5 Days in Alaska: 2 Itineraries for a Short Trip in 2024

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To me, Alaska is chilly mornings with a bite of snow in the air, even in the summer months. It’s the smell of birch and spruce trees growing like mad during the long days of the Midnight Sun. If you’re planning a 5 day Alaska itinerary for an upcoming trip, you’ve come to a great place.

In addition to living in Alaska for 15 years and working three summers in the hospitality industry (helping people make their Alaska vacations unforgettable), I visit Alaska at least once a year. They say you can’t go back – but I do, a lot! –, because those sights, smells, and experiences still feel a bit like home. I’ve been fortunate to visit Alaska multiple times in the past few years, most recently twice in 2023.

I’m honored you came to my blog to try and plan your own Alaska vacation, and I’ll do my best to steer you to what I consider the best parts of my ‘home’ state.

5 Days in Alaska Hero

Five days is a nice length of time to spend in Alaska, also called The Last Frontier – it’s enough to see some of the top cities and attractions in Southcentral and Interior Alaska, and to inspire you to hopefully someday make a return, longer trip. Spending 5 days in Alaska is also a perfect add-on to your Alaska cruise.

Read on for some travel tips for Alaska to help you plan and make the most of your trip, then a detailed five-day Alaskan itinerary you can follow to a tee or customize to your heart’s content. If you want to plan a 5-day Alaska itinerary, I’ve got you covered. Let’s get into it!

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq), Dena’ina Ełnena, and Tanana peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally published in August 2019, and updated most recently in October 2023 for next year.
I also update this post again in March of the new year to ensure all of the info is accurate.

Get Your Free Alaska Itinerary

As part of my Alaska resources, I created a quiz that will give you a simple free Alaska itinerary based on your trip length and travel preferences. Answer a few short questions and you’ll get an itinerary for 5 days in Alaska plus other travel resources I offer too.

Can’t see the quiz? Click here to open it in a new tab!

Want help planning your Alaska trip?

I grew up in Alaska and it’s my favorite place to visit – let me help you make your trip planning easier!

Alaska Travel Tips

In each of my Alaska itineraries, I start with this section of Alaska travel tips. First, I get these questions all. the. time. – so if you’re curious about them, you’re not alone. Second, if I don’t answer them first, the rest of the itinerary is a little confusing. Let’s cover them quickly, then read on for two in-depth 5-day Alaska itinerary options – all ready to help you plan your trip.

How to Plan Your Alaska Trip

To begin, I want to highlight this post: How to Plan Your First Trip to Alaska

In it, I cover a step-by-step process that will help you conceptualize your Alaska itinerary planning process before diving into the details below. It’s a good, quick read that will help you get your mindset right before planning your Alaska trip.

Best Time to Visit Alaska

You might not believe it, but Alaska has become a four-season destination. You can visit in the summer when it’s warm under the Midnight Sun; if you visit in the autumn, you’ll see the tundra turn ruby and gold; visiting Alaska in the winter you can see the Northern Lights and try dog-sledding, or you can visit in the spring as the snow starts to thaw before the summer crowds arrive.

That said, if there’s a “best” time to visit Alaska – best meaning warm weather and sun – the best time to visit Alaska is between June and August. During the summer months, the temperatures are at their highest, you’ll experience the least precipitation (no snow, but you may get some rain), and the Midnight Sun extends each day so you can make the most of your once-in-a-lifetime Alaska vacation.

In this itinerary, I’m assuming you’ll visit in the summertime – that’s when almost everyone does! Based on that assumption, I’m recommending activities and experiences that may only be available during the summer season (late May to early September). Where needed, I’ve noted options that aren’t available during the autumn, winter, and/or spring. If you’re visiting in the “off-season” and have specific questions, let me know in the comments.

The Cost of Visiting Alaska

As you begin planning your Alaska trip, you’ll quickly realize: Alaska is not a cheap, budget-friendly destination. That’s not to say you can’t be budget-conscious, but it’s not a default.

