As Alaska continues to wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic for the second summer in a row, travel companies are doing what they can to keep their employees from getting infected. More Alaska cases pop up every day, especially in Anchorage and the Mat-Su region.
At the same time, more Alaskans are getting vaccinated. If that trend continues, that could be good news for visitors — and the visitor industry, even if the big cruise ships aren’t coming this year.
Some companies, like small-ship operators UnCruise Adventures, are mandating that all customers and crew be fully vaccinated before boarding the ship.
While each company has its own strategy for safe operations this summer, the industry is keen to say, “Come and see us in Alaska.”
Unlike last summer, visitors are eager to travel again. And airlines are making it easy to snap up a ticket at bargain prices.
Earlier this week, Fairbanks got a taste of some bargain airfares from Delta and Alaska. From Seattle to Fairbanks, the fare is as low as $59 one-way. On Delta, that price is for “basic economy,” with no pre-assigned seats — a “Saver” fare on Alaska. But if you want to upgrade to “Comfort+” on Delta with some extra leg room, it’s just $30 more each way.
Most West Coast cities are available from Fairbanks for less than $80 one-way: Tucson, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, LA, San Francisco and Portland. Travel is valid through May 26. There’s no advance purchase — which means you could buy and fly on the same day.
Remember: Fares are subject to change without notice. I’ve been watching them change all day. While Delta’s rules say tickets must be purchased by April 29, I wouldn’t wait that long. If you see a fare you like, buy it. You have 24 hours to cancel and get a full refund — not a “travel credit.”
Since four major airlines are competing for Anchorage and Fairbanks travelers this summer, I expect fares will be low for the whole season.
Travel companies here in Alaska hope you’ll plan now for a big in-state adventure. Many companies have deals just for Alaska residents. Others have specials for the early season. Some have both.
The mighty Alaska Railroad is not starting up passenger operations until May 29. But if you want to save 20% on any of the trains this summer, you need to purchase your tickets by April 30. This includes the Denali Star, the Coastal Classic to Seward and the train from Portage up to Spencer Glacier. Use the coupon code ALASKABYRAIL to get your discount.
Down in Seward, Major Marine Tours is offering a 20% discount for Alaska residents. The deal is valid on all of their cruises, including Resurrection Bay cruises and those cruises that go all the way out to Aialik Bay in the heart of Kenai Fjords National Park. Use the code AK20 when making online reservations.
Alyeska Resort is offering Alaskans a 20% discount on hotel accommodations through May 31. Use the discount code LOCAL when making reservations.
Westmark Hotels offers a 10% discount for online booking at two of its properties: the Westmark Fairbanks and the McKinley Chalet Resort near Denali National Park.
Kennicott Glacier Lodge offers a 20% discount for early-season visitors, between May 29 and June 30.
The Alaska Travel Industry Association is repeating a program they started last year called Show Up for Alaska. The program features companies from around the state offering specials for residents. Here are some examples:
If you’re fully vaccinated, take advantage of UnCruise’s “no single supplement” special, or a $600 per-cabin savings on select categories. The special is available for sailings in May and June. The ships sail from Juneau, so plan ahead and use 10,000 miles for a round-trip ticket on Alaska Airlines.
Alaskans headed to Sitka can save 15% at Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures. The most popular paddles — the “Harbor and Islands” and the “Sitka Sound Paddle and Cruise” — qualify for the discount.
Up near Denali, Denali Park Zipline Adventures offers 25% off to residents all summer long.
Also at Denali, the Crow’s Nest Cabins offer a 15% discount to Alaska residents.
If social distancing is a goal this summer, two companies are offering discounts on travel vans and motor homes.
GoNorth RV Rental offers a 10% discount off the base rate for Alaska residents. GoNorth allows renters to combine other available discounts, including a 20% discount for medical frontline workers or a 5% discount for repeat customers. GoNorth features 4x4 truck campers and motor homes in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Get Lost Travel Vans has a fleet of modified Dodge Caravan minivans. All units include a pop-up unit on the roof with a ladder that hooks on the side. The back flips up to access the kitchen unit. They’re a little tighter than your standard-issue land yacht, but they’re much easier to park. The company is offering Alaska residents $49 off per night. There’s a three-night minimum rental.
Also available: kayak trips, photo adventures, fishing charters and ATV rides.
Fare wars are great. I grabbed a cheap ticket to Seattle last month. But make plans this summer to see more of Alaska. Tell your friends even though the cruise ships aren’t coming, there are lots of planes that fly back and forth every day.