Travel

International travel is getting more affordable, a trend that should continue into 2023

Traveling is more fun when you can get a good deal on some cheap tickets.

That’s why I’ve been studying the rates to Europe under a microscope.

The good news is rates are falling. The bad news is they’re not falling fast enough — and it’s different for each destination.

My deal-of-the day is Anchorage to Madrid, Spain. Starting on Jan. 10, 2023, Delta Air Lines is offering tickets as low as $424 round trip for a nine-day stay. Earlier last week, the fares were as low as $408 round trip. Travelers from Fairbanks can get essentially the same deal: from $426 round trip. The best rates are available for travel through March 8.

Odds are you’re going to shell out an extra $150 per person for a checked bag, as assigned seat and frequent flyer mileage credit.

The lowest published fares typically are for smaller-sized folks who can squeeze in to the worst seats on the plane. These rates also work if you don’t have any bags to check.

The other standout Euro-bargain of the week is for tickets from Anchorage or Fairbanks to Barcelona for travel between Jan. 8 and March 9. The cheapest tickets cost $545 round trip, $546 round trip from Fairbanks, although many more dates are available for $537-$557 round trip. The least expensive rates are on Delta.

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Don’t forget to add on the $150 per person cost for your checked bag and pre-reserved seat assignment. Also, Delta does not offer frequent flyer miles to basic economy travelers.

Sometimes the flights to Madrid and Barcelona are all Delta, but usually some of the segments are flown with Delta’s partners KLM, AirFrance and Virgin Atlantic.

Many of the most popular European destinations are priced in the $700-$800 range. I expect them to drop further, particularly for travel in the first quarter of 2023.

If you want to go to Africa, the low-fare gateway is Nairobi, Kenya.

Starting on Jan. 10, Delta is offering tickets from Anchorage for as little as $944 round trip, as low as $928 round trip from Fairbanks. Fly Delta to Paris, then pick up Air France to Nairobi.

On some itineraries, including the flight on Jan. 10, the Air France 787 stops in Zanzibar on the way to Nairobi. If you just wanted to go to this beautiful coastal city instead of continuing to Nairobi, the fare would be much higher: about $1,800 round trip.

The good news on the Nairobi fare is that it’s main cabin and includes two free checked bags, seat assignments and mileage credit.

If you’ve wanted to go to Japan, the country recently started letting tourists back in the country.

That’s good news. The bad news is you have to go to Los Angeles to catch a flight, unless you want to pay hundreds more in airfare.

The best rate now is a combination of Alaska Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Singapore offers nonstop service between LAX and Tokyo’s Narita Airport. Round-trip rates start at $1,025 per person. But there are just three or four dates available in January or early February. Otherwise, the rates jump up between $1,200 and $1,600 round trip.

Trim the cost by flying Alaska Airlines’ nonstop from Anchorage to Los Angeles for $340. Then, fly on Zipair nonstop to Tokyo. The bare-bones cost is $534 round trip. Combined, the fare is $883 round trip.

Zipair is owned by Japan Airlines. It operates Boeing 787 planes and charges extra for everything: food, seats and checked bags.

Have you got Australia in your sights? It’s not cheap to get there.

The cheapest published fares are with Alaska Airlines and Fiji Airways, via Los Angeles and Nadi, Fiji. Those flights cost about $1,500 round trip between Anchorage and Sydney. There are three stops along the way.

Even though Hawaii flights are a little spendy right now, you’ll save some hours in the air by combining Alaska’s nonstop to Honolulu with Jetstar’s nonstop to Melbourne, Australia.

Jetstar’s 787s fly twice a week from Honolulu to Melbourne on Sundays and Wednesdays. Starting Feb. 26, 2023, the one-way tickets are $193 each. The return flights are as low as $239 one-way.

Jetstar, owned by Qantas, is a low-cost airline that charges extra for everything: bags, seat assignments and food. But if you’re watching your budget, you can fly Anchorage-Honolulu-Melbourne and back for $949 round trip.

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One question that comes up often is this: “When is the best time to buy my airline tickets?”

There are tons of stories that reference reams of data on the best day and time to buy a ticket. But for most of us, there are two considerations:

1. Don’t buy your ticket until you are sure of your dates and you’re not going to make any changes. That’s because if you change your flights, you’re going to lose. Sometimes you’ll lose a little — but often you’ll lose a lot.

2. If you’re traveling at peak times, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break, don’t count on prices coming down. The airlines know when school gets out, because those flights start to fill up quickly. It’s best to lock in your holiday flights quickly, before the seats are gone.

Keep watching those flights to Europe. My bet is we’ll see lower fares soon!

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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