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“Should I Visit Alaska This Year?” Here’s What I Suggest

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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)

Pack for Alaska - Valerie in Alaska

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)

Pack for Alaska Hero

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

Alaska Northern Lights Trip Hero

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:

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!

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36 Comments

  • Amy

    Thank you so much for all your insight! We are currently keeping our plans to visit the last week in July and just hoping it works out ok. We’ll continue to follow your postings closely!

      • Amy

        We visited in July 2020 and had an absolutely amazing time! No problems getting in (although super stressful waiting for test results, one of which wasn’t reported until after we arrived), Denali was open for the bus ride we booked in advance (thanks to your suggestion), we got shockingly close views of bears catching salmon swimming upstream to spawn, and we rode bikes along the water in anchorage and almost ran into a moose! Such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, particularly with discounted tickets and without the tourists:)

  • Janice

    Wow. I started researching an Alaska trip for the last week of July and first week of August because our workplace won’t allow us to travel internationally as planned. I was overwhelmed earlier with all the cities and different tours. When I found your website it was just what I wanted to read until I got to the part that I shouldn’t be planning a trip LOL. When we do go I have saved your website and will gladly click on your links. Thank you so much, Janice in Nashville

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Janice! I hate to be a downer on it summer travel this year… but it’s definitely best to wait and plan it for next year (or this coming winter!) if you can! Stay safe and healthy!

  • Madeline

    Hi- any updates as of July 2? We would like to plan a trip for the first week of September 2020. What would be a disadvantage of doing so at this time?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Madeline. There haven’t been any changes since the beginning of June, but I recommend checking out the link at the top of the post (in the purple box). That’s all the official info from the State. I think it’s possible they will re-enter lockdown if cases continue to rise, so it’s up to you if you try to book a trip.

  • Jill Potter

    Hi, we currently have hotel, airline and car rental reservations for August 31st. I have had many people tell me to cancel them, but have this gut feeling that Juneau may want to recoup some of their summer losses. We are aware of the current mandate, and will be exploring local options for testing prior to travel. We are supposed to be there 8/31-9/14, so I guess we will continue to scope out the current mandates. If you have any further insights, please advise.

    • Valerie

      Jill, I agree with your friends or others who have advised you to reschedule. It’s better to stay home and keep everyone healthy than to risk anyone getting sick, even with testing. Juneau (and the whole State of Alaska) is planning ahead for 2021 and beyond rather than focusing on this year. I hope this helps!

  • AJ

    Hi Valerie,
    Thanks for sharing your insights.
    I and my husband are confused about whether to make bookings for 2 weeks’ early September trip.
    What do you recommend based on the latest COVID travel advisory?
    We plan to visit Anchorage – Seward – Denali National Park – Fairbanks. (not visiting Juneau as whale watching tours are canceled).

    Side question: What is the probability to get to see whales at the boat at Seward?

    • Valerie

      Great question, AJ – I plan to update this post this week.

      I would not advise any travel to Alaska this year. If you want to visit in the summer, I recommend planning your trip for 2021.

      I’ve heard stories of many experiences being sold out due to limited capacity, hotels not even being open/not having the correct reservations or changing them and not notifying the guests, and more. It’s just not a good year for a visit if you really want to enjoy it!

      I hope this helps!

  • Lawrnce M. Chun

    I will not be going to AK this summer. I cancelled a few reservations. Even if I were to take the pre-test, there is uncertainty if the result would arrive in time. Quarantine for 14 days or however long when reaching AK would be impractical and costly. I normally spend only a week there. Hope to go in 2021, and hope COVID-19 comes under control. This summer will be the first miss since the summer of 2004. For those who make it to Alaska, the Last Frontier, have a great time! LC

  • Adam

    How do the Alaskan authorities approach a person getting an Alaska airlines flight? What authority? Local police or sheriffs? Do they take to a private room to be tested? Is it considered an arrest? Or is there actually no on there to determine whether or not you are an Alaskan resident? Simply trying to visit my son

  • Avery Nicole Feeley

    Thanks so much for the info. I’m planning on visiting in November (potentially) so any information that is kept up to date is extremely helpful. Definitely want to be educated so I appreciate it!