I’ve broken down how much it costs to visit Alaska on average, and that link also includes a bunch of tips to help you save if you want to visit Alaska and need to do it on a budget. Unfortunately, since the pandemic, the cost of travel to Alaska has gone up, and I predict that 2024 will continue the trend, especially with regard to hotel and rental car costs.

Alaska by Land or Sea

Cruising in Kenai Fjords National Park

One of the other big questions I get asked a lot as an Alaska travel blogger is: should I do an Alaska cruise, or do my own land tour?

If you’re uncertain, have the time, and have the money, you can do both: if you’ve already booked your Alaska cruise – mega-ship or small-ship – now it’s time to plan to extend your trip. Great: you can use this itinerary (or my 7-day or 10-day itinerary) to plan your land portion. If you’re choosing between land or sea, I recommend land. You can always do a cruise later too!

What to Pack for 5 Days in Alaska

I have a whole Alaska packing list if you’re at that stage of planning. Check it out here. To give you the short version, be sure to pack:

  • Rain gear – Even in the summer, you may need it to stay dry, especially if you’re doing an Alaska cruise.
  • Good shoes – Bring solid, preferably water-resistant shoes for walking, not the traditional white trainers you’ll see older travelers in.
  • Sleep mask – In the summer, the Midnight Sun can really mess with your sleep schedule.
  • A great camera – Until recently, I shot on a Sony NEX-6; the modern version is the Sony a7iii. Capture those once-in-a-lifetime memories!
  • Layers – Whether you’re an outdoorsy type or not (like me), layers are critical to staying warm and dry in Alaska. This can just mean a sweatshirt under your coat or leggings under your jeans. Trust me, if it gets chilly, they’ll help.

Let me know in the comments if you need more advice about what to pack for your 5-day trip to Alaska.

Quick Glance: Two 5-Day Alaska Itineraries

Okay, I’ve hopefully answered all your burning questions first, as quickly as possible. Now it’s time to get into the five-day Alaska itinerary I promised! Here’s a quick glance:

DayItinerary AItinerary B
2Anchorage to DenaliAnchorage to Denali
3Denali National ParkDenali National Park
4Denali to FairbanksDenali to Seward
5FairbanksSeward to Anchorage

Below, I break down each of these days in a ton more detail, plus I recommend restaurants and hotels to make the whole process super easy to book right from this post. You can literally click each link and put in your dates of travel to make your Alaska trip happen.

5-Day Alaska Itinerary A: Into the Interior

As I couldn’t choose between the two itineraries for this post, I’ve decided to include both! This first itinerary takes you north from Anchorage to Denali and onto Fairbanks in Interior Alaska. Here are a few other notes before you dive in:

  • It’s a great itinerary for those who are interested in land wildlife viewing (like Alaska’s Big Five including brown bears, moose, and Dall sheep) and cultural experiences.
  • You can do a one-way car rental for this itinerary*, but I recommend the Alaska Railroad instead. (Don’t comment asking me for tips on making one-way car rentals less expensive – that’s the consequence if you skip on the Alaska Railroad!)
  • This itinerary starts in Anchorage and ends in Fairbanks; you can either fly from Fairbanks to Anchorage to depart Alaska or fly home straight from Fairbanks. Alaska Airlines has plenty of daily flights from Fairbanks to the Lower 48.

*Car rentals continued to be very expensive in 2023 (and one-way car rentals are usually expensive, to begin with), so I would strongly encourage you to take the Alaska Railroad for this itinerary.

Okay, now let’s dive into this first-day Alaska itinerary!

Day 1: Anchorage

Start your first day in Alaska with a tour of your first stop: Anchorage. You can do this one of two ways: on a guided tour, such as the Anchorage Trolley Tour, or on foot on your own exploring downtown Anchorage and Historic 4th Avenue. This is a good way to see Alaska’s biggest city and get oriented.

For lunch, I recommend Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse; it’s a perfect casual spot. For another option, I highly recommend Tia’s Reindeer Sausage. This food stand is located along 4th Avenue and has a distinctive yellow umbrella.

