The date for your Alaska adventure has finally arrived. The kids have their raingear and boots, you’ve bought the plane tickets and made hotel reservations, now everyone is excited about their trek around the 49th state. Except for one thing – the choices. So many options in so many places, and for so much money! You had fair warning from me, loyal readers, but whoa – did that credit card balance sure add up in hurry, right?
One of the most difficult aspects of traveling around Alaska, no matter the size of your party, is the simple and all-too-real economics of such a journey. Alaska costs money, and as my Alaska Travelgram Radio co-host likes to say, one can come to Alaska and spend a small, medium, or large fortune, it’s up to you. We get it, and we’re here to help expedite the dollars and make sense of the cents, as it were. Here are three suggestions to help your family navigate the endless options for the big-deal attractions, AKontheGO-style:
1. Narrow the focus. Unless you have a sky’s-the-limit budget (hey, it could happen), you’ll need to whittle down your list of “must-see” places, and “must-do” experiences. Gather your crew together and discuss ages, abilities, and gotta-do activities. Don’t be afraid to divide and conquer, either. Nobody says everyone has to like the same stuff. Also consider your long term plans for visiting Alaska in the future. If you are pretty sure this is the only trip you’ll ever make to the 49th state, stretch a little and try those Bucket List items. A word to the wise: Toddlers and infants often cost the same as adults on adventures like flightseeing, since businesses sell the seat, not the experience. Consider age before booking, knowing this might be a good time to perfect your game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to see who goes and who stays…or, send mom on one flight, dad on the other, keeping everyone happy!
2. Look for the deals. While investigating attractions like flightseeing, river rafting, zip lining and such, inquire about specials and limited time offers. Sign up for e-newsletters well in advance of your trip so you can make informed choices before you arrive in Alaska. Consider purchasing the Alaska TourSaver coupon book; most of Alaska’s expensive attractions offer 2 for 1 savings within this $99 gem. Remember, too, that early or late-season trips can save one family a ton of money on attractions.
3. Consider the “bundle.” Sometimes, a few (or several) Alaska attractions will offer combination packages providing lodging, transportation, and that special attraction, all in one nifty package. While the price point may look shocking at first glance, when broken down and calculated from an ala’ carte perspective of an individual traveler or family, the overall savings may be worth investigating. A perfect example is CIRI Tourism’s day cruise-plus-Alaska Sea Life Center-plus-Alaska Railroad package. Take the train from Anchorage, take a day cruise, see the sea creatures to close the loop on marine life in Alaska, then board the train back to the big city. The Alaska Railroad also offers a combo rafting-rail trip to and from Spencer Glacier near Portage, including lunch and motorcoach transportation back to Anchorage. We took AK Kid at age four, and he had a dandy time.
Above all, enjoy where you are. Whether standing atop a glacier waiting for your dog team to arrive, rafting a placid river, or powering down a zip line, remember that Alaska is a place of “ah-ha” moments unique to each individual. Choose yours accordingly.