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Scott McMurren

When you're planning a trip, it's a good idea to get some background on the destination, the people and activities once you arrive.

A quick trip to the bookstore will yield a myriad of possibilities.

There are guidebooks and maps of every size and color. You may also find magazines on your destination, whether it's Europe, Hawaii or downtown Seattle.

If you want immediate gratification, though, go online and seek out a travel blog on your destination. Just like books and magazines, some are better than others. But it's worthwhile to poke around a little and find one that reads well and provides good, timely information...

Scott McMurren

Every day brings news about air fare cuts, sales and specials. It's about time.

Today, we're near the end of a sale for Alaska Airlines flights between now and Mar. 11, 2009. If you're planning to travel between now and then, you'd be wise to check out the prices. You have to purchase your tickets no later than tomorrow, Monday, Nov. 24. There are a few blackout dates in December and in February.

Between Anchorage and Seattle, Alaska's rate is $209 each way, not including taxes. Nobody's shouting out loud about that price, but the rates to the little towns in Idaho, Oregon and Washington are pretty good. For $239 each way, plus taxes, you can travel to far-flung airports like Medford, Ore., Lewiston, Idaho, and Yakima, Wash...

Scott McMurren

Getting ready to travel over Thanksgiving or Christmas? Get ready for some big changes.

1. Luggage. If you're checking bags, chances are good you're going to pay to do so. Currently, Delta, Northwest, USAir and Continental are charging $15 in each direction -- $30 round trip -- for your very first bag. Whether or not you actually have to pay next month depends on when you bought your ticket. Right now, Alaska Airlines still allows you a free bag. Take a moment and check with your travel agent or the airline directly to see what your total cost will be...

Scott McMurren

How do you really get any work done on the road? For me, it's tough. I have some general guidelines, though. On this particular four-day trip up and down the West Coast, I've broken every rule. It's one reason I'm pretty sleepy as I slouch into my airplane seat for the ride back to Anchorage.

A. Get a good night's sleep. This is easier said than done, particularly if you're on a red-eye flight or if you're crossing many time zones. Sometimes, if I can arrange to fly in the evening before any meetings, I can get a jump on the next day...

Scott McMurren

About three weeks ago, I traveled with my friend Gary Blakely across the Golden Gate Bridge. We were headed north from San Francisco in Gary's convertible on a sunny September morning.

We could not have picked a more tangled, twisted road than California Highway 1, which snakes through a forest of eucalyptus trees over to the coast for the three-hour drive up to the Highland Inn in Monte Rio. Nestled on the banks of the Russian River, this spacious inn sits in the heart of Sonoma County's wine country.

Everyone has a favorite road trip. There are some great ones right here in Alaska, including the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm and the Glenn Highway through the Matanuska Valley. Here are some of my other favorites:...

Scott McMurren

There are tricks to every trade. Ask any frequent flyer and you're likely to get an earful about how to navigate the increasingly complex world of planning, purchasing and executing a trip.

Lots of folks want to know the best time to buy their tickets. If you're traveling at Christmas or Spring Break, "now" would be the correct answer. Many of the prime dates already are sold out.

Don't purchase non-peak tickets too far ahead -- too many things can happen that require a date change, negating any fare savings. I pull the trigger between 18 and 29 days prior to departure. Anything inside of 14 days and you're asking for trouble: Either the seats won't be there, the fare will be astronomical, or both...

Scott McMurren

One of my favorite fall activities is attending the Alaska Travel Industry Association meeting. It's in Anchorage this year and it offers an insider's perspective on what's in store for the coming year in Alaska and beyond.

In light of the world's financial meltdown, travel operators are wondering how much people will be traveling. It's a fair question, and how the world responds has a direct impact on Alaska travelers.

Air travelers are watching carriers shrink before their eyes. As fares go up, up, up, available flights are drying up as well. Carriers are boosting the number of miles required for a free ticket, if such seats are available at all. With Boeing on strike, carriers are deferring their plans for new aircraft, shrinking their fleets faster...

Scott McMurren

Katmai National Park in general, and Brooks Falls in particular, is well-known as a premier bear viewing area.

In the summer, dozens of grizzlies gather at the falls to take their pick of millions of migrating red salmon. But that’s not the reason the park was formed.

“The park was created so folks could see the Valley of 10,000 Smokes,” said Ray Petersen, whose family operates the park concession at Brooks Camp. Petersen was a legendary Alaska aviator — and regarded as the father of Alaska’s sportfishing industry. He died on Aug. 12 at age 96...

Scott McMurren

"This is the place."

Those prophetic words were spoken in 1847 by Brigham Young as he looked over the Great Salt Lake. It was the end of a long journey across the plains for him and the group of Mormon pioneers who followed.

Today, Salt Lake City glistens as the sun bounces off the light dusting of fresh powder snow. After a long plane ride from Alaska -- Delta flies nonstop from Anchorage -- many of us might say, "This is the place for a great winter vacation."...

Scott McMurren

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