In the afternoon, I again recommend choosing one (or both) of two choices

  1. If the weather is good and you enjoy being active, consider renting bikes and riding along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This is an 11-mile scenic trail that gives you some incredible views and the chance to spot moose (give them lots of space!).
  2. If the weather is crummy or you want something less active, I highly recommend the Anchorage Museum. Since I grew up in Alaska, the Anchorage Museum underwent a massive and impressive expansion. Now there are traditional art galleries, Smithsonian-affiliated galleries on indigenous Alaskan culture, and even a science museum wing called the Imaginarium.

For dinner in Anchorage, I have one place I recommend above all others: 49th State Brewing. This restaurant took over the place from a different restaurant when I lived there – and is a massive upgrade. They offer incredible craft beer, delicious food, and sweeping views of Cook Inlet.

Resources for Day 1:

Day 2: Anchorage to Denali

Rise early on your second day to board the Alaska Railroad to Denali; the train usually leaves at 8am and you need to arrive about an hour early. This train trip takes eight hours, so it’s most of the day – but it’s worth it for the immersive and stunning views you’ll see from the glass-domed train cars (book “Gold Star Class” for that experience).

Once you arrive in Denali, you’ll need to get a transfer to your hotel. When you book your hotel, be sure to let them know you’re arriving by train so they can help arrange that for you – some hotels provide their own shuttle while others can advise you about transportation options if they aren’t provided as part of your booking.

If you stay in the Nenana Canyon/Glitter Gulch area (the nickname for the area near Denali National Park), you can walk around and explore after you disembark the train. You can also book or plan one of these other things to do in Denali for the afternoon.

Most hotels have a restaurant, but there are plenty of other great spots around town. I recommend Lynx Creek Pizza (for something casual), Moose-AKa’s (Serbian food – in Alaska!), and Alpenglow Restaurant (for the views), but you can’t really go wrong.

Resources for Day 2:

Day 3: Denali National Park

I’m probably biased, but I consider Denali National Park the best national park in the country. It’s massive, it’s wild, it’s empty – and there are no crowds beyond those you bring with you. Because Denali National Park has managed access, you can’t drive your own vehicle (or rental) into the park; the only way to visit the majority of the park is on a bus tour.

Denali bus tours can be a bit confusing because a landslide in late 2021 closed the park road and the bus tours adjusted accordingly. I’ve put together a full guide to bus tours in Denali, to help you understand your options in 2024.

As you’ll see in that post, I strongly recommend the Tundra Wilderness Tour. This is the official guided tour that focuses on giving you the best experience; the shortened version in 2024 lasts 5-6 hours and goes to mile 43 – the furthest you can travel by road in the park. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to see wild animals like grizzly bear, moose, and wolves. On a clear day, you’ll also be able to see Denali herself!

After a long day on a bus, stretch your legs and walk to dinner. Enjoy dinner at one of the other places I recommend for where to eat in Denali.

Resources for Day 3:

  • Stay another night in your Denali accommodation.

Day 4: Denali to Fairbanks

For your next stop (and final stop) in Alaska, it’s time to travel to Fairbanks. If you’re taking the Alaska Railroad (instead of a one-way car rental), you actually have most of the day to enjoy and explore Denali Park. The Alaska Railroad doesn’t leave for Fairbanks until around 4pm, so arrange a transfer from your hotel to catch that train.

Either way, if you have it in your Alaska travel budget, here’s my top recommendation: book the Denali Glacier Landing tour with Fly Denali. They are my preferred provider after trying many of the flightseeing providers in the area when I worked in Denali one summer. It’s $699 per person, but 100% worth it. You’ll spend almost 2 hours in the air, plus 20 minutes on a glacier on Denali itself.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Stroll to the shops in Glitter Gulch; This is a great spot to stock up on souvenirs!
  • Catch a ride up to the Grande Denali Lodge; from there you can hike up the ridge along Sugarloaf Mountain, or just admire the view from Peak Spirits Lounge with an Alaskan Mosquito (Mojito) in hand.
  • There’s a nice cycling/walking path that parallels the Parks Highway back toward the park entrance. There’s a reasonable incline to walk back up to town, so be prepared and give yourself time!

