Scott McMurren

When I meet travelers at airports, restaurants or the grocery line, they often ask: “What’s the best website to find good travel deals?” Although it is a simple question, the answer is difficult. In fact, there is no one “silver bullet” website for the best travel deals. Because of the various distribution channels, bargains can -- and do -- pop up in unexpected places. There are some websites that I check more than once each day. There are others that I check less frequently. Sometimes readers and other travelers alert me to great bargains. Here are some of my favorite sites: 1. The Flight Deal ( Hat tip to my friend James Minton for the heads-up on this site. Every day, these folks send out a bulletin for great fares. Not all of them apply to Alaska travelers. But...Scott McMurren
There are many paths through Alaska’s wilderness. Some are paved, most are not. Where the highways end, rivers begin. And eventually, the rivers meet the sea. Adventurers have many options throughout the state to see some awesome landscapes, land some incredible fish and see some big wildlife. Along the way, you’ll probably learn about the history of the region and its ecosystem. Some trips last all day. Others are 10-12 days and involve camping, flights and lots of bug dope. My travel agent, Sally Huntley of Alaska Travel Source, just returned from a float trip on the Kongakut River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She was positively gushing about the experience. “It’s another world,” she said. “I could stand on a peak and look out over the Arctic plain to the village of Kaktovik...Scott McMurren
Alaska has a disproportionate number of “Sky People.” We see them everywhere: “rotorheads,” “AvGeeks,” “wing nuts.” These are folks who spend most of their time on the ground working to get back up in the air. Many of these folks are pilots. Some have their own aircraft. Most of them (like me) just like the view -- and are most appreciative of the miracle of air travel. It’s no surprise, then, that there are many opportunities around the state to get a whiff of that rare air while flying over some incredible scenery. Here are some of the favorites: 1. Knik River Lodge glacier tours : It’s less than 60 miles from Anchorage to the Knik River Lodge -- at the end of Knik River Road. Peter Schadee has a collection of cabins that overlook the Knik River valley. The front lawn is the helipad for...Scott McMurren
Sure, summer’s just started. So is it wrong to talk about late-summer and Christmas holiday specials with the airlines? Sure, because if you have a big trip on your holiday wish list, right now might be the time to buy your ticket. Because of the fight between Alaska Airlines and Delta , the early-season deals lasted longer and there hasn’t been much of a bump for peak-season travel. And by “peak season,” I mean July. On Aug. 3, Delta is putting seats on sale to Seattle from all five of its Alaska gateways: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. Below are some of my favorite late-summer and holiday fares. Remember, fares change all the time. The cheapest seats are not available on every flight. For example, between Anchorage and Seattle, the cheapest flights are the red-eye...Scott McMurren
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. And by golly, there’s more than one way to sell an airline ticket. As competition heats up this summer, the prices are dropping. If you haven’t noticed, many destinations on the West Coast are selling for cheap: Anchorage-Seattle: $177 round trip on JetBlue (from June 18), $197 round trip on Alaska or Delta (from June 24). Anchorage-Portland: $197 round trip, nonstop on JetBlue (from June 18), $214 round trip on Delta and $237 round trip on Alaska (starting in late June). Anchorage-Long Beach: $196 round trip on JetBlue (from June 18). This is a nonstop flight. Anchorage-Los Angeles/LAX: $299 round trip on Delta (from June 30) or $359 round trip, nonstop on Alaska (from June 24) As shown above, the best fares require some advance planning. But with...Scott McMurren
“What’s in your wallet?” That phrase was the tagline for a clever set of ads from Capital One, promoting their credit cards for frequent fliers. While most frequent-flier plans zoom in on rewards and bonuses for miles flown, Capital One, American Express and Chase focus on dollars spent. Specifically, they are using the allure of free flights as an incentive to get you to carry their credit card. Despite years of consolidation in both the airline business and financial markets, competition remains fierce on the credit card front. Alongside the offers, bonuses, promises of free flights and “elite status,” a group of “travel hackers” has sprung up to encourage travelers to think a little bit differently about points, miles and awards. Chris Guillebeau and Stephanie Zito recently filmed a...Scott McMurren
Are you a first-class traveler? You know -- only flying in the front of the plane regardless of the cost? Are you hooked on the better service, more legroom and free drinks afforded to those lucky few seated in rows one through four? If so, you’re likely to be upset at Delta ’s latest initiative to put first-class seats on sale. It means more “ordinary” people will be grabbing those comfy seats. Oh -- it’s not every seat on every flight. Between Anchorage and Seattle, the cheap “F” seats are available only on Tuesdays and Saturdays. But for those travelers who want to fly Delta, or if you’ve wanted an excuse to sample the rare air up in the Premium Cabin, this may be your chance. Between Anchorage and Seattle, you can fly first class on Delta for as little as $184 each way. Alaska...Scott McMurren
If you’re up for an adventure this summer, there are plenty of places around the state that offer a great experience -- whether you travel by boat, by car or by air. Are you ready for a road trip? One of my favorite destinations is Valdez, and half the fun is getting there. Head up the Glenn Highway through the Matanuska Valley. Stop at Sheep Mountain Lodge for something sweet to eat. A “Glacier Cookie,” actually. It’s hard to see the cookie underneath the ice cream and syrup -- but if you dig deep, you’ll find it. Turn right at Glennallen and head down the Richardson Highway. You’ll cross Thompson Pass and head into Keystone Canyon, home to a couple of beautiful waterfalls: Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls. Stop and take some pictures. On arrival in Valdez, stop in at the Fat...Scott McMurren
Savvy Alaska travelers have been watching the “Battle for Seattle” airfare wars brewing all winter as Alaska Airlines and Delta position themselves at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Delta is expanding its international flights and adding domestic flights to feed the trans-Pacific and over-the-pole flights to Europe. Alaska is actively defending its “fortress hub” at the region’s largest airport. As part of this effort, Delta has more than doubled its service to Alaska with more flights from Anchorage to Seattle and service to Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. Airfares are dropping. Today’s rates for flights to Seattle and beyond are among the lowest of this century. Anchorage travelers are accustomed to lower fares. But travelers in Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan have...Scott McMurren
Two airlines announced new routes for Alaska travelers last week. It’s always important to watch for new route announcements, as they are usually accompanied by fare sales. JetBlue just announced a second nonstop flight between Anchorage and Seattle. Starting May 15, JetBlue is scheduled to offer two red-eye flights each day: one each to Seattle and Long Beach. Then, on June 18, the airline will add another red-eye flight to Portland. But this new flight to Seattle, starting July 1, departs for Seattle in the afternoon: 4:09 p.m. The return flight from Seattle leaves at 12:51 p.m., arriving in Anchorage at 3:54 p.m. Here’s the kicker: JetBlue is offering fares as low as $197 roundtrip on the new flight. This is great news for midsummer fliers who are used to paying high rates. The new...Scott McMurren