Alaska 2013

For our first wedding anniversary, H and I decided to take a trip. I had been waiting to go back to alaska since I went up there the first time 2 years ago. My wife was excited to go, but really was skeptical because I kept saying how awesome it was up there and she thought I may have been playing a little bit fast and loose with the truth. Those that have been there know that I was not overselling, but I’d like my wife figure that out when we got there.

Since i’m always on the hunt for a good deal, I decided to leverage one of my favorite perks from the bank of america alaska airlines credit card – the companion pass. Basically, the bank of america card will give you one identical airline ticket if you purchase one at full price. It’s an incredible deal, but the card does come with a $75 annual fee, which makes the companion pass a wash (if you actually use it). If you do not use your companion pass, it’s a waste. In addition to the companion pass, I got 40,000 bonus miles when I applied for the card, plus additional miles to meet the minimum spend requirement. All told, I had about 55,000 miles before the trip started with Alaska.

My plan was to take advantage of the low mileage requirement for intra-alaska flights, and pay cash for our final inbound and outbound, and to get us as far as we possibly could go.  Here was our itinerary:

  • Flight 1: Denver to Anchorage, then Anchorage to Fairbanks. (This was the inbound portion of the companion pass)
  • Flight 2: Fairbanks  to Gustavus (with stops in anchorage and juneau).  We used miles for this portion of the trip, and I believe it cost 7,500 miles  and 7.50 each
  • Flight 3: Gustavus to Anchorage (with stop in juneau): 7,500 miles and 5.00 each.
  • Flight 4: Anchorage to Denver. (This was the outbound portion of our companion pass.

I was trying to get all the flights for under $750, but wasn’t quite able to do it. The total for both of us was like $762 or something. Still, for 2 flights to/from alaska and a few intra state flights, it was a great deal. I also have a great deal of chase points, but elected to use the Alaska credit card because I think it was a better deal in this case. If you’re interested in the chase card, check it out here.

Our plan was to fly to fairbanks, head to denali for a few days, then to gustavus/glacier bay national park for 5 days, then spend the last 2 days in anchorage before heading out.

Of course, when we got to fairbanks, my bag was the lone bag on the baggage claim – H’s bag never arrived, so we went to talk to the customer service rep. He said her bag never made it on the plane (because they took it off/didnt put it on) and said they would deliver it to us at our hotel. This really annoyed both of us, because some of our camping stuff was in her bag (namely the tent) and we needed it asap, as we were heading to denali about 2 hours after our flight left. After being awake about a full 24 hours because of the flight, I told the person that they could deliver our bag to us at denali, then told him the campground we were staying at. He said ok, and that the bag was on the manifest for a flight from anchorage to fairbanks later that day and would be to us around 8pm. Tired enought to believe him, we went to the grocery/clothing/jewlery/everything store fred meyer in fairbanks to grab a snack and wait for our shuttle to pick us up. The drive to denali took about 4 hours, and was a really nice drive.  We got to the park, and were informed that we could not camp at our chosen spot because cars couldnt get back there, and there was no way for the airline to return our bag. We decided to stay at the much lamer campground closer to the visitors center and then head over for a tour of the sled dog cages (If you’d like to see the sled dog puppies, head to the NPS puppy cam here). Shockingly enough, we went to a ranger talk, and the airlines had delivered our bag – apparently it arrived in a taxi.

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The top picture is one of the sled dogs. For some reason, lots of the liked to sleep on top of their houses, and not inside them.

The next day, we took the shuttle bus to denali, but were unfortunately unable to see the mountain. Since the mountain is so large, it typically has its own weather patterns, which caused the clouds to stay in front of it the whole time. We saw quite a bit of caribou and moose on the long ride out to the moutain. (Pro tip: get an early shuttle bus to the Eileson Visitors center, it’s a long trip). We had fun at the visitors center, and the next day we went on a short hike before our shuttle took us back to fairbanks for the night and an early flight to glacier bay the next day.

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The center one is a braided stream near talkeetna on the way to Eielson visitors center to see denali. The final picture has the mountain in there, but it’s obscured by clouds (as it was the whole time we were there)

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We stayed at glacier bay and had a great time – it’s one of the best parks in the system as far as Im concerned. While there, we went on a kayaking trip down the bay (guided), and on a cruise through the park. We took a few hikes, and did a lot of reading while there as well. There were too many awesome photos to put them in here, so I’m going to put them in another post.

Anchorage was a good time, we stayed close to downtown in a place we found on air bnb. It was a great place and really convenient for what we needed. We took the bus to moose tooth pizza, and had a great meal. H was not sure it was worth the hassle it took to get there, but her fears were allayed when we were greeted with a 30 minute wait. As always, the pizza there was awesome.

We had a great trip, and now we are busy planning our next adventure!

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