Once you board the Alaska Railroad, it’s a four-hour train ride to Fairbanks. You’ll arrive around 8pm, and should head straight to your accommodation for the night.

Resources for Day 4:

Day 5: Fairbanks

Your departure time will have the largest impact on how much you can do during your day in Fairbanks. Most flights leave in the evening or as red-eye flights, so you should have pretty much the whole day. It will make life a lot easier if you rent a car for the day, but you won’t need a hotel.

The most popular activity I recommend in Fairbanks is to plan a day trip to Chena Hot Springs. This natural hot spring has been developed into a rustic resort; they have a restaurant and Ice Museum on site too to help you fill the day in between soaks in the indoor or outdoor pools.

If you choose to spend the day in Fairbanks, here are some other options:

  • Fairbanks has some surprisingly dynamic museums, including the Museum of the North (all about Alaskan culture and history), Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum (antique cars and matching fashion from each era), and the Fairbanks Ice Museum (the name says it all; open in the summer!).
  • Pioneer Park is a quirky historic theme park that will teach you more about Interior Alaskan history, and if you can arrange transport or rent a car for your 24-ish hours in Fairbanks, Gold Dredge No. 8 is a little way out of town but offers an interesting peek at the gold mining history in this part of Alaska.

After spending the day in Fairbanks, it’s time to head to the airport and then fly home!

Resources for Day 5:

  • None, as you’re departing.

5-Day Alaska Itinerary B: Southcentral & the Kenai

For a second itinerary option, this 5-day Alaska itinerary uses Anchorage as a base. It’s focused on Southcentral Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula and thus includes less travel time. Here are a few notes on it:

  • This itinerary is good for those who love wildlife – you’re gonna (hopefully) see it all! (The Big 5 and tons of sea life like otters, whales, and sea lions.)
  • You can rent a car (start/end in Anchorage), ride the train, or do a combination. I recommend either doing the train to/from Denali and car rental to/from Seward or just renting a car the whole time.
  • Don’t forget to price out both options for transport keeping in mind how expensive car rentals are in 2022.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Day 1: Anchorage

Similar to Itinerary A, this five-day Alaska itinerary uses Anchorage as a starting point, and I have basically the same suggestions. On your first full day in Alaska, here are the best things to do in Anchorage:

Resources for Day 1:

Day 2: Anchorage to Denali

Itinerary B follows the same suggestions as Itinerary A up until Day 4, so stick with me.

As above, you’ll rise and shine early to catch the Alaska Railroad to Denali; the train leaves around 8am and arrives around 4pm – you can enjoy both breakfast and lunch aboard too! If you’re looking for a different, budget-friendlier option, check out Park Connection, a bus that operates between Anchorage, Denali, and Seward.

Once you arrive, disembark, and transfer to your hotel, you have the rest of the afternoon to explore. Use my guide for things to do in Denali as inspiration.

Enjoy dinner in town, either at your hotel, or one of the following restaurants:

Resources for Day 2:

Day 3: Denali National Park

Again, this day is the same as I recommended in Itinerary A – you’ll spend this whole day visiting Denali National Park on a bus tour.

As mentioned, I recommend the Tundra Wilderness Tour above other tour options offered through the National Park Service. (I have never done a non-park service-operated bus tour so don’t recommend them.) This tour takes 8 hours, so most of your day will be spent on the bus. If you’re not sold, check out my guide to Denali bus tours for more info.

Afterward, grab dinner at one of the other restaurants in Denali I recommended for Day 2 (whichever one you haven’t yet visited).

Resources for Day 3:

  • Stay another night in your Denali accommodation.

Day 4: Denali to Seward

Here’s where Itinerary B gets interesting (compared to Itinerary A, which it has been mirroring up to this point). While Itinerary A travelers will head north from Denali, those of you who choose Itinerary B will head south, back toward Anchorage.

Obviously, if you choose to rent a car for this whole itinerary, you can set out at any point. The drive to Seward takes a minimum of 8 hours, so plan accordingly. (I recommend stopping in Talkeetna for lunch at Denali Brewpub.)

