Alaska Recos, Anyone?

22 May

What are your recommendations for Alaska? (Photograph by Rainer Jenss)

Sorry, honey, it looks like we’re not going.”

“What do you mean we’re not going?”

“It’s just too expensive.

Does this exchange sound familiar? That was more or less the conversation between my wife and I as we were planning a possible trip to Japan with our family of four a few years ago. Her declaration was disheartening, as I had my mind set on exploring the backcountry with my two boys. But how could I make it work so we could still go while staying within our budget?

Spoiler alert. We ended up in Japan as originally planned.

Even in the age of travel aggregators and deep-discount websites, there are still times when some good old fashion human intervention is the best route.

After hearing of our dilemma, a friend recommended tapping the Japanese tourism board for advice. Armed with our budget and a list of things we’d like to do and see, the JNTO not only helped us craft an affordable itinerary, they made us aware of options we would have been hard pressed to discover on our own.

Fast forward to another conversation that’s all too common, especially among families: “Where should we go for summer vacation?”

It’s funny: when friends come to me with this question, I have a habit of including Alaska among my recommendations, even though I’ve never actually been there myself. So when I suggested it to my wife and kids, the idea was met with resounding enthusiasm, along with an onslaught of questions.

Where exactly would we go? Are we taking a cruise ship? How cold is it? Will we really see bears? Is it expensive?

Feeling overwhelmed — after all, the state is almost three times the size of Texas – and unsure of my ability to answer their questions with accuracy, I thought back to our experience with Japan, and decided to see if I would have equal luck with Alaska’s tourism office. We would certainly need help deciding which areas to focus on and how to get around from place to place.

There’s no shortage of advice on the web when it comes to travel. Blogs like Intelligent Travel often make a good resource. But, as expected, the State of Alaska Tourist Office had some useful recommendations and put us in touch with outfitters that offered experiences that catered to our specific interests.

We ended up following their advice, and staying within our budget — but before I disclose where we went and what we did, I’d love to hear what you would have recommended had I contacted you.

Alaska Recos, Anyone?

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