How Much Does It Cost To Travel In Alaska?
Updated March 2021, How Much Does It Cost To Travel In Alaska was originally written in July 2019
So how much does it cost to travel in Alaska? Not as much as you’d think, but also given its remote nature– the sky’s the limit.
Budgeting and planning in advance are going to be your best friends when it comes to cutting costs on your trip to Alaska. You can read up more on that in my post Travel Alaska on a Budget that gives pointers on how to spend less on your trip to the 49th State.
It’s worth noting that I have lived here in Alaska my entire life, which does give me some advantages to being able to travel within the state and know about deals here and there.
I have spent time traveling around the state in the last few years with friends that have come to visit as well so based on my experience here I’m going to give a thorough breakdown of costs associated with traveling in Alaska. These categories will include accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and tours. I’ll also give different prices for different budget categories as well. I will not include airfare on the main expense chart at the end of this post for a trip in Alaska since this will vary widely depending on where you’re coming from but I will give a quick overview in the next section.
This Alaska cost breakdown is more geared for independent travelers and is based on a 7 day trip for 2 people.
Alaska Airlines– a funny name for a company based in Seattle don’t you think?
What I’m getting at here is that there are not heaps of options, especially when it comes to intra-state travel in the Last Frontier so expect these costs to be dare I say it?- Extortionately expensive. Now when it comes to traveling to Alaska from elsewhere there is a little competition so sometimes you can score some downright cheap seats up here (hallelujah). From most west coast cities with some foresight and planning, you may be able to spend as little as $300 (or if you’re lucky, less!) for a roundtrip ticket.
Read: How I Get Cheap Flights
Another hack for cheaper airfare is to use mileage to get up here. Alaska Airlines, American, United, and Delta all fly year-round, and Jet Blue seasonally to Alaska from several US cities. If you have a mileage plan with any of these or their partners you may be able to get up here for free plus a few pesky fees.
Internationally speaking Air Canada, Condor, Iceland Air, and Yakutia Airlines all fly here seasonally from Canada, Germany, Iceland, and Russia, with which you may be able to cash in miles for those traveling from outside the US.
Search for cheap airfares to Alaska on Skyscanner!
Best Time To Purchase Airline Tickets To Alaska?
Many times in July & August ticket prices increase as tourism numbers bloom in Alaska. Great months to visit with better prices are May, June & September. Prices are lower, the weather is still (usually) good, and crowds smaller.
When planning my own trips outside of Alaska I usually find 6-8 weeks prior to my departure date to typically be the cheapest time to book tickets out, though this isn’t always the case as I have gotten tickets less than a week in advance for a steal.
But What About Flights Within Alaska?
Many times flying within the state is more expensive than it is to fly outside of it (one time I was going to fly to Fairbanks to visit my cousin because I just didn’t want to drive and tickets were cheaper to Honolulu– so I went to Honolulu instead).
Flying between Alaska’s cities does take some advance planning to not spend a fortune (it’s also worth noting here that you cannot drive between many cities in the state- such as our capital Juneau).
If you have an Alaska Air mileage plan this will save you big time, for example when I went to Juneau I would have had to pay $400 for a roundtrip ticket but I instead cashed in 15K Alaska miles + a few dollars in fees.
This is an area where you can save massively or blow your budget big time.
Don’t mind camping in a tent for the duration of your trip? You’ll score in the accommodation department and spend next to nothing. Like bougie resorts? Sorry, that’ll cost you.
My favorite place to book accommodations? Booking.com
Budget ($100 or less): Well I got good news for those of you that don’t mind roughing it- there are heaps of campsites around the state for $12-25 a night with varying amenities. In many places– which I found along my recent Denali Highway Road Trip there are pull-offs where you can camp for absolutely free.
Another way to travel in Alaska for cheap is to use services like Couchsurfing. You’ll be hard-pressed to find hosts in out-of-the-way places, but in cities and towns there are usually hosts taking in travelers.
Also worth noting is that hostels are starting to spring up around the cities and larger towns in Alaska, though don’t expect Asian or even European prices for dorm beds. Most hostels will come in at about $50 or more per night per bed for shared rooms. Check out my post on the Best Hostels in Anchorage for more.
Middle of the Road ($500-900): Private accommodations on the cheaper end of the spectrum are going to come in in the $70-150 per night range. Rooms tend to run a little cheaper outside the main June-August tourist season though. It is also worth checking out what accommodations are available on AirBnB in this price range as well, you may very well find unique accommodations for a screaming deal.
Splurge ($1,000+): The sky’s the limit here. While some nicer hotels will come in at $150 a night, others can easily jump higher than $250 per night (and in the case of the super-exclusive Sheldon Chalet* $2000+ per night).
*Dear Sheldon Chalet, if you ever wanna bring out a blogger for a night I will accept the offer… (cue everyone’s laughter because we know that no one would ever take me, a mere peasant, out there)
Car rental prices, much like the cost of hotels and plane tickets can fluctuate depending on the time of year, demand, how far in advance you book, etc. It’s worth noting that car rental prices jump with the kick-off of tourist season in late June and stay pretty high until mid to late August, sometimes prices nearly double.
So if you’re thinking about traveling near the beginning or end of the season it may be worth booking your trip before the middle of June or after mid-August to get in on some savings.
Another factor is the type of vehicle you want. You can rent a small car outside the main tourist season for $35/day, SUVs and 4x4s can run in the $50-70. Want a hotel on wheels? RVs can run as cheap as $115 per day.