If you take the train or bus, it leaves Denali around noon and arrives in Anchorage around 8pm. You can have lunch and dinner on the train. From the train, you’ll then want to get a transfer (Uber/taxi) to pick up your rental car (likely at the airport) and drive along Turnagain Arm onto the Kenai Peninsula and finally to Seward. This is a minimum 2.5-hour drive, which means you’ll arrive quite late in Seward. (That’s a point in favor of renting a car the whole time for this itinerary.)

For yet another option, you could choose to take the train north to Denali, and then take a bus to Anchorage. The Park Connection bus runs between Denali and Anchorage daily leaving at 7am, and takes less time than the train while still allowing you to experience the Alaska Railroad at least once. (Note that the 7am bus continues on to Seward but don’t book the bus to/from Seward – it won’t work to get you back to Anchorage at a good time on Day 5! You still need a rental car for the next two days.)

In any event, it’s a long day of travel; you might have some time to explore Denali in the morning, but I recommend taking it easy so you get to Seward without being exhausted.

Resources for Day 4:

Day 5: Seward to Anchorage

For your final day of this 5-day Alaska itinerary, you’ll spend most of the day in Seward, returning to Anchorage at the end of the day to depart back home.

The main activity today is visiting Kenai Fjords National Park. The best way to do this is aboard the 8.5-hour Northwest Fjords cruise from Major Marine Tours; there are a number of other Kenai Fjords cruise options, but this one is my favorite and has gotten rave reviews from readers I’ve sent on that cruise in the past. The cruise departs at 9am and returns at 5:30pm so it takes up most of the day and includes a light breakfast and lunch.

(If you are an early riser, you could start the day by doing an early morning hike at Exit Glacier, which is a short drive from Seward – but be sure to time this so you aren’t late for your cruise!)

Before driving back to Anchorage, I recommend having dinner in Seward at Seward Brewing Company. This is another must-eat place that I recommend to pretty much everyone because it’s just that good!

Then it’s time to make the 2.5-hour drive back to Anchorage to return your rental car and depart Alaska.

Resources for Day 5:

  • None due to departure!

Okay, that was a lot: now you have the basics of visiting Alaska, tips on planning not one but two five-day Alaska itineraries, and a bunch of other advice as well. Do you have other questions about how to spend 5 days in Alaska or planning your own Alaska itinerary? Let me know in the comments below.

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.


  • Melanie R Book

    I have already booked a cruise from Vancouver to Seward. I have already booked my flight back from Anchorage. So I have 4 days to travel around from Seaward and end up in Anchorage on the 5th day. I have already booked all my nights at a hotel in Anchorage but that can be cancelled.
    As a senior travelling with a grandaughter I am not willing to do trekking flying or bicycles. Being on the cruise 7 days does not warrant more days sightseeing from a boat.
    I wouldnt want more than 1 day in Deneli park. I am unable to hire a car because of my age. My grandayghter is too yooung so it seems like an organized tour or a plan that we can deal with without hassle.
    Thank you

    • Valerie

      Melanie, nice to hear from you. This post you’ve commented on has lots of advice for what to do for five days in Alaska! It sounds like you’ll have a great trip! I can tell you that if you want one day in Denali to see the national park, you will need to spend one more day on either side to get to/from Denali – it is several hundred miles away and it does take most of the day to get there and back. Maybe consider taking the train!

  • Ryota Okutsu

    It’s nice to see what you write, but I would like to know what I can do for 5 days in winter. Do you have any recommendation plan? I am really interested in Alaska trip!

    • Valerie

      Ryota, thanks for your email but I have not written about Alaska in the winter because I have not been there in the winter in over 10 years. I am planning a trip in February and will write about it afterward!


    Thanks! My wife and I are flying into Vancouver and out of Calgary but were planning a 3-4 day trip to Alaska.There is only one direct flight from Vancouver to Anchorage each day (and none to Fairbanks). Any suggestions on an itinerary? We plan to be in Alaska around 12 May.

