Sourdough Steals and Dividend Deals

Weekend Wanderlust

By Jamie Hazlett
Sun Star Columnist

Ah, mid-October in Alaska.  Snow and sub-zero temperatures threaten, night grows longer with each passing day, and the smell of crisp new greenbacks hovers in every corner.  Businesses salivate at the chance to get some of your annual windfall into their pockets and are busy pushing dividend deals to all comers.  That’s right, cheechakos!  Even if you are not eligible for the Permanent Fund Dividend this year, you can still save big time by swooping in on dividend deals.

Alaska Airlines is offering lowered rates on flights for tickets purchased before Oct. 23 and used before Aug. 18 of next year.  There are restrictions on travel dates, but these can be worked around fairly easily, even with a busy class schedule.  For instance, a round-trip flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage departing Thursday, Oct. 21 and returning Monday, Oct. 25 comes to a grand total of $197.90 – and that’s with the fees and taxes already added in.  To minimize absences, booking an evening flight south and a morning flight back may allow you to miss only Friday classes.  Have a big test on the last day of the week?  Fly south on Friday and the price only goes up about $15.  Arrange to split a hotel room with a friend and you’ll have plenty of dough left for shopping, partying and whatever else you please.

With the Alaska Railroad currently offering its winter specials, you can use Alaska Airlines flight deals as the starting point for a weekend to remember.  One could hypothetically fly south on Thursday evening and spend Friday exploring Anchorage, then set out on the Railroad’s Talkeetna Getaway tour on Saturday, which is offered every weekend from now until May 7, 2011.  For $199 per person (plus fees and taxes), you can ride the train north from Anchorage to Talkeetna, spend a night at Talkeetna Cabins, and then return to Anchorage on the train on Sunday with plenty of time to catch your flight back to Fairbanks.  Prices are based on double occupancy, so this makes a great getaway for couples or friends.  Assuming you travel on the lowest-fare days (as exampled above), you’ve spent roughly $200 on airfare, $200 on the train ride and a night’s lodging, and say roughly another $100 for two nights hotel stay in Anchorage if you split it with a friend.  That comes to $500 – less than half your total dividend.  The great thing about doing the railroad trip is that most hotels offer free shuttles to the airport and railroad depot, cutting down on your transportation costs.  Additionally, you get the chance to see parts of Alaska you don’t see from the highway, as the railroad parallels the Parks Highway at a distance.

This weekend, as your newfound wealth threatens to burn a hole in your pocket, take a moment to sit down with your computer and a phone and scope out travel deals both near and far.  If you don’t see a dividend special online, for instance at a hotel or car rental company, try calling and inquiring – believe it or not, web specials aren’t always the cheapest deal, especially at hotels that see high numbers of walk-in clients.  As you scour for deals, take the time to read the fine print and make sure you’re booking your plans for the correct dates and people.  Special fares are most often nonrefundable and difficult, if not impossible, to modify after purchase.

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