5 tips for visiting Alaska on a budget

Is visiting the great state of Alaska on your bucket list? It’s certainly on mine – and has been since my childhood. There is something pristine and majestic about the vast Alaskan wilderness that draws me and many others there.

I was actually born in Alaska – Anchorage, to be exact – but my family moved to the dry desert of South Texas soon after I was born. I don’t remember living in Alaska, but I grew up listening to stories of moose that entered the hospital where I was born and my dad working on deep sea fishing boats. This imagery aroused an interest in me that continues to this day.

But, while I was drawn to the idea of ​​visiting the place where I was born, I rejected it because travel to Alaska is also notoriously expensive. According to Alaska.org, the average cost of a seven-day trip to the state averages about $ 3,000 per person, or just over $ 400 per day. I’m not ready to wipe my savings account for a total Alaskan adventure, so I looked for ways to cut travel costs instead. If you’ve dreamed of a visit to Alaska but the costs are out of reach, take note of the five budget travel tips below.

1. Plan your trip during shoulder season

Alaska’s tourist season generally runs from June to August, and any travel during this time comes at a steep price. After all, the bulk of the state’s tourism dollars must be realized within three months.

However, the intervening months of May and September still provide the moderate weather you hope for on your Alaska trip. And if you plan your trip for those months, your visit won’t come at such a high price.

If you are traveling in May or September, hotels and transportation will be much more affordable than they would be during tourist season. Rental cars also tend to be cheaper during these shoulder months. Flights can also cost a little less during this time (although, as with all flights, the price depends on demand).

Guided tours are generally much cheaper during the intervening months. If you’ve had your eye on a specific visit, you can typically save between 10% and 18% on land visits during the intervening months, according to Alaska.org.

2. Don’t overlook winter travel

You’re not limited to May-September trips to Alaska, although it might seem like that given the state’s harsh winters. But if you have the right gear and aren’t afraid of the snow, you can also travel to Alaska during the winter and save some money. The winter months are much less touristy, which means you can save on things like accommodation and transportation.

There are other advantages to traveling to Alaska during the winter as well. If seeing the Northern Lights, also known as the Northern Lights, is on your list, the winter months are the best time to do so. Many Alaskan guides struggle to find work during the winter, so you should have your choice of guides if you take this route.

3. Aren’t you afraid to be a road warrior? You may want to drive instead of fly

The high price of travel to Alaska is due in large part to the remoteness of the state. The general rule of travel is that the further away you are, the more expensive your trip is likely to be.

Food, fuel, and accommodation are all much more expensive in Alaska than they are in the continental United States, and this is especially true for rural Alaska. Most supplies have to travel to the state by plane, boat, or long highway trips, increasing costs for residents and visitors to Alaska.

If you are going to Alaska, the major airports tend to offer the best flight deals. This means Anchorage is your friend when trying to save money. You’ll have the most flight options if you choose Anchorage Airport over, say, Juneau Airport.

You can also enjoy a credit card with travel rewards to save money on your trip. There are Alaska-specific travel credit cards that allow you to earn rewards on flights to Alaska, but almost all travel credit cards will give you rewards or points on flights to Alaska. State. Check Alaska Airlines Visa Card, for example.

Now, if you are visiting Alaska in shoulder season or summer, you may not need to fly at all. Getting to Alaska by car is entirely possible, and while it might not be the shortest route, it will save you money on travel costs across the board.

That said, there are costs associated with driving in Alaska, like wear and tear on your vehicle, the price of gas, and accommodation for your (very long) road trip. But if you take the time to plan your trip and maybe choose to camp instead of staying at expensive hotels along your route, driving could save you a few bucks compared to flying.

Driving could also save you money while in Alaska. As mentioned, rental cars are very expensive in the state, but if you drive your own car across Canada you won’t be struggling with the high costs of a rental car to get to national parks or other destinations on your list. You also don’t need four-wheel drive if you’re visiting in the summer. A sedan or a small SUV will do just fine.

In fact, my parents drove every summer from South Texas to Alaska to work at one of the resorts during the tourist season, and they did so in a small SUV with no four-wheel drive. They’re semi-retired chefs, but they love the outdoors, so it made sense to them – and gave them the freedom to see both the continental US and Alaska on their hike.

4. Consider camping instead of hotels

Accommodation is typically a large portion of the cost of traveling to Alaska. Standard hotel room charges in Alaska about $ 275 per night in the summer, with luxury hotels averaging about $ 100 more than that per night.

While hotels and accommodation can be a bit cheaper in metropolitan areas like Anchorage, this isn’t always the case. During the summer even hostels are in high demand, so accommodation in any type of hotel or accommodation can be both expensive and difficult to find.

What many visitors don’t consider, however, is that Alaska offers amazing camping, and while it’s not free at national parks or other sanctioned campsites, it will usually cost you a lot less. expensive than a hotel or hostel. So if you are traveling during shoulder season or summer months, consider whether camping would be a good idea to help stretch your budget.

Camping in the Alaskan wilderness can seem daunting with bears and other wildlife, but there are also bears in states like Colorado and California. Just be sure to take the same safety precautions as you would in any place where wildlife outnumber humans.

5. Forget about sightseeing – visit national parks instead

Most people travel to Alaska to witness its beautiful and rugged exterior. This usually includes paying for expensive tours to destinations across the state, which can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, depending on your plans.

But much of what there is to see in Alaska is in the landscape itself, and you don’t need a guide for that. You just need national parks – and Alaska has plenty of amazing ones.

If you’re on a budget, consider purchasing passes to national parks like Kenai Fjords, Denali, and Glacier Bay, which can be purchased for much less than a guided tour. You’ll be free to hike the wilderness and experience much of the greatness of Alaska that a guide would have introduced you to. Plus, you can do it at your own pace and prioritize what you want to see, rather than what the rest of the tour wants.

Ultimately, a trip to Alaska won’t be cheap, no matter how you slice it up. Having said that, it’s definitely possible if you want to make it happen. Plan early, be flexible, and cut costs where you can. A big part of what makes Alaska an amazing place to visit is that it’s available for free, so make the most of it in any way you can. Not only will this help you save on your travel expenses, but it will allow you to enjoy Alaska the way it should be: wild and unfettered.

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