RV or Hotel or What? Alaska by the numbers

The Valdez KOA camping cabins are rustic, charming representations of Alaska wilderness. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

It can be positively maddening, the search for vacation lodging options. Anywhere, never mind in Alaska

Should you put your clan in a hotel room with two queen beds, or book a vacation rental, or what? And what’s with the RV thing, anyway? People tell you it’s a great way to see Alaska for the freedom it affords.  But is it worth it once you account for fuel and food and sleeping arrangements that are quite different from home? 

Let’s look at Alaska travel by the family-friendly numbers as we hit midpoint of another summer in the 49th state. Is there an advantage to staying in a hotel, or packing the crew into an RV like we’re doing more often? And, if so, what’s the payout in fun? 

Dig in with us.

After a renovation several years ago, the Breeze Inn in Seward is clean, comfortable, and quite cozy on a cold night. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

HOTEL: Nightly stays in a mid-range hotel during Alaska’s peak season tend to average out to $304.75/double occupancy. Some properties charge up to $25/pp for additional guests. 

VACATION RENTAL: Increasingly popular with travelers who intend to bring the entire family (or more) for multiple nights in one place, the vacation rental market is booming in Anchorage (and beyond, but we used Alaska’s largest city for our comparison). Plan on spending an average of $163.75/night to rent an entire house in various locations around the city. Which means, of course, you’ll have to add in a rental car or Uber/taxi cost (rental cars average $500/week, not including fuel — we’ll go into that in a second). 

K’esugi Ken campground in Denali State Park is the newest spot for scenic views and comfortable overnighting. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

RV RENTAL: As we’ve been traveling Alaska this summer in our Great Alaskan Holidays coach, we’ve gotten to know the rental options available via this company. A 24-foot slideout RV over a 10-day length of time, including unlimited mileage, will run $267.99/night. This coach will fit a family of four comfortably as you roam where you want to, so to speak. Great Alaskan Holidays does offer a variety of RV sizes, layouts, and options that can affect pricing, including specials for last-minute travel and/or flexible pick up and return times. A consult with a reservations agent can help you decide what will work best for your family. 

CAMPING: If you do choose an RV, or decide to pitch a tent in a campground, you will be charged (most likely) for the property upon which you sleep. As a general guideline, federal campgrounds around Alaska charge $20-$40/night, depending upon size and amenities provided. Private parks may charge more, and often include electrical and/or water hookups, showers, and access to activities. A great way to explore these options is through The Milepost, the best resource for all things road tripping Alaska and the Yukon.

FUEL: Getting to and from your Alaska adventures requires transportation, even in Anchorage. At least fuel cost is lower than it was a few years ago when Alaska had the highest cost of gasoline in the country. Ouch. Today’s price per gallon is around $2.49. A typical rental car will get 21 MPG, while an RV packed with people and gear might get 10 MPG. Typically, we fill up the RV each day we travel, due to locations of gasoline in the state and the amount of driving we’re doing. This is a cool website for finding cheap gas, by the way —–>>> Alaska Cheap Gas

FEEDING THE FAMILY: This one is tougher to calculate due to the nature of each family’s dining preferences and requirements. Typically though, Alaska food is more expensive whether you are eating in a restaurant or shopping at the local grocery store (or bulk store). As such, I’ve averaged the cost for dining out for a family of four in Anchorage: $140 for dinner and drinks (and dessert, because vacation) in a three-star restaurant like the Glacier Brewhouse. Lunch can run upwards of $50 depending upon your choice, and a spartan breakfast of hot chocolate, coffee, and a muffin or two or four usually runs in the $20-$30 range. 

Shopping at the grocery for a week’s worth of food and supplies not provided by your RV rental or vacation home will average $120. If you are on the road or in town longer and choose a bulk store like Costco, where impulse buys tend to be things like shoes, clothing, or alcohol, plan to spend a bit more.

What’s right for you? If you are an independent traveling family who likes to create your own destiny through itineraries, food, and fun, sprinkled with a bit of flexibility, then an RV adventure might be a good fit. 

If, however, you like the predictability of resting your head at a known destination at night, and the absence of fussing over cooking (which we completely understand – it is called “vacation” for a reason), then a hotel or vacation rental might be a good choice. 

Hiking, berry-picking, and exploring together, what could be better? Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

The bottom line? It’s right if it’s right for you. And that could even mean a combination of all of the above. 

Questions? Shoot us an email via this website. We’d love to help you navigate your Alaska adventure. 

~EK

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