Below are some tips for a successful trip to Alaska. Although a few pointers are specific to Alaska, you can apply the rest for a trip to any other place.
- Do your research and make a realistic itinerary - There is a lot of good information available on the internet today. Use that. Talk to people who have made the trip to learn from their experiences. Ask them about do's and don'ts. If possible, talk to locals (for .e. your BnB owners) as they can point you to hidden gems besides being an excellent source of information. Study the geography and then make a realistic itinerary. I mainly used Frommer's and this blog for planning our trip. Alaska is huge. Realize that you cannot cover it all in one trip (unless you are taking an extended break to go there). Give each place its own time, instead of rushing from one place to another.
- Take it slow - Factor photo, restroom, food breaks and side detours into driving time. You will take at least 1.5 to 2 times more time than GPS/google maps estimates depending on how often and how long you stop. It is more about the journey than the destination and this rings especially true for Alaska.
- Research and book activities in advance - I refrained from booking our bear safari until the day before for various reasons. When I was ready and called the company for reservations, they were sold out for the next 10 days. Luckily, I found another excellent company that had spots for the day I wanted and offered a similar tour. In hindsight, I feel its risky booking last minute unless there are several operators offering the same tour. Look at the TourSaver, Northern Lights coupon book when you plan and get one if it makes sense. Many activities offer discounts when paying by cash/check. Ask about these discounts when booking.
- Car Rental - Generally speaking, airport rentals are significantly expensive than renting from a downtown location. Since we were arriving around noon and not in a rush to get anywhere, we thought we could rent from some place downtown and save some money there. We rented from a Avis's downtown location. We took the People Mover bus ($1.75 pp only) from the airport to get to downtown. We learned that we could drop-off the car at the airport for some small fee ($25 approximately the cost of cabbing). We had a red-eye to catch and the buses stop running after 7ish. So we decided to drop-off the car at the airport on our way back.
- Carry cash
- Portion sizes are 'Alaska big'. Order with caution :)