Itching to go explore The Last Frontier but worried it'll break the bank? Alaska can get a reputation for being expensive to visit, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve talked to travelers young and old who have seen Alaska on a budget and now, we bring you some sweet tips for saving money on your adventure. Let’s get to Alaska!
1. Rent a Car
If being economical and independent are priorities when you travel, renting a budget vehicle in Alaska is a great idea. You can travel on your own schedule, and stop to eat wherever you want (see below!). Just beware of wildlife and pull over if you’re tired—that midnight sun can throw you off.
2. Ride the Train
The Alaska Railroad is a vintage-y train that will get you where you need to go without a worry. Maybe you’re down to skip driving all together, and this is a sweet option. Which route is beautiful? Almost any route you take. Is the train affordable? It’s not dirt cheap, but the price is right for an experience in Alaska. Is it totally Instagram worthy? Yes! Ride the rails with the Alaska Railroad and gain access to views never seen by passengers on the highway.
3. Hop on the Bus
For an even more budget-friendly option that'll work if you're following the main roads between the most popular national parks (Denali and Kenai Fjords national parks), check out the Park Connection Motorcoach services. Operating in summer only, their schedule makes it relatively easy to combine with cruise ships and Alaska Railroad itineraries as well.
4. Eat Local
Enhance your Alaska experience by eating local—that might mean finding some fresh fish from a fisherman or locally caught seafood at restaurants. And when eating out, you can often stretch one ‘Alaska sized’ portion into two, so you can save some extra dollars for another day.
5. Take the Tour
Don’t miss the key aspects of Alaska while you’re on a budget! If you are careful and saving cash on meals or lodging, be sure you get on board—literally—for a wildlife or cultural tour. We recommend the Resurrection Bay Tour with Kenai Fjords Tours out of Seward, and a stop in the Seward Community Library and Museum for a fascinating video about the earthquake that shook the town to the ground in 1964. Plus, admission is free! Combine a bigger tour with low-cost local activities for a well-rounded, reasonably priced understanding of Alaska wildlife, history, and culture.
6. Find the Hidden Gems
We don’t exactly mean gold panning, but hey, you can try that for a budget activity, too! We’re talking the less expensive activities and sights that still pack a punch.
In Seward, the Exit Glacier Hike is challenging but rewards you with an awesome glacier view. In Denali, the Eielsen Visitor Center is a fun and informative stop from a park bus. Getting off the beaten path is where you’ll find the most surprising spots.
7. See the Shoulder Season
Shoulder season is a beautiful time in Alaska, and a great way to see the state and save on travel costs. Peak season is June–August, so visiting in September or May can mean smaller crowds and unique experiences. Flights and rental cars are cheaper, so you can choose your favorite lodging options if you’re saving on logistics.
We recommend visiting the Talkeetna Alaska Lodge in March for Aurora Borealis viewing (and maybe a glimpse of Denali), or bumping your trip into the Denali Backcountry Lodge to the later bookings in September. You’ll see glorious foliage, wildlife, and have the park (almost!) to yourself.