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
If you find yourself in Alaska’s capital city, Juneau, consider yourself lucky. Accessible only by boat or plane, it takes some effort to get there. It also takes some effort to decide which incredible adventures you can experience in one day. You can’t do it all—but you can try! 8 a.m. - Breakfast at the Sandpiper Get up early and hit the Sandpiper Cafe (429 W Willoughby Ave) for breakfast. Everything they make in this downtown cafe is delicious. But pay attention to the “specials” board when you walk in. There’s usually a special scramble with some exotic chorizo sausage. I always choose the home fries over the hash browns. There’s an entire menu section reserved for pancakes and french toast. Nobody leaves hungry! 9 a.m. - Tram up the mountainside From the parking lot at the Sandpiper...Scott McMurren
While the month of May offers great opportunities for early-season discounts around the state, it also signals an annual glut of new carriers that line up to fight for their share of summertime tourist traffic. That means lower fares and more frequent service. What’s not to love? Please note that fares change all the time. The good news is that most fares are changing for the better -- heading lower as May approaches. Let’s take a look at the most popular routes: Anchorage-Seattle: We’ve talked about the “Battle for Seattle” all winter -- and it’s a wonderful thing to watch the spite and malice play out between Alaska Airlines and Delta . If you have two weeks’ advance notice, the cost is just $251 roundtrip. That’s a great deal. But the real spoiler on this route is JetBlue . Starting on...Scott McMurren
We know it’s true that April showers bring May flowers. And as those May flowers are pushing up through the last of our late-spring snowfalls, they also announce the beginning of the summer travel season. The month of May is yielding some incredible airfare deals as seasonal airlines ramp up their summertime service. And all around the state, hotels, adventure outings and fishing trips are available at a discount. It’s fair to say that May should be the official "Alaskans see Alaska month," since the days are long and the prices are low. Even though I’m not a pilot, I love things with wings. That’s the case with most Alaskans -- which is why you want to put the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering on your calendar for May 2-3 at the big FedEx hangar by the Anchorage airport. It’s free to...Scott McMurren
Are you flying somewhere? Chances are good that you’ll be spending some time at the airport. Never mind checking in before your flight. How about those long connections in Seattle, Tokyo or San Francisco? Harriet Baskas explores airports around the world for her site, . She called in from Singapore to share some lesser-known amenities now available for travelers: 1. At Tokyo’s Narita Airport, there’s a new “Kabuki Gate” that opened in March. There is a Kabuki museum with costumes and music. The space was designed to introduce travelers to the traditional Japanese art form. “There is a row of iPads where you can take pictures of yourself with a Kabuki face and email it,” she said. 2. At Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there are three new “lactation stations...Scott McMurren
Every prudent air traveler wants to get the best deal possible on their airline tickets. As spring approaches, more competition in Alaska makes those deals easier to find. Low prices are an important consideration when you’re choosing your flights, but it’s not the only variable. Frequent-flier plans, flight schedules and dependability all are factors when you’re buying a ticket. Today’s technology allows airlines to change prices at a moment’s notice. What’s not so flexible is an airline’s service mix. Many carriers are seeking to differentiate themselves with better seating, more generous frequent-flier plans or other special programs. Alaska Airlines recently launched a new initiative dubbed “Beyond.” They renamed their in-flight magazine, replaced their digEplayer entertainment system...Scott McMurren
My-Te-Fine Merchant: Fred Meyer’s Retail Revolution By Fred Leeson; Irvington Press; Portland, Oregon. At the time of his death in 1978, Fred Meyer had five successful “one-stop shopping centers” in Alaska, part of a retail empire that included 59 other stores in three other western states. His keen focus and domineering management style fostered a retail revolution that continues today. I grew up in Portland, Oregon. Accordingly, I have early memories of visiting Fred Meyer’s “One Stop Shopping Centers.” In 1964, our family visited the Raleigh Hills store in southwest Portland. It was before Christmas and my mother gave me the princely sum of $5 to go and buy some presents for other family members. I recall wandering through the candy aisle, then circling back for a nice Christmas...Scott McMurren
Airfares are always changing, particularly on hotly contested routes. For Alaska travelers, that means flights headed south to Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and a few other popular destinations. Most of April’s travel deals have come and gone. But there still are a couple of deals on Alaska Airlines for travel in the middle of the month: - Anchorage-Los Angeles/LAX nonstop for $319 roundtrip for travel April 8-25 (purchase by March 30) - Anchorage-Phoenix nonstop for $383 roundtrip for travel April 10-May 4 (purchase by March 30) USAir also offers a nonstop from Anchorage to Phoenix and if you hunt around, you can find it for as little as $377 roundtrip during the same period. USAir is owned by American Airlines . Accordingly, you may see the flight listed as an American flight -- but...Scott McMurren