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Sightseeing in Alaska, No Cruise Ship Required

The Deal Detective is now sleuthing out bargains every week. Look for a new case each Thursday in’s Deal Alert newsletter.

Dear Deal Detective:

We are interested in going to Alaska and want to know when is the best time to go. We are not interested in a big cruise ship. Is it possible to rent a car and be able to drive to some of the spectacular sights? Are there daily excursions by boat? Please help with suggestions. Thank you.

—Eunice W.

Dear Eunice,

You can easily visit Alaska independently—no cruise ship required!

While summer (June, July, and August) is Alaska’s high season, the best time to visit is during the spring and fall shoulder seasons. In particular, May and September are good times for cheaper travel costs and smaller crowds but generally pleasant, sunny weather. Also, the aurora borealis (the northern lights) first becomes visible in fall.

Plenty of travelers explore Alaska each year without a cruise ship. It’s easy to rent a car in Anchorage, Fairbanks, or wherever you arrive, and design your own itinerary. Free guides to the Anchorage area and Denali National Park are available on, and popular guidebook series such as Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and Lonely Planet offer Alaska editions that can help you choose which sites you’d like to see on your trip.

As you begin to plan your independent Alaska adventure, I recommend purchasing The Great Alaskan Toursaver. At $99.95, the coupon book may seem pricey, but it’s packed with valuable savings. Escapes Under $500 columnist Anne Banas saved more than $500 on her Alaska vacation several years ago by taking advantage of coupons available in the book, which includes two-for-one sightseeing adventures, accommodations discounts, and more. There are also discounts on day-trip boat excursions, ATV tours, guided kayak trips, deep-sea fishing, “flightseeing” tours, and more.

Although you are planning to travel independently, you might want to consider booking a multi-day tour led by a knowledgeable guide. Small group tours tailored to your specific interests can help enhance your vacation, and local tour providers Alaska Outdoors and Alaska Discovery both have been recommended in our Adventure Travel Special Reports.

For instance, Alaska Discovery offers nine- to 12-day river float/hiking/camping trips in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Tatshenshini/Alsek World Heritage Site, while Alaska Outdoors offers seven- to 21-day trips, many of which include wildlife and glacier cruises, river fishing, canoeing, or sea kayaking.

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