Alaska Recos, Anyone?

Sorry, honey, it looks like we’re not going.”

“What do you mean we’re not going?”

“It’s just too expensive.

That was more or less the conversation between my wife and I as we were planning a possible trip to Japan with our family of four a few years ago. Her declaration was disheartening, as I had my mind set on exploring the backcountry with my two boys. But how could I make it work so we could still go while staying within our budget?

Spoiler alert. We ended up in Japan as originally planned.

Even in the age of travel aggregators and deep-discount websites, there are still times when some good old fashion human intervention is the best route.

After hearing of our dilemma, a friend recommended tapping the Japanese tourism board for advice. Armed with our budget and a list of things we’d like to do and see, the JNTO not only helped us craft an affordable itinerary, they made us aware of options we would have been hard pressed to discover on our own.

Fast forward to another conversation that’s all too common, especially among families: “Where should we go for summer vacation?”

It’s funny: when friends come to me with this question, I have a habit of including Alaska among my recommendations, even though I’ve never actually been there myself. So when I suggested it to my wife and kids, the idea was met with resounding enthusiasm, along with an onslaught of questions.

Where exactly would we go? Are we taking a cruise ship? How cold is it? Will we really see bears? Is it expensive?

Feeling overwhelmed — after all, the state is almost three times the size of Texas — and unsure of my ability to answer their questions with accuracy, I thought back to our experience with Japan, and decided to see if I would have equal luck with Alaska’s tourism office. We would certainly need help deciding which areas to focus on and how to get around from place to place.

There’s no shortage of advice on the web when it comes to travel. Blogs like Intelligent Travel often make a good resource. But, as expected, the State of Alaska Tourist Office had some useful recommendations and put us in touch with outfitters that offered experiences that catered to our specific interests.

We ended up following their advice, and staying within our budget — but before I disclose where we went and what we did, I’d love to hear what you would have recommended had I contacted you.

Tell me your Alaska recommendations in the comments section below and I’ll compare them with the tourist office’s advice on the blog later this week. 


  1. ashley
    July 19, 2012, 2:37 am

    I have my 3rd trip planned and leaving in 3 days. I have a sister in wasilla. I loved denali national park…we did the 8 hour tour. Yes it is worth the money, and no 8 hours didn’t take forever. Turnagain arm is the most spectacular road I’ve ever been on and we stopped off and saw the portage glacier…well worth the 20$. We even saw beluga whales swimming as we drove! Yes food and fuel are expensive but nature is free…its a one of a kind state and well worth the money. We are planning a trip to the sea life center and soldotna for fishing and stopping in seward for a whale watching tour then heading down to homer. If you’re in the area I would suggest hatcher pass as well…shooting guns, four wheeling, and fishing are a lot of fun too…the anchorage museum has free times as well and we enjoyed the ulu factory where they make ulu knives in store :) hope it helps…any questions just let me know

  2. Robert
    July 18, 2012, 5:29 pm

    This is a trip my wife and I have been planning for awhile now, but after contacting the Alaska Tourist Office we’ve made some adjustments for which we may not have before contacting them. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Mtakpa
    July 18, 2012, 4:07 pm

    Do not take a cruise! Take the Alaska Marine Highway (ferries) around southeast. Also try to paddle the inside passage.

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  5. Michelle brennan
    July 17, 2012, 5:38 pm

    We loved Lake Clark National Park. At the time it was not a highly visited location. We stayed at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. Tons of bear sightings and other wildlife. Hiking, overnight backcountry guided tours, great food.
    For another less popular destination try Round Island in the Bering. Walrus, Puffins , fox. I think you have to stay on the island for a week and bring your own food but there are no bears and it is an experience you will not forget. Chugach mountains in Anchorage also great for hiking.

  6. Josh
    Whitehorse, Yukon
    July 17, 2012, 1:36 pm

    Thing is, Alaska is so large that asking for recommendations “for things in Alaska” is like asking for recommendations “for things in the Pacific Northwest”.

    Well, *where* in Alaska or the PacNW are you going? Which parts of the region will you visit? My recommendations would be greatly influenced by this information!

  7. Alaska Recos, Anyone? | Island Tips
    July 17, 2012, 11:33 am

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  8. David Daly
    July 17, 2012, 10:35 am

    Alaska in the summer looks truly amazing! So beautiful and lush!