Alaska is known as the “last frontier,” but should it be the last place you visit? This picturesque destination doesn’t deserve to be placed on a bucket list. The time is now.
Because Alaska is a place full of opportunities to experience the thrill and beauty of nature, it can be hard to plan the perfect Alaskan trip. The good news is that a trip that has everything you want to see and do is possible. That is where this guide will help you. It has everything you need to plan the journey of a lifetime.
Where Should I Start?
You have decided to visit Alaska, and now it’s time to start planning. There are a few ways you can choose to plan your trip. You may want to plan it yourself or use a travel agent.
A travel agent has the benefit of knowledge. Most likely, they have helped someone else plan a trip to Alaska. Travel agents also have the advantage of what sites are a must for an Alaskan vacation and where the best places to lodge are. While it will cost you money to use a travel agent, it could be to your benefit.
Planning a trip yourself for any destination can be hard. You want to see all there is to see. For a trip to Alaska, it is no different. Our advice is to start with an online search. You can search for how to plan a trip to Alaska and see what others have to say. Contact those who have already taken this trip. First- hand reviews are always the best.
It is essential to start with the critical decision of who is planning your trip to Alaska. Once that is made, it is time to dive into planning.
When Should You Visit Alaska?
How to plan a trip to Alaska in the right season is tricky. Alaska is known for the cold, long winters and short summers. There are even times that the sun will not shine for months. With all this to consider, when is the right time to visit Alaska?
According to most travel experts, the best time to visit Alaska starts in mid-May and ends mid- September. During these months, it is considered summer. These days are exceptionally long, with daylight being up to 19 hours long. The weather is also mild, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees. Nights can dip into the 40s.
Never fear if you just can’t visit in this time period. There are still things to do and see all year round. Winter is a great time to visit Alaska. During these months, you can take in the Northern Lights or a dog sledding race. Ice fishing, skiing, snowboarding, or ice climbing are available for the outdoor enthusiast. There is also the advantage of “shoulder discounts” and less tourism.
How Long Should My Trip Be?
It is recommended that an Alaskan adventure should be at least ten days. Anything less, and you may not get the full experience that Alaska has to offer. Of course, you could plan for fewer days, depending on what sites you want to see or activities to participate in during your trip.
How you travel is a huge factor in how long you plan on visiting Alaska. Road trips are going to take longer. Cruises are scheduled within time restraints. Flying is the quickest way to get to Alaska, but those schedules vary depending upon your starting point.
Determining the length of your trip is not an easy decision. There are several factors to consider. Consider what you want to experience, your budget, and how you are getting there.
What Should I Pack?
Packing is always the hardest part of traveling. You need to have clothing that will keep you comfortable while on vacation. It is no different for Alaska. It actually might be a little harder.
Alaska is known for its extreme swings in temperature and weather conditions. It could be sunny and 75 and turn cloudy and 45 in just a few hours. This is why the number one tip is to plan on layering. Choose outfits that can be layered on and off when needed.
There are other items of clothing that you should not forget. Depending upon your accommodations, you may need a swimsuit. Enjoying a hot tub in Alaska is a great way to relax in this majestic state. Having the right shoes are vital if you plan on hiking or taking a boat ride. They will need to have good tread and be waterproof.
Clothing is usually the top priority on a packing list, but you cannot forget items that will enhance your Alaskan experience. You will need binoculars, bug repellent, first aid kit, and anything else you feel essential. A fantastic resource to consult is this packing list. It has everything you need.
How Are You Going to Travel?
Travel can be a costly endeavor. For the Alaskan adventure, flying is your best option, but not your only option. These flights can be long and include one to two stops. Timing is calculated from your start destination. For example, a flight from New York to Alaska is a little over seven hours. From Seattle to Alaska is three hours and 21 minutes.
Since flying can be expensive, here are some ways to save money on your plane tickets.
Be Flexible With Your Flight Date and Time
If you are willing to choose dates when tickets are lower, you could save some big bucks.
Book Your Flight in Advance
Yes, you can get cheaper plane tickets if you purchase at the last minute. If you are a solo traveler, this may work for you. Families planning to visit Alaska might find this too stressful. By searching in advance, you can look over all your choices.
Can I Drive to Alaska?
Of course, you can drive to Alaska! For people who adore a road trip, driving is perfect. The downside to this is that it could require extended periods of time in a vehicle. If you want a road trip, here are some thoughts to consider.
- It can take three weeks to travel from Los Angeles to Alaska
- It will cost money to rent a vehicle. (If you have your own, there is no need to rent.)
- You will have to add up the cost of gas. (This cost will change from state to state)
- You will need to book accommodations for the journey.
- Plan to save money for emergencies or car trouble.
An extra tidbit to consider is that gas prices in Alaska are high. You can find them comparable to the ones in California.
Create The Perfect Itinerary
Creating an itinerary is a fantastic way to guarantee you will enjoy all the sites and activities you want. In Alaska, there are no shortages of things to do and see. Many who have traveled to Alaska have created their list of must-see places. These places include the natural wonders that Alaska is known for and should not be overlooked.
