Going to Alaska? Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Most Alaskans are going to go with a plane or a helicopter and in the South; they’re going to go with the ferry. Since the beginning of modern aviation, Alaskans have utilized air travel. Planes and helicopters are commonly used when they need to get around the state and from city to city. This is because Alaska’s road system is not as developed as other parts of the country, especially when compared to some of the superhighways you see in the lower 48. In fact, having a car in parts of Alaska is more of a hindrance than a help in many situations because there just aren’t roads to some of your destinations and a ferry or plane is not only more convenient, but the only mode of transportation. This is something that you definitely need to keep in mind when it comes to traveling to and around Alaska.

Alaska by Plane

Anchorage is the main entry point for most people flying into Alaska. There are several major domestic airlines and even International airlines that fly into Alaska. You can also fly to Fairbanks or Southeast Alaska as well. Most passengers will come to Alaska via Seattle. However, for a little bit more you can often fly direct into Anchorage from several major U.S. cities and, at certain times of the year, this may be the more affordable route to go depending on where you live. Summer is the peak travel season for Alaska (May 15th to September 15th, due to weather reasons obviously, so you’re going to have many more flight options during this time of the year.
In the summer, Alaska Airlines offers more flights than any of the other airlines. Up to 20 flights a day come and go from Seattle to Alaska. Alaska Airlines is available from most major cities in including:

– Chicago

– Dallas/Ft. Worth

– Los Angeles

– Minneapolis/St. Paul

– Portland

– Vancouver

– Denver

Direct flights are available from many of these cities and are much cheaper. If you can get a direct flight, as of March 2008, flights in the summer are around $500 to $700 a person depending on the location.

When it comes to flying within the state, you can take jets to various communities, but because Alaska Airlines is the only carrier to many of these communities, rates are often high. You’ll have a hard time saving on flights to small towns and even to large cities in many cases. For example, a flight from Anchorage to Juneau is often the same or higher than a flight from Seattle to Anchorage.

Ferry to Alaska

If you’re heading to Alaska to see the Southeast portion of the state, then you might want to consider the Alaska Marine Highway ferry for part of the way. You can embark in Bellingham, Washington or Prince Rupert, British Columbia. You’re better off not bringing your car because a lot of these stops are small cities that are best traveled by foot or bike, or you can rent a car.
Ferries are also available for travel between Juneau, Valdez and Seward. This is a 40- hour trip across the Gulf of Alaska and only runs about twice a month, but a unique experience all the way.
Ferries are also popular modes of transportation in Alaska. Throughout this guide we’ll let you know when you should consider the ferry for getting around.

Driving to Alaska

Driving to Alaska is always a possibility if you have the time to do it. The distance from Seattle to Anchorage is 2,250 miles. That’s quite a drive considering the majority of the trip is on two-lane highways. However, if you own an RV or have the time for this long of a road trip it may be something you want to consider.

If you drive, you will have to cross into Canada, but this requires little preparation. As of now, you do not need a passport to travel to Canada by land or water until the summer of 2009. These same rules do not apply to air travel. However, you do need proper identification when you enter Canada by land or water. Americans crossing the border will need an ID that shows your citizenship and your picture. Your driver’s license is not sufficient by itself. The following will serve as sufficient pieces of identification as proof of citizenship. If you bring photocopies of these documents, they must be notarized.

– US Passport

– Birth Certificate

– Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization

U.S. Citizens entering Canada from a third country must have a valid passport. Alien permanent residents of the U.S. must present their Alien Registration Card or “green card.”