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
The upcoming announcement of this year’s Permanent Fund dividend (PFD) always evokes images of airplanes and far-off places. The amount is estimated to be more than $2,000 . With a check like that, you can buy a ticket to almost anywhere in the world. For Anchorage travelers, the PFD checks, and the promotional airfares that go with them, represent an embarrassment of riches on the travel front. Not just on prices, either. There are some pretty nice amenities that go with traveling out of Alaska’s largest city. 1. Low fares: OK, the prices are nice. Airfares to and from Anchorage have been low all summer, due primarily to competition between Alaska and Delta . These “attack fares” are on track to continue into the winter months as Delta continues to move in on Alaska Airlines' turf. Right...Scott McMurren
When you’re traveling around the state, don’t miss the chance for an “Alaska moment.” Sometimes it’s a special meal with friends. Maybe a bear walks in front of you on the road and you happen to have your camera. In Southeast Alaska, those “moments” often include an adventure on the sea. I’ve visited Ketchikan many times. Since Ketchikan is a cruise port, I’m more familiar with the popular activities for cruisers: flightseeing, zipline tours, kayaking and downtown shopping . But it’s just a 15-minute drive north of Ketchikan to Clover Pass. There are several lodges that cater to a different sort of traveler. They don’t arrive on a cruise ship. And they have one thing on their minds: fish. During a recent visit, I stayed with friends at Chinook Shores Lodge after doing business all day in...Scott McMurren
If there is a word for a day in Alaska travel this week, it’s “glacier.” In case you missed the president of the United States rolling through Southcentral Alaska, it was all about the glaciers. First, there was the big shindig called "GLACIER" at the Dena'ina Center on Monday. Then it was off to Seward on Tuesday to walk to Exit Glacier and cruise with Major Marine Tours to see some glaciers in Resurrection Bay. Although the glaciers are retreating, you still can see them all around Alaska. Whether you want an adventure this fall or you’re planning for next summer, here are a few tips for getting up on the ice around the state. First, you can walk right up to the same glacier that President Obama saw in Seward: Exit Glacier . Right before you get to Seward, take a right turn at Exit...Scott McMurren
Do you hear that hissing sound? That's the air leaking out of the glorious balloon known as summer. The weather rolls in. The temperatures dip. It’s getting dark at night. Face it: Winter’s coming. Still, there are some great days ahead, particularly in the first half of September. So layer up and check out more deals for traveling around Alaska. The Alaska Railroad offers a “value season” for their trains between Anchorage and Denali. Ride the rails Sept. 1-13 for $129 each way. Compare that to the high-season rate of $163 each way in Adventure Class. There is an additional 20 percent discount for Alaska residents. If you’re looking to travel on the weekly service between Anchorage and Fairbanks during the winter, here’s a tip: Take the train to the Alaska State Fair. Inside your ticket...Scott McMurren
Do you want to know the best places for a fall trip? Right here in Alaska? Please don’t ask me — it’s a long list. Let’s just work on the trips that start with a K. 1) Kantishna. This is the old mining community located at the end of the 95-mile road through Denali National Park and Preserve. The only mining going on now is by guests who try their hand at gold panning in the creek. But Kantishna is a great destination if you want to see a side of Denali that few others visit. This is where Wonder Lake is — and where many of those iconic Denali photos are taken. There are several lodges, including Kantishna Roadhouse, Camp Denali, North Face Lodge and the Denali Backcountry Lodge. Each lodge has its own shuttle, so you get a tour of the park road as part of your stay. Denali Backcountry...Scott McMurren
Summer’s almost over. That’s terrible news, unless you’re shopping for airline tickets. That’s because airfares between Alaska and the Lower 48 are cheap. Mind you, there have been great fares all summer long. But all of the airlines are fighting each other to get the last summertime travelers. That’s the big reason fares are dropping from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. From Anchorage to Seattle, Delta and JetBlue are offering round-trip tickets from $177. Alaska is selling theirs at $199 round-trip. You have to make reservations two weeks in advance to get the best deals. But even seven days out, the fare is just $237 round-trip on Alaska, Delta or JetBlue. Portland has eclipsed Seattle as the cheapest gateway to the Lower 48 because of JetBlue’s new nonstop flight. Sure, it’s a red-...Scott McMurren
Things are changing again at Ravn Alaska , the state’s largest regional airline. Ravn actually is a compilation of three different air carriers: Frontier Flying Service, Era Aviation and Hageland Aviation. Ravn used to be known as Era Alaska until they changed their name in January 2014. Bob Hajdukovich, Ravn’s CEO, has secured financing from a New York-based private equity firm to buy out his partners and recapitalize the airline. The investor, J.F. Lehman and Co. , has acquired a majority stake in Ravn. The remaining shares will be consolidated with Hajdukovich and his family. “Now there will be one vision for the company instead of three,” he said, referring to his former partners at Hageland Aviation. Terms were not disclosed. “With this recapitalization, we will continue to evolve...Scott McMurren
On a recent JetBlue flight from Portland to Anchorage, my seatmate confided, “I feel like I’m cheating on Alaska Airlines by flying JetBlue .” She was one of the mothers accompanying a girls soccer team back home after games in Seattle and Portland. When asked if JetBlue did a good job, the consensus of the moms on board was two thumbs up, particularly considering the low prices. “I’d definitely fly them again,” said Becky Martin of Anchorage, one of the chaperones. One of the young soccer players added that she liked the seating arrangement better than on Alaska Airlines. “There’s more room,” she said. The big airline war this summer is between Alaska Airlines and Delta . It’s a juicier story because the two airlines technically are still partners -- and they try to play nice in public...Scott McMurren
Fairbanks is a year-round destination for travelers from around the world. In fact, there was a party last week on the Riverboat Discovery honoring Condor Airlines ’ 15 years of nonstop service from Fairbanks to Frankfurt, Germany. On the international front, the Europeans arrive in Fairbanks , also known as the Golden Heart City, during the summer on Condor’s flights. Tourists from Asia tend to arrive in the winter on charter flights from Japan and Korea. “We have gorgeous scenery and beautiful weathe r,” said lifelong Fairbanksan John Binkley. But really, in Fairbanks, it’s about the heart of the people that live here. There’s a frontier spirit and they’re so open and welcoming. "Fairbanks is a great place to live because of the people,” he said. If that sounds like a description...Scott McMurren