How much does it cost to go to Alaska?

moose kissing

How much does it cost to go to Alaska? You’ve come to the right place to find out.

Budgeting is extremely important when planning a trip to the 49th state, because you can easily drop a few grand in a hurry if you’re not careful. Even a budget itinerary can cost a couple of thousand dollars.

In this post, I break down exactly how much it costs to visit Alaska based on the amount of money Felip and I spent during our week there. I also present a detailed list for how much you can expect to pay for each aspect of an Alaska vacation, including food, lodging, rental car, tours, Denali National Park expenses, and miscellaneous spending.

moose alaska
Photo Essay: 88 Images from Alaska
Answers to Frequently-Asked Alaska Questions
Wildlife sightings in Denali National Park
Strap on Those Crampons and Hike Inside Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier
Seeing Killer Whales in the Wild? Check.

This article assumes the following: A two-person, seven-day summer vacation with round-trip airfare from the continental U.S. into Anchorage. Adjust your costs accordingly if you’re coming with a larger group, for a different length of time, during a different season or into a different city like Juneau.

For each category, I’m presenting the expected costs based on what type of traveler you are: Cheapskate (it’s possible to do Alaska on a budget, but not easy), Average Joe (welcome, everyone), or Moneybags (congrats, you lucky bastard.)

If you’re more of a visual person, at the end of this post, you’ll find an easy to read chart showing specific costs for each type of traveler.

How much does it cost to go to Alaska? Let’s break it down.


Flying to Alaska can cost an arm and a leg. When I first began researching flights from Chicago about six months before our trip, they were about $1,000 ($500 each way) per person. I kept checking airfares, and about 3-4 months before the vacation, I found a redeye flight on July 4 from Anchorage to Chicago for only $260 each and booked it immediately.

alaska airlines plane

After waiting a few more weeks, I located a non-stop flight to Anchorage for about $360 each. That meant we ended up paying $620 each for the round-trip. Not too bad!

Don’t forget to factor in baggage costs. Most airlines going to Anchorage require a $20 or $25 checked bag fee.

Moneybags ($2600): You can pay a ton of you randomly book your flight without studying and holding out for a good deal.

Average Joe ($2000): Purchase when you find a decent fare for the dates you want to visit. A $1000 round-trip is about average.

Cheapskate ($1100): Check airfares daily, pounce when they are most affordable. Choose your dates of travel based on which days are the cheapest to fly. You may be able to find something for around $600 round-trip, as we did, if you get lucky. Try to get an airline with no checked bag fee.

We spent: $1285 ($620 each for airfare plus $45 for checked bags).


If you’re truly trying to do Alaska on a budget, lodging is one area in which to save a bundle. Campgrounds in the $25 range exist all over the state, so if you’re willing to sleep in a tent, you can sleep for cheap. Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Talkeetna also have hostels, while luxury lodges can be found across the state as well.

Moneybags ($1000): Luxury lodges all the way! You can easily drop more than $100 per day in housing in the summer.

Average Joe ($400): Staying in basic motels and a couple campgrounds can keep things affordable.

Cheapskate ($100): Couchsurf for free in the big cities. Sleep in your tent in cheap campgrounds everywhere else. Many hostels even rent tent space in the yard outside for less than the cost of a dorm bed.

We spent: $213.


By far our biggest hit was the price of a rental car. Rental car prices in Alaska soar after mid-June, when peak tourist season hits. In the last week of June, the average price for a week-long rental was in the $700 range. Two weeks earlier, the price was in the $300 range. That’s a huge difference.

rental car

If you’re trying to calculate how much it costs to go to Alaska, by far the most important factor is the time frame you choose. As illustrated, coming just a couple weeks earlier can literally save you hundreds of dollars on car rental costs.

We made a car reservation for $550 on Hotwire a couple months in advance, but kept checking the rates. Since it was a refundable reservation, we were able to cancel and re-book when at the last minute the price dropped to $391 for the full week. That was a huge savings (though we still paid around $600 after the insurance.)

Moneybags ($1500): Wait until the last minute and pay whatever the going rate is for a luxury vehicle. Rent at the airport and pay the airport surcharges. Or, rent a car one-way from Anchorage to Seward or Fairbanks and take the train back for the scenery. Or, go big and rent an RV!

Average Joe ($800): Lock in a good deal when you see one on Hotwire or some other site, preferably for an off-airport site.

Cheapskate ($250): Visit Alaska in May or early June for good deals before prices soar. Study rental car prices and pounce when prices are cheapest.

