6 Tips for Alaskan Travel
Last year, I went on a 2-month road trip with my mom from Dallas, Texas to Alaska and back to Virginia. YES, I SPENT 12,001 MILES IN A CAR WITH MY MOM. (You can read the entire series of posts here.) We spent 3 weeks adventuring around Alaska, and while we had a general plan, I feel we could have experienced so much more. Trey and I are going back to Alaska this June for a week and I hope to go back after that (it's just that huge), but everyone does not have an opportunity to return. Why not get the most out of your trip? I condensed my experiences and wrote a quick guide so you can plan an amazing, summer trip to Alaska.
No, I won't tell you to forsake all else for Denali. Seeing the majesty of Denali was truly awe inspiring and the park itself is amazing. But understand, there is a very low probability of actually seeing the mountain.You have about an 11% chance of seeing Denali on any given day. This is due to the mountain's size, it's so large that it creates its own weather. That visibility statistic means it may be "out" (as the locals say) for 10 minutes or 10 hours. (I will tell you how to plan an epic Denali experience below.)
- Options are limited. Plan in advance. Way in advance. June 1st through September 15th is tourist season. If you plan in advance, you're going to be able to (most likely) do everything you want to do when you want to do it.
- Support the small, local businesses as much as possible. They provide an amazing authentic experience. Avoid the businesses owned or subsidized by the cruise ship conglomerates. This is more difficult as they have a monopoly - especially on hotels. We stayed in as many AirBnB's as we could.
- I also feel compelled to tell you that nothing in Alaska is "cheap" so prepare yourself. If you want to take a flight seeing tour, it will run you several hundred dollars at a minimum. If you want to stay in a hotel near Denali, a room similar to a Motel 6 (run by a cruise ship conglomerate) will cost you about $250 per night.
- Dry cabins and dry restrooms are a real thing. "Dry" means no running water. You will survive. You will be unscathed. You will be fine. Keep you water bottle full. Keep a tissue in your pocket. Keep a travel sized hand sanitizer and Febreeze (per Trey) nearby.
- Take the ferry (Alaska Marine Highway System). This is a budget alternative to the big cruise ships, plus you meet really neat people. You can get a stateroom if you desire. I will say having a stateroom (think bunkbeds with a sink and porthole) was nice so I could secure my camera gear and laptop. For a more cost effective experience, you can also grab a spot on the solarium and enjoy the gorgeous outdoors. (There are heat lamps and lounge chairs.)
HAVE A LONG WEEKEND or a week?
Option 1: Fly into Anchorage and take the train or rent a car to drive to Seward. Take a Kenai Fjords tour. Hike up Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park. If you drive, stop and view Portage Glacier or Byron Glacier. Back in Anchorage, grab a glass and an oyster at the Bubbly Mermaid. If you have enough time, take the train north to Talkeetna or Denali.
Option 2: Fly into Juneau and take the AMHS ferry to Whittier then take the train to Anchorage and fly home. See number 6 above.
Option 3: Fly into Anchorage and take the train to Denali. Walk over to the National Park Visitors Center and purchase a bus ticket to "the end of the road". Stay the night at Skyline Lodge and take Kantishna Air Taxi back to the visitors center. Stay 2 nights at minimum. Do a day hike or two like McKinley Bar Trail.
A La Carte: Mix and match to create your own alaskan experience
(Do. All. Of. The. Things. Some of which I have not done.)
- Take the train to Denali National Park
- Zip line at Denali Park Ziplines
- Bus tour of Denali National Park which are run by the National Park Service
- Kantishna Air Taxi was one of best experiences of our trip
- Skyline Lodge was so memorable and mesmerizing
- Drive to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and stay in McCarthy.
- Visit Portage Glacier, Byron Glacier, Exit Glacier, Worthington Glacier, and Matanuska Glacier
- Hatcher Pass & Independence Mine
- Go to all 32 breweries in Alaska. We made it to 5.
- Head north to Prudhoe Bay to say you saw the Arctic Ocean.
- Visit one of the 20 National Parks sites that are in Alaska like Katmai or Lake Clark National Park.
- Take the ferry AMHS to the Aleutian Islands.
- Drive the Alaska Highway from Delta Junction, Alaska to Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Don't forget your passport.