5 Mistakes To Avoid on Your First Alaska Trip

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Traveling in Alaska is unlike vacationing anywhere else. The state's sheer size can make covering too much ground quickly a tempting yet impractical goal.

It's important to tailor your itinerary realistically, prioritizing quality over quantity to savor the moments among the glaciers, mountains, and wildlife.

And while spontaneity has charm, some advanced planning can ensure you experience Alaska's must-see destinations without the stress of last-minute scrambling.

Here are five common mistakes you should avoid on your first trip!

1. Overpacking Your Schedule

Planning a trip using maps and taking notes for the itinerary

When planning your Alaskan adventure, it's tempting to cram every possible activity into your itinerary. Resist this urge! 

The vastness of Alaska means travel between destinations can take much longer than anticipated. For example, travel times between Anchorage and Denali can vary.

It's typically around a 5-hour drive or up to an 8-hour train journey. Always check the latest travel times and conditions before your trip.

Filling every day to the brim can leave you exhausted and unable to truly enjoy Alaska's wonders. Pacing yourself is important to savor each experience genuinely. Aim for a balanced itinerary that allows for both exploration and relaxation.

Alaska's natural beauty is best appreciated without a rush. This approach gives you time to breathe and fully absorb the stunning vistas and wildlife encounters that make your trip memorable.

2. Not Preparing for Remote Locations

Heading to remote locations? Be prepared with essentials like a detailed map or GPS device. Always inform someone about your travel itinerary.

Getting around can be a challenge. Expect limited access to services like phone coverage and gas stations.

In Alaska's remote locations, carrying a satellite phone is highly recommended for emergency communications, as cellular service is sparse or nonexistent in many areas.

Weather can be unpredictable, so an emergency kit with first-aid supplies, blankets, and flares can keep you safe.

Learn safe tips for viewing local wildlife. Information from trusted sources like the U.S. National Park Service can be immensely helpful. Ensure you're bear-aware, and keep a clean camp to avoid unwelcome visitors.

3. Underestimating the Weather

Climber in a snow storm ,Alaska

Alaska's weather can be a fickle friend on your travels, and getting caught off guard is easy. Your experience in the Last Frontier depends on being prepared for its diverse climate.

Summers might gift you with the midnight sun, granting long hours of daylight for your adventures. Yet, it's wise to be mindful of the visitor traffic during this peak season, which may slow you down.

Stay up to date with the latest on visitor traffic by visiting this page.

Pack for rain, no matter what the season. Even if the skies seem clear, Alaska can surprise you with a sudden downpour. This land is where waterproof gear is not just recommended; it's essential for comfort.

Don't forget waterproof footwear — a soggy hike is no fun! And a sturdy umbrella to prepare for those harsh downpours.

Colder seasons require layers of clothing to combat the frigid temperatures you'll encounter. Be prepared for short days and make the most of your daylight.

Above all, check the local weather conditions before and during your trip. Stay alert to weather advisories while you're on the go. That way, you can focus on enjoying the incredible landscapes rather than being caught off guard by Mother Nature's mood swings.

4. Not Booking in Advance

Accommodations fill up fast, especially in quaint towns with limited options. You'll experience a real bummer if you wait too long and miss out on a cozy lodge or a room with awe-inspiring views.

Securing tours and excursions is just as important. Whether it's a glacier hike, a wildlife tour, or a fishing excursion, slots for these incredible experiences are in high demand.

By booking early, you don't just ensure access, but you often snag the best times that suit your travel agenda.

Transport can also be a pickle if left too late. The Alaska Railroad and buses that travel between key locations have limited seating. Last-minute booking may leave you with less desirable schedules or, even worse, no seat at all!

5. Relying on Public Transport

Alaskan Railroad train locomotive rounds a bend in front of a snow capped mountain and glacier showing yellow and blue livery on way to skagway

Public transportation in Alaska is limited, especially when you venture outside major cities like Anchorage or Fairbanks.

While exploring Alaska, consider renting a car for greater flexibility and access to remote areas, as public transportation options are limited and primarily focused within city limits.

Cities have their systems, and while they work well within city limits, they seldom offer extensive connections to more remote areas that you'll likely want to explore.

The Alaska Railroad does offer a scenic ride, but it's more of an experience than a practical way to travel between destinations quickly. If you want to visit national parks or other sights off the beaten path, relying solely on public transport will make your trip challenging.

Options thin out fast, and schedules might not align with your plans. Plus, remote areas may only be accessible by specialist tour operators or private vehicles. Renting a car is often the way to go. It allows you to roam at your own pace and, in the long run, can be more cost-effective than piecing together public transport.

Don't forget, areas can be far apart, and public transport, where available, can take much longer to get you from point A to point B. In essence, give yourself the gift of flexibility and consider other transportation methods to enjoy the Alaskan landscapes fully.

Remember, you can always check with local government travel resources for the latest advice on getting around.

Glacier floating in Alaskan waters

Preparing for a Worry-Free Alaskan Adventure!

Your adventure to Alaska is within reach, and now you're equipped with the knowledge to make it unforgettable.

Staying dry and comfortable by packing your rain gear; waterproof shoes can be a game-changer. Consider the type of cruise that suits you best, whether it’s a roundtrip or a one-way journey; each offers unique views and experiences.

Alaska's vastness can be deceiving, so plan your itinerary wisely to avoid rushing.

Prepare for the possibility of delayed disembarkation; booking a flight leaving a few hours after your cruise can save you from unnecessary stress. Flexibility is your ally. With these insights, you're ready to forge splendid memories in Alaska!

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