  • Penelope Smith

    My parents have been considering going on an Alaskan vacation this year. It is nice to know that there are an ice museum and a pioneer park. Those seem like something they would be interested in. It might be smart for them to talk to a travel agent about getting a package for a lot of other things.

  • Rina Dave

    Hiii loved this itinerary ! Our flight to japan got cancelled due to coronavirus- so we are considering heading to Alaska instead next week ! Given that it’s winter time – how would you amend your 5 day itinerary ? We would be there Thursday night – Wednesday .. thanks so much – my email is – could greatly use some advice !!

  • Helen Matthews

    Hi. We are travelling to Alaska mid May 2020. We want to catch local ferry from Prince Rupert to Skagway, stopping at Ketchikan and Juneau.
    Am having trouble trying to book ferry…. any tips will be welcome
    We will be going to the Yukon then onwards to Alaska.
    Any feedback will be much appreciated

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reaching out, Helen. As far as I know, the Alaska Marine Highway system has not announced their summer schedule yet, so you won’t be able to book until they do that. Have a great trip!

  • Nithin

    Hi Valerie,
    where can i do glacier watching and blue whale watching in alaska…i wanted to know how can i include those two in this 5day trip itinerary.

  • Shannon

    Hello There, I will be purchsing the Ebook and would love an option maybe like the seward above to include a day to go on a guided fishing trip. Is there a way to fit that, and denali, in within 6 days?

    • Valerie

      Shannon, thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can fit in Denali and Seward with a fishing trip in six days. The travel time between places in just too much! Feel free to purchase a custom itinerary though and we can try to come up with something else that works!

  • brina

    Hi! My husband and I want to travel from NY to Alaska in summer of 2021. We are limited to 5 days possibly, do you have any advice particularly for travel during the pandemic to Alaska?

  • Sadaf

    Hi Valerie, thank you for the useful information! My husband and I are planning a visit there late September (sep 23-29). What kind of modifications would you recommend since we are not there during the summer? Also any opportunity to do a stop for fishing? I understand river fishing is an option at this time of year. Thanks so much!

  • Jenn

    Hello! Thank you for this wonderful go-to site for all things Alaska! I’d love some advice:

    Both of our sons and one’s girlfriend are graduating from professional school in May. We want to take them on a special trip and we have narrowed it down to Alaska! Right now I am thinking Anchorage (stay in Girdwood?) – Seward – Denali – Fairbanks, total time with travel 8 days. I need to 1) do a lot of different things to appease everyone, and 2) keep the costs down because we are paying for 5 people! We will rent a car and do our own driving. I’d like to do as much free/inexpensive stuff as we can with perhaps one or two “splurges” like a 1/2 day fjord cruise (no flightseeing, haha). Our kids/girlfriend like history, hiking and doing/seeing cool and different things. We are not big on going out to eat so any tips on a cheap Alaskan foodie thing would be helpful too. Thank you Valerie & Valise and looking forward to hearing from you!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Jenn! I recommend choosing dates and looking at the cost of rental cars ASAP. That has been prohibitively expensive for some people, especially earlier in the season.

      Also keep in mind that Denali National Park doesn’t open until late May, so you’ll be at the beginning of peak season and there may be issues with hotel availability and tours too.

      All this to say, choose your dates ASAP and start doing some research into costs. “Keeping costs down” will be very tough this year, which may end up changing your plans.

  • Wanda Melendez

    I was looking at your itinerary and is there something to do or check out from Anchorage to Seward that my two teenage boys would enjoy? We are looking at doing anchorage to Seward. Is there a chance of seeing a lot of wild life and maybe some good and fun hiking areas on the way? We are looking at doing the 8.5 boat tour for sure, but we would like to see other wild life.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Wanda! I recommend stopping off in Girdwood; it’s a cool ski-bum town with some good hikes (Virgin Falls is a popular option!). I hope that helps!

  • Wanda Melendez

    Thanks! that is helpful. Where do you suggest we go to check out the glaciers? Have you been the Seward Ranger District to view bears? If you have, how was it? Your website has a lot of great information!


