It’s a new year — 2020 has arrived and the time is now to solidify Alaska travel plans if Santa Claus put a big old trip around the Last Frontier under the Christmas tree. If you haven’t yet made reservations or dotted the map with Alaska destinations, now is the time to…
- Plan the route. A broken record, I am, but folks, you simply must have a plan of attack when visiting Alaska. With so much real estate at your disposal and so many things to do, it makes sense to have a plan. From fishing to ziplining, there are regions (and seasons) that relate to certain activities better than others. Tip: Sit down as a family and list the top five activities you’d like to try. Find the region that offers the most robust selection, and go there. Most important tip: Don’t try to see the entire state in two weeks, because you can’t.
- Reserve a cabin or campsite. Alaska State Parks public use cabins and campsites at select campgrounds go fast during the summer months, and even faster at popular places like Kesugi’Ken, Eklutna Lake, or Nancy Lakes. You can reserve up to six months in advance. The Chugach and Tongass National Forests also have a slew of cabins and campgrounds open for reservation, so don’t delay if you’d like to stay at Williwaw, Tenderfoot, or Trail Lake. Planning a camping trip to Denali National Park? Get over to their website and reserve spots at popular Riley Creek, Savage River, or Teklanika River. Tip: Can’t find a weekend opening? Try Sunday night, Thursday night, or Tuesday night.
- Follow Alaska Travelgram for air fare savings. One of the greatest expenses for Alaska travelers is the cost of getting here. Alaska Travelgram has a weekly newsletter of deals and discounts, and a listing of seasonal air carriers that often beat out stalwart Alaska Airlines. Tip: Subscribe to the newsletter and never miss what publisher Scott McMurren calls an “Airfare 9-1-1.”
- Reserve your vehicle. If not on a guided tour, you’ll need wheels to get around Alaska and explore some of the more remote destinations we love to recommend. From Anchorage, there are several options of automobile rentals. Yes, one can rent at the Anchorage airport, but you’ll save money if you travel to an off-site office. Tip: If you plan on driving a non-paved road (Denali Highway, McCarthy Road, Dalton Highway, etc.), you’ll need to rent through a company that allows it. Alaska 4 X 4 Rentals provides vehicles maintained for such driving, and campers, too. Otherwise, you will be assigned a hefty fee at the end of the trip. Also purchase a copy of The Milepost, the bible of northern travel for anyone who will be driving the U.S. or Canada. Plus, it’s a fun read. Find the 2020 edition HERE.
- Arrange alternative transportation, if necessary. Trying to get between Kodiak and Homer? Whoops, no road from there to there, so you’ll need to make ferry reservations. Tip: While the Alaska Marine Highway System is still in a state of extreme flux, and the ferry scheduling/fare tool says I can only make reservations 90 days out, it’s still worth watching. So do that, HERE. And don’t forget to create a customer account (it makes the whole process much easier). On land, a wide range of options exist to ride the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to points north and south. This 500-mile railbelt stretches from Seward to Fairbanks, with a few side routes in between, and rail/tour packages with all kinds of interesting activities and lodging included. Tip: Consider a rail/fly option with kids if you’re traveling the entire route from Anchorage to Fairbanks or vice versa. It’s a 12-hour trip one way.
- Follow the Alaska On the Go Show. Debuting Wednesday, January 8, this 30-minute live broadcast will be all Alaska, all the time, and is geared toward families exploring Alaska with their kids. Whether you’ve lived in Alaska your entire life, or are headed north for a vacation, this is the show for you. Listen in at 3 p.m. Alaska time on KONR-LP 106.1 FM, or stream it live from anywhere at outnorthradio.com. Tomorrow’s show welcomes Meghan Clemens from the Alaska Railroad to talk great destinations along said railbelt, and some tips for savvy AKRR traveling families.