Travel

As summer travel season nears, more deals on in-state adventures for Alaskans crop up

Chena Hot Springs Resort owner Bernie Karl shows off some of the produce in his greenhouse.

After publishing a list of summertime in-state travel bargains last week, another crop of deals has emerged.

Prices are going up in many areas, including airfare and rental cars. But there are a couple of sweet spots where extra savings are available. The first lucky group is Alaska residents. The second group includes children ages 2-11, as long as there’s a paying adult accompanying them.

Alyeska Resort in Girdwood offers Alaskans up to 30% off the regular room rates between now and June 15. Use the discount code “LOCAL” when booking online.

Keep going from Girdwood through the tunnel to Whittier and take advantage of a special at Phillips Cruises and Tours — the 26 Glacier Cruise. Phillips has a loyalty plan called the “Klondike Club” for Alaska residents. To qualify, call their office at 907-276-8023 to enroll. Then, when you make reservations on the “Klondike Express” at least 72 hours in advance, your fare goes down from $179 per person to $150, plus $24.95 tax.

When you’re in the club, you earn points for each cruise that you book. That includes cruises you book for your visiting friends and relatives, too. Accumulate points to earn a free cruise.

Between Girdwood and Whittier, it’s hard not to notice the tracks and trains of the mighty Alaska Railroad. If you want to take the kids, age 2-11, on a fun day trip, ride the rails from Portage up to Spencer Glacier. Kids ride for free. For each adult who purchases a ticket, one child can ride for free.

The Spencer Glacier train ride is fun. It’s a short, flat ride along the Placer River up to the Spencer Glacier station. Get out and hike up to the lake for a great view of the glacier. The train continues up to the Grandview station, returning to pick you up later in the day.

Two other train rides qualify for this promotion: Anchorage-Talkeetna and the “Hurricane Turn” ride north from Talkeetna. Book online and use the discount code “KIDSFREE.”

Outside of Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs Resort is offering a 50% discount on hotel accommodations between now and Aug. 15. Rates at the “Moose Lodge” usually start at $280. The sale rate is $140 per night, plus tax.

All hotel stays include a pool pass to the natural hot springs. Don’t miss an opportunity to check out the “alternative energy tour” to see how Chena’s owner, Bernie Karl, has harvested thermal energy to power the resort, including several large greenhouses. The resort grows all its own produce: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and flowers. Thermal energy also cools the year-round ice museum. Don’t miss a chance to sit at the ice bar and enjoy a cocktail in an ice glass! There are giant ice sculptures inside the museum by championship ice carvers Steve and Heather Brice.

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

Down in Juneau, there is a selection of five exclusive adventures from John Hall’s Alaska, with special prices for Alaska residents.

This year, Hall is celebrating its 40th year of leading tours throughout the state. Many of the company’s offers feature visits to Alaska’s national parks. It’s not uncommon to see the company’s red-and-white buses cruising up and down Alaska’s highways during the summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on Hall’s operation, like many other tour companies, including cruise companies.

“The Platinum Inside Passage tour was created out of COVID,” said Elizabeth Hall, John’s daughter and the company’s chief operating officer. “The big cruise ships weren’t sailing, so people wanted to do something different.”

In this case, “different” meant chartering a 50-passenger catamaran from Sitka-based Allen Marine. Allen Marine also owns and operates Alaskan Dream Cruises.

The “Platinum” tour is a combination of daylong excursions and adventures, with overnight accommodations onshore.

“We approach this tour like we do with our other trips. All meals are included, as are gratuities, admissions to attractions and all transportation between the airports, the boats and the hotels,” Hall said.

There are three departure dates this summer: July 2, July 16 and Sept. 3. The cost is $1,250 per person, double occupancy. There’s a $250 single supplement. Airfare is additional. But if you’re flying from Anchorage to either Sitka or Juneau, you can cash in between 5,000 and 7,500 miles one-way.

Although the dayboat is rated for 50 passengers, Hall caps the capacity at 40.

In Sitka, excursions to the “Fortress of the Bears” are included, along with a visit to the Raptor Center. A performance by the New Archangel Dancers also is included. There’s a full day devoted to exploring Glacier Bay National Park. The tour also includes a visit to Icy Strait Point near Hoonah. There’s a brand-new gondola under construction that will take visitors up to the top of the mountain for a great view. Guests can pay extra to go on the monster zipline ride. In Skagway, a tour of the Red Onion Saloon’s brothel museum is included. It’s extra to ride the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad. In Juneau, there’s a tour out to Mendenhall Glacier included, along with a visit to the beautifully landscaped Glacier Gardens.

“We’re big proponents of falling in love with different parts of the state,” said Hall. “So many people have stayed away from Southeast Alaska because they thought it was overwhelmed by the big cruise ships. We want to change that.”

Hall chartered one of Alaskan Dream Cruises ships, the Admiralty Dream, for two other all-inclusive adventures.

Just 54 travelers will join the crew on this small ship for a nine-day cruise. Unlike the “Platinum” tour, you’ll just spend one night on land at the Juneau Aspen Suites before departure. After that, you’ll spend each evening on board the ship. Each day, there’s a different adventure, including a jetboat ride up the Stikine River in Wrangell, a skiff adventure in Glacier Bay, an exploration of Baranof Island and a visit to a private lodge for a surf-and-turf feast on the beach.

The price for Alaska residents is $2,700 per person, double occupancy. There are two sailings: June 24 and July 22. Call John Hall’s Alaska at 800-325-2270 to receive the Alaska resident prices.

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.

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