I Went to Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks Yesterday

I have never visited Alaska. With a day between Frequent Traveler University in Seattle and Tuesday meetings in Denver, why not make a quick hop around ‘The Last Frontier’?

Alaska Air Juneau Alaska The Last Frontier

I asked readers where I should stop, planning one day in either of Juneau, Anchorage or Fairbanks for their frequent flight service.

Tiffany tipped me off to the Fur Rondy in Anchorage ahead of the Iditarod and that in Fairbanks I could have a good shot at the Northern Lights.

Fur Rondy Snow Sculpture Fur Rondy Snow Sculpture Fur Rondy Snow Sculpture

I checked fares and saw prices about the same whether I stopped in just one or both of Anchorage and Fairbanks. I bought a ticket on Alaska Airways.

Then the pull of Juneau was too strong and I noticed the Fur Rondy weekday festival does not get going until late afternoon, so I used the 24-hour free cancel to drop my Alaska ticket. I bought a new one with a 5-hour stop in Juneau, a 4-hour stop in Anchorage, and a 4-hour stop in Fairbanks, all timed for the preferred activity.

Alaska Airlines runes many hopper routes throughout Alaska so ticket pricing is flexible on stopping along the way. Essentially I booked the next shuttle to come through town on each stop. The extra stop did not increase price. 3 destinations for $200. (I tried to get an award ticket for this however my flights were not available.)

Alaska Airlines 737 Combi Alaska Airlines 737 Combi

Departing Alaska I separately booked Fairbanks – Denver – New York with US Bank FlexPerks for 20,000 points (when I see a ticket for $386, it is FlexPerks time!)

This is a a bit of extreme rapid travel that you may think is nuts. Hear me out. Another time, probably several times, I will go experience much more of Alaska in the tradition fashion. What this allowed for the price of 1 day of time is:

  • Stroll across the frozen lake to walk up and kiss the Mendenhall Glacier
  • Have Russian dumplings in the only US state capital not accessible by road
  • See the snow carving contest of the Fur Rondy
  • Watch sunset over the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
  • Wading through the crazy Monday local crowds at Moose’s Tooth in getting cheesy breadsticks for takeout and debating with the TSA over the admissibility of dipping sauce
  • Have a crack at the Northern Lights in one of the best spots in the world

Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier Juneau SkylineAlaska Governors MansionJuneau PelmeniJuneau Marsh

I had a fantastic day. Brilliant sun in in Juneau for my glacier trek was the headliner.

I only missed out on the Northern Lights. Both Service Aurora and Aurora Watch said my chances were slim in cloud-covered Fairbanks. Tonight looks to be better. I was disappointed however the plan was to have a low cost crack at the Northern Lights and I had that turn at the plate.

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail 01Anchorage SceneAnchorage CommuterBig RaysSnowden Judicial BuildingTony Knowles Coastal Trail 02Mooses Tooth PizzaMooses Tooth Breadsticks

There was bad weather in Seattle, too, affecting Delta but not Alaska so I had to jump to an Alaska flight 2 hours earlier. Even as a Diamond Medallion it was excruciating to extract a rebooking on to Alaska in the fading days of the Delta-Alaska partnership. I ended up not seeing Fairbanks beyond the sleeping-friendly departure terminal.

At midnight takeoff of a long day, a Fairbanks local in my aisle’s window seat glanced out to see if the commotion by windows from tourists was justified. Were the Northern Lights out? “Just a smidge.”

Alaska Airlines

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  • jediwho

    Sounds awesome! How cold was it and what kind of winter clothing did you have? I was thinking about doing Fairbanks this winter but was talked out of it for the months of Jan and Feb.

  • It was in the 20s and and sunny, fine for me!

  • Ruby E

    That’s great – we’re going to Alaska ourselves (albeit one week driving around Anchorage, the surrounds and Denali) and going on the weeklong cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver. We’ll definitely visit the glacier in Juneau!

  • stvr

    Where did you sleep?

  • On the planes.

  • James O’Dwyer

    I’m doing that trip in August, booked all on points. 10k for the Alaska milk run SEA-JUN with 2 stops and then 9,500 Delta miles JUN-DEN with a stop in SEA. Not too bad for a flightseeing trip!

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  • David Wade

    My favorite place see the northern lights is high above the clouds from my flight’s window seat. Hell, you don’t have to climb Denali