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Alaska is the largest state of the USA situated at the extreme northwest of the Northern American continent. It borders Canada from the east, the Arctic Ocean from the north and the Pacific Ocean from the west and south. The state is famous for its abundant wildlife, astounding glaciers, mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterways.
On top of that, Alaska is technically the best state from where you can see the Northern Lights, which makes it one of the most remarkable states to travel.
When to Visit Alaska: Weather and Seasons
Alaska has a subarctic climate which is described as long, very cold winters and short, cool mild summers. The southern and coastal regions can be cloudy with definite rain showers throughout the year. Note that, some of the hottest and coldest temperatures occur near Fairbanks. The average summer temperature can reach to 34oC while the winter temperature can fall below -50oC.
Spring in Alaska (March, April, and May): Spring usually comes relatively late in most areas of Alaska. March is rather considered a winter month at least in terms of weather since its high temperature is basically -12oC. The reason behind this is that the snow meltdown has only begun in March and the sun is not yet producing much heat. The meltdown continues to the early weeks of April then the temperature rises from late April to May and reaches 20oC. Most noteworthy, May is often the driest month in Alaska.
Summer in Alaska (June, July, and August): Just like other states in the USA, summer is the best time to visit Alaska. The warm weather enables the locals as well as the tourists to go out and truly enjoy themselves. That’s because most vacation tours are offered during the summer months with July being the busiest month. Additionally, July is also the hottest month with an average temperature of 14.5oC / 57F while August has pleasant weather with cool nights. Point to note, June 21 is the longest day of the year with 22 hours of daylight in Fairbanks, 19 in Anchorage and 18 in Southeast. This packing list is focused on the summer season.
Fall in Alaska (September, October, and November): Fall is a great time to visit Alaska. The summer’s temperature is dropping and the weather becomes a little cooler. When it comes to September, the average temperature is 15oC but is also the wettest month. On the other hand, October is way cooler at 5oC and it is technically considered a winter month. By November, winter has started to arrive in the city of Anchorage and severe cold weather is experienced all over the city.
Winter in Alaska (December, January, and February): Winter is the longest season in Alaska. In the two most populated cities in Alaska Anchorage and Fairbanks, snow is generally present from late October to early April. Fairbank’s temperature can fall below -45oC making it the coldest city in the winter season. Also in the central region of the country, the temperature usually drops to -40oC. However, if you are interested in seeing the Northern Lights head out into Fairbanks neighborhood for an amazing viewing experience. Note that, the best time view the lights is from December to February.
What to Wear in Alaska / How to Dress for Alaska
- 1- 2 pair of warm boots: 1-2 pairs of warm boots are ideal for you depending on luggage space. With average temperatures of 57F / 14C it will depend on your cold tolerance for how warm the boots should be.
- I pair of sneakers: The sneakers are meant for any planned activity that doesn’t require wearing boots. Best to choose some with traction.
- 1-2 x Jacket/coats: Since Alaska gets quite cold; it’s advisable to carry two jackets, atleast one should be waterproof. However, if your luggage bag does not have enough space to carry two, you can wear one on the plane or just settle for one.
- 1-2 Cardigans: Perfect to wear under your coat on colder days
- 1-2 x pairs of gloves/mittens
- 4-5 x socks: The socks should be wool and synthetic since cotton socks will make your feet cold.
- Tops/ Shirts x 4-7: Long sleeves are the best to keep you warm.
- 3-5 pants: Again this will depend on the temperatures you’re expecting, best to go for thicker / warmer options such as jeans. Pack a pair of shorts if the season looks to be warmer.
- Sleepwear: Should be warm and comfortable as it will get colder at night.
- 1 -2 x Scarfs
- 6-10 pairs of underwear.
- 3-5 bras
- 1-2 pairs of leggings: great for hikes on warmer days.
- 1-3 x Woollen hat/beanie
- Swimwear x 1: If its warmer and you have a hotel pool
- 1-2x Dresses: If you are fond of dresses, but to keep yourself warm pair them with leggings or stockings.
What to Pack for Alaska: Other Items
- Phone and charger
- Digital camera and lenses- If you can only afford one lens go for the wide-angle lenses.
- International adapter (if not American)
- Camera’s charger and batteries
- Portable battery charger – It is used to charge a phone or a camera when on the move.
- 2 or 3 8GB Memory cards- This will help you out in case one memory card fails or gets lost.
- Pain killers
- Anti-acid medicine
- Prescribed medicine- Remember to carry the prescription in case you require a refill.
- Suitcase- Ideal for traveling as you will be able to put all your things in one place
- Backpack- Suitable when you are traveling light.
- Belt or Neck Wallet- To keep your documents especially your passport, cash and credit cards safe.
- Two bank cards- A Master Card and a Visa is ideal since not all businesses accept a regular card.
- Luggage lock- It makes sure your luggage is safe at all times.
- Photocopies of your documents such as identity card, passport among other travel documents. The copies are essential to avoid being stranded in case the originals get stolen.
Don’t Forget to Pack Travel Insurance
Although travel insurance is not mandatory in Alaska, it is still essential to get one. When you remember how much your trip means to you and any misfortune can happen while on vacation, you will be obligated to purchase one. There are many reasons you need travel insurance. One reason being in case you miss your connection or your trip is cancelled.
Apart from that, it comes in handy if maybe you get sick while on the trip or have your stuff damaged or lost. Meeting with any of these misfortunes is easily solved if you have an insurance policy enabling you to enjoy your trip without worries.
Packing list for Alaska: Safety and Health
Alaska is a relatively safe place to visit. The main dangers are found in extensive wilderness areas due to the abundance of wild animals. Other things to be aware of include glacier crevasses and calving icebergs. However, the state still has several safe places to go visit using the road system, railroad and/or boat.
It gets even better when you choose a guided tour, where a guide helps you manoeuvre in the wilderness without any worry. If you prefer driving yourself, it is advisable to travel the state in the milder months which are between middle June and mid-August.
In terms of healthcare, Alaska is one of the leading states in the USA that gives great consideration to public health funding. As a result, the state is able to have accessible healthcare for most of its residents. Most residents are said to receive health insurance through employers and government programs. However, for those unemployed or are in self-employment health insurance becomes a bit hard to obtain.
Alaska is truly a magical place to be, holding a record of the tallest mountain peaks, more than 100 volcanoes, and spectacular glaciers. The state has so much to offer its visitors with the winter season being quite stunning and beautiful. There’s no doubt visiting Alaska will leave you with cherished life memories.