  • Wanda Melendez

    Valerie, we were looking at going to Kenai Fjords National Park instead of Denali. The kids were interested in seeing the marine life and the glaciers. Is there a big difference between the two Parks? Is there an advantage to goin to Denali?


    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading Wanda. The parks are literally nothing alike – one is water and the other is land, for starters. I think you’ll be disappointed if you skip Denali – it’s my #1 recommendation, which is why it’s in both of these itineraries but Seward (Kenai Fjords) is not.

  • Jill A

    We are planning a trip in August. Flying in to Anchorage on a Sunday. Attending a conference in Girdwood Sunday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon but we have some free time and a rental car for short exploring. Then we have Wednesday afternoon to Sunday evening to see Alaska for two adults and older teen. Any recommendations for short exploring near Girdwood for the first half and then how to make the most of our last four days before flying back out of Anchorage?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Jill. I don’t offer custom itineraries, but you landed on a post that gives you advice for how to plan a trip with 4 days, so I’d start by using this suggested itinerary and adjust based on your interests. I also have 100+ other Alaska travel articles here:

  • Michael


    I will be in Alaska from October 16th-24th and wanted to know which itinerary you would recommend. It seems to Denali is closed, or at least hard to reach at that time of year, so the Anchorage area seems to make the most sense. I can certainly rent a car. Happy to book everything through your affiliate links. Appreciate the great information!



  • Joe

    Hi !!
    For my first ever trip to Alaska, I am thinking of doing itinerary #2 (i get to visit 2 National parks that way!!) – Do you recommend June or July as the month to go?

  • Chris Bell

    I’ve been planning our June 2023 trip to AK the past few months and appreciate all of your advice. One question I haven’t seen answered and that is, are restaurant reservations necessary? Trying to get everything planned as we have a tight schedule and don’t want to have to wait for tables if we don’t have to. Post covid it seems restaurant reservations are more necessary where we live. What’s the story in AK?

    • Valerie

      Great question, Chris! If you can make reservations, absolutely do – some places don’t take them, but if they do, I’d always arrange it in advance (even when not on a tight timeline).

  • Samantha DIANE Holloway


    Thank you – I’d be very happy to pay for an itinerary; however we have some specific needs (our daughter has mobility issues) so we need a more custom plan. Do you reccomend anyone who could help us?

    Many thanks,


    • Valerie

      Samantha, hi! Sorry, I don’t have someone with specific knowledge of visiting Alaska with accessibility needs. You might try checking Google for resources from travelers who have similar considerations – I don’t know of anyone specific though.

  • Marie Zenner

    Denali park bus tours times are not confirmed until a day or two before arrival….what are your thoughts of the Parks hop on hop off transit buses? Allowis us to make plans for a glacier flight in the afternoon …

    • Valerie

      Hi, Marie – yes, I’m aware that bus times are not confirmed until 48 hours before. I am not a fan of the transit buses for first time visitors because there is no guarantee you will have a driver that gives you any narration or info about the park. The transit buses are good if you want to go back into the park, but you should book the TWT if you’re making your first trip into the park.

  • Tarun

    Hi Valerie,

    I hope all is well with you!
    The 5 day itinerary options you provided seem to be detailed and very helpful. I just glanced through it but will dig more as I get more clarity about the itinerary. What I’d like to know is, I’m planning to do a solo trip for five days in Alaska and this year seems to be a very good time to experience Northern Lights. I’m thinking to plan this trip during Memorial Day Weekend, which will be end of May. This is my first time visiting Alaska, so can you please let me know if this is the right time? Significantly, I want to experience Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Denali National Park, and probably sight seeing in Anchorage along with the helicopter ride. Also, I see you have a lot of knowledge in planning for a trip in Alaska, so can you provide an estimate for all the above mentioned things along with hotel and car rental. Just a ball park figure would be sufficient. Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Valerie

      You will not see the northern lights in May. You can only see them between September and March, and this itinerary is not designed for winter travel. Try checking my Alaska guide for my winter travel resources if you decide to change your travel dates:

      I also do not provide estimates for travel, but I have an article about travel costs you can check.

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