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