What to consider when planning a trip to Alaska

With its stunning natural beauty coupled with diverse activities, unique wildlife and sense of adventure, Alaska makes the list as one of the most popular American destinations among Canadian travellers.

However, because Alaska is a vast state with large distances between major cities, a wide range of weather changes, and some activities that are only accessible in some seasons, these are important factors to consider before you go.

If you’re planning an Alaska trip, ditch the overwhelm with this guide. It streamlines everything you need to ensure a safe and unforgettable experience – from choosing your adventure and finding the perfect trip length to navigating transportation and lodging options.

The average length of a Canadian's trip to Alaska may depend on a number of factors such as:

  • Trip type: For land-based trips, 10 to 14 days is a decent estimate. However, some travellers may need more time based on whether their itinerary covers multiple destinations compared to one focusing on a single area. Journeys of this length allow time for exploring national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and other attractions along the route. On the other hand, cruise trips to Alaska usually range between five and 10 nights long. The big decision for travellers here is whether to choose from cruise options that serve a given number of ports of call and whether to sail round trip or one-way only.
  • Budget: Longer trips typically cost more than shorter ones. As a result, your budget may directly impact the trip's duration.
  • Traveller style: More adventurous travellers might need weeks to explore Alaska, while cruise ship voyagers might opt for shorter trips and luxury experiences.

When making travel plans to Alaska, travellers should consider the following:

  • Activity planning: If you plan on hiking in national parks or fishing, you may require permits that need to be booked well in advance.
  • Guide tours: Tours for glacier exploration and bear watching are highly recommended and often require advanced booking. When encountering wildlife, it's important to know how to act appropriately around different species. By researching safety procedures beforehand, accidents can be avoided.
  • Physical fitness: Activities like hiking in rugged terrain or engaging in water sports may require a good level of fitness. Take the time to ensure the activities you’re planning to enjoy suit your physical capabilities.
  • Distance: Because major population centers are far apart, travellers should research and plan their route carefully, factoring in distances, rest stops, gas station availability, and the potential for limited services in remote areas. It’s also advisable to pre-book transportation (flights, ferries, rentals).
  • Weather: Being ready for a variety of conditions is essential because Alaska has a wide range of weather conditions, from sunlight to rain and snow. Unpredictable weather can also cause flight disruptions or road closures. Being flexible and having backup options is essential.
  • Medical Emergencies: Consider having the right travel insurance and making emergency plans, as remote areas usually have limited medical facilities.
  • Transportation options: If you’re flying from Canada, major Canadian cities have direct or connecting flights to Alaska. If road-tripping with your own or rented car or RV, you may need to take a ferry to get from point A to B. The Alaska Marine Highway offers scenic ferry travel between coastal towns. Another option for venturing into the wilderness and its scenic landscapes is to hop on an Alaska Railroad Train , which is strategically based in Anchorage. The railroad tracks go all the way to Fairbanks and Denali in the north, and Grandview and Seward in the south.
  • Accommodations: Accommodation options in Alaska cater to a wide range of budgets and travel styles. In major towns, hotels are an excellent choice for anyone seeking comfort and facilities. Lodges in isolated locations and near national parks offer a rustic experience and a distinctive Alaskan ambiance. Campsites and cabins provide travellers on a tight budget with a special opportunity to be close to nature. And finally, for those looking for a unique experience, seek out accommodations in converted trains, treehouses or historic cabins.
  • Denali National Park: Home to North America’s tallest peak, this park offers wildlife viewing, unmatched scenery, and great hiking trails.
  • Wrangell-St Elias National Park: Provides travellers with breathtaking mountain ranges, glaciers, and diverse wildlife.
  • Glacier Bay National Park: This must-visit location in Alaska's Inside Passage features nature wonders such as active tidewater glaciers, glacially carved fjords, and an abundance of wildlife.
  • Kenai Fjords National Park: Mostly reachable by water, this park boasts opportunities for kayaking and wildlife viewing as well as spectacular fjords and glaciers.
  • Aurora Borealis: Alaska is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. The best time to experience the colourful skylights is from mid-August to mid-April. Prime viewing spots include Fairbanks, Talkeetna, and Denali National Park. Some of the cruise liners offer excursions/tours to give you the best possible chance of witnessing the Northern Lights.
  • Seward: Considered the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, some of the tourist options available here include glacier cruises, access to the Alaska SeaLife Centre and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities.
  • Skagway: With its preserved buildings dating back to when the first few crumbles of gold were found in Bonanza Creek in 1896, today Skagway is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Tourists can paddle among snow-capped glacier peaks, observe bald eagles at Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, go on a round-trip ride in a historic parlour rail car to the White Pass Summit, and explore a variety of picturesque waterfalls.
  • Juneau: Alaska's capital city, stuns visitors with its historical sites, whale-watching excursions, and views of Mendenhall Glacier. But, that is not all. For stunning views of the city and surrounding wilderness, take a beautiful tram ride up Mount Roberts or even stroll through the town's historic district with its vibrant colourful buildings, stores, and museums. For those seeking adventure, there are numerous trails winding through rainforests and mountains around Juneau, which are ideal for biking and hiking, or kayaking in Mendenhall Lake or the calm waters of Auke Bay.
  • Anchorage: The largest city in Alaska features museums, plenty of cultural experiences, shops and access to Denali National Park. Don’t forget to hop on a trolley tour to see key sites like the Alaska Railroad Depot and Lake Hood, the world's busiest floatplane base.

Adventuring in Alaska is amazing, but unexpected events can arise. Alaska's a wild place.  Travel insurance may protect you from trip cancellations, medical costs and even weather delays, which can help provide peace of mind so you can focus on enjoying the Last Frontier's beauty.

Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.
Travel protected with Allianz Global Assistance
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