Travel fair brings PFD deals under one roof

Valley of Geysers. (Creative Commons photo by Robert Nunn/Flickr)
Valley of Geysers. (Creative Commons photo by Robert Nunn/Flickr)

With the impending announcement of this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend, travel deals are heating up. And this weekend, some of the companies with the best PFD deals will be under one roof.

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Scott McMurren is what you might call a travel guru. He runs the website Alaska Travelgram, keeping readers up-to-date on the best travels opportunities. And for years, he says companies have met the annual distribution of the PFD with enticing deals that have led travel-hungry Alaskans all over the world.

“Alaska Airlines, and before them Mark Air, and Delta, and Western, and Northwest, and all these airlines used to kick in some travel deals,” McMurren said. “Hawaiian Vacations used to come up with some great deals. You know, travel agents, tour operators all over have traditionally matched up some great deals with in conjunction with the distribution of the PFD.”

While MarkAir, Western Airlines and Northwest are no more, and travel planning websites like Expedia and Travelocity have largely replaced travel agents, plenty of companies are still vying for a piece of the dividend payout.

And now, for the first time, those companies are coming under one roof, at the Bill Sheffield Alaska Railroad Depot at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Lots of prizes will be given out at the travel fair, including tickets on Alaska Airlines, flight-seeing tours, trips on the Alaska Railroad, and many others.

One of the most exciting prizes, McMurren says, is a trip to Roratonga, in the Cook Islands, south of Hawaii.

“It’s a South Pacific paradise,” he said. “There’s about 15 islands down there; it’s amazing, I went back in May, just great. So we’ve got a trip to Roratonga including hotel, including all airfare to get there; it’s a great deal.”

Another highlight of the fair is a trip for two to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on Yakutia Air.

It’s a trip McMurren took in August and he says one must-do activity is a trip to the Valley of Geysers.

“It’s like a Yellowstone and Katmai all jammed into one,” he said. “There’s geysers and steam vents and bubbling mud pools and bears and volcanoes all in one. And they’ve got a really good program; you’re walking on boardwalks. If you go out hiking, you’re accompanied by a bear guide with the biggest Kalashnikoff you’ve ever seen.”

McMurren says the bears around Kurile Lake draw photographers from around the world.

However, what drives the flight, he says, is the world-class fly fishing.

“There’s a 6th species of Pacific Salmon that you can get there, that you can fish for, but the big deal is the giant rainbows and the big Arctic char,” McMurren said.

Overall, McMurren says about $20,000 in prizes will be given out.

The PFD Travel Fair is on Saturday, Sept. 24 from noon to 5 p.m.