The Visitor’s Guide to Barrow, Alaska: Part I

This is Part I of a five part series I’m writing on my trip to “The top of the World,” Barrow, Alaska.

Those who follow this blog know that that this past summer I visited Alaska, making it state #49 on my U.S. travels. I got there and back using Frontier Airline miles and saving well over $1,000 on plane tickets. In addition to some gorgeous scenery all throughout the state (some of which I still need to post) I’ve always wanted to visit Barrow, Alaska.

If you’re not familiar with it, Barrow is the northernmost city in the United States, at the very, very top of Alaska.AK_27925

For some reason ever since the first time I heard about it and where it was as a kid, I wanted to go there. Something about going to the northernmost point in the United States was something that appealed to me, so when I finalized my plans to go to Alaska, I knew I had to take the opportunity.

Planning Ahead Can Prevent You from A Huge Airline Bill

For almost everyone, a flight to Alaska is going to be expensive. And then even when you’re already in Alaska, Barrow is still another 2-3 hour flight! You’ll most likely be flying into Anchorage, though if you’re coming from Juneau, it will be even longer. If you know you’re heading to Alaska and you want to visit Barrow, put a plan in place well ahead to save up some airline frequent flyer miles or credit card points. By utilizing two credit cards and two airline programs, I saved myself close to $1,500 in total flight costs.

Getting to Alaska

As I mentioned above, I got a round trip ticket to Alaska (Anchorage) by redeeming Frontier airlines miles. I’d picked up the Frontier airlines master card specifically with a trip to Alaska in mind and redeemed the miles for roundtrip tickets from New York for both my brother and myself. Frontier is more of a budget carrier, as in they will charge for extras and things like baggage and even large carry-ons. So make sure you plan ahead before you get enthusiastic about grabbing a great deal. However the main benefit with frontier is:

1) They charge fewer miles for a ticket. A “saver” award was only 10,000 miles each way as opposed to 15,000, 20,000 or even 25,000 with other airlines.
2) Their “United States” award chart DOES include Alaska, where as most airlines exclude both Alaska and Hawaii from the US award chart.

These two things together make frontier airlines miles the way to go if you’re specifically looking to get to Alaska for cheap.

Planning to Get to Barrow

We arrived in Anchorage about midnight after flights from New York to Denver and Denver to Anchorage. We’d be in Alaska for about a week and as my brother didn’t have an interest in going to Barrow, I figured out the best way to work it around our schedules. I decided to head up to Barrow right that morning, and if I could, come back that night.

I found two flights that fit my schedule perfectly. A very early morning, 6am flight from Anchorage, with stops in Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, before arriving in Barrow about 10am. And then a 7pm direct return flight from Barrow to Anchorage that evening. After arriving into Anchorage the night before, we grabbed a taxi to our motel from “Sammy” our cab driver, and I grabbed a few hours sleep before getting up to head back to the airport.

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As you can imagine, there aren’t a ton of options to fly from Anchorage to Barrow, Alaska. So I was limited to Alaska Airlines.  And even if you’re able to grab a very discounted ticket, you’re looking at about $200 each way. And since I was limited to that exact day, my options were even more limited. Turns out I’d have to pay more than $500 for the roundtrip between Anchorage and Barrow.

Getting to Barrow

Fortunately for me however, I’d stocked up on Alaska Airlines miles during my most recent credit card application push. Bank of America offers an Alaska airlines signature visa that offers some nice perks like a companion pass.

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At the time, the bonus was as many as 30,000 points because I was also a Bank of America customer. The bonuses change all the time but you can see the card here. Alaska Airlines also flies to quite a lot of destinations, including Hawaii. So don’t be mislead by the name, “Alaska.”

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So with the bonus, hitting the minimum spend, and being a Bank of America customer, I was sitting on 30,000 Alaska Airlines miles. That turned out to be perfect, as I was able to grab tickets between Anchorage and Barrow, for exactly that amount.

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And then just $5.00 total in taxes/fees.

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All in all a pretty sweet deal. From New York to Anchorage to Barrow to Anchorage back to New York, for just about $25.00 total. It reinforced my belief that:

1) It definitely helps to have miles/points with a specific program you know you want to use. For example earning points with an airline or hotel in preparation for a specific trip.
2) Diversifying your miles and points accounts. I’ve had close to 500,000 Delta Skymiles at one point in my life, but trying to get to Barrow and Delta wasn’t around. But because I’d picked Alaska Airlines miles, I saved myself more than $500 on airfare.

Arriving in Barrow

Touching down in Barrow

Touching down in Barrow

After a long cross continent flight, a few hours of sleep and then another few hours of flights, I’d finally arrived in Barrow. On top of the fact that I’d achieved my goal of being, “On top of the world.” I enjoyed it even more knowing that I’d gotten there for next to nothing, simply by implementing a points and miles strategy through the use of credit cards and solid planning.

Stay tuned for Part II of “The Visitor’s Guide to Barrow, Alaska” in my five part series, coming soon.