Planning Your Alaska Vacation on a budget
Finding What to do in Alaska for a vacation can be a lot of fun or can be a nightmare. The difference is how well you planned your trip. It is possible to just pick up and go with many people doing just this, you will find your Alaska vacation a lot more enjoyable if you do some planning ahead of time. It isn’t necessary to plan every little detail as the weather and other factors will play a roll, but some advanced planning can save you a lot of headaches, hassles & disappointments. There are many options in finding things to do in Alaska for a vacation as some may choose to use a travel agent or service to help with your itinerary. Some prefer this method, however many enjoy doing the research and planning themselves to start their vacation at home through research of the many attractions, locations and activities that Alaska has to offer taking time to sit down with the family and going over their interests together. Being informed when you arrive can let you explore the things that can't be found with your research or the travel agent has not mentioned.
Here is an example:
Imagine you use a travel agent who has on your itinerary for you to see the Portage glacier. You arrive at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage at 8:00am, rent a car and head off for your 11:00am reservation. Along the way you see others pulled off the road at Bird Creek viewing the Dall sheep which frequent the hillside or the Beluga whales that appear in the waters off Beluga Point. As you continue you see the Alyeska ski resort at Girdwood that has a tram to view the 7 glaciers. Continuing on your travel you see a 100 vehicles pulled off the side of the road near Portage at 20 Mile River and don't know what they are doing, then drive down the road spotting Musk ox, Buffalo, Caribou or maybe a Moose just off the road at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. You finally arrive at Portage Glacier still wondering what you have missed and wish you had been more informed before you arrived.
There are so many things to see and do in Alaska with many being totally free. A travel agent or service is just that, a service. It is in their best interest to steer you and your wallet to the tours and services where they make a commission and so forth. Not all, but many. Check out the websites and what they offer, you are only given a few choices all of which they have interest in.
To help you with planning I have created a site ,Your Alaska Guide which I have taken a considerable amount of time in editing and research the directory to bring you state links, adventure websites and tour information all in one place to make your budget vacation planning a breeze when searching for things to do in Alaska. Everything is free giving you the freedom of choice. Have some fun in your AK vacation planning. I am not a commercial site and give a little different look over the other sites as you will see.
1. Budgeting your Alaska Vacation.
First you are going to need to have a budget when planning your vacation. Figuring out your vacation budget will allow you to decide how long you can stay and what adventures you can afford. Budget decisions should take into account transportation, lodging, cost of activities, meals and incidentals like souvenirs, airport parking and boarding the family pet. Ask yourself questions when preparing a budget. Will you be driving your own car? Renting an RV? Flying? Will you stay in a hotel? Or rent a condo, cottage or campsite? How much will tickets cost for entertainment and activities? Will you eat out or buy groceries and prepare your own meals?
2. Your vacation destination
Alaska has 100's vacation destinations to choose from, narrowing down your choices can be tough. You can see from the US/Alaska map below, compared to the rest of the country, AK is huge and I suggest you pick just 1 region to cut your drive time around the state to a minimum allowing you to get to as many destinations as possible. Like most, your travel will be in the Summer months when everyone else is traveling as well. Although we are a huge state, the infrastructure is not. There is only 1 road into Denali from Anchorage with everyone using this road to go North toward Fairbanks. Tour buses, motor homes, tourists and road construction can make the going slow. You will be sharing the road with other travelers in a hurry as well as the locals who need to get to work and so forth. I suggest you try to travel midweek as the weekends will have everyone trying to get to their favorite Alaska destinations. When planning your Alaska vacation make sure you have a map at your side to see just how much traffic you may encounter. I suggest using Google Maps as you can plan your travels and save your Alaska map online or print it out.
3. Planning your transportation
Now more than ever travelers are spending more just to get to their vacation destinations. Gasoline prices are higher in Alaska than the lower 48 and you can expect the prices to jump just as America sets out for their Summer activities. Are you flying up, driving or maybe taking the Alaska Marine Hwy , each has it own travel advantage and disadvantage.
Flying with Alaska Airlines your limited on what you can bring and will have to rent everything from motel, to auto. Driving up from the lower 48 is going to take away from your vacation time as it averages about 4-5 days from the Canadian border during the peak travel times of the year and that is 1 way. As mentioned there is the Alaska Marine Highway which leaves out of Bellingham,WA and goes up into Alaska with many ports of call.
What it boils down to is how much time do you have budget for your vacation. Myself I have done all 3 ways of getting to Alaska. If I had the time, I would suggest taking the Alaska Marine Highway. Below is a series of 10 videos and will fill you in just how the Alaska Marine Highway System Works.
If you figure the fuel,lodging and your time this could be a good option as the marine highway allows you to sit back and enjoy the view, put no wear and tear on your vehicle and you can pack a lot more than you could on a plane such as camping gear,fishing poles, rafts, bicycles and so forth. The cost to drive from Seattle,WA will run $300 to $400 in fuel about 4 days of driving along with the hotel/motel stays which average $100 a night (2013). Checking the prices for the ferry system, with a family of 4 driving an SUV is going to cost a little over $2000 each way with out a berth. While this may seem expensive you are sightseeing the entire way with some breathtaking views of the inside passage you can only see from the water as well as the ports of call where the ferry stops to pickup/drop off other riders.