Scott McMurren

I'm not sure why, but many of my favorite Alaska adventures begin with "K." Kodiak is nearly a year-round destination for our family. There's definitely more to do in the summer, though. In addition to harvesting some salmon and halibut on a deep-sea charter, you can enjoy some delicious "Night Watch Porter" from the harborside brewery, Kodiak Island Brewing Company. Make plans to sail on a gourmet dinner cruise with Marty and Marion Owen . Their boat, the "Sea Breeze," is a beautiful teak-trimmed motor yacht. They set sail each afternoon for an easy cruise around the harbor to see sea Scott McMurren photos Taking a break on the kayak trip around some of the islands near Kodiak's harbor. lions, eagles, puffins and lots of other critters. Then, they dock in a protected cove and serve up a...Scott McMurren
At Midsummer, I'm still planning itineraries for visitors coming up from the Lower 48. Typically, the first night or two is booked at "Chez McMurren." The neighborhood is pretty good, but my friends are warned that they may need to share their couch with a dog -- or two. Welcome to Alaska. Over the years, we've fine-tuned several trips. These include our own city tour (featuring the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Anchorage Museum and Alaska's Botanical Garden), Alyeska (with an optional extension to Portage Glacier), Seward (Kenai Fjords tour, SeaLife center, Exit Glacier) and Talkeetna (flightseeing, jetboat ride, Mountain High Pizza!). I never miss playing "tour guide" on these trips. Every single one of them is a long day well spent! Scott McMurren photos One of countless stunning...Scott McMurren
In today's ever-changing travel environment, it's great to get the counsel of an expert. This is especially true in the age of "do it yourself" travel. "Everyone thinks they're an expert," said Nick Kralev, founder of "On the Fly" Seminars. After a journalism career that took him to all four corners of the globe, Kralev recently left his post as a diplomatic correspondent with the Washington Times to concentrate of giving "how to" seminars to travelers. Specifically, Kralev's seminars are designed to give travelers an inside track on cheap fares, upgrades and earning free travel. That's a tall order. How does he do it? "This all goes back to what I call the democratization of travel," said Kralev. "I've flown more than 2 million miles and I've visited 82 countries. And I've learned some...Scott McMurren
Here we are in mid-summer and some of us still are searching high and low for travel deals. And why not? There are spectacular deals out there if you know where to look. And that's the trick, isn't it? I was visiting with some travelers yesterday who were searching for a short-notice ticket back to Seattle. As Anchorage travelers know, there is nothing cheap about air fares to Seattle. Heck -- it's cheaper to fly to New York. But these folks were smart -- and they were determined to search the internet high and low. ", and are some of our favorites," said Andrew, who was searching for a ticket. "Which do you like?" he asked. I really didn't answer his question, because none of these websites address the key question: "How do you know where to look?"...Scott McMurren
I know it sounds odd, but sometimes you can travel farther to trim your air fare expenses. That's certainly the case this week. Right now, the lowest fare between Anchorage and Seattle is $514 roundtrip on Alaska Airlines -- and that's only valid between July 18 and Aug. 9. Otherwise, it's $576 roundtrip. Clearly, Seattle is not the "value leader" when it comes to destinations, even though it is the most popular destination in the Lower 48 for Alaskans. So how do you trim the cost? Simple. Fly to Denver. I'm not kidding. The roundtrip fare to Denver on Alaska Airlines is just $376 roundtrip from Anchorage. The airline offers a free stop in either Seattle or Portland. So -- fly nonstop from Anchorage to Denver and take the next flight back to Seattle. On the way home, fly nonstop back to...Scott McMurren
Alaskans like to go fast, there's no doubt about that. Whether it's in the air, on the road or on the water -- fast is better. But that's simply not in the cards when it comes to riding the rails. No land speed records will be set riding on the Alaska Railroad. But in Europe, they take pride in their quick trains. We recently rode the TGV ( Train à Grande Vitesse ) from the south of France up to Paris. Whether you're a train lover, a plane lover, or just feel the need for speed, theTGV offers a fresh perspective on point-to-point travel. France is not the only country with a high-speed rail network (Japan, China, Spain and several other European countries have them as well), but the French take pride in their TGVs -- and it shows. Photos: Scott McMurren The TGV arriving at Avignon .....Scott McMurren
Halfway through a Euro-holiday, it finally dawned on me that an international vacation has a lot more moving parts than a trip to Seattle or Las Vegas: passports, power converters, credit cards and currency. It's one of those tough lessons that I learned more or less the hard way. So -- if you're thinking of heading out of the country, consider making a quick list to make sure you've got everything covered. From deep in the Euro-zone (southern France), it's tough to get by without a Euro-phone. Not only does everyone have a phone (just like home), but everyone expects you to be able to receive directions or take a phone call. So, be proactive before you land in Europe and start ringing up the impossible roaming charges! The folks at have plenty of solutions for the...Scott McMurren
Just as a rash of new flights start to show up in Anchorage, air fares to the affected cities are falling, falling, falling. And that is a good thing. At a very basic level, this is Airline Pricing 101: hold out to the last minute for high fares, then drop the rates to fill the planes. At that point, the incumbent carrier (usually Alaska Airlines) matches the rate and a price war ensues. Let's take a look at some of the best destinations for low fares: A. Anchorage-Honolulu. Alaska Airlines has a monopoly on this route, so I'm thrilled they're offering a bargain for summertime flights. NOTE you MUST purchase these deals by 11:59pm on May 27. The all-in price for Anchorage-Honolulu is $396 roundtrip. From Fairbanks, the price to Honolulu is $456 roundtrip, all-in. Travel on Friday,...Scott McMurren
In today's online travel environment, there are more ways for travelers to take advantage of great fares at a moment's notice. There also are pitfalls which can cost you hundreds of dollars if you're not careful. It's almost like the internet is providing an opportunity for travelers to make the same mistakes that rookie travel agents have been making for years! Let's review: A. Beware of the Phantom Fare. This is a common ploy by airlines to get you to book flights. The problem is this: they list a great fare, but there are no corresponding seats to buy! Right now, Delta lists a fare of $414 roundtrip between Anchorage and Minneapolis. But there are no seats available. In this case, Delta was matching a Sun Country Airlines offer for travel through June 11. But right now, it doesn't...Scott McMurren
It happens every year: the snow melts, the sun stays up late and early-season travel deals pop up in all corners of the state! The seasonal resort hotels around Denali National Park are just opening this week, so they're offering some great deals. The Denali Princess is offering rooms for as little as $99 in May — going up to $134 in June. But one of the best deals is to catch a combination rail/hotel deal up to Denali. Both Princess Tours and Gray Line of Alaska offer these packages. Princess offers a 3-day/2-night package in June for as little as $449 per person, double. That includes roundtrip rail on their private rail cars and two nights accommodations. Gray Line offers a two-day/one-night package for as little as $239 per person, double. Both packages feature accommodations at the...Scott McMurren