There are different ways to explore Alaska. Some people prefer to travel Alaska by car, some by train and others by the way of a cruise ship.
The most flexible ways are often by cruise ship and road trip simply because these off the most in terms of flexibility.
Deciding whether to take to the urban road or enjoy the delights of the sea and costal route is usually a hard thought question.
With the different options of traveling Alaska, which is best?
The word ‘best’ can often be subjective depending on what type of adventure the traveler wants.
Road trips are of course the most flexible.
Road trip plans can change almost daily and instead of heading north to own town you may head south to another.
Cruise ships of course take a plotted course that isn’t going to change because your plans have, although there is a certain amount of comfort knowing everything is being taken care for you.
Cruise ships also give a way of seeing Alaska that the road doesn’t offer.
In this article we’ll look at an Alaska road trip versus and Alaska cruise, how to take advantage of combi-trip and what travel option may be best for you.
Road Tripping Across Alaska
There isn’t anything more gratifying than a road trip, especially across the vast open and beautiful wilderness of Alaska.
Although much of the state is cut off from anything other than a plane, there are many different road trips adventurers can take to see as much of The Last Frontier as possible.
Alaska isn’t the type of state someone can road trip at any time of year, like you could California, instead road trips must be meticulously planned – especially if driving from any other state in the U.S whilst having to cross the Canadian border.
Also, Alaska is a very cold state for most of the year.
With limited sunshine during the colder months, and intense snow, road trips should only really be undertaken between April and October to get the very best from the adventure.
A car can either be hired in the main national and international airports, such as Fairbanks, or can of course be driven from any other state.
Considering the drive time to Alaska from even its closest state of Washington requires an incredible number of hours.
Alaska being such a huge state, the biggest of the U.S. means any road trip is going to require at minimum a week or two, so travel time to and from Alaska needs to be taken into consideration for any trip.
Fortunately, much of the main Alaskan areas accessible by road are relatively close.
From the main Canadian border crossing it is just 285 to Fairbanks, 400 miles to Anchorage and 240 miles to the Denali National Park, home of the tallest U.S. mountain, Denali Mountain.
These sorts of distances which can all be done in a few hours means everywhere on many road tripper’s itinerary are within easy reach.
Recommended Reading: Is a Road Trip to Alaska Worth It?
Two of the best state road trips are between Anchorage and Fairbanks, and between Anchorage and Seward.
The Anchorage to Fairbanks route offers the best glimpse on inland stunning terrain vista scenery spanning literally for miles and miles in uninterrupted wilderness.
This route also passes around the Denali Mountain and Denali National Park, which is without a doubt worth the stop off.
The Anchorage to Seward route offers breathtaking coastal and glacier views with many interesting stop off and photo opportunities along the way, such as Falls Creek and Beluga Point.
There are many beautiful sights of Alaska only possible to see by road, and a road trip of Alaska is an amazing way to see as much of the state as is possible.
Cruising Alaska’s Coast
Alaska’s coast and shoreline have been welcoming travelers by boat and cruise ship for over 100 years.
Coastal towns such as Anchorage, Skagway and Seward have changed immensely throughout this time but most distinctively over the past 20 years.
These are still small and rustic historical towns that never lost the same charm that has welcomed guests for a century.
There are several cruise line operators willing to take passengers from the U.S. or Canada into Alaska, or even further afield.
One advantage of a cruise around Alaska is not having to worry about planning, itineraries, gas top ups or the threat of breaking down on the highway.
A bed is always available, and cruising is like having a private tour guide with the ability to come and go as you please.
Plenty of dining options are available, as well as amazing onboard entertainment – so no worries or hassle booking restaurant reservations or planning the evening.
There are lots of stop off excursions available or passengers are free to make their own way around the various ports and explore – just make sure you’re back for when the cruise liner heads off to the next port!
Cruising can be a fun and relaxing way to explore Alaska’s main cities and towns with everything taken care of for you.
When a Cruise is Better than a Road Trip
Cruises are better than a road trip when the main goal is to relax, have fun and let someone else do all the work.
Road trips require a lot of planning and thought.
Gas stops are notoriously few and far between in Alaska, so planning these are essential.
Cruise ships will not necessarily give passengers all the inland scenery travelers can expect when hitting the road but many of the destinations on Alaskan road trip itineraries are also on cruise itineraries.
When a Road Trip is Better than a Cruise
Road trips give the freedom of an open road.
Why stay on the highway when an adventurer can take off on small country roads into unexplored towns not mentioned on main tourist guides.
There is no better way to experience true Alaska than through true Alaskan, in idyllic Alaskan mountain towns.
There is an element of fun to be had spending different nights in different places.
A different hotel, different restaurant, and different scenery every day keeps any Alaska vacation fun, fresh and exciting.
In Conclusion – Alaska Road Trip vs Cruise
If a simple relaxing trip without the need or fuss of make choices on restaurants, hotels, and nights out and having everything meticulously planned and provided for you, to make the most out of a vacation from experienced Alaskan guides, then a cruise could be the best option.
On the other hand, for those who love an adventure and have a passion for independence, the open road and seeing the true beauty Alaska has to offer, then a road trip may be the best option.