5 Tips for Travelling to Alaska on a Budget
Do you want to enjoy the untouched beauty of Alaska without breaking the bank? These five suggestions can help you save money on your trip to the last frontier. Is it on your bucket list to visit Alaska? Since I was a kid, it’s been on mine – and it hasn’t left since. Something primitive and magnificent about the vast Alaskan wilderness attracts me, as well as many others, to it.
Although I was born in Anchorage, Alaska, my family moved to the dry desert of south Texas shortly after. Even though I don’t remember living there, stories from my father about the moose that walked into the hospital where I was born or working on deep-sea fishing boats grew an interest in me over time.
Even though I have the urge to visit Alaska, where I was born, financial planning website Alaska.org reports that the average cost of a seven-day trip—just over $400 per day—totals around $3,000 per person. I’m not ready to drain my savings account for an Alaskan adventure just yet, so I’ve been focusing on ways to reduce trip expenditures. Take note of the five money-saving travel tips below if you find yourself daydreaming about a trip to Alaska but the costs are prohibitive.
1. During the shoulder season, plan your journey.
Alaskan tourist season runs from June to August, and any trip during that time comes with a high price tag because the state must make most of its tourism dollars within those three months. The moderate weather you hope for during yourtrip is still available in the shoulder months of May and September, though typically at a lower cost. You can save money on your trip by traveling during the shoulder months of May and September. Hotels, rental cars, and flights are typically cheaper then, although demand still affects flight pricing. Guided excursions are often less expensive in the off-season. If you’ve been thinking about a certain trip, you can typically save 10% to 18% on land tours during the shoulder months, according To Alaska.org.
2. Don’t overlook the joys of winter travel.
You aren’t restricted to trips to Alaska in May–September, although it may appear that way given the state’s harsh winters. However, you may go to Alaska during the winter and save a lot of money if you have the appropriate equipment and aren’t afraid of snow. The winter months are less reliant on tourism, which implies accommodation and transportation costs will be lower.
In addition, there are numerous advantages to journeying to Alaska during winter. For starters, the best time of year to see the Northern Lights–also called Aurora Borealis–is during winter. Also, many Alaskan guides have difficulty securing work in winter, so you should be able to choose your guide if you travel then.
3. If you’re prepared to drive long distances, it might be cheaper and more efficient to travel by car rather than airplane.
Alaska’s remote position accounts for much of the state’s high pricing. In general, the more isolated your destination, the higher its price tag will be. Alaska has greater food, gasoline, and lodging costs than other parts of the United States, and that is especially true in rural areas. Because most items have to be airlifted, transported by boat or driven over long stretches of highway, Alaskan residents and visitors are forced to pay more. If you’re flying into Alaska, look for large airports with the best flight prices. This implies Anchorage is your friend when it comes to saving money. If you pick the Anchorage airport rather than the Juneau airport, you’ll have a lot more flight choices.
You may also save money on your trip by using a credit card with travel benefits. There are Alaska-specific travel credit cards that allow you to earn rewards on airline tickets to the state, but most travel credit cards will give you rewards or points for airfare to Alaska. Take, for example, the Alaska Airlines Visa Card.
If you’re planning on visiting Alaska during the shoulder season or summer, flying may not be necessary. It’s possible to drive there instead, which could save you money on travel costs. However, keep in mind that driving will come with its own set of costs, like gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. You’ll also need to plan for somewhere to stay each night of your long road trip. If you plan ahead for where you will stay each night, and considering camping to save on hotel costs, driving could be cheaper than flying when accounting for all travel expenses. Also, as mentioned earlier, rental cars are quite expensive in Alaska. If you drive your own car through Canada instead, then you won’t have to pay the high cost of a rental car just to get around town or reach other destinations on your list. If you’re visiting in the summer, you don’t need four-wheel drive either. A sedan or a small SUV will suffice. My parents used to drive from south Texas to Alaska each summer to work at one of the hotels during peak season, and they did so in a little SUV with no four-wheel drive. They are semi-retired chefs who adore the outdoors, thus this was an excellent fit for them – as well as allowing them to see both the continental United States and Alaska on their journey.
4. Consider camping instead of hotels
When traveling to Alaska, one of the biggest expenses you will incur is for lodging. On average, a standard hotel room in Alaska costs $275 per night during summer months. If you are looking for something more luxurious, be prepared to pay at least $100 more than that per night. Even hostels can be difficult (and expensive) to come by during peak season in metropolitan areas like Anchorage.
Many tourists are unaware that Alaska has some spectacular camping, which, while it won’t be free at national parks or other authorized camping areas, will typically cost you a lot less than a hotel or hostel would. So, if you’re exploring during the shoulder season or summer months, consider whether going camping might help you save money.
Bears and other animals may seem to be the biggest hazard when camping in Alaska’s wild, but they’re not the only ones. Bears live in states such as Colorado and California, too. Simply remember to use the same caution measures you would while traveling in any other location where wildlife outnumbers people.
5. Forget the tours-visit the national parks instead
Most visitors to Alaska go there to see its magnificent, wild outdoors. Typically, this entails paying for expensive guided trips around the state, which range from a few hundred dollars to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars dependent on your itinerary. However, you don’t need a tour guide for what’s already in the landscape. Instead of wasting money on a tour guide, save by buying passes to national parks like Kenai Fjords, Denali, and Glacier Bay. This way you call the shots: spend as much time as you want at each park without having to compromise with other tourists. Not to mention DIY-ing it will let you see Alaska’s natural beauty up close and personal — something a tour guide would never allow. Finally, no matter how you cut it, a trip to Alaska isn’t going to be cheap. That said, if you want it to happen, it is certainly feasible. Plan ahead of time and be flexible where possible. So much of what makes Alaska such a wonderful place to visit is that it is free, so make the most of it in any way you can. Not only will this help you save money on your travel expenses, but it will also allow you to experience Alaska the way it was meant to be seen: free and unrestrained.