We spent: $591.

alaska railroad trespassing

Aside: Should I take the train?

If you’re thinking that you might just take the Alaska Railroad to save money instead of renting a car, think again. Prices for the railroad are outrageous during the summer months – $85 each way per person between Anchorage and Denali, which totals $340 for a round-trip for two. With multiple people, it’s actually cheaper to split the cost of a rental car and gas. The only way taking the train makes financial sense is if you are traveling solo.


Gasoline prices in Alaska are high, although I honestly didn’t notice much of a difference coming from Chicago, which has some of the highest prices in the country. In the summer of 2012, we paid between $3.75 and $4.50 a gallon in Alaska, depending on where we were. There’s no real way to keep your gas costs down except by driving less.

Moneybags ($250): Drive all over the place and buy gas whenever you run out.

Average Joe ($150): Try to fill up in cities where prices are low.

Cheapskate ($80): Drive as little as possible – only between Anchorage, Denali and Seward. Skip the rest of the state to keep gas costs down.

We spent: $180. We drove all over the state, probably more than most people do, which is why we paid a bit more than the average traveler would.



Let’s assume you’re going to Denali National Park, because it doesn’t make sense to visit Alaska and not see this wonderful wilderness. The entrance fee is $10 each, but you’ll also need to pay for a shuttle bus if you plan on going more than 14 miles into the park, since that’s as far as cars are allowed. Shuttles start at $26 for the Toklat River bus. You should definitely take a bus of some sort, because most of the wildlife and mountains are beyond Mile 14.

Moneybags ($470): Take a private bus ride like the Kantishna Experience Tour and spend a night or two at one of the lodges in the park.

Average Joe ($165): Take the Wonder Lake shuttle bus and spend two nights in a park campground.

Cheapskate ($20): Pay the entrance fee only and backcountry camp near the park entrance or Savage River at no additional cost. You’ll see very little of the park this way, though.

We spent: $115 for a camper bus ride, one night in a campground and one night of backcountry camping.



We lived almost exclusively on fast food during our trip, because meals are one of the hidden costs of a trip like this. If you’re going to stay on budget, you have to pay as little as possible for sustenance. Remember, it’s possible to eat both healthy and cheap while traveling.

Fast food can be found in all the major cities – Anchorage, Fairbanks, Palmer, Wasilla – and even some of the smaller towns, like Talkeetna and Seward, have Subway sandwich shops. The $5 footlong is $9 here, though, so plan accordingly.

We did splurge for a couple of nicer meals at local restaurants. You have to eat at least one seafood dinner when you’re in Alaska, right?

Moneybags ($500): The cost of eating at expensive restaurants all the time can add up.

Average Joe ($300): Eat a few nice meals, otherwise buy meals at fast food or cheap local establishments.

Cheapskate ($175): Stock up on pop-tarts and fruit at Walmart for breakfast. Eat fast food lunches and dinners.

We spent: $192.


ice museum welcome

When it comes to attractions, you can be a real cheapskate if you want. But why would you go to Alaska and skip the chance to take a bush plane flight, or a whale-watching cruise, or a glacier hike, or some cool museums?

Moneybags ($1600): Take the Grand Denali flightseeing tour around the summit of Mt. McKinley ($375 each), the most luxurious whale-watching cruise you can find, and go to every attraction that interests you, from museums to reindeer farms.

Average Joe ($700): Choose a cheaper flightseeing option ($100-150 each). Choose a mid-level cruising option out of Seward and an ice trek tour on a glacier (look for online sales and discounts). Check out a museum or two in Anchorage.

Cheapskate ($40): Skip flightseeing entirely. Skip the guided tour at Matanuska Glacier and instead walk around the site on your own, paying only the entry fee. Go to free attractions in Anchorage. Skip the whale-watching cruise and hang out at Beluga Point with binoculars to look for whales from shore.

We spent: $880* (We received some discounted tours in exchange for blog coverage, but for the purposes of this analysis, I’m using the full cost.)


To be comfortable and safe in Alaska, you’ll want hiking boots, a winter jacket (even in summer), heavy-duty mosquito repellant, and probably some camping gear. Don’t forget about bear spray, which is not allowed on planes and will run you at least $25.

Moneybags ($400): Buy brand-new shoes, luggage, backpacks, clothing, or cameras.

Average Joe ($200): Bring camping gear from home. Buy new shoes but otherwise bring clothes you already own.

Cheapskate ($75): Bring all your used gear from home. Buy only the essentials in Alaska.

