Let’s face it; anyone who even considers a vacation to Alaska has a sense of the spirit that has kept the 49th state a prosperous one for travelers far and wide. With 34,000 miles of coastline, over 3 million lakes, and mountains everywhere you look, Alaska keeps drawing ’em in year after year. It’s a rich land, a beautiful place to bring your children before they grow up and don’t want to go anyplace with you, much less to a state that doesn’t even have an amusement park, for goodness sakes. Heck, some places don’t even have Wifi!
For all its fabulous-ness, Alaska can be a bit confusing to the first time visitor. So large that Texas could snuggle right in with room left over, the Last Frontier’s activities are as diverse as the cities that host them, and planning a week, or even two-week trip can befuddle even the most articulate scheduling guru. So here is the first of a few posts regarding pre-vacation planning.
When Should I Visit? Alaska has four distinct seasons, although one, summer, is decidedly shorter than the rest. The most popular time to visit is, of course, over summer vacation when cruise lines, resorts, and fishing boats are crammed with tourists eager to experience the Wild Northland. Consider the “shoulder seasons” before or after summer holidays. Granted, some activities will be wrapped up tight before and after Memorial Day and Labor Day, respectively, but I’ll bet you can find enough going on (that’s why you are reading AK on the Go, right?) to amuse and even educate your family without the uprorarious crowds that appear out of nowhere in June, July, and August. Another reason to come early or late? Airfares and lodging are much, much cheaper. We are an expensive place to visit; any relief to the wallet is always appreciated. Locals take advantage of lower rates, why shouldn’t you?
What Special Considerations Exist for Off-Season Visiting? I have already mentioned the potential shuttering of some popular attractions. Other things to think about are your family’s interests. Like to ski? Then pop up here in the wintertime and schuss down Alyeska Resort’s Race Trail for a unique ski vacation. Dig the Iditarod? Hello…there is no better place to witness the Last Great Race than Anchorage on Start Day. Dogs howling, fur flying, Sourdoughs shouting, it’s all there. Plus, your kids will be able to say they saw Balto’s statue and a man wearing a bobcat on his head.
Any Good Deals? As a matter of fact, there are. The Great Alaska Tour Saver is the best. Like those Entertainment Books your kids sell every year so their soccer team can have new uniforms or a trip to Europe, the Tour Saver is the greatest thing since the bunny boot. For around $99, your family will get a huge number of activities that all are 2 for 1 deals. Yes, every single one. That means for a family of four, you could, well, get to see stuff for the price of two. Float trips, air tours, fishing packages, whale-watching, you name it. Do pay attention to the dates, however. Some don’t activate until that darned summer season, but it’s worth a glance anyhow. Their site explains it all.
Also visit the Anchorage Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Their Web site posts hot new deals every week, and some are fantastic. Our family, in fact, is snatching up a deal in Fairbanks this spring for a weekend getaway.
It’s time to think outside the big box when planning a vacation this year. While the economy is still tailspinning, Americans refuse to give up their most sacred of all things; leisure time. Life is short, come to Alaska while the gettin’s good.