In the world of adventure travel, Alaska is the ultimate tourism destination. From sea kayaking to river rafting to hiking, photography, bear viewing, fishing... just about anything you can do out doors you can do in Alaska.
In Alaska tourism is a mainstay of the state's economy so folks here now how to treat travelers to make them feel at home. And many Alaska tourism related businesses are family run operations so the scale is intimate and the hospitality is warm.
Alaska Tourism: Define your objectives
Alaska is a big, big place and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the size and the unlimited possibilities. Don't make the mistake of trying to see the whole state in a single two week Alaskan vacation. A good place to start in your travel planning is to define your Alaska tourism objectives.
Are you activity driven or more destination oriented? If you are activity driven then narrow down the range of activities that you want to pursue on your trip. If sea kayaking is your thing then your choice of destinations is going to be constrained by the requirements of that activity. For example the primary areas for sea kayaking in Alaska are Prince William Sound, the Kenai Peninsula and the Inside Passage. Your final selection of an area might be determined by the other features of the area such as fishing or hiking opportunities.
A good place to begin your research is on our Outdoor Activities section where Alaska tourism providers are arranged by activity.
You may already have a particular destination in mind such as Denali or the Kenai peninsula. In that case your Alaska tourism plan will center on an exploration of the various activities available in a specific region of Alaska. You should begin your search in our Destinations section.
Alaska Tourism: Getting Around in Alaska
The scale of the land here will put constraints on your vacation plan in terms of time and money. Trying to see Alaska in a few weeks is like trying to take in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana all in a single vacation. If you try to see too much you will spend most of your time in transit from one point to the next.
Some people enjoy multi-sport vacations, mixing up a variety of activities. But if you go to Kenai for some sea kayaking and then to the Brooks range for a hiking trek you may find that most of your time and money is spent on transportation. This might be fine if you have the time and finances. But if either or both are limited then it might make more sense to try to engage in the activities that interest you within a smaller geographical area. Or you might want to limit the scope of your Alaska tourism objectives.
There aren't a lot of road in Alaska - which is why there is so much wilderness here. And what roads exist are two lane roads not multi-lane highways. So it takes a bit longer to drive around Alaska than you might expect. Flying is a common mode of transportation in the North. Regional airlines like Era Aviation service many of the larger communities in the state. Flying is the only way to reach many areas in Alaska. For example Lake Clark National Park is accessible only by air with no roads at all into the area. And if you are wanting to get off the beaten path for a wilderness trek you may need to charter an air taxi service for an unforgettablebush flight into the backcountry.
Alaska Tourism: Reservations and Timing
The Alaska tourism industry is composed of two types of traveler: those who book prepackaged tours with large agencies and independent travelers. The tour groups reserve blocks of hotel rooms and outdoor activities fairly early in the season. The tourism season here is fairly short with July and August being the busiest time. If you will need to rent a car or book a hotel within that time frame you will want to make your reservations well in advance. Don't get off your plane in Anchorage in the middle of August and expect to have a wide choice of rental cars available. Instead you may find that there are few if any available. So plan ahead and try to have your reservations made sometime in the early to mid spring.
Be sure to inquire about cancellation policies when you make reservations. If you cancel out of a ten day sea kayaking trip two weeks before the start of the paddle, expect that your refund will be a partial one. You may want to consider travel insurance.