Summer Hotspot: Anchorage, Alaska

Summer months in North America open up a whole realm of possibilities for travel into higher latitudes. As the deep frost starts to fade and the rivers pick up speed, Alaska turns into a beautiful respite from the sultry weather in the contiguous 48 states.

Pick any reason to make the journey. The Pacific Northwest air that blankets all of southern Alaska is crisp and clean, a noticeable contrast from the city air in New York and Chicago. The landscape is dramatic with mountains soaring out of the dark blue Pacific, snow capped peaks lining the horizons and dark green conifers rolling through the valleys. Wildlife is everywhere, from the ambling moose wandering the fertile plains to the bears and goats dotting the mountain trails. It’s far enough away to feel like a different country yet is filled with the same old fast food and Walmart standbys that you know and trust at home.

If Alaska enjoyed the same weather year-round as it did in July it would be the nation’s most populous state. Instead, visitors enjoy big open spaces, friendly, relaxed residents and over 650,000 square miles of rugged beautiful landscape free of the hustle and stress of the lower 48. In short, Alaska is a blessing.

Considering these virtues, one would expect that the cost of travel to Alaska would be sky high, but surprisingly, ticket prices don’t go up that much over the summer months. Airfare varies from $450-$750 for passage through the summer months with Anchorage hosting the majority of inexpensive flights (though Fairbanks and Juneau can always surprise you).

The dirty little secret about airfare to Alaska isn’t the cost of the ticket though; it’s the cost of the mileage award. Most airlines batch Alaska in with the rest of North America (as well they should) when they calculate the cost of mileage tickets. This means that an economy ticket between Miami or San Diego and Anchorage can only cost 25,000 miles round trip – the same cost as a flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Compare the distance between those two flights and it’s easy to see the value.

[image courtesy Erin Drewitz]