Interest in visiting Alaska has shown a V-shaped recovery… After a dramatic drop last year, lots of people are interested in visiting Alaska in 2021. Alaska also has an aggressive vaccination plan and is among the best states in terms of vaccinating locals. But is it a good idea to visit Alaska this year?
While the State of Alaska has removed most mandates, it’s hard to know when travel in Alaska will be completely “normal” again – even though it’s going to be semi-normal for summer 2021. I’ve been getting questions about Alaska travel this year, and I wanted to put together a few suggestions. I write a lot about Alaska and grew up there; I have the expertise on the tourism side and intimate knowledge about how Alaskans think in crises. This post was originally written to provide my best guesses for what the Summer 2020 Alaska season will look like; I have updated it several times to provide additional advice – including most recently in March 2021 with tips for Summer 2021 Alaska travel.
Please note: I am not a medical professional and none of these suggestions should be considered medical advice. I am making educated guesses based on the information we all have access to. I don’t have exclusive/early access to information on any future plans the State of Alaska might have for travel restrictions, COVID testing requirements, or mask mandates. In the end, your travel plans are your responsibility, and you follow (or ignore) my suggestions at your own risk.
So: should you cancel or keep your Alaska travel plans this year? Here are my suggestions based on your travel dates.
First Published: May 1, 2020 // Last Updated: March 26, 2021
What are the Current Requirements for Alaska Travel?
As of March 2021, here is the current status of masks and COVID testing for all travelers visiting Alaska.
- Alaska no longer requires masks or testing.
- All travelers are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test prior to visiting Alaska. You are not required to submit proof of one.
- All travelers are encouraged to submit a travel declaration form online, but are not required to.
- While masks, distancing, and handwashing practices are not required, they are strongly encouraged.
- You are not required to show proof of vaccination to visit Alaska. If you have a vaccine card, it’s good practice to bring it when you travel.
You can see all of the specific language and advice on the State of Alaska Traveler Information page.
Note that these advisements are made at the state level. Cities, communities, and businesses may have more strict rules and still require masks and/or distancing. Additionally, all airlines flying to Alaska require masks to be worn during flight; it’s best to still travel with a mask and hand sanitizer.
If Your Alaska Travel Plans are for Spring 2021 (April/May)
If you have a trip to Alaska planned for Spring 2021 (which I define as April and May), you should still be able to visit Alaska without any restrictions – based on the current traveler information available.
The pandemic is still spreading widely in the U.S. it’s important to do your part to prevent infecting others. While masks are not required, if you choose to wear one, you’ll help protect local communities and Alaskans who may not be vaccinated yet.
Should you reschedule your Spring 2021 Alaska trip? I don’t think you need to reschedule, but you should keep an eye on the State of Alaska COVID-19 traveler information page in case any requirements change.
If You Plan to Visit Alaska in Summer 2021 (June/July/August)
If we’ve learned anything this year since the pandemic began, it’s that it’s hard to plan ahead in case case numbers and infection rates change. So when we look at travel 3-6 months from now, it’s hard to make predictions.
That said, I think it’s safe to plan a trip to Alaska this summer (2021). I have been offering my custom itinerary service and have helped dozens of travelers plan trips between May and September (at this point). In most cases, here’s what I recommend:
- Bring a mask and hand sanitizer, as many tour operators and excursions are still requiring masks at this point. That may change, but it’s better to pack these items and not need them!
- Plan ahead! Many tour operators are reducing occupancy and schedules to create better distancing; this means that things are selling out much more quickly than in years past (or future years).
As summer is the most popular time to visit Alaska, you’re competing with people who didn’t travel last year (2020) and those who were already planning to visit this year. Keep that in mind if you choose to plan a trip this year.
Should you reschedule your Summer 2021 Alaska trip? As I said for Spring travelers, I don’t think you need to reschedule if you’re planning to visit Alaska this summer. You should also keep an eye on the State of Alaska COVID-19 traveler information page in case any requirements change though!
If Your Alaska Travel Plans are for Autumn 2021 (September/October)
If I have a hard time making predictions for the summer – how hard do you think it is to predict the state of travel in Autumn 2021?! Here’s what I’ll say…
I think that the vaccine plan within the U.S. is likely to be fully implemented by the autumn months; I think that everyone who wants a vaccine will have one by then. This means that most restrictions will likely be lifted – but as for when that happens, I think it will depend on how many people choose to get vaccinated. Masks may still be required, distanced dining may still be a thing… the virus will still be there even if far fewer people are getting sick from it.
For visiting Alaska in Autumn 2021, I think it’s safe to make travel plans and assume they will happen. Any restrictions or changes from the State of Alaska will likely be rolled out to protect the majority of travelers when they come in the summer, so you’ll have some notice if things are changing.
I personally am holding my reservations for a small-ship cruise in mid-September 2021. If you’re rescheduling a cruise from 2020 or earlier in the summer, you can always join me on this trip if it happens!
Should you reschedule your Autumn 2021 Alaska trip? I don’t think you need to reschedule, but you should still be prepared if things change between now and then. In the pandemic time warp, 6+ months is a long time to try and predict what life will be like!
If You Want to Visit Alaska in Winter 2021/2022
If you’re planning to visit Alaska next winter, I think it’s safe to make those plans at any time. After this past winter, Alaska knows how to handle tourists during the cold months. Even if the virus has another bad winter as it did in 2020/2021, it’ll still be possible to visit. And anyway, wearing a mask will keep your face warm, so that’s a good idea for multiple reasons!
I took my most recent trip to Alaska in February 2020 and loved it; here are several resources to help you plan a winter trip:
- How to Stay Warm on a Winter Weekend in Fairbanks, Alaska
- How to Plan an Aurora Trip to Alaska
- The 21 Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Alaska
- Aurora Photography: 15 Tips for How to Photograph the Aurora
If You Don’t Have Confirmed Alaska Travel Plans but Want to Book a Trip
While I know we’re all eager to get back out and explore the world, if you don’t currently have travel plans and reservations, it’s up to you if you choose to travel in 2021 or 2022. As mentioned, 2021 is a bit crazy for availability, so you may want to take the stress off trying to plan a ‘last minute’ trip this summer and wait until next summer instead when everything is open and available again.
I hope this helps you make a decision about planning your Alaska trip this summer or at other times of the year. I’ve worked hard to get most of my Alaska articles updated for 2021 so they can still work as a resource. I’ll update them for 2022 once the summer season has ended, as usual!
Let me know any questions or concerns in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
Need More Alaska Travel Advice?
My Alaska ebook bundle will help you plan an unforgettable Alaska trip, with tips on what to do in Alaska (including on a cruise), where to go, and the best Alaska itineraries.
Get the bundle for just $19.99!