When I first started coming to Iqaluit, the costs of my flights were startling but not prohibitive (thanks, graduate research funding!) While booking my flights, members of our research lab would gather around my screen and gawk at my airfare. I very distinctly remember my friend saying,
"$1,800 from Montreal to Iqaluit?! Let's see where else you could go for that much money!"
With the help of Kayak (no intentional product placement here, folks), he showed me.
Now, I will show you.
To give the north a fair chance, let's choose Ottawa – one direct flight away from Iqaluit – as our origin city. According to Kayak, the best return airfare to Iqaluit is $1,283. If that's the case (and surely there are some date restrictions hidden in there somewhere), you could also go to the following destinations for that amount of money or less:
You could soak in the Mediterranean climate of Nice, France ($786) or explore the intricate architecture of Moscow, Russia ($901). You could visit the world-shaped archipelago offshore of Dubai, United Arab Emirates ($914) or witness the world-renowned pyramids outside Cairo, Egypt ($1,035). You could eat steak to your heart's content in Buenos Aires, Argentina ($1,160) or seek solstice on a beach near Manila, Philippines ($1,173).
But forget all that – you want to go to Iqaluit, Nunavut!
So how are you going to get there without breaking the bank? Well, it's not easy.
#1: Bite the Bullet – Buy a Ticket
Forget what Kayak says. Truth is, your regularly priced return airfare between Ottawa and Iqaluit will run you between $1,500 and $2,500. Decent seat sales happen about twice per year, where you'll be lucky to snag a return flight for around $1,000 (that's usually what I do). When these seat sales happen, northerners unite across email, text message, and Twitter fronts to share this precious knowledge. Discounted airfare is so highly sought after, we sometimes even crash the airline's system. You can buy a ticket through Canadian North or First Air.
#2: Exercise Patience and Flexibility – Book Aeroplan
The not-so-highly-guarded secret of the north is this: 15,000 Aeroplan points will get you a return ticket between Ottawa and Iqaluit. Yes, for the same amount of points it would take to fly between Vancouver and Calgary (estimated ticket value of $300), you could more effectively use your hard-earned points and head north. However, patience and flexibility are crucial. There are limited seats available per flight, and you can bet these coveted tickets are snatched up months in advance. Not only that, you can't book this particular flight path online, so you'll have to do it the ol' fashioned way and phone 1-800-361-5373.
#3: Be Charismatic – Convince the Sealift Companies to Smuggle You Aboard
My friend asked if there were boats (ferry, fishing, or otherwise) to Iqaluit, bless his heart. The quick answer is no. Unless you're Peter Worden, and you can somehow stow away on a cargo ship. Good luck with that.
So if the Great White North is calling your name, we hope that you can navigate the logistical and financial challenges of getting here. Who needs warm climes or archipelagos or steak when you can have frozen sea ice or snowmobiles or country food?!
Hope to see you up here...