After a cancelled business trip and some rearranged November travel, I had a gaping hole in my calendar and a lot of vacation time to schedule. While I was in Dallas this past weekend, I stopped by the Dallas Travel and Adventure show. I met a few people from the airlines and a lot of people from various visitors bureaus. While listening to the woman from Alaska speak, I was suddenly inspired.
After the show I headed straight to the airport. As I sat in the airport I decided to check out what award flights looked like for Alaska. I quickly found a round-trip ticket in US Airways First Class for 50,000 points and $8 in taxes. Since I’m a US Airways Chairman, I could book the flight and if I decided not to go just redeposit the miles at no cost. The low-cost mile award ticket was only available for November 13th departure with a return on November 20th. That worked perfectly and I would use 6 of my 7 remaining vacation days.
Next I looked at hotel options. I have 2 Hilton Be My Guest Certificates that will expire on November 30th this year, so I looked for Hilton options in Anchorage and Fairbanks. There were no Hilton’s in Fairbanks, so I used the certificates for 2 nights at the Anchorage Hilton. On Saturday I’ll take the train from Anchorage to Fairbanks. The train fair is $69 using a winter special promo. The winter train only runs on Saturdays – a northbound route and on Sundays – a Southbound route.
Once in Fairbanks I’ll stay at the Spring Hill Suites by Marriott. I had 31,000 Marriott points left over in my account, so I booked 2 nights on points for a total of 30,000 points and 1 night with cash for $80.50. While in Fairbanks, my primary goal is to see and hopefully photograph the Northern Lights. I will likely take at least one tour, and those range between $150- 300. The other nights I plan to do some independent Northern Light spotting. At many of the hotels they will set wake-up calls for prime viewing times – 11pm to 2am (varies based on weather and conditions outside.)
On the last day I will fly back from Fairbanks to Anchorage on Alaskan Airlines. Originally I had planed to use 7,500 miles for a one-way ticket. In the process of trying to figure out what type of miles to transfer to Alaskan Airlines, they came out with a special $79 one-way fare deal. Spending $84 (which included taxes) was a better option than transfer points.
So here’s what I’ve spent so far
- 50,000 US Airways miles and $8 round trip in First Class from Charleston to Anchorage.
- $69 for a one-way trip on the Alaskan Railroad
- $80.50 for 1 night hotel in Fairbanks
- $84 for one-way ticket from Fairbanks to Anchorage.
So far the trip has cost me $241 out of pocket. There are a few other additional expenses that I will incur – for example, I had to buy a special winter jacket – given that I’m from South Carolina and my idea of a winter coat probably wouldn’t keep me warm New York in the winter. I would a great coat at an outlet store for $89. I own enough sweaters and other gear, so that’s the only piece of clothing I’ll need to purchase.
All-in, I expect to spend between $300 and $350 for 7 days/6 nights in Alaska. That’s an amazing get-a-way for a fraction of what that trip would normally cost. Don’t assume that Alaska is unaffordable.
If you have been to Alaska in November/December, I’d love to hear about what types of winter activities you participated in.
If you don’t have enough miles, and you have good credit and are willing to apply for a credit card, you could apply for The Premier Miles & More World MasterCard® . Earn up to 35,000 award miles with qualifying transactions. Cardholders will receive 20,000 miles after first purchase or balance transfer, and an additional Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening. In addition, cardholders receive one companion ticket annually, earn 2 miles per $1 spent on Miles & More Airline ticket purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else. A huge bonus if you travel internationally is that there is no annual transaction fee.
If you’re short on hotel points, you could consider applying for one of the many American Express credit cards. Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is currently offering 25,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points. Cardholders will receive 10,000 points after their first purchase and 15,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months.
A few of my favorite Alaska photos from previous trips:
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