Driving along Alaska’s highways is an adventurous way to explore the wilderness of America’s Final Frontier. With mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests, road tripping through Alaska’s natural beauty is considered one of the most picturesque drives in the world. And it can be a really great experience if the trip is properly planned and budgeted. Save money on your road trip through Alaska with these budget-savvy tips.
1. Rent a gas-efficient car
Rural stations will charge you more for gas than those located in the city. (Kae Lani Kennedy)
Step one for any road trip is making sure you’ve got the right type of car to make the journey. Some people may think that driving in Alaska’s wild terrain requires a heavy-duty truck, but if there’s no snow, a compact car is more beneficial. Not only will you spend less at the pumps, but the ability to go great distances without having to fill up is necessary, as there are 100-mile stretches of highway where there is nowhere to get gas.
2. Invest in the extra insurance
Even though many roads in Alaska are paved, some that lead to smaller towns and some of the state’s majestic national parks may be only gravel. The chipped windshields that result from rocks kicked up by other cars are a common issue, as are flat tires due to long stretches of unpaved road. If you don’t have the extra insurance, your car rental company has the ability to pursue you to pay the cost of any damages. So in the long run, the extra insurance can save you big bucks.
3. Start in Anchorage
You will find cheaper prices if you stock up in Anchorage. (Thinkstock)
If you cannot start your journey in Anchorage, then try to make it one of the stops along your road trip. Since 40 percent of the population of Alaska lives in Anchorage, resources are readily available, allowing you to stock up on road-trip goods for a lower cost than in smaller towns.
4. Refuel in the city
Rather than purchasing gas in the tiny towns along the road, try to fill up in more populous areas. In cities such as Anchorage or Fairbanks, gas prices tend to be 20 to 40 cents a gallon lower than in more rural places. Paying with cash also helps, as some pumps charge more for payments with credit or debit cards.
5. Coffee shacks make for budget-savvy pit stops
Jumpin’ Java, outside Houston, Alaska. (Kae Lani Kennedy)
On the outskirts of towns, the landscape is sprinkled with tiny, odd-shaped shacks with quirky, play-on-word names like Java da Hut or Cool Beans. These miniature coffee shops serve delicious coffee and a variety of foods like breakfast sandwiches and Philadelphia cheese steaks (a popular item on Alaska fast-food menus) as well as a wide selection of specialty sides that set each shack apart from the others. At Alaska coffee shacks you can stretch your legs and your dollars on quick and tasty eats.
6. Bring a tent
Camping in a tent might not appeal to some travelers, but consider this: Hotels in Alaska can cost as much as $100 per night, and stays at wilderness lodges in the interior can be as high as $200. Camping is a budget-friendly alternative for those who are willing to immerse themselves in nature. Tent camping ranges from $14 to about $28 depending on the campsite and the size of the tent site.
7. Leverage the shoulder season
Get up close and personal with nature on an Alaska tour. (Thinkstock)
Road trips are not only about driving hundreds of miles and watching as everything passes you by. For that reason, consider taking a tour, a guided hike, or another authentic Alaska experience to break up the monotony of driving. Visiting during the shoulder season (before June 13 and after Aug. 20) can save you as much as 10 to 25 percent on these extra activities.
8. Enjoy nature trails and national parks
If you’re on a tighter budget, then skip the tours and check out some of the state’s roadside hiking trails and national parks. Much of what Alaska has to offer is its natural majesty and wildlife, which can be experienced for free by hiking and exploring along the many designated trails throughout the state.
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