Travel

There are plenty of in-state travel deals for Alaskans put off by rising airfares

Are you ready to travel this spring? Lots of folks in the travel industry are betting that you’ll pack your bags and go somewhere.

Ready or not, airlines are having a tough time keeping up with increasing demand. Look no farther than Alaska Airlines’ decision to cancel its popular Anchorage-Honolulu nonstop flights. Slashing this route is part of a broader initiative to better align the schedule with available flight crews, avoiding further cancellations and delays this summer.

Even if you want to fly to Hawaii this summer via Seattle, the price shoots up from $377 round-trip — nonstop — in mid-May to more than $1,000 round-trip starting June 1.

Perhaps that’s your clue to check out some of the early-season specials available around Alaska. May is a great month to see the best of Alaska, if you can look beyond the random patches of snow and the brown lawns.

Stan Stephens Cruises in Valdez offers two glacier cruises each day. The most popular cruise leaves at 10:30 a.m. from the small boat harbor for Columbia Glacier. You’ll spend six hours on the water. In addition to seeing the glacier, there’s plenty of wildlife along the way: whales, otters and eagles, among others. The regular price for the cruise is $145 per adult. But if you live in Alaska, you can save 30% off the cost if you sail between May 15 and June 15. That brings the price down to $106.50 — there’s a $5 fuel surcharge. Use the coupon code “ak30.″

The coupon code also works on the longer Mears Glacier cruise. This tour can take as long as eight hours. According to the tour description, the captain “has the time to go where we typically spot sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, humpback or orca whales, porpoise, eagles, puffins, cormorants and more.”

The Mears Glacier cruise doesn’t start until June 1, so there’s a two-week window until June 15 to get the discount.

Up in Fairbanks, the Riverboat Discovery and Gold Dredge 8 are offering a 40% discount for Alaska residents. (The Binkley family, which owns and operates the Riverboat Discovery and Gold Dredge 8, also owns the Anchorage Daily News.) As long as you purchase your tickets by May 6, you can visit anytime this summer, between May 11 and Sept. 17.

The Binkley family has operated sternwheeler riverboats in Alaska for more than 100 years. Today, though, the main focus is taking visitors on a three-hour tour down the Chena River in Fairbanks. The cruise includes a visit to the “Chena Indian Village Living Museum” and a stop at the home and kennel of the late Iditarod champion Susan Butcher. The kennel now is operated by her husband Dave Monson and their daughters. There’s also a touch-and-go bush pilot demonstration where the plane lands right next to the riverboat. The regular rate for the cruise is $75.95, but Alaska residents can sail for $45.57 per adult.

Gold Dredge 8 is a great place to catch “gold fever.” The giant dredge operated in the Goldstream Valley between 1928 and 1959. Your visit to the dredge includes a tour through the superstructure and a lesson on how the gold was extracted from the massive amounts of “paydirt” extracted by the dredge’s giant buckets. Then you’ll get a chance to pan for some gold — which is a very different process from the giant dredge. The regular price for the tour is $45.95, discounted for Alaskans to $27.57 each.

For the first time since 2019, Princess Tours will offer its rail/hotel packages between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The packages include rail transport between Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali and Fairbanks, plus accommodations along the way at the Mt. McKinley Princess and hotels near the entrance to Denali National Park.

Using Princess’s online booking engine, you can choose from 15 itineraries between one and four nights that offer 2-for-1 deals.

For example, tour “72E” includes rail transportation in Princess’s private rail cars between the Anchorage train station and Talkeetna. From there, ride Princess’s bus to the Mt. McKinley Princess for a two-night stay. Then, take the train back to Anchorage. Usually, the cost is $549 per person. With the 2-for-1 offer, it’s $274 per person, plus tax.

Ride all the way to Denali and back on tour “72A” which features two nights accommodations near the park. Because Princess works with two hotels near the park entrance, they don’t specify whether you’ll stay at the Denali Princess or the McKinley Chalet Resort; it’s right next door. The regular cost for the tour is $849 per person, reduced to $424.50 per person.

You also can ride on the Princess cars all the way to Fairbanks, stopping off in Denali for two nights along the way. Choose tour “72B.” The sale rate is $399.50 per person.

The Princess rail tours start May 17, running through Sept. 11.

If you’ve ever wanted to sail through Alaska’s Inside Passage on a smaller, luxury ship, check out Alaskan Dream Cruises’ sale for May and early June.

You can review the itineraries online for the “Last Frontier Adventure” and the “Glacier Bay and Island Adventure.” But you won’t find the best prices listed on the web page.

There are special unpublished Alaska resident discounts available.

There are two ships operating the “Last Frontier” itinerary, the 54-passenger Admiralty Dream and the 76-passenger Chichagof Dream. Usually, the all-inclusive cruises start at $3,795 per person for the 8-day/7-night itinerary. That includes accommodations, meals and all activities such as kayaking, guided hikes and expeditions away from the ship in skiffs. Alaskans can sail for as little as $1,500 per person. The sale rate applies for departures on May 13, 14, 20 and June 3.

The 40-passenger Alaskan Dream will sail from Sitka on June 5 on the 8-day/7-night “Glacier Bay and Island Adventure.” The cruise includes port calls in the remote communities of Pelican and Kake, in addition to sailing deep in to Glacier Bay. This itinerary also features a cruise through the scenic Wrangell Narrows between Wrangell and Petersburg. Usually, the cruise rates start at $5,195 per person. Alaskans can sail for as little as $1,995 per person.

To get the Alaska discount, residents have to call the reservations line directly: 855-747-8100.

If you’re not ready to devote a week to sail the seas, consider the four-hour Resurrection Bay cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours. The cruises operate Thursdays-Sundays between now and May 16. Usually, the rate is $89 per adult. Book online and bring it down to $80 per adult. Plus, adults can bring one or two kids aged 2-11 free.

The cruise is booked as a “gray whale watch” cruise. You might see some gray whales. You might see some orcas, too. You’ll likely see some otters, an eagle or two, some porpoises and a bunch of glaciers.

Major Marine Tours in Seward invites you to bring your mom for free on Mother’s Day, May 8. At least one other person has to pay, though — you can’t just drop Mom off at the dock. This special offer is available either on the Spring Wildlife Tour or the six-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise.

Clearly, there are plenty of incredible adventures here in Alaska to keep you busy until Alaska’s direct service to Hawaii returns on Nov. 11.

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.

Sponsored