Alaska Road Trip Planning Essentials:
While this site can certainly act as a helpful guide for your Alaska road trip planning, we in no way think that it should be your sole resource for your journey. There are many helpful resources out there that will provide you additional, important information about the trek and your stay in Alaska. Our opinion? The more information you have, the better quality trip you’ll experience and the more it will fulfill your needs.
Alaska road trip planning can be an exhausting effort. If you’re so inclined, you can simply plan out the major aspects of your desired trip and leave smaller details (like which specific campground you’ll stay in) for decisions on the road. You will be fine if you take this approach, especially if you’re sure to bring the proper resources with you.
Book Resources For Alaska Road Trip Planning:
It is important for you to have at least one good old-fashioned book with you along the journey. As you’ll see below, full reliance on electronic navigation has it’s potential faults. Books are very reliable, don’t break down and can often be a source of entertainment on the road.
This annually updated book is the definitive guide for any person considering a road trip or other expedition to Alaska. There is no better Alaska road trip planning resource out there. Since 1949, Milepost has collected and published information about the journey, tourist options along the way, route information, lodging options and an almost unfathomable amount of information. Some would say you’d be foolish to go without it!
If you have the option to buy only one Alaska road trip planning book, make it this one. While other books mentioned below are better for tent campers, the Milepost features the most information and that detail will be much appreciated if you need it.
We here at TentAlaska.com have used this resource and found it quite valuable for information on the road. If anything, it provides historical information about the things you’ll see along the way, comprehensive route details and even some information about campgrounds where you can stay. Mile by mile, it is hands down the quintessential resource that will help you get there and back without incident.
You might be able to save some money by purchasing a previous year’s copy. While things do change along the route, if you happen to see a year or two’s version earlier for a bit less money, it will likely be a more than adequate resource. You might also be able to source used copies, but this is less common for the current year’s edition.
Unlike TentAlaska.com, you won’t find comprehensive information on outfitting for the trip as a common tent camper, thus why we’re trying fill that void. We aim to fill in some of the details where the Milepost simply can’t cover.
Buy the Milepost here.
Traveler’s Guide To Alaska Camping:
Unlike the Milepost, this book by Mike and Terri Church is filled with information geared towards camping along your way. It provides great detail and opinion about the various campground options and is another helpful resource to have along the way.
Having used this resource extensively on our trips, we definitely can tell that it focuses mostly on the RV camper, but it also provides enough resolution and opinion for the common tent camper to truly enjoy their journey. It’s definitely helpful for campground information, but unlike the Milepost, it tends to have facilities information and opinions about camps that can be used to assess whether it’s what you’re looking for out of a campground. It also includes a lot of other information about activities that are within the areas you’ll be in, helpful planning resources and other beneficial information you can use before you leave and along your way. We found it an enjoyable and valuable resource to have on the road, particularly as a tent camper.
Buy Mike & Terri Church’s Traveler’s Guide To Alaskan Camping
Online Alaska Road Trip Planning Resources:
If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not have heard of Reddit. It’s a vast, social network of people that gather to discuss topics within their interests. A lot of great information, current information, trip reports and other great people-driven resources are available here. This might be a helpful Alaska road trip planning resource for you. You might have to dig for some gems of information, but it’s a great place to ask questions and get more information about the journey.
While not specifically geared towards planning efforts of a trip to Alaska, or even nomadic camping in general, there are a wealth of local resources and people helping out fellow visitors. This forum also features people on a lot of different levels, so don’t necessarily go in expecting someone to basically plan your trip for you. Also, using the helpful advice of “trust, but verify” is wise, you never know who the other people are on the other end.
Get to the Alaska Reddit here.
When planning our trips, we spend a good deal of time using Google Maps to plan out the journey and play various what if scenarios. It is one of the most essential Alaska road trip planning resources you can use.
From finding mileage between destinations to looking for good side trips, Google Maps is a good resource to have at hand for your planning efforts. Unlike traditional maps, you can easily plot your trip and destinations in and get instant feedback on how long it might actually take to get from place to place. It is very helpful for trying to lay out your basic itinerary and planning your stops appropriately.
As for actual navigation, we definitely strongly recommend using paper maps and/or a GPS with current map updates. For most people, it’s generally not a good idea to depend on a cell phone or Google Maps as a method of navigation, mostly because cell phones don’t work in all areas and roaming data charges could get extremely expensive across the north. International data roaming charges are typically very expensive and you need to consider whether the considerable expense for cell services are worth it.
Get to Google Maps here.
Other Helpful Alaska Road Trip Planning Resources:
If you haven’t done a significant amount of travel in places you’re not familiar with a GPS, you don’t know what you’re missing. You are probably familiar with what they are and what they do, but we’re here to tell you it can revolutionize your travel experience. Between not having to worry about how to get back to camp, to figuring out how to get a place on the fly, to estimating your proximity to destinations, to eliminating the potential for a wrong turn that could take up hours of time. A GPS makes road travel amazingly easy and much less anxious.
