How To Budget
The same wilderness that makes Alaska unique also means you have to think about your Alaska budget differently from other destinations. Some of Alaska's most dramatic sights can only be accessed by plane or boat, and most unique experiences require expert guides and gear (river rafting, glacier hiking, dog sledding.) Some of Alaska’s most compelling destinations are hundreds of miles from your previous night’s stop. You will likely want to travel around and not stay in one place.
How you deal with lodging, food and excursions are the wild cards.
Check out our Alaska Trip Cost Calculator to compute the cost of your vacation!
Alaska Day Tours & Activities
Unlike resort or city vacations where your hotel choice can define your experience, a visit to Alaska really succeeds based on the side adventures you take into mountains, down wild rivers and out to sea. As a result, you will want to reserve a higher percentage of your travel budget for day tours in Alaska than you would for destinations in other states.
Day tour costs range from as little as $80 for a 2-hour raft trip to $650 for an all-day, fly-out bear-viewing safari. Is it really worth it? We think so.
If you can afford it, we don't think you'll regret any of the recommendations on alaska.org. And, if your budget is limited, review our cost-cutting strategies and ways to effectively discount your Alaska vacation.
What to Budget for Different Tours
|Tour/Activity||Budget (Per Person)||Length||Value|
|Fixed-Wing Flightseeing||$150 to $550||.5 to 3 hr||Highest|
|Helicopter Flightseeing||$250 to $400||.5 to 2 hr||Medium*|
|Helicopter Flightseeing and Glacier Dogsledding||$525||2 hr||Medium*|
|Glacier and Wildlife Cruise||$85 to $225||3.5 to 8 hr||Highest|
|Rafting or Kayaking||$80 to $200||2 to 8 hr||Highest|
|Bear Viewing||$400 to $650||4 to 8 hr||High**|
|Fly-In Fishing (Guided)||$550||Full Day||Varies****|
|Ocean or River Fishing Charter or River Fishing Charter||$180 to $350||1/2 or Full Day||Medium|
|Museums and Cultural Attractions||$10 to $35||2+ hr||Varies|
|Fly-In Wilderness Lodge||$350 to $1950 per night||Days||High**|
|Boat-In Wilderness Lodges***||$350 to $1050 per night||Days||High**|
|Roadside Adventure Lodges||$150 - $550 per night||Days||High|
* Helicopters are more expensive to operate and the tours are shorter.
** Expensive, but if you can afford it, unique and memorable.
*** Lodges across the Bay from Homer or Kenai Backcountry Lodge
**** Varies based on crowds and fishing conditions. But the flight in is always special.
Unlike day tours, many visitors consider Alaska lodging to be one of the least compelling values of an Alaska vacation. Alaska hotels are really just a place to sleep (except wilderness lodges), and yet they can be pricey.
But don't feel gouged—it's just the laws of economics. Alaska hotels need to recover 365 days of costs in a 120-day season.
Expect to pay $150 – $175 for a basic hotel room in most Alaska destinations. Luxury Alaska hotels run $200 – $250 a night. The difference is larger rooms, better location, and more amenities (restaurants, health club, business center, etc.)
One way to reduce costs is to stay at smaller boutique hotels where the rooms have kitchenettes, or Alaska B&B's, which can cost $100 – $200 per night, depending on room size and whether you have a private bathroom. In addition, you'll meet real Alaskans and get their friendly advice on things to do. The Alaska B&B's listed on alaska.org are all great finds, with great decor, rooms, and hosts.
You’ll find every kind of dining available in Alaska’s towns, and many fine lodges and roadhouses operate in remote areas along highways. It’s not difficult to find a breakfast for under $15, a lunch for under $20 and a dinner for less than $40. (You can also find much more expensive choices.) It’s also good to carry water and snacks because you can easily travel 100 miles or more between services.
Alaska On A Budget
You can do Alaska on a budget! Think of it this way. Almost 500,000 Alaskans live on the road system, most inside Anchorage or Matanuska-Susitna Borough. They hold jobs, raise families, buy groceries and fuel, and live very normal American lives. Their daily costs and logistics aren’t much different than yours. You will feel at home! You will know how to make this work.
A couple or single person who rents a car and camps along the road system could do a 10-day trip to Alaska for under $2,500, airfare included. A family of four with reasonable airline tickets and a rented motorhome (and a sense of adventure!) could do it for less than $6,000.
How To Save $1,500 On Your Alaska Vacation
Take a few of the higher-value day tours listed above, then rent a car and create your own adventures. It's easy to do in Alaska: the most famous Alaskan adventures ever done were on a shoestring budget.
Food on the road: If you’re motoring to a new destination across Alaska’s big distances, lunch or dinner time could easily pass without a single restaurant on the horizon. You can solve this problem with the same common sense approach you’d take at home. Buy an inexpensive cooler or bring a packable cooler, and load it up with snacks, lunch food and beverages when you pass through a town with a grocery store. It’s what Alaska residents do! And even if you have access to restaurants, consider picnicking at least one meal per day to shave expenses.
Lodging: Save $50 – $100 per night by staying at less expensive hotels or B&B's.
Tent camping: Alaska has scores of campgrounds on the road system, and it’s easy to find space during weekdays. Travel with a tent, sleeping bag and pad, a propane camp stove and cook kit, plus a cooler storing food—and you could cut hundreds of dollars off your daily costs. (Or, rent equipment when you arrive!) Even a few nights out in good weather will shave expenses—and maybe pay for a high-value side trip. Just don’t forget bug dope and mosquito coils!
Tenting tip: Securing a spot in a campground can be more difficult on Friday and Saturday nights, or during one of the three summer holiday periods. One solution is to reserve a state parks campsite or federal campsite in advance. Another is to time your travel so you can arrive at a campground just after noon check-out to look for newly vacant sites.
Rent a motorhome. For a party or family of four or more, consider renting a “land yacht” that combines transport, lodging and dining into a single mobile platform. With such long travel distances between destinations, many visitors relish the independence and convenience of RV travel. It enables you to save money on food by shopping in grocery stores, and you can eat wherever you happen to be parked at meal time. It turbo-charges your ability to spend the night closer to venues and destinations on the road system. Private and public campgrounds across Alaska expect and cater to RV travelers. Beginning at $200 to $250 per day, often with sleep space for six to eight.
High Value Day Tours: Alaska glacier cruises, rafting, hiking, and museums offer great value for what you'll see and their length. Fixed-wing flightseeing is $150+ for a short tour, but so unique and memorable we still recommend you do it.
Fishing Charters: Save $225 by doing an ocean or river fishing charter rather than a fly-in.
Fishing Lodges: Rather than stay at a high-end fishing lodge, rent a public use cabin with good fishing for under $40 per night for up to 7 nights (plus the cost of getting there) Experienced anglers with their own (or rented) gear will find it easy to guide themselves, with many productive locations on the road system or near cabin sites.
Glaciers: Save $350+ by visiting a roadside glacier rather than a helicopter tour.
Shoulder Season: Visit Alaska before June 13 or after August 20 for 10 – 25% discounts on some tours and lodging.
Alaska Bear Viewing: Save $350+ by hoping to see bears from a distance on a Denali Park Road Tour rather than taking a fly-in bear viewing tour for guaranteed, up-close viewing. When salmon are running, bears frequent the Russian River Falls—a two-mile hike over a mostly flat trail from the Russian River Campground outside Cooper Landing. However, if you want to splurge big on one thing, treat yourself to fly-in bear viewing. Justify the expense as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.