We spent: $228.


moose gift shop

Of course you can’t visit Alaska without bringing home a few souvenirs. You’ll need some cash in case you decide to check out a bar, buy a new shirt, or just need to stop for aspirin or other miscellaneous expenses.

And you should seriously consider purchasing The Milepost, a huge, massively helpful guide referred to as “the bible of Alaska travel.” It breaks down every main road mile-by-mile, letting you know exactly where to find the nearest restroom, scenic viewpoint, or popular wildlife-watching spot. A new version is published each year – see link below.

Moneybags ($400): Buy your Sarah Palin vanity license plates (for ironic reasons, of course), moose dung swizzle sticks, “I Love Talkeetna” hats, Denali bumper stickers, and local native artwork.

Average Joe ($200): Buy souvenir tshirts, coffee mugs and other trinkets. Go to a few bars in Anchorage.

Cheapskate ($100): Buy only basic necessities and maybe a magnet or postcard.

We spent: $145.

How much does it cost to visit Alaska? The chart

Here’s the visual breakdown. Estimates are for a one-week trip for two with airfare from the continental U.S. to Alaska. Even the cheapskates will need to spend nearly $1,000 each.

We ended up paying $3,829, which breaks down to $1,914.50 each. It wasn’t the cheapest vacation I’ve ever taken, but it might have been the most memorable.

how much does it cost to go to Alaska

Would you consider traveling to Alaska? If you’ve already been, do you think these estimates are accurate?

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

46 comments on “How much does it cost to go to Alaska?

  1. Great breakdown! As much planning as a person can do, seeing someone else’s budget and costs are always helpful!


  2. Wow! Wonderful breakdown of expenses. Thank you so much for posting this. I want to visit Alaska and I wanted at least a ball park of expenses- and I had no idea where to start! Thanks again… Great info!

  3. wow…this is a great! Thanks for taking time to break it down in to categories and explaining them with cost.
    We are planning on a 2 week alaska trip in early september. I am with you on lodging. I do not like to spend a lot of money on lodging unless we would spend a lot of time in the rooms. As long as sleep is comfortable, I am good.
    Currently I am finding cheapest airfares at 330 from San Francisco to Anchorage. Do you think it is a good price?
    While researching, I came across TourSaver and Northern Lights Coupon books for purchase. They seems to have a lot of 2 for 1 deals. Do you have any experience with these.
    Thanks again!

    • Isn’t it fun planning out a trip like this? 330 from San Francisco to Anchorage sounds like a good price. Since the trip isn’t until September, you may be able to get a better deal if you wait longer and keep monitoring fares on a regular basis (maybe by signing up for fare alerts at

      Some people swear by those coupon books, but it depends how much you plan to do. I didn’t bother with them because I didn’t expect to use most of the activities and deals listed in them, so I wouldn’t have gotten my money’s worth. For a two week trip, it may be a good deal for you. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  4. I am an average budgeted traveler and I don’t think I could have stayed at even cheap motels for $400 for a week. In July the best rates for motel was about $110 to $130 per night.

    • A couple nights in $100 motels plus four nights in campgrounds would work out to about $400. Hostels with private rooms for couples are also available in Anchorage and Talkeetna for around $50-60 per night, and those are a great alternative to the more expensive hotels.

  5. Hey Scott, thanks for the info. Seems like i belong to the cheapskate category here :) found roundtrip flight with Virgin for $400, and rental car for $400 a week (after tax and fees) for August. Are there excursions you would recommend?I’m going to Anchorage, Denali, Seward, and Homer, and towns in between. I’m not a huge cruise fan nor into fishing, but I love photography, so I’m planning on mostly hiking, but do you think the glacier cruise is worth it? Any recommendation for the most scenic ones? What about glacier hikes or flightseeing tour? Where would be the best location and not crazy expensive?

    Thanks so much!!!

    • Hi Katherine, the glacier cruise was long and the moments of excitement were sporadic, so if you’re not a huge fan that might be worth skipping. Then again, cruising is the main reason to go to Seward, so it depends on your budget. If you’re going to splurge for one thing, I would go for a flightseeing trip rather than a cruise. I think the cheapest flightseeing options are $99 flights out of Anchorage, but for a few hundred dollars you can fly from Talkeetna into Denali Park above the glaciers and mountains. Glacier hiking also provides great pics. Matanuska Glacier is cheap and great to hike on. Exit Glacier (near Seward) can also be reached by a short hike. If you missed my photo essay, this might provide some other ideas: Alaska remains one of my favorite vacations ever. Enjoy your trip!

    • Hello Katherine,

      I am planning to visit Alaska during end of August.
      Can you please let me know the information on how you have booked your accomodation ?