Given that cell phone GPS routing may not be a viable option on some of the trip, a dedicated GPS device is well worth having. While it’s not a super useful tool for planning, it is a road resource that can be used while you’re on your way to great benefit. We use ours to find camps, find restaurants or destinations we want to check out. It’s also a general information provider about waypoints, mileage and estimated times of arrival.
We would recommend a model that features maps for the entirety of North America, so Canada would be included. Some models offer map and product updates, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re running the latest maps and software before you head out in case anything along your path has changed. GPS’s designed for vehicle routing are usually best as they offer dash or windshield mounting options, feature displays large enough to easily read while driving and often have safety features like voice activated routing, Bluetooth integration and others.
Quality Paper Maps/Atlas:
In the days of electronic gadgets, paper maps seem to be a duplicate of that which is easily and better replicated by a computer. I suppose in a way we’re old-fashioned, but we like looking at paper maps. Especially maps of areas that we’re in, as it sometimes leads to inspiration to check something out we wouldn’t have otherwise. Paper maps offer a character that smartphones and GPS’s just simply can’t breach.
That’s probably the strongest argument for paper maps being in your kit, but it’s also a bit of redundancy in a critical function; navigation. What would you do if your GPS went out and stopped working in a place you’ve never been. What if your phone didn’t have cell reception at all, and you’re sitting at a junction you think you might need to turn on? Could you just navigate to the right places with dozens of potential turns along the way? We would concede that even as experienced navigators, such a situation could present some serious difficulties we’d want a reliable backup for.
Truth be told, the maps in the Milepost are fully adequate for navigating the highways of British Columbia, the Yukon Territories and most of Alaska. They feature enough resolution to find the highways you need to connect and make major routing decisions. Their geographic depiction of towns, and navigation of them, does lack a desired clarity however. We like atlas style maps that cover the individual states and provinces, with detailed resolution of larger towns. These do cost money, sure, but then you have a good map of that place! That’s just our preference, but there are other ways.
Often times at visitor centers, you can find maps of the area provided for free. These are often town maps and even state or province maps. Some may charge a small fee, but it typically goes to a good cause for us travelers. Visitor centers are commonly marked along the highway, so navigation to them is usually inherent and reliable. It’s not a bad idea to stop, or if you see free maps somewhere in your travels, pick one up as a backup!
Internet Access & Smartphones:
Many of us have become dependent on smart phones as a source of information. They’re certainly helpful, but might have limited use that you need to think about prior to making your trip.
If your cell phone plan doesn’t currently feature international services, it could be incredibly expensive to use your services within Canada. Most cell companies charge very high telephone and internet access fees when used internationally, so it’s important to assess whether this is an cost you want to bear. It would not be uncommon for a regular user to have expenses into the hundreds of dollars per phone when used internationally. It would be recommended to check with your carrier before leaving for these associated costs and also determine whether you need to modify your account to allow international access.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you will be traveling through some of the most rural areas on earth. In many areas, cell phone services just simply aren’t available regardless of your carrier and it’s common to see services only provided near towns and cities with vast distances that lack any coverage whatsoever. If you’re planning on using your cell phone for on-the-go planning efforts, keep in mind that you may have to take advantage of the services when you have them, rather than when you need them. Also, it would be wise to have contingency plans and alternate sources of information in the event that a day’s travel doesn’t bring you within range of adequate services.
Once you arrive in Alaska, most cell carriers will permit the use without roaming fees, however it would be wise to double-check that your plan allows this. It’s definitely nice to be able to call loved ones when you’ve arrived in Tok, they may be concerned about you on such a long journey. Cell phone services are largely available throughout Alaska itself, but the rural areas frequently feature little to no coverage. Mountainous terrain is almost guaranteed to have no coverage, so keep that in mind as well.
All that said, a cell phone is a good idea to have with you as you travel, particularly for an emergent situation. If you opt to not use your phone internationally, just simply turn it off and leave it off. Make sure you store your cell phone in a secure place such that it couldn’t be inadvertently turned on. It would be shame to return to hundreds of dollars owed for roaming data fees in the event your cell inadvertently turned on.
While technically this isn’t something you can bring with you, when you make it to Tok, make sure to stop at the visitor’s center. There’s also a nice, small state campground a few miles to the east of Tok, which is a nice place to lay your head shortly after crossing the Yukon/Alaska border.
The visitor center is chalk full of brochures and informational materials for things to do across every part of the state. It is the information mecca you might desire. You can also purchase a map of Alaska’s State parks, which is well worth a small amount you’ll pay for it as it’s basically a map of great campgrounds around the entire state.
You can take in a fine shower at the larger RV parks in town, or even choose to stay at one of these if you like. Take in your first night in Alaska, you made it to your adventure destination!