10 Tips for Planning Your Alaska Vacation

Alaska is large, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Here are a few helpful hints for making the most of your Alaska vacation:

  1. Anytime is a good time to come to Alaska – although some activities depend on the season. Summer is a great time for seeing wildlife, but you won’t see the northern lights until the skies get dark (generally August through April). Shoulder seasons (September/October and April/May) are good times to look for deals.
  2. How much time do you have? The quickest way to get here is by air. Major airlines serve Alaska’s largest communities, and many offer direct flights from major U.S. cities to our international airports. If you have more time or want to explore along the way, consider making a reservation on the Alaska Marine Highway System, take a cruise, or drive up the Alaska Highway. Tip: U.S residents don’t need a passport – unless you’re driving to Alaska. If you’re arriving from Canada, you’ll need your passport or Nexus card to cross the border. Visit www.cbp.gov for updated identification requirements.
  3. Know your comfort level. Are you a luxury traveler or a backpacking enthusiast? Do you prefer to do it yourself or want a packaged tour? You can find a variety of activities, packages, amenities, and accommodations to meet your personal travel style.
  4. What’s on your must-do list? Focus on what you really want to see and plan your trip around those activities or destinations. Include day trips to explore glaciers, see wildlife, take a dog sled tour, or take a fishing charter – wherever your dreams take you.
  5. Add some free time. You never know what you might find while exploring the Last Frontier. Give yourself a spare day (or two) and take a deeper dive into some of Alaska’s most amazing places. Tip: did you know that Alaska has 18 National Parks? Some, like Denali National Park in Interior Alaska or Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway are popular destinations, while other off-the-beaten-path parks, like Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, offer spectacular scenery.
  6. Try something new. If you haven’t been to Alaska before (or even if you have) try something you might not do at home. Take a jet boat tour along a glacial river, a flightseeing trip to the top of a glacier, zipline across the temperate rain forest, fish for wild Alaska salmon, or sample local beers. Alaska offers everything from mild to wild. Expand your horizons!
  7. Bring your camera – and lots of memory cards. Pixels are cheap, and you most definitely don’t want to run out of room in your camera while you’re taking the perfect Alaska shot. Check out our photo gallery for some visual inspiration.
  8. Pack what you need and pack light. You may think you’ll need 19 pairs of long underwear and the biggest down coat you can find…but all you really need are smart layers based on the season and where you are going. Fleece jackets, a good raincoat, and sturdy shoes are standard items for summer travel. Tip: Depending on where you are, summers can be very hot or rather chilly. Check out our climate and clothing guide for more information on what to pack, when.
  9. Visit local tourism offices. Many Alaska towns have visitor centers or chambers of commerce that are happy to share local hot spots and must-see destinations that are off the beaten path.
  10. Research your trip. Part of the fun is planning. Read books like Coming Into the Country by John McPhee, peruse the Milepost,for road and highway adventures, and explore our site for more ideas for planning your Alaska adventure.