Alaska in the Summer: PACKING GUIDE

If you plan on heading to Alaska during the summer, this post is for you! Like I mentioned in our Alaska Trip Recap, we flew on Alaska Air and our experience was very positive overall but the one negative was that this airline charges to check luggage, $25 per bag. Because Matt and I aren’t used to paying to check luggage (love you Southwest!), and usually just travel with a carry-on anyway, we chose to pack what we needed…. and only what we needed… to try to check only ONE bag. Yes, two people + 1 bag for an entire week of Alaskan travel!
Alaska_packing_guide_summer_tripNot only did we save a few bucks, but more importantly, it was so much easier to only have one suitcase to lug in and out of the car all week. And trust me if we could do it, I KNOW you can too! Plus after experiencing our week in Alaska and really seeing what we used and what we didn’t use, I’m even more convinced that you can DEFINITELY make it work. Alaska_travel-2So let’s jump right into our Alaska Packing Guide!

What should you pack for a summer road trip in Alaska?

Alaska_travel-411. Winter Coat: When we headed down to Seward, we were very grateful we had our winter coats with us. We definitely didn’t need the winter coat all day, everyday… but we did use them all day on the glacier cruise. That day, I had my winter coat on, a hat, gloves, boots, two pairs of pants, and lots of layers. But our dress for this excursion was out of the ordinary for the week. Alaska_travel-17_Bridget

This winter jacket + hood was perfect and my go-to on the glacier excursion and just about every early morning when it was still a bit chilly out. 

However, even if you’re not taking the excursion out to the glacier, I would recommend having your winter coat as an option throughout the trip because I ended up wearing my winter coat almost every morning. By the afternoon, I threw it in the car because the sun was shining and it was not nearly as chilly. But since the mornings were “chilly”, I was very glad I had this as an option almost everyday. Alaska_travel-54

Alaska_travel-50This water-resistant rain jacket was awesome because it had a hood, matched with just about everything, and was perfect for the little bit of rain we saw on the trip. 

Layers: The next biggest piece of advice I would give you is to pack layers, layers and more layers! After I took off my coat for the day, I usually would spend the entire day taking off and putting back on layers. At some points of the day, I was comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans, but later in the day, I was happy to have a button-up and even a jacket. So I would definitely recommend bringing layers as options.

Alaska_travel-76Casual wear is KEY! Do not dress to impress in Alaska… dress for comfort! (I can’t stress that enough) 

Casual Wear: I can’t stress enough the importance of packing ONLY casual clothes (unless you plan on going to a fancy dinner, which we did not). Going into the trip, I didn’t really realize how casual everything is. I thought maybe I would “get ready” for our dinners or adventures… not. even. close. I literally lived in ripped jeans, a casual button up or tee, boots, and a hat. From breakfast to dinner, and everything in between, it was all about comfort so pack only what’s comfortable, warm(ish), and you don’t necessarily mind getting a bit dirty if you’re out exploring. When I say dirty, I don’t anticipate anyone rolling in the mud or ruining their clothes, but there is no need to buy anything new or wear anything fancy while exploring. #trustme

Alaska_travelHats!: I would also recommend packing a few hats… these were my lifesavers. I think I wore a hat almost every single day. And the hats were less about fashion and more about an easy excuse to get out the door in the morning without doing a thing to my hair. Seriously though — not a thing. I barely wore any make-up or did my hair the entire time I was in Alaska and it was GLORIOUS!

Sunglasses: For obvious reasons, make sure you pack some sunglasses!! And maybe some sunscreen if you’re going to be outside a lot (and you have fair skin like me).

Summer_Alaska_travel_recap-002Alaska_travel-55Boots: I wore my converse gym shoes traveling to and from Alaska, but the rest of the trip I wore these boots and loved them! I didn’t mind getting them dirty and loved that they kept my feet warm and dry… especially on the glacier cruise (paired with an extra layer of socks). If you have some type of “hiking” boots, I would HIGHLY recommend bringing them. Beyond these, you probably don’t need many other shoes, which really saved us a lot of room in our suitcase. I did put a pair of sandals in my bag to go to the hotel pool and also brought my converse, but I think I could have gotten away with just bringing these boots and the sandals. And speaking of sandals, make sure you grab your bathing suit if there is a pool in any of your hotels. One of our hotels had an indoor heated pool and hot tub overlooking the mountain and I’m so glad we had our suits to take advantage of it!

