Oct. 7, while Delta offers its sale fares through...Scott McMurren