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Need to fly to the Lower 48 this fall or winter? Here are the best deals happening now

  • Author: Scott McMurren
    | Alaska Travel
  • Updated: September 15, 2018
  • Published September 15, 2018

Are you looking for some great airfares to the Lower 48 for the fall and winter? Well, I've got some very good news, some so-so news and some bad news. Then there are some terms and conditions.

Let's start with the very good news: Delta Air Lines has dropped airfares to the Lower 48. One of my favorite deals in this particular crop is between Anchorage and Orlando, Florida, for as little as $355 roundtrip. You can travel starting Sept. 29, all the way through to Feb. 27, 2019 (excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas).

We'll go through the laundry list of destinations soon. But here's your so-so news: the lowest rates are Delta's "basic economy" fares. That means you'll pay extra for checked bags and for advance seat assignments.

Here's your bad news: you have to purchase these fares by Sun., Sept. 16. That means you've got to get your calculator and your calendar out to start planning any fall trips. There's a better-than-even chance the fares will appear again before the end of the month. But, I wouldn't bet my vacation on it.

Are you headed to Reno? Delta is offering a $158 one-way fare from Anchorage ($317 roundtrip). To get the best price, travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. Also, you have to change planes in Seattle and Salt Lake. It's even cheaper to fly into Sacramento, just $309 roundtrip. Alaska Airlines also offers the $309 roundtrip rate, including advance seat assignments and free checked bags (for Club 49 members).

Travelers who fly beyond hub cities like Seattle and Portland can get great prices with Delta's sale. Travel from Anchorage to Medford, Eugene, Boise or Spokane for $154 one-way. Again, these are basic economy. It's an extra $30 each way to get pre-assigned seats. Alaska has matched the rate to Boise ($154 each way), including advance seat assignments. But to other destinations, Alaska charges a little bit more.

Delta is offering great deals for travel to Montana: $154-$158 each way to Bozeman, Kalispell, Billings, Missoula, Helena or Butte. Sorry, the rate to Great Falls is a little more: $191 each way.

Flights to Chicago and Minneapolis have dropped a little, but tickets to Wisconsin are cheap: fly from Anchorage to either Madison or Milwaukee for as little as $355 roundtrip. Or, fly into Green Bay for $359 roundtrip.

Travelers to Michigan can take advantage of some great rates. Tickets to Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie or Traverse City are the cheapest: $355-$363 roundtrip. Tickets to Detroit, one of Delta's hubs, are cheap: $401 roundtrip. Or, fly to Lansing, Saginaw or Grand Rapids for $401-$409 roundtrip. Remember: you must travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays to get the best fares. Prices can change by hundreds of dollars in just one day.

Again, none of the best fares are available if you want to fly around Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Delta is putting several airports in New York on sale, in addition to New York City ($401 roundtrip to either LaGuardia or JFK). Fly to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse or Albany for $401-$409 roundtrip.

Don't forget Ohio: Cincinnati, Canton/Akron, Columbus and Dayton are on sale for $401-$409 roundtrip. Other nearby cities have the same rates: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, South Bend, IN and Charleston, WV are available for $401-$410 roundtrip. It's not uncommon to see fares of $700-$800 roundtrip to these destinations.

The other standout cities include Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Knoxville, Chatanooga, Nashville and Birmingham, Alabama: $401-$410 roundtrip.

Fairbanks travelers can take advantage of the same prices to many of these destinations: Detroit ($402 roundtrip), New York ($402 roundtrip), Milwaukee ($364 roundtrip), Billings ($318 roundtrip) and Sacramento ($356 roundtrip).

If you don't see your city here, go ahead and check online if it's on sale. Atlanta isn't on the list — and the deals aren't that great to Dallas or Houston. Austin is available for $405 roundtrip on Alaska Air.

Fares from Anchorage to Los Angeles have dipped to as low as $330 roundtrip on either Delta or Alaska. Fly from Fairbanks for an extra $27 roundtrip.

Because Alaska Airlines and Delta are good competitors, you can find many cities where Alaska has matched rates from both Fairbanks and Anchorage. But Alaska not matched all of the rates — and there are many cities where Alaska doesn't fly. In some cases, United Airlines is offering a similar fare. But United's Basic Economy fare is particularly onerous: you can't even take a regular rolling suitcase to put in the overhead bin. Further, unless you pay for luggage when you're buying your ticket, United will not let you use the online check-in. Rather, you have to wait in line at the airport counter. Perhaps they want to do a visual check to see if you're trying to smuggle on a bag without paying extra.

This fare sale, which is scheduled to end on Sunday evening, is a good one. If you're not 100 percent sure you can make a trip, go ahead and buy the ticket before the deadline. You have 24 hours to cancel without penalty. This cancellation provision is not because of the airlines' generosity. No, it's the law.

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