Getting Around Alaska: How to Maximize Every Minute

Published: May 13, 2022

Alaska is America’s largest state, offering any traveler a very, very long lineup of “must-see” and “must-do” experiences. So when it comes to seeing and doing the most “only-in-Alaska” adventures that rank at the top of your list, it helps to have a little help. That’s where we come in. Our team at Alaska Tours specializes in listening to visitors’ wish lists and then helping plan the perfect Alaska trip, one that will maximize every magical Alaska moment. It all begins by customizing your journey to your preferred approach to travel.

For example, some like to travel independently, taking Alaska in at their own pace by car – whether that’s at warp speed, slowly soaking it in, or a combination of both depending on the day, region and adventure. Other people love escorted tours, being among like-minded travelers in a group and/or with an experienced local guide, leaving the driving, details and decisions (and baggage handling) in the capable hands of the professionals.

Traveling in Alaska on an Escorted Tour: The Benefits

Led by seasoned Alaskan pros, escorted tours are popular solutions for many travelers coming to Alaska, especially if you arrived by cruise. These tours are widely available throughout the state and can get you to just about anywhere, often with efficiency and ease, and requiring minimal effort of the traveler’s part.

Fully Guided

Guides (hence why they are “escorted”) are valuable and experienced leaders for your group, providing insights all along the way and pointing out landmarks, geology, history and spotting wildlife that you otherwise might miss.

Denali National Park escorted tour. NPS Photo.

Low Stress

Escorted trips are low stress. With availability of activities and accommodations guaranteed (except in unusual circumstances), you can be assured that your itinerary will come together exactly (or even better) than you expected. Escorted trips offer “one stop shopping” ease and efficiency around trip planning and logistics and oftentimes they are already fully paid for before the trip leaves – one less thing to worry about. Your responsibility is pretty simple: show up on time and have the time of your life!

Social and Fun

Some folks truly relish the shared experience of group travel. Socialization is an added bonus of escorted tours, getting to know different people from different places who all share the same Alaska dreams. You’ll meet many kindred traveling spirits and we know that it’s not unusual for new long-distance friendships to spring from these travel-enabled personal connections.

Gold Panning in Fairbanks – HAL Collection

Browse your options for escorted tours in Alaska.

Independent Travelers: The Benefits of DIY/Doing it On Your Own

Many of the benefits of the “do-it-yourself” travel approach are self-evident. But there are others too!

Freedom and Flexibility

Many folks traveling to and in Alaska also prefer to do it at their own pace, flexible to choose their own unique itinerary. While many independent travelers have a big picture travel plan in hand before their arrival in Alaska, they tell us they value the freedom to explore, enjoy the process of trip planning and relish the adventure associated with being on their own as their own “tour guides”. These travelers might have to do a little more of the logistical work, from lugging luggage to planning meals to getting to and from their destinations … and they wouldn’t have it any other way! With that, they know comes the flexibility to stick around longer when they find an unexpected gem of a destination or add one on based on a tip from a local.

Tap Into Guided Fun When and Where You Want

Independent travelers, while “behind the wheel” when planning their trip routes, can also get in on group-based and guided day trips with other travelers along the way. From bear viewing to flightseeing to salmon fishing in popular areas, these allow the independent traveler all the advantages of a guided experience (access, knowledge) at each milestone on their Alaska adventure. They can even book day trips when they choose, sometimes even the day-of on a whim (although, we tell all our visitors, it pays to reserve because so many of these sell out).

Get Off the Beaten Path on a Side Trip

Independent travelers also like being able to add some off-the-radar fun into their adventures. While a group tour usually moves on to the next stop on their itinerary like clockwork, independent travelers can hang around, chat up locals, and go where the Alaskans go – whether that’s a hiking trail, a kayak cove, or a new restaurant or brewery. Alaska side trips, extended stays, or skipping a planned stop are especially enticing advantages to independent travel.

Browse Self Drive Options for Traveling in Alaska

Want the Best of Both Worlds?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be an “either/or” choice between a fully-guided, escorted tour or an independent tour, as most seasoned Alaska visitors know. There is a hybrid approach to traveling in Alaska that allows for the best of both worlds. You can start your trip by enjoying an escorted group tour and then build in some space for before or afterwards to enjoy a lodge stay or take a cruise. Or you might rent a car and enjoy touring on your own through Alaska and then take a cruise to relax at the end.

So, whether hanging with an escorted group or rolling independently – there is no right or wrong approach to experiencing the best of Alaska. We hope, however you choose to go, that you enjoy every second of it!