Top 5 Asked Alaska Travel Questions

Starting to plan your Alaska vacation for next summer? We receive dozens of calls and emails daily from folks planning a trip to Alaska asking terrific questions. Here are a few of the most common questions from visitors who are in the BEGINNING stages of planning their vacation –

#1 What currency do I need to bring to Alaska?

Answer: U.S. currency of course! Alaska joined the United States in 1959 and is the 49th State. ATM machines are readily available in all larger towns such as Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks and credit cards are accepted in most tourism associated businesses. Keep in mind though that if you are planning on traveling remotely by plane or by car that you’ll want to carry additional cash because outside of the major cities internet access needed to process credit cards isn’t available.

#2 Can I see the Northern Lights during my summer vacation?

Answer: This is a terrific question and one that is difficult to answer with just a “yes or no.” Generally speaking, Alaska gets way to much day light to see the Northern Lights for most of the summer. After all, we are truly the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” However, in late August through September it is possible to see the Northern Lights on a clear night if the Aurora conditions are right; this is particularly true outside of the two biggest cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks. You can even purchase Arctic Circle day tours out of Fairbanks that’s schedule is built around taking advantageous of the nearby Aurora Belt. In Talkeetna and Denali, some of the hotels set up an Aurora watch that you can sign up for in case the Northern Lights do appear. The hotel’s staff will wake you up in the middle of the night if they are observed by the hotel staff. Keep in mind that weather and aurora conditions do have to be all just right for you to be able to observe them.

#3 Do I need a passport to travel to Alaska?

Answer: If you are a U.S. citizen you do not have to bring a passport with you except if you are taking an Alaska cruise. Travel by cruise ship in Alaska does require a passport. If you are not taking an Alaska cruise you’ll still need to bring a driver’s license or other form of I.D. that is accepted when traveling by airline, Alaska Railroad, or for renting a car if you plan on doing so. Check out our Passport blog we did on the need for passports too if you want further clarification on this subject.

#4 Can I take a train from the “Lower 48” to Alaska?

Answer: There is no train service, nor is there motorcoach or bus service between the Lower 48 or contiguous U.S. states and Alaska. The same is true for between Canada and Alaska. To visit Alaska your options are to fly to and from Alaska, drive your own vehicle, take an Alaska cruise (from Vancouver BC, or Seattle) or Alaska ferry (from Bellingham).

#5 What airport do I fly into to start my land tour?

Answer: If you are planning a land tour of Alaska the primary airports to begin your Alaska vacation are Anchorage and Fairbanks. Anchorage International Airport is by far the most active airport in terms of the number of airlines with daily arrivals and is a convenient location to start your vacation to Seward, Kenai Fjords National Park or north to Denali. Fairbanks is about 250 air miles north of Anchorage and is closer to the Arctic Circle but is also typically more expensive to fly into. If you are taking an Alaska cruise which begins or ends in Seward or Whittier, the nearest airport to those two ports is Anchorage – Anchorage is about 120 miles from Seward and is about 60 miles from Whittier.

For more answers to your Alaska travel questions be sure to check out our Answers page on our website.


  1. August 25th, 2016 | 1:01 pm

    Great post, found the questions and answers very helpful as I am looking into Alaska at the moment as my next vacation destination.

  2. John Conwell
    May 23rd, 2017 | 12:01 pm

    What is cost of train from Denali to ANCHORAGE. MID WEEK

  3. May 24th, 2017 | 7:03 am

    John, Adventure class on the ARR from Fairbanks to Denali is $73 per person. Denali to Anchorage is $167. Room rates range from $249 to $350 depending on the hotel. Give us a call if you’d like more information or would help with making arrangements at 800-208-0200.

  4. Joy
    August 16th, 2017 | 9:13 am

    My husband and I want to do a land tour before a 7 day Celebrity cruise leaving Seward on May 18.
    Will May 12 or 13 be too early to visit Anchorage, Denali and that area?
    Should I wait until later in May or early June?

  5. August 16th, 2017 | 9:33 am

    Hi Joy,

    That is a really good question to ask. We tend to encourage visitors to travel after May 20th, primarily due to some of the tour operators and seasonal lodging haven’t opened yet and typically we don’t even have full spring set in until between the 10th and 15th of May. Anchorage and Seward are in a better situation as it is on the ocean and has more mild temperatures so for example, Kenai Fjords National Park cruises are already operating by May 12th. In Denali you would still be on the bubble in terms of late winter storms that impact the higher elevations that impacts tours. The National Park Service hasn’t released Denali tour dates for going into the park but this year the first Tundra Wilderness Tour didn’t start until May 20th.

    The Alaska Railroad operating dates for the Coastal Classic (Anc – Swd) starts on May 12th, but the Denali ARR service and the Park Connection Motorcoach doesn’t start service until May 16th so it limits you to car rentals before that day, except for service to Seward.

    We will have all packages, rates and dates updated on October 2nd on our website but our staff can talk to you about 2018 now to give you some ideas, send you sample quotes if you’d like.


  6. Will Prather
    July 15th, 2018 | 12:43 am

    My wife and I are planning a cruise for now(August/September 2018) or early 2019. We are confused of which is best a northern or southern cruise. Is there a difference? Which is best?

    Thank you in advance for your assistance

    Will Prather

  7. July 16th, 2018 | 1:57 pm

    Generally speaking there really is no difference between going northbound or southbound on a gulf cruise if you are speaking of using the same cruise line regardless. However, some cruise lines do not go into Glacier Bay National Park, so I would take that into consideration in any cruise itinerary. South bound itineraries tend to be more popular because many folks like to take an Alaskan land tour before they cruise instead of vice versa therefore the SB cruises tend to cost more than northbound.

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