Here are just a few to consider.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali is located in the northern part of the Alaskan Range. It is one of the largest national parks in the United States and home to Mt. Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.
Visitors to this more than six million acre park can experience beautiful views of river valleys, glaciers, tundra, and wildlife. It is home to wolves, grizzly bears, and over 100 species of birds. For more information, consult the official site.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Located south of Anchorage, this national park gives nature lovers the best views of glaciers. The glaciers riddle the coastline of the Kenai Peninsula and are home to some of the largest brown bears. You can watch the bears as they feed on fresh salmon during certain parts of the year.
Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve
This national park is located on the border of Alaska and Canada. It is the largest national park in Alaska. Nature lovers will enjoy sites that include 9 of the highest peaks in the U.S, lakes, and glaciers.
This national park is a perfect destination for walkers, climbers, and water sports. While you are there, you can visit the Kennecott Mines National Historic landmark. This area has buildings and abandoned mines to explore.
Just 12 miles northwest of Alaska’s capital city of Juneau, this wonder of the world has much to offer. Visitors can travel the trails that lead to Nugget Falls and watch bears, beavers, and porcupines in the natural habitats.
Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights)
Visiting Alaska means a chance to see probably the most beautiful wonder of nature. The Northern Lights are best seen starting in mid-September through late-April. In order to get the best views you will need to travel further north. Fairbanks is known for sightings of these lights, but travelling north of Fairbanks will increase your chances of spotting the lights.
There is More Than A Park to See
Of course, there is more than just national parks. For the tourist that loves to shop and eat local foods, here are some places to visit. The towns of Juneau and Anchorage are loaded with restaurants that will not disappoint. Visitors can find an abundance of local seafood and hearty meals while looking out over the water.
If places to shop are important, then don’t miss out on sites like the Anchorage Market where you can pick up goods made from the local people. The Oomingmak Anchorage Cooperative is open year-round, and visitors can purchase a Qiviut. It has been stated that this fabric feels better than cashmere.
Embrace the People
Embracing Alaska requires embracing the people. There is a diverse culture that is only found in this state. Indigenous people, such as Inuit, can be a great source of information. The city folks of Anchorage and Juneau will give another perspective.
Traveling to more remote locations allows you to talk with locals about living off the grid. What better way to visit Alaska, than to take time to meet the people of Alaska.
What are Your Lodging Options in Alaska?
Finding the right lodging can only enhance the experience of an Alaskan vacation. In Alaska, there are a variety of lodging options to be explored. One can even choose a variety of lodging experiences throughout their Alaskan adventure.
Alaska has an array of lodges that offer a once in a lifetime experience. These lodges are known for their isolated locations and exquisite rooms. The Ultima Thule Lodge is located in a place that you will only get to by a long road trip and a 90-minute plane ride.
Pearson’s Pond Luxury Inn and Spa is an immaculate getaway. It is a bed and breakfast that offers a hot tub, sauna, and beautiful gardens to take in. The Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge is a stunning choice for luxury. There are numerous restaurants and shopping located within walking distance from your room. You will also enjoy a perfect view of Mt. McKinley.
Sometimes it is just not in the budget to stay at a luxurious lodge. If this is the case, a hotel is a great option. Companies like Choice Hotels, Hilton, and local hotel owners are all available to the traveler.
Alternative Lodging Options
A unique Alaskan experience is available with alternative lodging options. You don’t have to stay in a lodge or a hotel to encounter the best Alaska has to offer. When you are investigating how to plan a trip to Alaska, you should consider these options.
Camping is perfect for the family or couple that wants to become intimately acquainted with their surroundings. The national parks have campsites available, but you will need to reserve a spot in advance. Also, plan on taking your toiletries and prepare not to have running water or a shower.
If “roughing it” is not for you, then consider glamping. You can find yurts, domes, and tent rentals that get you closer to nature but with amenities.
How Will You Get Around Once You Are in Alaska?
How to plan a trip to Alaska must include transportation within the state. You may have decided how you are getting there, but you will need to know what other forms of transportation you will need.
If you are staying at a lodge equipped with restaurants and shopping, you will not need a lot of extra transportation. It is getting to the spectacular sites that can cause some concern. Your lodge can be of some help in this process if you ask in advance.
Transportation around Alaska includes everything from a car to a plane. Traveling to some lodges or remote cabins will require a small plane ride. Some planes are four -seaters while there are ones that seat up to 16.
Boat transport is a popular choice for visitors looking to see the glaciers and wildlife along the many waterways that run through Alaska. These boats are usually small to mid-size and accommodate large numbers of people. Included with boats are ferries. They are some places that you can’t get to unless you hop on a ferry.
Trains are an excellent option for traveling in Alaska. The benefit of a train is that you get to relax and enjoy the view while someone else does the driving. Historic railways are perfect for diving into the rich history of Alaska.
Should I Plan a Guided Tour?
Guided tours are an excellent choice for first-time visitors. These tours are equipped with the transportation you need, so there is no planning about how to get there. Tour guides are usually local people who have first-hand knowledge that will only enrich your experience.
Being on a guided tour means you can relax while seeing the sights. You are not in charge of anything at the moment. Guided tours are a chance to learn, view, and immerse yourself into something beautiful.
