Measure Twice, Cut Once.
Most of us have learned that good planning pays off. This is especially true when planning an Alaska vacation. The amount of research done in advance can mean the difference between an expensive misadventure and a rewarding experience, worth every penny.
Friends are an excellent source of referrals. If you know someone who's been to Alaska, talk to them about thier experience. If you don't have friends who have traveled in Alaska, consider contacting an Alaska Vacation Specialist for help with planning your Dream Alaskan Vacation.
Booking Alaska Travel On-Line.
The web offers a vast wealth of information on Alaskan destinations, activities and accommodations, and is generally the first place most travelers will look when planning a vacation. Please be warned, what you see is not always what you get. An attractive website says a lot about the business it represents, however, some web sites may not provide an honest portrayal of the amenities and services provided.
The opposite is also true. Many excellent Alaskan establishments do not have well designed websites. For this reason I recommend picking up the phone and calling the establishment directly. Is the voice on the end of the line friendly and knowledgeable? Do they return calls? Are they excited about your vacation plans? Will they accommodate the specific needs of your group? These are all clues as to what you can expect once you arrive an meet your hosts in person.
When is the Best Time to Visit Alaska?
The majority of Alaska visitors arrive between mid June and early September.
Alaska summers are typically mild, often overcast with occasional rain storms. Occasionally the sun will break out and offer up deliciously warm summer days.
For anglers, when to go involves precise timing. Salmon anglers will plan their trips based on runs of the salmon they are targeting as well as tides, and phases of the moon. Various regions of Alaska have differing runs. Chinook or king salmon will generally run June trough July. Coho or silver salmon will run August through September. Some areas have additional runs like Sitka and Homer.
Shoulder season or off peak season, is a great time to find deals. Many operators will offer discounts of 20% or more to help fill beds and boats. If you can travel in late May or early September you'll find outstanding deals and special offers to choose from.
What Types of Accommodations are Available?
There are many options when it comes to accommodations in Alaska. Be aware that availability at the better establishments can become scare during the Alaska vacation season. Book your accommodations well in advance. As in the lower (48), you'll find a wide range of hotels, bed & breakfasts, lodges and resorts.
You can plan a stay at a wilderness lodge, or stay aboard a yacht charter or small ship cruise. Resorts and quality lodges may offer all-inclusive packages that will include your activities, meals, and accommodations and transfers. It is always a good idea to consult with an Alaska travel specialist that can advise you on accommodations. Hotels are not rated on the same "star" system found in the lower (48).
What Activities are Available in Alaska?
Most visitors are attracted to Alaska because of the relatively unspoiled natural beauty that has long ago vanished in most of the lower 48. Wildlife encounters are one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have while visiting the great state. For anglers, the lure of catching a trophy Chinook salmon or casting a fly onto a pristine river might fulfill a lifelong desire. Others are draw to see massive ice fields and calving glaciers of Kenai Fjords, or Prince William Sound.
More and more Alaska visitors are attracted to eco-lodges, and ocean kayaking adventures. Family reunions aboard a small ship cruise or wilderness lodge provide an ideal base from which to enjoy the company of friends and family while exploring Alaska's wilderness.
Alaska's National parks attract visitors of all ages and abilities and offer a tremendous range of activities such as flight seeing, glacier hikes, dog sledding, and river rafting.
The three most popular parks are Denali, Kenai Fjords located in south-central and Katmai in southwest Alaska.
How Will I Get Around Once in Alaska?
South-east Alaska offers an ideal environment for small ship cruises, yacht charters and remote fishing lodges. Because of the limited road system, much travel is done by seaplane, boat charters, or the "state ferry system" AKA the Alaska Marine Highway.
In Alaska's south-central region, visitors may travel by car or Motor coach. Alaska highways connect the major hubs of Fairbanks, Anchorage, Seward, Valdez, and Homer. Travel by railroad is also a very popular mode of transport, especially from Anchorage to Denali National Park and into Seward.
Will I need Travel Insurance?
It is always a good idea to purchase trip insurance. Because of Alaska's vast size and geography, all too often you will find yourself far from medical assistance. Make sure any policy you purchase provides coverage for medical evacuation and trip cancellation due to illness or family emergencies.
Alaska's Inside Passage Resorts offers an Adventure Travel Protection Plan through Travel Guard Insurance designed for adventure travelers and sportsman.
Who Can Help Me Plan a Trip?
Alaska's Inside Passage Resorts (AIPR) is a valuable source of information and referrals offering a free Alaska vacation planner. AIPR offers free personalized Alaska travel planning. AIPR is Alaska's largest consortium of premier lodges, small ship cruises, and yacht charters. Since 1994 AIPR has helped thousands plan their Alaska sport-fishing & boating adventures. Alaska vacation packages can be customized to create a unique Alaskan experiences. Please call us at 800-926-2477 for more information.
You may also contact the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) for a list of members, and a catalog of registered Alaskan hospitality providers.