Here we are in the last week of August, bidding a long farewell to our Alaska summer. As Labor Day approaches, it's time to examine some really great fall travel deals.
It breaks my heart that airfare deals really do come and go like the wind. Some of my favorite deals to Seattle and Portland expired last week. But as long as Alaska and Delta continue their wonderful battle for Seattle, travelers can count on a new crop of deals — perhaps as early as next week. Remember: when the airlines are mad at each other, the traveler wins!
In the meantime, check out the cheap fare between Anchorage and Honolulu on Alaska's daily nonstop: just $197 one-way. You can pick up and go tomorrow for that price. But you might want to wait until Hurricane Lane has blown through. At less than $400 roundtrip, you can combine the Honolulu deal with a couple of nice specials:
1. Honolulu-Osaka on either Air Asia or Scoot. Air Asia offers $121 one-way nonstop from Honolulu to Osaka. I found Osaka-Honolulu for as little as $109 one-way on Oct. 30. This flight is more than nine hours long — and this combination represents the cheapest way to get to Japan. The beach time at Waikiki is a bonus.
2. Honolulu-Sydney on JetStar. Fly between Aug. 29 and Sept. 25 for as little as $416 roundtrip with JetStar, a low-fare subsidiary of Qantas. Don't forget your passport. Plus, depending on your final destination, you may need a visa for entry.
The fares from Anchorage to Los Angeles have been low all summer long. Right now, the price is $180 each way on Delta, starting Sept. 21. Of course, LAX is a great hub for low-cost flights, such as nonstop Los Angeles/LAX-Rome for $185 one-way on Norwegian. This is a nonstop flight on a Boeing 787. The Rome-LAX flights are a little more: from $243 one-way.
If you want to fly from Anchorage to the East Coast, the cheapest gateway is Boston. The Anchorage-Boston rate is $200 one-way on Delta, starting Sept. 21. Alaska Air offered the same price on its "Club 49" sale last week — but that deal expired last Thursday. Still, since Delta and United offer the fare consistently, I wouldn't be surprised to see Alaska match that rate again, especially for travel in October.
The route from Anchorage to Minneapolis has been a great one for bargain hunters all summer long. Since Sun Country added more flights, there were three or four nonstops each day. Now Sun Country has flown south, but Delta continues to fly the route all summer with its old 757. All of Delta's new planes fly in and out of Seattle. So you still can get a $247 one-way ticket on Delta, but you have to go through Seattle. Watch for more fireworks on this route as Delta and Alaska continue to squabble.
Looking south, Alaska Air is offering a great deal to Guadalajara, Mexico, starting on Sept. 17. The price is just $411 roundtrip. But you've got to earn it. The schedule on Sept. 17 is a lousy one: two stops in Seattle and San Jose. It's a 19-hour trip. The good news is that the return schedule is very nice: just one connection at LAX. In fairness, the lowest rate often is available on the faster routing (one-stop via LAX). But I couldn't find it for this deal.
If Mexico isn't far enough, look to Costa Rica. Both Delta and Alaska Airlines offer fares of about $503 roundtrip for travel from Anchorage to either Liberia, Costa Rica or San Jose, Costa Rica. Alaska's bargain rates are available from Sept. 7 to Nov. 16, while Delta is offering the same rates through May 9, 2019.
There are a bunch of other great fares that will be popping up in the next couple of weeks. October is a particularly slow time for travel, so expect airlines to offer some nice specials. It's also when the annual Permanent Fund Dividend deals show up. But don't wait for those specials if you see a good deal right now. For example, I would be surprised if the price to Honolulu sinks much below $197 each way. It's possible, but I wouldn't bet my vacation on it.
Usually, I count on the Google Flights tool to check on the best travel specials. But it's hard to see the rules of a fare, particularly when/if the deal will expire on a certain date. For that information, I go to Google's ITA Matrix page. You can't purchase your tickets here, but you can drill down to find the exact fare-and-tax breakdown. Right next to the fare calculation is a link to the "rules" page. Click on it and you will see an enormous amount of airline jargon. But you'll also see if there's a cut-off date for sales.
Also, remember that you can buy a ticket and have 24 hours to review it. I did this when I found a ticket to Hong Kong for $432 roundtrip. I bought it — then entered into the real negotiations to see if I could actually go. (I did, by the way. It was a great trip!)