Planning a trip to Alaska can be a bit more complicated than traveling in the rest of the United States. Aside from the vast distances and range of climatic conditions, the best places book up quickly for the high summer season. Here we provide general orientation information, give advice on when to go and how much it will cost, and cover everything you'll need to plan a trip to Alaska.
What to Wear
Unless you're coming for business meetings, you'll find little use for a tie or any formal attire anywhere in Alaska, but you do need to prepare for broad swings in weather.
Summer -- You're not going to the North Pole, and you don't need a down parka or winter boots weighing down your luggage. But you do need to be ready for a variety of weather, from sunny, 80°F (27°C) days to windy, rainy 50°F (10°C) outings on the water. The way Alaskans prepare for such a range is with layers. The content of the layers depends on what you'll be doing, but everyone should bring at least this: warm-weather clothes, heavy long-sleeved shirts and pants, a wool sweater or fleece equivalent, a jacket, and a waterproof raincoat and rain pants. Gloves and wool hats are a good idea, too, especially for boating trips. If you'll be camping, add synthetic thermal long underwear and wool socks, and make sure your jacket is thick synthetic fleece. Combining these items, you'll be ready for any summer conditions. For hiking, bring sturdy shoes or cross trainers.
Winter -- You can be warm and comfortable no matter how cold it is. Once you know how to dress, winter is not a time of suffering, and the world of snow opens up to you. To make the dash from car to heated building, all you need is an overcoat, sweater, hat, gloves, and wool socks. For outdoor pursuits, wear synthetic thermal long underwear, synthetic fleece pants and coat, wool sweater, wind-resistant pants and jacket, wool socks and hat, warm boots with liners or covers, and lined mittens. Remove layers for warmer temperatures. For more sedentary outdoor activities, such as watching the aurora or riding a snowmobile or dog sled, you need warmer clothing. Likewise, drives on rural highways in winter require warm clothing in case of breakdowns. On guided trips or at cold-weather resorts, they'll tell you what to bring or provide or rent it to you. You don't want any skin showing while riding a snowmobile or standing in a strong wind in below-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures. Such a get-up costs more than $500. You can buy what you need in Anchorage at Army Navy Store, 320 W. 4th Ave. (tel. 888/836-3535 or 907/279-2401; www.army-navy-store.com), or in Fairbanks at Big Ray's Store, 507 2nd Ave. (tel. 800/478-3458 Alaska only, or 907/452-3458; www.bigrays.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.