      I managed to get the same price for flight and car

      Thanks, Sri

      • Thanks so much for the info Scott, I think I might do the grand tour with talkeetna air taxi like you did, gonna look into matanuska glacier hike.

        Hi Sri:

        for accomodation I’m planning:

        day 1-2: Anchorage backpackers hostel

        day 3-4: camping at wonderlake one night, and either igloo (depending on availability) or backcountry camping for the second night

        day 5: camping at portage valley cabin and campground (there are other campgrounds in this area, but this one has shower)

        day 6-7: seward moby dick hostel

        day 8: camp homer (better for tent camping, if you have RV, homer spit campground might be a good option too)

        hope this helps :)

  6. Hi Scott – Thanks a lot for sharing great info.
    I was trying to decide between MICA / NOVA guides for the Matanuska glacier hike. From what is seems like a lot more people go with MICA, also the number of people writing reviews for MICA are more than ten times than NOVA. I like to support smaller / lesser known businesses, if NOVA provides the same quality of service as MICA then I would choose NOVA. Since you have done the glacier hike at Matanuska would you have any input on NOVA vs MICA.

  7. Hi Scott,
    We are planning a trip to AK. Is this itinerary feasible? Fly to Anchorage, take train up to Fairbanks. Either drive or take tour to Arctic Circle, then take rental car back to Anchorage, stopping at different places like Denali and Talkeetna to sightsee and maybe do a little fishing. This is all in first week. Then the second week, drive down to Soldotna and stay at a guide service place for a week for salmon/halibut/etc fishing. Would we have trouble finding hotels to stay in during the first week if we don’t book them ahead of time? Planning on going early June 2014. Any info would be appreciated! Thanks! :)

    • Hi Lynn, that sounds like a busy itinerary, but it is probably feasible as long as you don’t go too far into the Arctic Circle and take too much time up there. There aren’t a ton of hotels so you may want to book in advance. I stayed at hostels in Anchorage and Fairbanks, so I’m not sure how quickly the actual hotels fill up. Early June is a good time to go. As noted, the earlier you go, the cheaper a rental car will be. But you could face a big surcharge if you pick up a rental car in one city and return it in another.

  8. Hi,Scott ,thanks for the info.I want to visit Alaska on 2015. Are 5 or 6 days enough for a good trip in Alaska because from Turkey coming to Alaska is min. 1,5 days .

  9. Love the post. I am longing to visit Alaska. When it comes to car rental, I used to book earlier through online to get cheaper cost.

  10. Hey All
    I am planning to go to Alaska in end of May 2015. Searching for a companion buddy. Do you know anyone who would be interested in going. Thinking to go for 10 up to 14 days. But I think i am easy going enough to have a conversation about it;)

    I have something planned already but these could be changed as well.

  11. What a great post!
    I´m planning to go to Alaska this year and I´d be going from outside US. I´m searching for information about independent travell based on public transportation, would you have any info about it? Should I book train/bus tickets well in advance for high season or it´s okay to let things to be decided when I get there? Any good website to find local hostels?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Vivianne, there isn’t much public transit to speak of in Alaska aside from within the city of Anchorage. If you’re taking the train between cities, you may want to book that in advance since it can get very busy during the summer. You can find a hostel list here, but I’m not sure if all of these are still current:

  12. You can see the northern lights in Glacier Bay national park! I live in Gustavus(just outside the park) I work in the lodge. Stop in and I’ll hook u up with free northern lights and an Alaskan ale. :)

  13. It was great to read all information by mr Scott. I will be coming from outside and have never travelled alone . How do I join a group . Looking to spend 10 to 15 days. How do I do don’t know.
    Anyone wants to join or any tour operator.

  14. hi,
    i am planning to visit alaska in june 2015 for the longest day. its going to be for 5 days. from ancchorage to fairbanks. wer fairbanks is the final destination. could u guide me with tips like what places to cover and either a road trip or a train trip wherever applicable and stay options. i wud like to go with budget options only.:) any help is appreciated

  15. Planing a trip to Alaska..Flying into Fairbanks and then drive to DNP,travelling on budget.
    Is it possible to sleep on car.Is it safe say i sleep on some campground/rv or travel stations/gas stations etc.Comfort-wise i am okay in car given i am 5.5..:)
    Alternately if tickets are cheaper i might fly to ACK and drive to DNP.

    • You could probably sleep in your car either at a campground or on the side of the road. I had to pull off the road to grab a couple hours’ sleep from time to time and had no problems.

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