Also one more thing worth bringing up while we’re at it: most all car rental companies do not allow you to take their vehicles on dirt roads or off-road, period. But don’t worry, Alaska 4×4 Rentals is one of the only companies that will let you take their rigs on the countless dirt roads of Alaska.
Budget ($250 or less): Visit outside the main late June to mid-August tourist season and carefully watch rental car prices before pulling the trigger and booking. For a smaller car plan to shell out $35/day.
Middle of the Road ($700 or so): This will likely land you a decent and roomy SUV permitting you book ahead outside of tourist season.
Splurge ($1,200+): Booking a nice car or RV at the last minute without careful planning and you’ll pay out the nose. Also for those that want to do one-way rentals (ie: Flying into Anchorage and out of Fairbanks) plan to pay a f****** fortune in fees in order to do so, it’s stupid and annoying and there is literally nothing I can do to change it aside from piss & moan on my blog about how dumb it is.
On the subject of transportation: you’re gonna have to fill up from time to time. Gasoline is substantially more expensive in Alaska than in other parts of the United States, which comes as a surprise to many visitors since oil is Alaska’s biggest industry.
To save on gasoline it’s best to fill up in cities. The further from the cities you go, the higher the price per gallon jumps.
As of March 2021, the going rate for a gallon of gas in Anchorage was about $2.50. In rural areas prices can skyrocket to $9+ a gallon (thankfully you’ll probably not be driving much in super rural areas since there are typically very few roads).
Another factor in cost will be the fuel efficiency of the vehicle you rent. A small car might eke out 30+mpg, but a big 4×4 might get less than 15mpg.
Budget ($80): Cruising Alaska in a small car and not driving all over the state? You’ll likely save big $$$ on gasoline.
Middle of the Road ($150): Planning to do the usual Denali National Park and Kenai Peninsula highlights trip? Plan for a gasoline bill in the $150 range. Recently a friend came to Alaska and we drove from Anchorage to Denali National Park, across the Denali Highway and over to Matanuska Glacier, then down to Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward before looping back towards Anchorage and squeezing in little trips along the way and our gas came out to a whopping $110 in my 2012 Kia Soul.
Splurge ($300): Drive everywhere in a larger vehicle and fill up even in smaller locales where prices are higher.
Another area that surprises many visitors to Alaska is the cost of food. The cost, especially of fresh produce is quite high compared to most of the rest of the US. Alaska is quite far from the rest of the country and the growing season is quite short, so most things need to be trucked up here.
Budget ($100 or less): Those camping on their trip to Alaska can spend very little if you plan to prepare all your own meals and choose cheaper to prepare meals. On my recent trip, I mentioned previously we spent about $80 on groceries for the week which yielded more than enough to pull us through the entire week.
Middle of the Road ($150-300): Grabbing fast food and meals from grocery store delis for the most part and splurging on a nice dinner.
Splurge: ($500+): In this price range you can plan to eat out good restaurants in cities and tourist areas.
Supplies & Gear
Depending on what type of activities you plan to partake in if you plan to camp, and how comfortable you require to be while traveling Alaska this cost can vary widely. If you already have camping and outdoor gear at home it’s worth toting it along with you to save you from a big bill at REI or other outdoor gear stores. One unavoidable cost for anyone wanting to hike or partake in other outdoor activities is bear spray, as you cannot fly it to Alaska, plan to pay about $30 for a can.
Budget ($100): Bring all your own gear from home. Only purchase the odd missing piece from your gear list. Bear spray, bug repellant and sunscreen are the most likely purchases.
Middle of the Road ($200): Bring your own camping gear, purchase anything else you may need like mud boots or fishing supplies.
Splurge ($500+): Buy brand new everything!
Nor sure what to pack for Alaska? Find out here!
Activities & Tours
This is another area where your budget can vary to the extreme. Some activities are free or very inexpensive, while bear viewing tours and flightseeing can cost you hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Budget ($50): Take yourself on a self guided tour of Matanuska Glacier and maybe visit a museum. Many activities and park entrances are absolutely free.
Middle of the Road ($200-700): If you can swing it, one place I would recommend to splurge a little is a flightseeing tour, most range in price from $150-400. This is a great way to get a different perspective on Alaska. Other popular activities that fit into this budget range include glacier viewing and whale watching cruises, dog sledding, and more.
Splurge ($1500+): Do it all. Go on all the epic flightseeing tours, get guided on glaciers and go out and do a bear viewing package out at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park.
Shop various Alaska tours and excursions on Viator
National & State Park Fees
One awesome thing about Alaska? The only national park to charge an entrance fee is Denali, at a whopping $10 per person for 7 days. All other national parks in the state are absolutely free to visit, though it’s worth mentioning that Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias and Kenai Fjords National Park are the only national parks in Alaska that are accessible by road.
Most state parks in Alaska are also free to visit, but note that most charge a $5 fee per car per day for parking.
I’ve left this section for souvenirs, alcohol, and whatever random weird things that you may spend money on while visiting Alaska that don’t quite fit into other categories. If you don’t drink and don’t want any souvenirs you likely won’t spend much, but if you have a penchant for fine art and whiskey you can easily spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
So How Much Does It Cost To Travel In Alaska?
For those visual people reading I know I’m a jerk and made you hold out to the very end of the post for this chart, but here it is:
These are the rough estimates for on-the-ground costs for two adults to travel in Alaska for 7 days. Please note that I did not include airfare to/from Alaska in this chart as those costs can fluctuate wildly depending on where you’re coming to Alaska from.
Have Any Questions On Alaska Travel Costs?
Ask your Alaska travel cost and budgeting questions in the comments section below!