Bug-spray: LOTS OF IT. There were mosquitoes everywhere. I promise your bug spray will become your new scent for the week… and you won’t even be mad about it because you’ll be so glad it’s keep those annoying bugs away.

Alaska_travel-11Pants: I’m a little embarrassed to admit how few pairs of pants I packed for the week. 2 pairs of yoga-ish pants and two pair of jeans, which really could have been one pair of jeans. The yoga pants were good for hiking and also good to double up on during the glacier cruise. The jeans were pretty much my go-to’s for every other day. Oh and throw in a pair of shorts to wear to the pool…. because there’s nothing worse than trying to put on jeans or yoga paints after getting out of the pool. #nochanceAlaska_travel-14

GPS + CD: Almost all of our road trip came with absolutely NO cell service and absolutely NO radio signal! I only say this because I don’t want you to rely on using your cell phone for directions only to find that your cell phone GPS isn’t working most of the time. Not that the routes in Alaska were complex (it’s basically one highway the whole time with lots of signage) but having our plug-in GPS was really helpful when we didn’t have service. One thing we did not pack, that I really wish we did, were some CD’s. I love listening to music in the car, but during most of trip the radio would not pick up ANY channels. Literally nothing. So I would advise going old school and packing a few CD’s to enjoy along the journey…. that is unless you really want to take in the outdoors. But as far as I’m concerned, you can totally take in the outdoors with a little Meghan Trainor playing in the background. 😉Alaska_travel-51

Lots of information to take in, I know! I promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds and if you can only take away three FOUR important tips from this post, I hope they are:

1. Layers, layers, layers!  

2. Casual is key…. dress for comfort, for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!

3. You can re-wear items (especially your layers) so don’t overpack. Bring only the essentials and use those extra luggage fees to splurge on something fun while you’re there!!

4. And how could I not mention this until now?! Please, please, please make sure you pack your camera and extra batteries! The scenery is AMAZING so make sure that camera is charged and ready.

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Good luck packing and most importantly, happy travels!! If I missed anything, drop your question in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer it the best that I can. Alaska_packing_guide_summer_trip Bridget Signature

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  • Such gorgeous pictures! Alaska looks so amazing. Surprisingly I’ve never checked a bag before! I just always do carry on. One time I even made it through a 5 week trip in Europe with just a carry on..that was tough!

    • Are you serious?!! That is so amazing… and impressive! What are your tips?! How do you do it?!

  • Michelle Mortensen

    I am just finishing up 8 days in Vancouver. I have a family of 5 and I didn’t want any of us to check luggage. So we each had a carry-on for the 8 days and WE DID IT (even my teenage girls). I completely agree with your suggestions – layers & casual. It makes things so easy – which makes the trip extra fun!
    Best & Bisous,
    Michelle from Simply Santa Barbara

    • That is seriously IMPRESSIVE!! <— and even your teenage daughters?! Glad to hear you guys had such a great time! =)

  • OMG How awesome!! What parts are you traveling to? Road trip or cruise? Have so much fun, I’m sure you’re going to LOVEEE it. And yes, ((VERY)) casual is key… and layers. =)

    • Lauren Hallett

      We fly into Anchorage, same as you, direct flight on Alaska Air. We are going to spend a day in anchorage and then go up to Denali and then down to Seward for a few days and then our last night is in Coopers Landing.

    • AH-MAZING!! Have so much fun!! The drive to Seward (and pretty much all over Alaksa) = SO STUNNING! <— don't forget to pack a CD because there is absolutely no radio. Wow, can't wait to see pictures!

  • What a great guide! My sister is a tour director in Alaska each summer and I know she wishes some of her guests would follow these tips!
    XO, Jaclyn

    • Aw, thanks so much Jaclyn! And WOW… what a cool summer job!