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Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Your Alaska Vacation

  By George DeFilippo  |   Submitted On January 13, 2015 Expert Author George DeFilippo Mistake #1 You're Basing Your Travel Research on Poor Information Alaska is a land of great expectations and the wise traveler plans ahead to experience each and every one. This advance planning and research will allow you to create an interesting and comfortable itinerary filled with memory making adventures, spectacular scenery, wildlife, and more photo ops than one can imagine. Brochures, the Internet, and television travel programs are a great starting point for planning your Alaskan vacation. All are highly entertaining sources of inspiration for potential travel ideas, but when it's time to plan and book your trip of a lifetime, it is important to utilize all of the available resources prior to booking. Brochures can be very limited in terms of the scope of their information. They are used primarily as a form of advertising which means that while you may learn some positive and enticing facts about a certain travel package, tour, or destination, you're probably not going to acquire the objective insight that can only be provided by first hand experience. Speaking with someone who has had personal experience with a tour, or cruise is always preferable. The Internet, like brochures, is also a great place to start your search for vacation ideas. The drawback when researching online is that, unless you already know exactly what you're looking for, you may end up missing something important. This could be something as simple as a day trip you weren't aware of or something as important as neglecting to follow state regulations in terms of sport fishing or hunting which can carry some very serious consequences. For the sake of safety and adherence to Federal guidelines, be thorough in your research online. Alaska Fish and Game is an excellent resource when it comes to fishing and hunting regulations, seasons and quotas and harvesting your game. Do you know when and where the biggest king salmon run is? Or what the record rainbow trout is on record? These and many other facts can be found at the Alaska Fish and Game website. Travel Programs are the most entertaining of vacation planning. Typically, the traveler sits at home on a comfortable couch and imagines that he or she is kayaking among the icy blue glaciers, hiking through Denali National Park, dropping a line into the deep waters of the magnificent Alaska Inside Passage or following a bear's tracks through the Yukon tundra. All of these adventures offer the imagination incredible moments of pleasure, but this is just the tip of the proverbial Alaskan iceberg. There is so much more to see and experience. Consider beachcombing, cave exploring, historical sites like the Russian settlements in Sitka and the legendary totems of the native Tlingit Alaskans which can add a new dimension to a traditional fishing or hunting trip. Brochures, websites and travel programs are designed to paint an establishment in the most favorable light. They focus on the most positive attributes and downplay the negatives. Brochures typically highlight only the very best accommodations, the biggest fish, the happiest guests, and omit their less attractive attributes. But will what you find upon your arrival match your expectations? Alternately, a quality destination or tour may be rejected due to a less than flattering brochure. Again, speaking to a friend or travel professional that is objective and has firsthand knowledge of the destination is the key! Mistake #2 You Don't Know What You (Really) Need To Pack Because Alaska's weather can vary dramatically throughout the course of a single day and the course of your entire visit, you'll need to consider carefully the clothing and accessories you pack in order to remain comfortable. This is hugely important! I've seen poor packing ruin more trips than I can count. For instance, it's not just anglers and hunters who intend to be out in nature for days on end who need to put serious thought into the type of clothing they'll be packing on their excursion; everyone should be mindful of their clothing choices. In the summertime, Alaskan daytime temperatures average in the 60s, and can go as high as the low 80s. Evenings can drop down into the 30s and 40s. Whether you're out on the town or fishing in the wild, be sure to pack light-weight clothing that can be worn in layers which will absorb perspiration in order to remain comfortable during your stay. Fabrics such as Fleece, Gortex, and Cordura offer lightweight, moisture-­resistant protection from the elements. Many coastal regions of Alaska receive significant precipitation. Staying dry is extremely important. It is critical to check with your outfitter regarding rain gear and boots. Many fishing lodges provide