Considering a Dream Vacation to Alaska? Here’s What You Should Know

07.20.23 | Personal Finance

Alaska. A state with 364 million acres of untouched wilderness and national parks larger than some countries. Nicknamed “the last frontier,” it’s a popular destination for adventurous explorers and leisure travelers alike. If you’re considering a dream vacation to Alaska and maybe even started a few Google searches, you’ve probably noticed it isn’t the most economical travel destination. Here are four things to keep in mind for budgeting for your Alaskan getaway.

1. Everything is More Expensive in Alaska

Alaska is big. If you combined Texas, California, and Montana, Alaska would still be bigger. It’s also 500 miles away from Washington, the closest US state. Because only 30% of the state is accessible by road, getting consumer goods to Alaska is complicated and expensive. Almost everything has to be flown or shipped in. This means the cost of living is higher, wages are higher, and the cost of hiring employees for the summer tourist season is higher.

In addition to higher wages, the tourist season only lasts from June to September. Most hotels and tour companies must make annual income in four or five months. Valerie, a travel blogger and Alaska expert, estimates you’ll need $300-$380 per person per day to visit Alaska. Thankfully, there are a few ways to save money if you’re planning your dream vacation on a tighter budget.

2. Some Types of Cruises Are More Cost-Effective

Some of Alaska’s most scenic landscapes are best seen from offshore, like Glacier Bay National Park or Hubbard Glacier. Cruises are also one of the more expensive ways to see Alaska. Nerdwallet breaks down the price for major cruise lines, calculating you can spend anywhere from $923 to $1,376 per adult for an 8-day cruise. Airfare and excursions like hiking or flightseeing tours are not included.

Alaska’s cruise season is fairly short and you might be able to get a better deal if you plan a trip in the bookend months of May or September. You can also save money (sometimes up to 50%) if you book a “repositioning” cruise, which takes the boat to and from its home port at the start or end of the season. Big ships are also more economical than smaller ones, with Carnival being one of the most cost-effective options.

3. Save By Taking the Bus or the Ferry

Maybe you’d rather do a self-guided tour of Alaska and travel to a few of the national parks. Renting a car is expensive in Alaska and it’s better to work out how much you’ll need it before signing for the rental. Prices have increased since the pandemic and you could easily pay $200-$250 a day for a rental car.

Depending on your route, it might be cheaper to take the bus. A bus trip from Anchorage to Seward costs around $69 one-way, and you can go from Anchorage to Denali for $105. A bus trip is also a great way to see Alaska’s wildlife. Valerie writes on her Alaskan travel website, “A simple bus ride along Denali’s 92-mile Park Road costs little over $50 round-trip and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a whole food-chain of foraging fauna. By comparison, a fly-in day trip from Anchorage to Katmai National Park to view bears snapping salmon out of Brooks Falls can cost over $1000.”

Alaska also has an extensive state-run ferry system called the “Alaska Marine Highway.” It runs along some of the same routes as the cruise ships, so you can see the same landscapes for a more reasonable price.

4. National Parks and Museums Are Budget-Friendly

Alaska has eight national parks covering 56 million acres. And entry is (mostly) free! Denali National Park & Preserve is the only one that charges an entry fee ($15 for a seven-day pass). While some parks are remote, Denali and Kenai Fjords are both easily reachable from Anchorage by car, bus, or train. These parks offer many free attractions, including glacier viewing, wildlife watching, hiking, and camping.

Sitka National Historic Park and Klondike Gold Rush National Park are full of museums, heritage sites, and complimentary walking tours with park rangers. They’re great spots to learn about the state’s unique history and culture.

Plan for the Vacation You’ve Always Wanted

Are you dreaming of a once-in-a-lifetime vacation but aren’t sure what you can afford? At Midwest Capital Advisors, we can help you explore the possibilities! We take a personal approach to help you reach your financial goals—whether that means figuring out an attainable budget or creating a plan to save up for a 10-day cruise. Contact us anytime to plan for a confident (and fun!) financial future.

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