Alaska Travel – Getting to Alaska

There are many ways to get to Alaska from the lower 48, most of them somewhat expensive. Once there, reaching remote job locations can be a challenge. Your employer should be able to offer advice on travel within Alaska.

Of course how you choose to travel also depends on whether you will need a vehicle once you arrive. If you do, traveling by car, even if it takes you a few extra days, will be the best choice. If you’ll have use of a vehicle once you get there, you can consider many more travel options. Keep in mind, that with some of these options you may cross the U.S.-Canadian border, and so you will need to provide proof of citizenship and financial responsibility. Do your research and find out what is required to travel with each of these options. Here are a few of the most common methods of traveling to Alaska.

Female Airline Pilot Poses for Photo in Cockpit

By Ferry

The Alaska Marine Highway runs ferries between Bellingham, Washington (north of Seattle) and British Columbia as well as various southeast Alaskan ports. These trips can take up to three days, depending on your destination. With these ferries you can take your car onboard, if you wish. You aren’t allowed to sleep in your car, but you can reserve a cabin if you have the money. If not, there are reclining chairs available to sleep in. Some passengers bring their sleeping bags. If spending a lot of time on a boat isn’t attractive to you, or you get seasick easily, you may want to look at some of the other options.

By Plane

While air travel can be expensive, it is a reliable way to travel to Alaska from Seattle or other starting points in the United States. Flying into Anchorage or Fairbanks and taking ground transportation to your job site is also an option. It’s a good idea to shop around for the lowest fares and book well in advance. Unless you live in the Northwest, it’s very likely you’ll have at least one or two stops on your trip. Flights to Alaska cost anywhere from $400 to over $1,000. When stops and layovers are factored in, your total travel time can be 10 to 13 hours. A flight to Juneau from Seattle, however, only takes about 2 hours.

By Bus

Greyhound Lines offers service to Vancouver, British Columbia. From there, Greyhound Canada, can take you to Whitehorse. In Whitehorse you can transfer to Gray Line of Alaska to get to Anchorage. Taking a bus is easier than driving yourself, but it may take up to three to four days to arrive.

By Car

If you wish to take your own vehicle and prefer driving through British Columbia to taking the ferry, the Alaska Highway is for you. The highway starts in Dawson Creek, BC as BC Highway 97, then turns into YT Highway 1 in Yukon Territory. After crossing into Alaska, the highway becomes Alaska Route 2.

The highway is officially paved, although frequent construction can mean miles of gravel road. Most of the highway is in fair condition, but drivers should use caution. Drive with your headlights on all the time (required by law in Canada) and watch for wildlife in the road.

It’s a good idea to always keep your gas tank at least 1/3 full, since gas stations often close for a few days when they run out of fuel. The Milepost provides much more information about driving the Alaska Highway.

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Once You’re There: Reaching Remote Locations

Many seasonal jobs involve working in or near one of Alaska’s three largest national parks, Glacier Bay, Wrangell-St. Elias, or Denali. Many of these and other work locations are remote, and may require you to have a car or take an air taxi to get there. Depending on the site, you may be able to travel there by train or bus, especially if you start out in a larger metropolitan location.

Even sites outside national parks are often far from towns. Some job sites may be difficult to reach without your own vehicle. It’s a good idea to ask your employer for advice about how to get to your work site.

Remember that Alaska is a very large state, and reaching your worksite may take another two to three days after you arrive in the state. Do your research to find out exactly how long it will take you to arrive to your job location, and factor that in to the total travel time. You don’t want to be late for your first day on the job.

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