foul weather gear to their guests. If they don't, you'll need to bring these items with you. In warm weather or cold, the sun does shine in Alaska! Remember to bring sunscreen and sunglasses. Packing the right clothes for the right season, destination and activity allows the wise traveler to enjoy all that Alaska has to offer. From Wrangell wildlife to Nome nightlife, from Anchorage's sunny days to Aurora Borealis' sunny nights, you'll be ready! Mistake #3 You've Failed to Purchase the Correct Travel Insurance Alaska is now one of the world's top 5 vacation destinations. The tourism industry makes up a large portion of Alaska's economy, so when you book an Alaskan vacation, chances are quite good that you will be in the hands of qualified professionals. Alaska can be an unforgiving wilderness. Occasionally, even well planned outings can go unexpected wrong, so it's important to purchase travel insurance that will keep you protected financially and offer emergency medical treatment and evacuation if required. Travel Protection Insurance is a worthwhile investment for any travel that involves outdoor activities in the wild. Whether you are an adventure traveler, angler, or hunter, an "Adventure Travel Policy" will provide the travel insurance coverage you need for your trip. These policies typically include: Trip Cancellation and Interruption coverage for your trip deposit; travel delay coverage; medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation and lost baggage coverage. In many cases your policy also will include 24/7 emergency travel and concierge services so that you are only a phone call away from the assistance that you need. The savvy traveler knows that Alaska is one of the most rugged and remote vacation destinations in the world. Many sojourners to Alaska come in search of high adventure. Not all travel insurance plans cover costs such as medical evacuation which could cost thousands of dollars in remote areas. Injuries or illness that happen during travel can wind up being very expensive if you're left uncovered. Most claims are based on trip cancellation due to personal or family health issues. Travel protection policies can reimburse you for 100% of your expenses. The cost of a policy can vary, but expect to pay about 7 - 10% of the total trip cost. Be sure to purchase the right travel insurance for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you and your companions will be covered in the event of any emergency. Mistake #4 You're Not Taking the "Road Less Traveled" (Avoid Herds Of Tourists!) Most travelers to Alaska head toward the well-­known attractions such as Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords and Glacier Bay and these certainly are at the top of the Alaska "Must See" list; however, there are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered by those who plan ahead. With a little research at the library or local book store you can plot a unique Alaska itinerary filled with jewels that you most probably won't find online. These lesser-­known but highly rewarding attractions can easily be added to your itinerary. And, of course, once you're there, it never hurts to ask a local for activity recommendations. You'll be surprised at some of the great local events, or secret fishing holes you'll discover by simply asking. There are numerous benefits to fitting these hidden gems into your itinerary. The biggest is time and logistics. Alaska tourist attractions can range from affordable to extravagant. By choosing activities unknown to most tourists, you'll likely save money and more importantly discover your personal Alaskan experience. Choosing these less publicized destinations sets you apart from the herds and tourist traps, and allows you to encounter the adventure that is Alaska. If you think there is more to Alaska than the cookie-­cutter packages so many tourists experience by limiting their itinerary to what is found in brochures and online, then contact your travel agent to work with you in creating a one-­of-a-­kind vacation that is off the grid but right on target with your sense of adventure. Mistake #5 You've Failed To Calculate The Complexities Of Alaska Travel Some of the most stunningly beautiful sites and charming remote towns in Alaska are inaccessible by roads including the state capitol of Juneau. So if you plan on including any of these not-­to-­be missed treasures on your itinerary, then it's vital to plan how you will be traveling to and from these locations. Fortunately, there are sufficient small airports for both floatplanes and traditional aircraft. In addition, water taxis, rental cars, trains, and ferries transport visitors around the state. It is important to keep in mind that travel within Alaska does have its challenges. Planning the most reliable and cost effective way to transverse the state requires research and an understanding of Alaska's unique transportation