Finding a good airfare is a bit like surfing. I'm not a surfer, but there's a lot of research that goes into being in the right spot at the right time to "catch the wave."
Just last week, we had some great fares from Anchorage to Costa Rica ($502 round trip) and to a few cities in Europe for less than $500 round trip (Amsterdam, Paris, Rome and Venice). But, like the perfect wave, those rates have come and gone.
But for travelers to the Lower 48, the tides are good and the winds are fair when it comes to catching the perfect deal. Still, conditions change all the time.
From Anchorage to Seattle, you have to wait 21 days to get the best deal, $276 round trip on Delta. The prices drop quite a bit more when JetBlue comes back on May 25, to $215 round trip.
JetBlue also is returning in May to serve the Anchorage-Portland route. Fares will start at $225 round trip. If you want to go sooner, Delta has a 21-day advance purchase fare for $363 round trip. Fly nonstop on Alaska Airlines for a little more: $376 round trip.
If you're flying to northern California, the cheapest gateway is Sacramento: $359 round trip with a 14-day advance purchase on either Alaska or Delta. It's more expensive to fly to the Bay Area. But just by a little bit: you can fly on Delta to San Jose for $363 round trip.
The price to fly to Los Angeles/LAX is creeping up just a little bit: $351 round trip on either Delta or Alaska. But there's just a three-day advance purchase. Because of the intense competition between Delta and Alaska, LAX prices are lower than usual. I'm sitting in the departure lounge at Burbank Airport. It's a lot easier to navigate than LAX airport, but the prices are much more: $417 round trip with a 21-day advance purchase. If you want to go on short notice, it's around $872 round trip.
If you want a cheap ticket to Las Vegas (who doesn't?), you can fly United Airlines with one day's advance purchase. That means you could go out to the airport tonight and catch the red-eye for as little as $378 round trip. And yes, the flight goes through Denver. If you just wanted to go to Denver, the fare would be more than $1,100 round trip.
Another great destination for buy-today-fly-today deals is Phoenix. Fly from Anchorage on Alaska for as little as $401 round trip. Remember, prices change all the time.
Be aware that the lowest fares on Alaska Airlines include prereserved seats. That costs extra on Delta and United. In fact, United is even a bit more onerous … you cannot even bring a full-sized carry-on aboard, nor can you use the airline's online check-in.
One of my favorite deals is Anchorage-Minneapolis for $346 round trip on Delta. This is a nice, long nonstop flight. Right now it's a 21-day advance purchase — but that changes all the time.
Compare the price to the Twin Cities with Chicago: it's a little more, at $482 round trip on Alaska. Alaska's nonstops start back up March 15.
The best deal from Anchorage to the East Coast is on Alaska: $409 round trip to Boston, starting March 1. This rate also is creeping up a little bit, but it's still a great fare. Compare that with Alaska's fare to New York/JFK: $490 round trip.
I skipped over quite a few cities in the Midwest: Anchorage to Omaha for $364 round trip on Delta, or Anchorage-Kansas City for $363 round trip on Alaska.
If you want to go at the last minute, Anchorage-Philadelphia is on sale for a little bit higher rate, but there is no advance purchase: $528 round trip on Delta.
Is Florida on your radar? You can fly from Anchorage to Orlando in March for $435 round trip. If you're in a hurry, fly Anchorage-Miami on Delta for as little as $458 round trip, starting Feb. 12.
Again, these rates change all the time — but the best fares are available on more than one date — and more than one flight. Be sure and check the connecting times, though. Some of the cheapest fares have long layovers in Seattle.
Fairbanks travelers also are enjoying great fares, again as a result of the competition between Alaska and Delta.
From Fairbanks to Seattle, the fare is good: $287 round trip on Alaska, but you have to wait until the end of the month. You can fly from Fairbanks to Portland for $415 round trip with just one day's advance notice. One-day advance fares also are available to San Francisco ($463 round trip on Alaska) and to LAX ($378 round trip on Alaska). Fly Fairbanks-Phoenix with no advance notice on Alaska, from $434 round trip.
So to catch the best fares, be prepared. Keep an eye on the flights and get ready to "catch the wave" for a good deal!