With its breathtaking landscapes, magnificent wildlife, and wide variety of extraordinary outdoor experiences, it’s no wonder Alaska is a highly sought-after destination.
This remote jewel of the United States has natural beauty, a deep indigenous culture, and a fascinating history. The state, spread over nearly two million square kilometers, is huge. in scale, Alaska is larger than California, Texas, and Montana combined. It is made up of a dizzying array of landscapes, from subarctic plains and shimmering fjords to dense evergreen forests and soaring mountain ranges.
At its core, it’s a place that will awaken the adventurer in you with its incredible sights and sounds. However, due to its size, rugged terrain, and vast uninhabited areas, traveling to the region is much more difficult than most other places in North America.
Planning ahead will go a long way to really do this spectacular region justice. Our travel experts have tons of fun Alaska vacation ideas, and they can help you plan your dream trip. From dealing with sudden inclement weather to the best way to reach its most remote corners, we’ll give you some things to know before heading to Alaska.
Trips to Alaska are mostly seasonal
If you want to book a spontaneous trip to Alaska, you can press pause. While some places like Anchorage and Fairbanks are great to visit year-round, other areas are seasonal and need to be planned in advance.
The best time to adventure in Alaska is between June and August. It’s the state’s summer season, when daily temperatures comfortably hover in the 60-degree Fahrenheit range, and the skies above its epic landscapes are often bright blue and clear.
You can even experience up to 24 hours of daylight during the height of the Alaskan summer, giving you plenty of hours to enjoy its many opportunities for adventure. June and July are the peak months for bear viewing, although tours to see these majestic creatures have limited spots. Hotels also book up quickly during peak times, so it’s important to plan your Alaska vacation in advance.
Would you like to see the great wilderness of Alaska, including the epic Glacier Bay National Park, with fewer crowds? If you’re looking for great ideas for a vacation in Alaska, here’s expert advice: travel there in late spring or early fall.
You’ll still benefit from good weather and the chance to witness countless incredible sights, from gliding whales along Seward’s waters to vibrant fall scenery in Denali National Park. May and September also mark the beginning and end of bear-watching season, when you still have a chance to see them fishing for salmon in the fast-flowing rivers of Katmai National Park.
The frozen scenery and the promise of seeing the Northern Lights draw large numbers of visitors to Alaska during the winter months. While it can be a profitable season to immerse yourself in the state, especially for those interested in some fun Alaskan vacation ideas like dog sledding, ice skating, or cross-country skiing, it does have a few drawbacks.
In more remote areas, roads and runways may become unusable while temperatures drop below freezing. You should be completely done with outdoor activities and be prepared for delays. Another important thing to know before going to Alaska in the winter is that the days are much shorter. With fewer daylight hours (an average of just three hours in January), there’s much less time to fit in daytime activities and excursions before nightfall.
Alaska can be expensive
Just like the Arctic Circles, a trip to Alaska is once in a lifetime. It’s not just because of its otherworldly landscape and remoteness. Availability in the state is limited compared to other destinations, making your experience a bit more exclusive and therefore more expensive.
However, there are some ways to save money on your Alaska vacation. For starters, you can stick to easily accessible spots that don’t require boats or flights to get to. This may exclude some national parks, including Glacier Bay National Park, as only three of the eight are accessible by road. If you decide to check out flights to these destinations, be aware that they book up early and can add more than $1,000 to your total trip cost. However, they are unparalleled experiences that are sure to be cherished for years to come.
If you still want to include some unique experiences in your trip, book ahead of time. Ideally, you should start talking to our experts at least a year before you want to visit. We’ll ensure you experience all the sights on your bucket list, including securing your spots on the much-coveted wildlife tours.
Parts of Alaska are not easily accessible
If you were planning your trip to Alaska, you would likely encounter all kinds of practical and logistical obstacles. It’s a notoriously difficult region to navigate, with parts such as Prince William Sound considered one of the most remote and untouched places on the planet.
One of the best ways to do this impressive state justice is to book a tour with an experienced guide. At Enchanting Travels, we specialize in providing safe and sustainable tours to some of the world’s most stunning regions. We’ll tailor your trip based on your Alaska vacation ideas while ensuring you enjoy an eclectic mix of experiences.
Whether your priority is spotting grizzly bears in the wild, thousands of seabirds nesting on jagged cliff tops, or taking a trip on the Alaska Railroad, we can make it happen.
Alaska has limited lodging options
While Alaska may be an exceptional place to visit, its lodging options are not as luxurious as many of the other places we recommend. However, what they may lack in pools, spas and fine dining, they more than make up for in authenticity and stellar locations.
Expect to stay in mid-range hotels in Alaska’s cities and towns. Elsewhere, you’ll have the option of sleeping in rustic desert lodges accessible by small plane. They may not offer you the basic five-star luxury experience you’re used to in big cities or other tourist destinations, but it’s hard not to wake up to uninterrupted views of the Alaska Range or the brilliant blue Kachemak Bay near Homer.
What you need to know before exploring Alaska by road
Our many tour options allow you to experience different aspects of this amazing state by car, rail or boat. Explore the wild and unspoiled landscapes of Interior Alaska on our Last Frontier Road Trip or ride through the countryside to Fairbanks, the gateway to the Arctic Circle, on an Alaska Rail Adventure.
An open road trip around Alaska can be a truly rewarding experience. If you do decide to travel, there are a few things you should know:
- Availability of premium cars is limited, so you must reserve a rental car in advance.
- Hoping to drive from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle? Please note that many car rental companies do not allow cars to be transported this far north.
- Be aware that rental companies also prohibit driving on gravel roads, which may rule out more rural or inland routes.
- Gas stations are few and far between in Alaska, so make sure you plan each leg of your trip carefully to avoid running out of gas anywhere.
- Watch out for wildlife on the roads, including grizzly bears.
Why our Alaska cruises are a great option
An Alaska cruise is a brilliant option for those looking to soak up the region’s stunning coastline.
Our partner UnCruise Adventures offers cruises in Alaska between April and September. There are more than a dozen different itineraries to choose from, everything from whale watching in Juneau’s Oke Bay to cruises to admiring the magnificent Sawyer Glacier.
You can also cruise the small islands of Prince William Sound or head further south to soak up Sitka and the stunningly beautiful Alexander Archipelago. Expect amazing wildlife viewing and enjoy activities like kayaking, hiking and more. After all, a cruise around Alaska is a good way to see a selection of its more unusual places, with pleasant transit times and fewer crowds.
What to Pack for Your Alaska Trip
You’ll need a lot of layers when visiting this region. The weather in Alaska can fluctuate significantly throughout the day, so you’ll want a set of clothing (including thermals and a down-insulated jacket) to help keep you out of the cold. Visiting in winter? Woolen layers, hats, scarves and gloves are mandatory.
The tour you choose is sure to feature several outdoor excursions, whether it’s hiking the heritage trails around historic McCarthy or fishing the Gulf of Alaska from Whittier. Sturdy walking shoes are essential, as well as quick-drying clothing if you get wet. You’ll also need high-quality waterproof materials and sunscreen and insect repellent if you spend most of your time in the great outdoors.
Inspired to travel to Alaska? Turn to our experts for the most immersive Alaska vacation ideas and they’ll create a personalized itinerary packed with exclusive experiences to match your travel dreams.
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