There's plenty to capture the traveler's imagination here in Alaska: from the rain forests of Southeast to the stark tundra of the Arctic. But it's a big world out there, and I often seek out the ideas of other writers who share their unique ideas on traveling. Here are some of my top picks:
1. Pam Mandel. Pam writes a travel blog: Nerd's Eye View. In the last year she's journeyed from her home base in Seattle to Africa, Antarctica and several places in between. Her tagline "A camera, a passport, a ukulele" offers some insight into her quirky perspective on travel. A couple of months ago, Pam traveled to Hawaii's Big Island to a one-week camp for lessons on music theory, Hawaiian harmonies and island-style musical culture. As a result, she's now playing music with a great group in the Seattle area, "The Castaways". Pam's images, her narrative and yes, her ukulele make NerdsEyeView.com an essential part of my travel research.
Most recently, Pam started a project that I'm following closely: "Accidental Diplomats: A Travel Anthology." Pam believes that travelers are volunteer diplomats. I agree.
2. Chris Guillebeau. Chris breezed through Anchorage in 2010 as part of a 50-state book tour for "The Art of Non-conformity." Of course, that struck a chord with me. But Chris has some great skills as a "Travel Hacker," which means he offers great advice on gaming the airlines' frequent flyer plans. A major component of the strategy is cashing in on the substantial sign-up bonuses of various credit cards. Recently, Chris collected gobs of information on such credit cards and launched a separate website.
Chris's big quest right now is to visit every single country in the world. Yep -- that includes far-flung outposts in Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Bhutan and, recently, Tajikistan. Follow his exploits here. His tales from the road are fascinating. Chris is another traveler who insists the world is a better place when people travel frequently. I agree.
3. Erin Kirkland. Erin and I do a weekly travel radio show every Tuesday beginning at 2 p.m. on KOAN in Anchorage (95.5 FM). In her travel blog, "AKontheGo," she focuses on traveling with youngsters. She calls it "family travel", but we all know that means "infants and/or young children." Right now, she's in Hawaii, writing about all the cool things to do with the kids: the beach, the zoo, the aquarium, hiking around the island and other activities.
Last summer, Erin offered great reports during a two-week trip around Southeast Alaska on the ferry. I personally can vouch for the Alaska Marine Highway as a great family vacation. My kids love the ferry. But in addition to a fun travelogue of what to see and do, Erin offers a mother's keen insight into the logistics of an extended family outing. She details the right gear and offers tips for healthy meals on the go.
Her take-home message, of course, is to bring the family along on your trips!
4. Johnny Jet. John DiScala, aka "Johnny Jet" is always on the go. Interviewing Sir Richard Branson at his private island in the Caribbean, flying around the world on a Singapore Airlines A380, or watching the Kentucky Derby with his dad.
Johnny's last "real job" was as a representative of his alma mater, Loyola Marymount College Palos Verdes. As such, he traveled frequently and became the resident expert on airlines, hotels and frequent flyer plans. More than a decade ago, in 2000, he ditched his day job and built his website. From his home base in Manhattan Beach, Calif., he shares his tales on his website, in his weekly newsletter and now on the Travel Channel's "Hot Spots 2012."
5. David Parker Brown. I've followed David's updates at Airline Reporter for years. I finally met him on the tarmac at Sea-Tac last year to watch Alaska Airlines' offload the first load of Copper River salmon.
David's blog is a great read if you're an aviation nut (guilty!). He talks about new planes, new airlines, new paint jobs -- and the business of flying planes.
6. Christopher Elliott. Whether it's a beef about a hotel's resort fees, a damaged bag on an airline or a bogus damage claim by a car rental company, you can bet Christopher Elliott has examined all sides of the issue.
In fact, Chris's title as "Travel Ombudsman" at National Geographic is somewhat misleading. I just call him "the complaint department."
Chris has spent years helping travelers navigate the "customer service" systems at airlines and hotels after they've had shoddy service or a bad experience. And Chris isn't bashful about turning it back around on the traveler if their request is unreasonable.
Visit his site for the latest on the Department of Transportation's new consumer-friendly airfare disclosure rules, the beloved TSA, frequent flyer issues and more. Be sure to sign up for his weekly newsletter.
7. Marian Call. Marian is one of my favorite local musicians. I've followed her website as she traveled around the country on her own 50-state tour. After that, she made time to produce a double-CD package, called "Something Fierce". Marian offers up some great stories about rolling into town and not knowing when or where she will play her next concert. She used social media to arrange the venues on-the-fly.
So, while Marian is first and foremost a musician, she's earned her "traveler" badge as well. Right now she's planning a European tour. I can't wait to read more about it.
These are just a few of my favorite travel sites. Each offer some useful facts, compelling narrative and a few personal stories. They reinforce my idea that travel is a wonderful thing. Check out their sites. Still curious? Here are a few more:
a. Anna.aero. I stumbled onto this site after hearing about it from a Boeing executive. It's über-aviation geek, with articles on new airline routes, airports and market analysis.
b. Boarding Area. This is a collection of travel blogs. Every now and then I find a great article. It's worth a look!
c. The Frugal Travel Guy. Rick Ingersoll is a former mortgage banker who now spends his time churning credit cards to get frequent flyer miles. I am not making this up.
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based travel marketing consultant who has lived in Alaska for three decades, spending much of that time traveling the far-flung corners of the state. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com. And follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/alaskatravelgrm for breaking updates.