• Jessica Stough

Planning the Next Adventure, Pt. 4 - Alaska

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

There’s something so incredible about getting on a plane, flying for less time than it takes us to drive to Colorado, and ending the flight on the other side of the world. I think the reason that we are so drawn to travel, though, is because it allows us to experience sights, cultures, and people like nothing we’ve ever seen near home.


The landscapes, weather, people, culture, and languages are all so enchanting in new places. I think there is a lot to be said about learning all about a new culture across the world, but we also shouldn’t limit ourselves from traveling a bit closer to home.


Alaska is a perfect example of a a place just like that. Although still in the United States, it is so absolutely unlike anything we will ever experience in Iowa. Their weather, landscaping, and even daylight hours are vastly different than ours. Good old Alaska is one I’ve looked into a bit already. Originally, we had thoughts about attempting our first cruise to Alaska. Then, though, we happened across the fact that a flight and hotel for a week would be much cheaper than a cruise - and that the week we are vacationing is actually the first week of the year that nearly all of the Alaskan cruise ships are taken out of operation for the winter.

 
  • Alaska’s summer season comes to a close September 15th, which probably has a lot to do with the cruise ships all closing up for the season at that time.

  • The peak season for tourism is June through August. With September being the end of their peak season for both tourism and cruise ships, tourists can find up to 10-25% off multiple accommodations (hotels, tours, etc.).

  • Alaska.org shares an awesome infographic about the peak seasons and what times are best to visit for different reasons.

  • The average temperature in September is 56℉, with a record high of 70℉ and record low of 18℉. Alaska is definitely the coolest choice we have looked into thus far.

Source: Denali National Park


  • Although the coldest of all the places I’ve researched thus far for our September trip, Alaska has a perk going for it that the rest of the locations did not. A flight from Des Moines to Anchorage and hotel for the entire trip is only $846 per person. From Chicago to Anchorage plus a hotel is $874 per person.

  • In other words, a flight and hotel is much cheaper for a trip to Alaska than a lot of the other trips we researched.

  • Alaska has multiple options for flights over their mountain ranges. The sights in Alaska are amazing, but even more impressive when miles and miles can all be seen at once from high above.

  • Whale watching is a fun activity in Alaska.

  • If whale watching isn’t your thing, there is an alternative option of Kodiak Laboratory Aquarium & Touch Tank. Guests can see all kinds of fish and animals there as well.

  • If water is your thing but whale watching and aquariums aren’t your go-to ways to explore, Alaska has absolutely incredible views via kayak.

  • The Northern Lights can be seen from Alaska. We attempted a peek at them in Iceland but they were very, very dim when we were there. The best times to see them in Alaska are from September to April because the days are shorter (more time to get a glimpse of them in the dark)!

Source: Why It's So Worth it to Chase the Northern Lights

  • There is an incredible wildlife center in Haines, Alaska - Kroschel Films Wildlife Center. This Wildlife Center is not a typical zoo. Instead, guests can hike 600 yards of trails to witness Alaskan animals in their natural habitats.

  • There is a Husky Homestead - I repeat, a HUSKY HOMESTEAD. Jeff King, a 4-time winner of the Iditarod race (plus many more races), has agreed to allow visitors in his home to say hi to his Huskies.

  • In the winter, tourists can even sign up for dog sledding. Pinch me because I must be dreaming! A Husky Homestead and dog sledding - oh my!

  • Alaska is home to the Denali National Park, which houses North America’s highest peak, Denali (reigning over the sky at an incredible 20,310 feet of elevation).

  • Denali National Park is known for not having many marked trails - most of those they do have are actually less than 2 miles long.

  • The intention of less marked trails is to have visitors explore the backcountry via unmarked trails, in a more natural way.

  • The park itself is about half the size of Switzerland, so the opportunities for exploration are nearly endless.

  • The Denali National Park website has details about all of the marked trails and provides excellent information about hiking in the backcountry.

Source: Off-Trail Hiking (nps.gov)

  • There are tons of day-trips and multi-day trips available all over Alaska, ranging from bear watching tours to driving tours across the state. I’m seriously impressed with the adventures available, shared right on the official Alaska state website.

 

One additional piece of research I did for Alaska specifically was to review sunrise and sunset times during September. As most of us know, there are times during the year where Alaska receives absolutely no sunlight and there are times when they receive just sunlight. For the timeframe we would be visiting, the sunrise and sunset times are around 7:30 AM and 8:30 PM each day. This would still allow plenty of time for daylight adventures, of course.


Now, some would say that the research piece is the most difficult part of planning a vacation. I, on the other hand, actually really enjoy it. Over the last few weeks, I couldn’t wait to get home to research and write about my findings. The whole process makes our upcoming vacation seem so much closer and so much more real.


Now that it’s taken me a while to research, our trip is actually quite a bit closer. It is less than two months away. The most difficult part of planning a vacation for me? It’s actually deciding which location on our bucket list to cross off next. All we can do now is wait and see what Zac thinks about the research I’ve come up with. As I mentioned before, we may somehow still end up going somewhere completely different that I haven’t researched in-depth yet. All I know is that the clock is ticking, and we need to make a decision very soon so we can get some tickets booked for our next adventure.


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