1.) Airplanes suck. Bad. They're so small. The seats are so narrow. They're just plain uncomfortable. Problem is, we used a travel agent to book our airplane flights, so we have no idea what else was available. Next time, we will book our own flights, and then maybe we would have a wider plane. Also, by booking our own flights, we could check into buying 3 seats instead of 2, simply because it would be more comfortable. Also, I would rather not fly. But, it's just kind of inevitable when you're headed to Alaska and you live in Wisconsin.
2.) Don't assume you have to book a "tour" in order to go to the place you want to stay/visit/experience. If you think you HAVE to take the tour from the tour company, then it's called marketing. Get on the interwebs, look up that place that you want to say/visit/experience, and call them. Even if you have to organize your own transportation, you will be okay.
3.) Try it, you might like it! I am not outdoorsy. But the BackCountry Lodge was perfect for us. The name could have scared
4.) Often times "touristy" things in Alaska cater to Cruise Lines. AVOID if possible. Take more time to search and you might find a great B&B in a train or a small one-day cruise captained by the owner. And you'll be able to avoid the huge crowds of people.
5.) If you do the "touristy" things, consider your timing. We went up to the Arctic Circle for midnight on the Summer Solstice. We knew that a tour bus would be up there at midnight as well. So we decided to take our picture with the sign as soon as we got there because we knew we would not be able to get a pic, just us, at midnight. Find out when the tour groups will be places and go at a different time. I guess that means you should look into group tour stuff so that you have that information.
6.) Don't always count on the transportation you've arranged; have a backup plan. Sometimes the ferry breaks down. Either have a back-up plan (if we'd been in a car we would have just driven to Valdez) or someone who can make a back-up plan materialize in no time. We are still very thankful to Pia for her amazing work getting us a hotel room and train tickets when we ended up stuck in Whittier.
7.) Do something or stay somewhere that makes you feel at home. Vacation can really be a lot for some people. Moving around from hotel to hotel got really exhausting, so staying at the Anchorage Grand, basically in a small apartment, at the end of our trip, and cooking at "home" and staying in watching TV felt good. It was relaxing to not HAVE to be Doing Something all the time.
8.) Pack light. If you're going to be in more than one hotel, definitely pack light. You'll be happy in the end that you only have one shoulder bag and a small wheely-backpack with you. Schlepping sucks.
9.) Look at the map. When you're told to take a taxi from point A to point B, you might find out that those points are only 3 blocks away, or you'll find a hotel close to your transportation. Seriously, people, look at the freaking map.
10.) I almost forgot this one. Going to Alaska does not require going on a cruise. If you like cruising, by all means, go that route. But if you're not going to Alaska to enjoy the amenities of a cruise ship within the majestic surroundings of Alaska, then skip the cruise. Google sometimes makes us think that "travel to Alaska" = "cruise to Alaska". Be bold and think outside the cruise ship!
In the end, as long as you enjoyed yourself and the people/person you were with, it was successful, right? Now, if you end up heading to Alaska, let me know! Ask me in advance for info/recommendations! If you've already been, add your thoughts in the comments! (Loretta, I'm looking at you!)
This was our last view of Alaska...
Don't worry - we'll be back.