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Scott McMurren

Laguna Sunset, taken from the deck overlooking St. Ann's Beach. (Photo: Gary Blakely) I am no stranger to California. Whether you're tasting wine in Sonoma County, driving along Highway 1 at Big Sur or observing the glorious Golden Gate in San Francisco, it's easy to see why California is so popular with travelers.

But there are pockets of the Golden State that are absolutely over the top. I'm partial to Lake Tahoe. The crisp air, the icy lake, the glorious mountains--it's fabulous. Add the state's national parks (Yosemite, Death Valley, Kings Canyon) and it's almost enough to make the traffic, taxes and smog worthwhile.

Here's another must-see: Laguna Beach. It's worth the trip, especially in late October...

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren photo

Pike Place Market's iconic sign

Just flip the switch to get me to wax on about Seattle--the perfect Alaskan getaway.

It's all right downtown: shopping, great restaurants, great sports teams, great entertainment, great museums and fun activities. Plus -- since Seattle is the gateway for most of us to come to Alaska -- it's a natural stop when traveling around the country or around the world.

Now summer's gone here in Anchorage. Down in Seattle, there's still a little steam left in the fall -- which means there are quite a few shirt-sleeve afternoons to enjoy before the rains of winter set in...

Scott McMurren
Scott McMurren photo

I spend a fair amount of time in the air. Usually, it's in an aisle seat on a crowded jet. Often, people in front of me get excellent lumbar support since my knees are jammed into the back of their seats -- especially if they want to "recline." HA!

This summer was different, though. Still plenty of air time, but I spent much more time leaning out of planes and helicopters taking pictures. And what a revelation it's been!...

Scott McMurren

It's Permanent Fund Dividend season--and the travel deals are rolling out in waves. Last week we looked at Alaska Airlines' deal. Basically, Alaska is offering zone fares--the same fare to cities great and small within a specific area. That's particularly good news for travelers to or from smaller towns, where the fares typically are sky-high.

While many of us are shopping for cheap tickets Outside, there is an entire list of cities within Alaska that now are on sale. Let's take a look at some of the best deals...

Scott McMurren

Alaska Airlines has announced its annual "PFD" airline sale.

The sale is timed to coincide with the annual payout of the Permanent Fund Dividend checks. And Alaskans spend money each year on vacations, in addition to cars, home improvement and other big-ticket items.

This year's sale pricing extends through Aug. 25, 2010. Unlike previous years, though, there are a bunch of blackout dates and other restrictions which diminish the value of the sale prices...

Scott McMurren

What does it take to be a good travel agent these days?

Today's traveler has more tools at hand, with more information. Prices for travel within the U.S. are transparent--and options often are limitless. A certifiable travel junkie may subscribe to a half-dozen news feeds with instant response on cheap deals. Most have Priceline bookmarked on their desktop.

So with all the information and all the options before them, how do agents bring value to the equation?

I had a conversation with a young lady early this morning that really hit me. "Can you help me find a cheap ticket to Arizona?" she asked...

Scott McMurren

First, the good part: Fares are down. Frankly, they are not down as much as I'd like. Further, I think they will drop lower. But this is a step in the right direction. If you purchase your ticket before Sept. 10, you can get to Honolulu or Maui nonstop from Anchorage for just $208 each way (includes tax)...

Scott McMurren
Scott McMurren photo Right around the beginning of September I start to get excited about travel deals.

Summer is over. The kids are back in school. Most travel venues still are open for a couple of weeks -- and that means deals, deals, deals.

Let's start with some of the basics.

Headed to Denali? Yes. Fall is here, and the colors of Denali are changing right now...

Scott McMurren

It's been a rough-and-tumble week for travelers in Alaska.

Frankly, I'm still catching my breath. First, the prospective deal between Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines fell apart. Had the deal been consummated in bankruptcy court, Alaska might have welcomed Southwest Airlines for the first time. Along with that first flight, Alaskans might have witnessed the "Southwest Effect" in action: lower fares, higher frequency and an epic airline battle for passengers. It's always a good thing for air travelers when airlines are upset with one another...

Scott McMurren
Aaron Jansen illustration

Will Southwest Airlines fly to Anchorage?

It's a fair question in light of Southwest's bid for Denver-based Frontier Airlines. Airline financial analysts concede Frontier is Southwest's for the taking.

For Alaskan travelers, such a takeover could lead to lower airfares and more options -- an airline competition they haven't seen in years.

Frontier, based in Denver, is in bankruptcy. Until recently, only Republic Airlines (a holding company that operates a regional airline, Chautauqua Airlines) had shown an interest in acquiring the carrier. But last week, Southwest made a bid that was several million dollars more than Republic's...

Scott McMurren