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Alaska is one of the 15 States I have left to visit, but one that I want to visit in its own right, not just because it’s a checkbox on a list (I cannot say the same for North Dakota). I’ve spent more than a few hours looking up various destinations and itineraries over the past couple years. If I ever visit Alaska, I want it to be one of those trips that I maximize my time there. I definitely want to do more than fly into Ketchikan and straight back.

And it figures that Alaska Airlines miles are by far the best deal for putting together an amazing Alaska itinerary.

Five Alaska destinations for an insane price

One of the best unsung deals among domestic award flights are Alaska short-hauls with a free stopover. The main issue is coverage and the limited number of cities where a stopover is possible. You basically can only choose Seattle, Portland, SF Bay Area, San Diego or Los Angeles in practice. Given that Alaska Airlines doesn’t have a ton of coverage nationwide, the whole “free stopover in a hub” really limits the options.

But you can get away with a bit more in Alaska for some reason. Some of the smaller airports are actually completely legal stopovers, depending on your origin, destination and routing.

If you can get yourself to Juneau, you can put together a five-stop Alaska itinerary for a mere 17,500 miles, taking advantage of the short hop awards with a free stop. The first leg is an award between Juneau and Anchorage, with a free stop in Cordova. Cordova is serviced by an Alaska flight that continues on to Anchorage, and you can conveniently step off for a couple days to do some hiking or maybe see the nearby glacier. You can do all this for only 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles.

Then, after spending as long as you want in Alaska’s largest city and maybe heading south to Seward and the Kenai fjords (I definitely would), book another award north to Prudhoe Bay, with a stop in Fairbanks along the way. Do you need to visit Prudhoe Bay? Probably not. It’s overwhelmingly frequented by oil workers and not tourists. But it is 2,500 miles cheaper than flying straight to Barrow. If you book ANC-FAI-BRW, you’ll be in the 7,500-mile band instead of the 5,000-mile band.

The final leg from Prudhoe Bay to Juneau will (amazingly) let you book a stopover in Barrow for no extra charge! The total for this leg is 7,500 miles. Adding everything together, the itinerary prices at 17,500 miles for 5 destinations in Alaska. Here is the itinerary on a map:

For $330 from the Bay Area round-trip to Juneau and 17,500 miles for the rest, this is a very good use of miles.

Not interested in spending cash? Fly a similar itinerary for 35,000 miles

If buying a cash ticket to the Alaskan capital as your jumping off point isn’t appealing, you could spend twice as many for your whole trip. It would still represent a great value. Consider the following itinerary:

  • [Somewhere in U.S.] to Juneau (stopover) continuing on to Cordova for 12,500 miles
  • Cordova to Anchorage (stopover) continuing on to Nome for 5,000 miles
  • Nome to Fairbanks (stopover) continuing on to Barrow for 5,000 miles
  • Barrow back to [Somewhere in U.S.] for 12,500 miles (could toss in a stop in Seattle or Portland, if desired)

The full itinerary is 6 stops in Alaska, with an optional 7th in the Pacific Northwest. I know not everyone has the time for a multi-stop itinerary like this, but it would be an incredible way to stretch your miles. Here is what it looks like on a map, starting point of San Francisco Bay Area:

That’s a whole lot of travel for only 35,000 miles! If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, as far south as southern Oregon, you can get away with a decent itinerary for even less, as a leg to Juneau (with a stop in Ketchikan, Wrangell or Petersburg) will price out at only 10,000 miles. Add a 7,500-mile one-way somewhere else with a built in stop in Cordova, and a return flight with a stop in Anchorage, and you have another great multi-stop trip for only 30,000 miles.

Conclusion

I cannot stress how amazing it is that Alaska Airlines still offers free stopovers on one-way awards. Their stopover policy within Alaska is a bit more generous than in other places, as you typically have to stop in a hub. I would have expected Anchorage and probably Fairbanks and Juneau to qualify, but experimenting with the Alaska website award search shows that other cities can work (sometimes).

Are you as interested in visiting Alaska as I am?

Maps courtesy of Karl L. Swartz and gcmap.com. Alaska Airlines plane image courtesy of Frank Kovalchek via Flickr under CC 2.0 license

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