system. Many of Alaska's coastal cities and towns can be reached via the Alaska Marine Highway (Ferry System), or by the ever popular floatplane. Some Remote Cities That Are Not To Be Missed: Barrow: Accessible only by small plane is a fascinating place to visit for anyone with an interest in anthropology. It is also home to the Inupiat Heritage Center and is a great location to watch whales and other Arctic wildlife. If, however, a romantic sunset is more to your liking, keep in mind that Barrow has no sunsets between May 10th and August 2nd. Prince of Wales Island (POW): Located in Southeast Alaska. POW Island is the 3rd largest island in the United States after the Big Island of Hawaii and Kodiak. The Island has several hundred miles of drivable roads, hundreds of lakes, dozens of rivers, and camping is available at very reasonable costs. POW can be reached by ferry from Ketchikan or by floatplane. The main town is Craig. Both the Haida and Tlingit tribes inhabit POW and their culture can be observed in totem parks and ceremonies offered to visitors. Sitka: Accessible only by boat or plane. This town is less frigid than many Alaskan cities and boasts relatively mild weather with summer highs in the 60s. It's home to Castle Hill where Russia signed over Alaska to the United States in 1867. This historic former Russian jewel is a trip highlight and the perfect place to learn about Alaska's diverse history. It also contains numerous hiking trails for nature enthusiasts. Sitka is also one of Alaska's most sought after fishing destinations. Based on reports by Alaska Fish & Game, Sitka boasts the lowest rod hours per king salmon in the state for over 12 concurrent years. With good planning, it's easy to enjoy many of Alaska's iconic destinations while still making it back to the lodge in time for dinner. Mistake #6 You Miss Golden Opportunities Due to Restrictive Itineraries Alaska, more than twice the size of Texas, certainly has plenty of room for organized guided tours! These large regulated tour groups can be a safe, convenient, and affordable vacation option. For some, having their luggage outside the hotel door at 7am ready to be picked up is the perfect start to each vacation day. Others, however, want more than what the standard itinerary allows. To them, exploring Alaska means adventure up close and personal. Often, the most memorable parts of your vacation are not necessarily the ones you planned in advance or saw in the brochure. Instead, the best spur-­of-­the moment side trips often come as the result of passing by an interesting looking shop, asking a knowledgeable local about the area, or having consulted with a friend who knows Alaska prior to your departure. To assure you have the time and energy to give in to your side trip impulses, leave half a day free or a few hours that you can spare in your itinerary for whatever unexpected opportunities you discover along the way. Alaska welcomes visitors year round with majestic scenery, native culture, wildlife, all-­season sports, and exciting events, especially during the longer days of spring and summer. Last-­minute memories abound but a too crowded itinerary can mean an opportunity missed. Venture away from the crowd and experience Alaska on a deeper level. Mistake #7 You're Overpaying for Accommodations, Tours, and Services As is the case in many other vacation destinations, the prices for numerous tours and services in the Alaskan tourism industry increase the closer you get to the event date. Many Alaskan small businesses that charter boats and planes to travelers for the purpose of fishing and hunting trips are a particular example of this. Services that charter boats and planes within the state operate seasonally, and are anxious to have their vehicles booked in time for the appropriate migration or spawning season. In order to fill the space, many charter companies offer Early Bird deals that can reduce costs as much as $200 and sometimes even more just for booking several months in advance. As a bonus, booking ahead allows for you to get the best dates during the peak times for the type of game or fish you want to pursue. Booking hotels in advance offers many benefits, as well. Many hotels offer guests a reduced room rate of 20-30% or higher for booking at least 21 days in advance. Plus, by booking ahead of time, you stand a better chance of getting the room you really want. Never under estimate the lure of Alaska. To experience the trip of your dreams, book well in advance for the best rooms, tours, services, and rates. Mistake #8 The Best Timing Your Alaska Fishing Adventure Alaska is a veritable Mecca for sportsmen, especially hunters and fishing enthusiasts, and with good reason. When it comes to anglers, there are numerous types of both salt and freshwater fish to be caught in Alaska's three thousand rivers, three million lakes, and along the over six thousand miles of