Travelers from within the U.S. are often covered under their regular health insurance as long as they remain in the country. Take a minute to check your coverage, making sure it adequately covers emergency medical transportation and treatment, especially if you will be adventuring in remote areas. The cost of a medevac flight can easily be in the five figures. Check the coverage offered by your credit cards and, if necessary, buy a travel insurance policy to cover you just for the trip.
International visitors should certainly make health insurance arrangements before traveling to the U.S. Doctors and hospitals are expensive and often require proof of coverage before they render services (in an emergency, of course, you'll always get quick treatment, regardless of ability to pay). For advice on medical insurance while traveling, visit www.frommers.com/planning.
There are several kinds of travel insurance: for trip cancellation or interruption, for medical costs, and for lost or delayed luggage. Typically, they are sold together in a per-trip or annual comprehensive plan. Insurance for trip cancellation or interruption is a must if you have paid the large cash deposits demanded by many Alaska outfitters, fishing guides, wilderness lodges, package tour operators, and cruise companies. A premium of 5% to 7% of the cost of the trip is well worth the protection against the uncertainty of Alaska weather (most deposits are lost in case of weather delays or cancellations) or unexpected crises that might prevent you from being able to depart as planned. Interruption insurance will get you home under covered circumstances. Major insurers such as those listed below offer policy holders access to 24-hour phone assistance to help handle crises. Read the policy carefully to find out when you are covered. Purchase your travel insurance directly from an insurance company not with the trip operator holding your deposit.
Insurance on your baggage is included in most travel insurance plans. If not, consider the pros and cons of a separate policy. Your baggage is often covered under your homeowners' policy or credit card benefits, but read the fine print. If an airline loses or damages your bags, they are usually responsible for up to $2,500 per passenger on domestic flights or, on international flights, up to approximately $635 per checked bag, excluding expensive items such as jewelry and cameras. Good luck getting an airline to actually pay in a reasonable period of time, however, as it is notoriously difficult. Travel insurance companies pay faster. Various companies sell travel insurance online, including Travel Guard (tel. 800/826-1300; www.travelguard.com) and Access America (tel. 800/284-8300; www.accessamerica.com).
Or look for the best deal around by going to www.insuremytrip.com. The site allows travelers to get instant quotes from many insurance companies at once by providing the dates of the trip, amount and type of coverage, and ages of the travelers.
With rental cars, you face a whole different set of insurance considerations. Most of these are the same as renting a car anywhere. You are likely covered by your own auto policy or credit card issuer, but do check before traveling. If you are not covered, do buy it: The potential costs you face are even larger than having a crash at home, because they include the rental company's lost business.
One special Alaska consideration: Ask the reservation agent or check the rental contract for rules about driving on unpaved roads, such as the Dalton, Denali, or Steese highways. We've listed two companies in Fairbanks that rent for use on unpaved highways, and one in Anchorage; very few others allow it. Cars do get damaged on these roads, and you may be setting yourself up for a real headache if you violate the rental contract and that happens. There are alternatives if you want to drive the Copper River Highway from Cordova or the McCarthy Road in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
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.