Last Alaska post… I PROMISE!! Like I mentioned during our recap post, I had a hard time finding many blog posts about an Alaskan road trip in the summer, but the ones I did read were SO helpful when planning/preparing for our trip. My hope is that this post (along with this one and this one) will help others who may be preparing for a similar trip. If you’re not interested in taking a trip to Alaska, I PROMISE this is my last post and we’ll be right back to decorating and DIY tomorrow.
Without further ado, here are the 10 TIPS I wish I knew before visiting Alaska in the summer. (Truth: Matt and I literally kept a written list over the course of our trip so we could report back accurately! You’d be surprised by what you can accomplish when you’re in a car with no radio for hours on end. #NERDALERT)
1. Keep your gas tank full: If you’re road tripping through Alaska you will be doing PLENTY of driving, which actually didn’t seem bad to us since all of the scenery was so amazing along the way. But while you’re out driving, don’t let the gas tank get too empty because there aren’t a TON of gas stations to stop off for gas. As in…. don’t miss the opportunity to get gas, even if you’re not close to empty, because there may not be another gas station until it’s too late! <– Same goes for bathrooms!
2. Pack a GPS + CD: While we were out driving not only did we have zero cell service, we often didn’t have a radio signal either. SOOOO… be sure to pack a GPS AND a CD so you know where you’re going and you can be entertained along the way. Don’t rely on your cell phone as your only means of directions/music because it may not be available for hours on end. (When I say hours on end… that is NOT an exaggeration, trust me).
3. When you see cars pulled over, get your camera ready and pull over too: This was news to me, but when you see a caravan of cars pulled over to the side of the highway, pull over too because chances are there is some cool animal right on the side of the road — like a moose or bear! Every time we saw cars pulled over, we got our camera ready and pulled over to enjoy the view (from the safety of our car, of course). We were able to see a moose family, a large male moose and a caribou by doing this…. all worth the stop!
4. Pack Layers & Dress for Comfort: It’s chilly in the morning but nice by the afternoon so having layers that can easily be taken off throughout the day or even throughout your hike is key! Also, casual clothing (and maybe a few hats) is really all you need for a week in Alaska, no need for fancy. Here’s a WHOLE post about my tips for packing for this trip.
5. Order the fish: The halibut, the salmon, the king crab cakes and crab chowder = all AMAZING!! The fish up in Alaska is SO fresh and so delicious… I promise you won’t be disappointed ordering any and all of the fish you can.
6. Charge your camera: There is wildlife and amazing scenery to capture at every turn (literally at every single turn) so make sure your camera is charged and your memory card has plenty of storage available. I would even advise having a back-up battery ready just in case… you can never be too prepared, right?
7. Read the signs: I mentioned in tip #2 to bring a GPS since your phone will likely not have service for a lot of the adventure but IF somehow you forget that tip, don’t panic! I’m from Chicago where the highways can get a bit overwhelming or confusing if you’re not from the area. Alaska was not like that at all. There was pretty much one highway to get to all of our stops and the highway to get there was very well marked. So just having a map (even one from the car rental place) and a keen eye for following the signs, I’m confident you’ll be just fine exploring.
8. Don’t forget about the extended daylight hours: Often times when we’re planning a road-trip vacation, we don’t like to do a ton of mountain driving at night so we plan our route accordingly. In Alaska, this was NOT an issue because there was daylight for 20+ hours per day. Yes… you read that right, 20 hours of daylight each day. We were there for a whole week and never once saw darkness, which is an awesome perk for travelers on the road in Alaska. When you’re planning your routes and overall vacation schedule, you don’t have to worry about “driving too late” and it becoming dark and scary on unfamiliar mountain roads because chances are you probably won’t hit darkness until almost midnight.
9. There are plenty of pull-offs to take pictures, so take advantage: We drove from Seattle to San Francisco last year and there were plenty of “pull-offs” to stop safely on the side of the road to take in the scenery. However, I was surprised to find there were even MORE in Alaska (especially in the Kenai Peninsula). My advice to you would be to take advantage of these pull offs so you can really take in the gorgeous scenery. Even if these frequent “stops” add a bit more time on your trip for the day, they are COMPLETELY worth it.
10. Don’t leave food out in your car: This was a tip we got from one of the locals and one that really surprised us. Apparently it’s not a good idea to keep food out in your car because sometimes bears in the area can smell it and break into the car to get to the food. And just like the local told us, “these bears don’t just open the door nicely to get to their snack, they break in”. And let’s be honest here, no one wants to wake up to a damaged rental car and the aftermath of a bear picnic. This didn’t happen to us (thank goodness), but it was a tip we wanted to pass on just to be safe.
For those of you who have already traveled to Alaska, do you have any tips to add to our list?! I’d love if you left them in the comments so fellow travelers can learn from your experience too!! The more the merrier, right?! You guys are the best! =)