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Scott McMurren

Okay, I admit it. I'm a junkie for the upgrade, the airport lounge, the "free" buffet and airline miles. My wife would admonish me to "Get over yourself," and she's right, of course. But the travel experience is rife with little indignities. And to the unprepared or unwary, this can add up to death by a thousand cuts.

Although the air-travel landscape changes all the time, it's important to know some of the rules of the road. That way, you can steel yourself against a system that can be alternatively overloaded, underfunded and mismanaged...

Scott McMurren
Scott McMurren photos

Okay, summer is officially here. No more excuses not to get out and see Alaska. C'mon -- the weather is beautiful, the days are long, and the fish are jumpin'!

Whether you're planning for your own adventures or plotting for visiting friends and relatives, I would encourage you to get off the road this summer. Oh, the road trips around Alaska still are so fantastic. The Kenai Peninsula, in particular, is a great destination. But just a short plane or boat trip puts you out of reach of the vast majority of other travelers. Odds are you will see more and do more when you're off the road system.

Here are some of my favorite adventures:...

Scott McMurren

After a big trip, there's a decompression process. Everyone handles it differently. Sifting through the mail, digging out the dirty clothes and washing that "airline smell" before going to bed are at the top of my list.

But now, amidst the receipts, the pictures and scraps of paper with names and addresses, I've begun to recall some important lessons for modern international travel...

Scott McMurren

Seattle is a popular stop for Alaskans. But the San Juan Islands, nestled between Seattle and Victoria, BC, offers more beauty per square foot than Seattle's urban trails.

Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is the most popular port-of-call in the islands. The quickest way to get there from Seattle is to drive to Kenmore Air's downtown seaplane base at Lake Union. You can park right by the dock. The flight is about 40 minutes and offers spectacular views of the Seattle skyline and the the coast. Like many Alaskan floatplane operators, Kenmore flies Beavers and Otters to Friday Harbor, as well as to many other island destinations in Washington and British Columbia...

Scott McMurren

I admit, I've never purchased travel insurance. But in today's travel environment, there are more uncertainties, including our own Mt. Redoubt.

Our own backyard volcano has focused some attention on the how easily a well-crafted trip can come apart at the seams.

Vera Crews was a travel agent for many years--and offered her clients travel insurance, especially when they were going on an expensive vacation.

She also purchased insurance for her own trips. Once, while headed for a cruise, the airline insisted that she check her carry-on bag. You know the story: it did not arrive before she got on the cruise ship in Galveston, Texas...

Scott McMurren

Last week, we talked about how to prepare for air travel in the volcanic age. Today, I'll share some true confessions--and a few tips about what worked and what didn't.

First, it's important to remember that there's no silver bullet when it comes to dealing with a wild card like Mt. Redoubt. And this is a big issue for Alaskans--since there's no way to tell how long the mountain will keep spewing ash.

Following my trip to Seattle on Alaska Airlines ( www.alaskaair.com ) , I've modified my tactics a little bit. Here's a rundown:...

Scott McMurren

It's a foregone conclusion that fewer tourists will be visiting Alaska this summer. But there still will be a bundle of them--scattered across the state. They'll still come on the cruise ships, on airplanes and by RV across the Alaska Highway.

Many of the hotels and tour companies, though, already have staffed for larger numbers. That means there will be plenty of bargains, particularly in Alaska's national parks. Let's take a look at some of the deals.

Wrangell St. Elias National Park. This is the nation's largest national park. Access the park by driving up to Glennallen, then take a right and head toward Valdez...

Scott McMurren

When I'm planning my trips, I'm an "a la carte" guy. Cruise the websites, chat with my travel agent and grind, grind, grind until I find the right deal.

It's the same with my car and hotel, if I need one. When I'm traveling to familiar destinations, I often develop a pattern--using options that have worked in the past. It saves me time and trouble once I arrive.

As a rule, then, I discount the push for packages. You see the ads all the time: "combine your air and hotel and save $$$"...

Scott McMurren

Every now and then, it pays to remember the basics. If you're planning to travel, it's a good idea to have some good online resources, so you can get a baseline on prices and services. Here are some of the sites I use extensively:...

Scott McMurren
Let's talk about the latest batch of air fares now available from Anchorage to the Lower 48. Even though it's just February, airlines are gearing up for summer service. That means introductory specials as the airlines launch the seasonal service.

For example, Frontier Airlines will resume its daily Anchorage-Denver  onstop on May 9. They're having an early-bird sale that ends on Feb.25 (today) . If you're thinking of going to Denver in May, you should  jump on this: Anchorage-Denver $440 roundtrip, including all taxes and fees. The rate is valid May 8-May 20 only. Alaska matched the fare right away. Both airlines offer nonstop service in the summer...

Scott McMurren

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