Guided tours also come in a variety of ways. Air tours offer a birds-eye view of the national parks and landscapes of Alaska. You could charter a boat and explore the many waterways there are. Bus tours and train rides are available and can give you an experience you won’t forget.
Even though guided tours are a great option, it is possible to plan activities that require your own guidance. Most of the national parks in Alaska allow visitors to enter and travel through at least a portion of the park on their own.
Land tours have become popular for people who don’t just want the highlights. They want to see the unusual and take more time at certain places. Maybe you want to shop longer in Anchorage or have a slower-paced dinner in Fairbanks. If this is you, then exploring Alaska on your own may be the best option.
Self- guided tours will require you to take care of the transportation. Driving your vehicle along the scenic roadway or walking through the towns can be a lot of fun.
How To Plan A Trip to Alaska Cheat Sheet
Let’s face it; planning a trip anywhere is hard. Sometimes you just need some extra help to alleviate the stress. Today’s technology has put help at your fingertips. Cheat sheets are available at the click of a mouse.
After a little research, you can find sample itineraries that will help you make final decisions. One example from a native Alaskan details why she believes you need ten days to take it all in. Her itinerary is as follows.
Day One: Arrive in Anchorage
Plan on using this time to rest from your travels. Grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant.
Day Two: Take the day to explore Anchorage.
Visit the museums, eat some great food, and take in some shopping at the Anchorage Market.
Day Three: Travel to Denali National Park and Preserve. Spend the night there.
Day Four: Use the entire day to explore Denali National Park.
Catch a guided tour or go hiking.
Day Five: Spend the day sightseeing in the town of Denali.
Day 6: Travel to and explore the town of Seward
There are hiking trails, glaciers, and a lot of history to explore.
Day 7: Spend the day sightseeing the Kenai Fjords
Hop on a guided tour boat that will take through the beautiful waterways of Kenai.
Day 8: Travel to and explore the town of Girdwood
This town will give you the feel of what life is like outside the city. You can also travel up the mountain by tram.
Day 9: Explore Turnagain Arm
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a place to come face to face with moose, musk ox, wolves, and a bald eagle.
Day 10: Travel back to Anchorage
This sample is based upon your driving a total of 732 miles.
We understand that ten days may not be possible for you and your family to be away from home. When that is the case, don’t give up on your trip. You may have less time, but you can pack an unforgettable trip into five days.
An itinerary for a five-day trip could look something like this.
Day One: Travel into Anchorage and grab your rental car. Take a short ride to Palmer, where you can visit a farm and kiss a moose. Drive to the Iditarod headquarters where you can tour the small museum. If you get there early enough, you can take a ride on a dog sled. Drive back to Anchorage and check-in at your hotel or lodge. Grab dinner and get some rest.
Day Two: Take a charter plane out to Denali National Park and fly over the peaks. After Denali, drive back to Anchorage and visit the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center. Be sure to take the walking tour to experience the wild side of Alaska. Drive to Seward and plan to stay there at night.
Day Three: Relax a little and spend the day taking in the town of Seward. There is a marine life center to visit, and the coastline is beautiful. You may want to take in a kayak tour as well. Begin the drive to Homer that evening.
Day Four: Spend the day on an air tour that takes you into the heart of bear country. Enjoy the views of glacier peaks and, of course, the majestic brown bears. Travel back to Anchorage in the evening.
Day Five: Spend the last day exploring more of Anchorage.
This five-day trip is jam-packed, and you will need to be conscientious of your time.
Don’t Forget The Small Details
In the chaos of the planning, small details are often overlooked. It is crucial to take care of the small things, so your trip is free of any worries.
Don’t forget to schedule a pet sitter or book your pet a room at a pet resort. Our pets can become depressed and anxious while we are away. To help them, we should make sure this time is full of love and care.
Pet resorts are a good option if a personal sitter is not available. These resorts are known for comfortable living quarters and scheduled playtime.
Being away from home for extended periods of time can be worrisome for you. Schedule a house sitter you could stay at your home while you’re away. They could keep an eye on your home and collect the mail.
If a house sitter is not available, ask a friend or family member to check on your home periodically while you are traveling.
Mail can pile up in the box while you are enjoying your Alaskan vacation. A solution is to ask the post office to put a hold on your mail. You can pick it up when you arrive home. This keeps mail from piling up and lessens the risk of your personal information getting into the wrong hands.
Another option is to have a friend or family member to collect your mail for you.
It is recommended to let your bank know you plan on traveling out of state. Some banks will restrict the use of debit cards when a client is traveling. Let your bank know your plans and make arrangements to access your funds.
Our Final Thoughts on How to Plan a Trip To Alaska
Alaska is a majestic place. Everywhere you visit will be filled with beauty and wonder. The wildlife is abundant, the food is incredible, and the local people are diamonds in the rough. This is the trip of a lifetime. It is a chance to explore a different world than the Lower 48 can offer.
As we already mentioned, planning any trip can be stressful. With this guide, you are set to book your trip and start planning. Just follow the instructions and tips, and your trip will be planned out perfectly.