Pacific coastline. In these innumerable bodies of water, fishermen and women can find some of the world's finest halibut, as well as the northern pike, lingcod, the Arctic char, the Dolly Varden and many, many more. Alaska is also world renowned for its assortment of high quality salmon and trout which swim upstream at different times of year. With such a grand variety of fish available, it's no wonder that enthusiastic anglers travel thousands of miles to bring home their own boxes of Alaska's fishing bounty. However, when you've planned for months for this fishing trip, you need to be sure you're traveling at the right time of year. For instance, various varieties of salmon move upstream between Alaska's assorted rivers between June and July, with some cold water fish swimming upstream as late as October. During Alaska's peak fishing season, it's not uncommon for fish storytelling anglers to return home with salmon that weigh as much as 30 lbs. or more. Before booking the informed angler coordinates with Alaska Fish and Game or charter guides for the best locations and peak times to catch the all important trophy fish with the attached bragging rights! This same planning ahead is just as important for hunters to know peak seasons, as well. Sight-seeing visitors can benefit also by knowing the best times to visit National Parks and the areas of Alaska that most appeal to their own interests. Mistake #9 You're Missing Great Lodging And Flights By Not Booking Early Alaska is an extremely popular vacation destination due to the lush and unspoiled beauty of its natural wilderness. In 2010, over 1.5 million people visited Alaska. In fact, 1 in 8 Alaskan jobs relates to the tourism industry. Clearly, Alaskan tourism is big business and, as such, travelers should book early to reserve their hotel rooms, flight and yacht charters and sporting events, especially in the most sought after destinations. Advance planning is the key to the Alaskan Adventure-of-a-Lifetime. This puts the traveler in control of the itinerary and allows for a greater selection of destinations, accommodations and events. Trips booked on short notice can leave you open to disappointment. You may discover that the best boat for salmon fishing is unavailable or your destination accommodations are booked. This could lead to a less desirable hotel room at a higher rate. To prevent any of these inconvenient and budget-­unfriendly errors, it is important to book your desired hotel room at least 21 days ahead of your anticipated check-­in date. As for flights, while airfare prices fluctuate greatly, many experts advise travelers to book at least six weeks in advance for the best possible deal. Ask your travel agent to help guide you through the complete reservation process to create the Alaskan vacation that best fits your plans and budget requirements. In Alaska, bush planes are a necessary way of life for people living in many of the state's most remote regions. It's also one of the most popular forms of sightseeing as it allows visitors to explore the most untamed wilderness from the security of their passenger seats. Always book these exhilarating flights as far in advance as possible. These soaring-­with-­the-­eagles flights sell out quickly during the peak tourist seasons of spring and summer and are some of the most popular highlights when visiting Alaska. Mistake #10 Only Fools Rush In... Alaska is not the State for the first time ­to Alaska traveler to venture into without the skilled guidance only a professional can offer. Navigating through the maze of fishing, hunting and camping regulations could be confusing without the assistance of someone who is up to date on all the Federal and State changes and requirements. Much of Alaska is under Federal protection and, as such, the state has some of the strictest and most varied hunting and fishing regulations anywhere. So to avoid any unpleasant setbacks, be sure to seek advice on all the fishing and hunting licenses, harvest records, and tags you'll need to secure far in advance of your departure date. Also note that in addition to the statewide regulations that must be followed there are local regulations that pertain to the specific region(s) you'll be visiting, as well. Millions of tourists visit Alaska annually. Without proper preparation a traveler may join the ranks of those who just skim the surface, unaware of all the state as to offer. A well planned trip will truly will be the adventure of a lifetime. Let me share my passion for Alaska with you. For the past 20 years I've been exploring Alaska while building relationships with Alaska top lodges and tour operators. If you're considering a trip to Alaska please visit our website to learn more and view our premium vacation packages, travel tips, fishing information and reservations. Visit us on the web at or call 800-926-2477. 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