  • Nicki

    Planning a trip for September 17-26. Getting tested before we go and flying Delta. We are a little nervous but will be equipped with all appropriate PPE. Not planning on restaurants but take out and preparing meals at the places we stay. Any more word on safely traveling to Alaska ?

  • Losalind Connell

    We were just in Alaska for Labor Day weekend last Thursday – Monday. We lucked out on the weather and all of our activities/lodging remained intact. Restaurants were at limited capacity. Spent 2 days in Seward and I will say that most restaurants and excursions were closing up for the season so we went at the right time and caught sunshine for the entire trip there. For not having a mask mandate I would say 99% complied even while outdoors. Such a beautiful state! Glad we were able to make it and enjoy ourselves.

  • Jeff

    My sons and I Just completed a fantastic visit to AK (late Aug/early Sept)! The travel experience from airports to water taxis etc was seamless…of course the key was that we were able to get a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departing for AK. Navigating The travel portal was a breeze! Once we got to AK we were able to do most everything we planned to do-granted hiking/camping/fishing were our activities of choice so social distancing was easy but even when we ate at restaurants Covid was a non factor…most places had outdoor seating with plenty of space between patrons (many had indoor seating as well)… masks were required and EVERY establishment was very sanitary. An unexpected upside to traveling during the pandemic was that we often felt like we had this great state to ourselves! Additionally, the “ local experience” was enhanced greatly as business owners often went out of their way to accommodate our needs as they so appreciated our patronage…all in all Alaska was everything I hoped it would be and more-it was definitely a trip of a lifetime that will never be forgotten!!

  • Josh

    Hi Valerie,

    I am curious to know if you have any information about the upcoming 2021 Summer season. I am planning about 2.5 weeks with half that time on the Southeast/Juneau/Haines region (June 3rd-10th) and the other half in the Anchorage/Seward/Denali region (June10th-18th).

    I read some peoples story on their travel in 2020 and seems like areas are still open and running. Additionally, it looks like in the middle of February 2021, they eased up on some restrictions.

    My main question is do you think traveling in June of 2021 will be getting back to a more ‘normal’ state. I am fine with taking a test prior to departure and following mandates. I just want to see if you have any insight to taking a vacation this summer. A lot of travel between towns will be by the Ferry in Southeast Alaska, plane to Anchorage, and some trains. Do you have any knowledge on restriction to using these travel options.

    Lastly, If you know of anyone still living in these areas, what is their take on tourists there last summer?

    Thanks!

    • Valerie

      Great timing and questions, Josh! I had hoped to update this post this past week but haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s at the top of my list for next week.

      My understanding is that anything which is allowed to be open but also can operate “in the black” (i.e. making, not losing, money) is trying to prepare for 2021, including in Southeast Alaska. I’ve been providing itinerary suggestions for that region in the coming summer and don’t foresee a problem.

      In terms of Alaskan local thoughts about tourists, there were definitely mixed feelings – and still are. Certainly, there are some people who want everyone to stay home and are vocal about that, while others depend on tourism and are working hard to make things safe for those who choose to come.

      I hope that helps!

      • Pam

        Thank you for sharing your knowledge of travel and Alaska. Do you have any updates or advice about travel for summer 2021? My sister is running her 50th state marathon in Alaska in August, postponed from 2020. My teenage boys, another sister and I planned to join her to cheer her on and enjoy the many sites and activities of Alaska. I visited many years ago and it is still one of my favorite vacations ever. I want my boys and I to be able to truly enjoy all that Alaska has to offer. And I wonder if that is possible yet in 2021 or if we should postpone to a future date. Any input is welcome. Thank you!

  • Justin

    Hi Valerie! Your blog is awesome.

    I’m about to switch jobs, and I’ll have some time off in between. I want to take a cool trip, and I’ve chosen Alaska. I’ll have about 5-6 days (~April 8-15). I’m planning to go solo (sadly my wife can’t take off work). Per your update to this article, I feel confident and safe to book…

    I’ve read a handful of your articles, but most of the content describes summer trips, and you mentioned you haven’t been back in the winter or spring in quite some time– although I’m sure your expertise still applies.

    I’m wondering, if you were me, how would you go about planning this trip? I filled out your survey and got the custom recommendation (super cool!) but I still feel totally overwhelmed. The state is massive, there are tons of parks/preserves and sights. Ah! My head is spinning.

    Any resources you can point me to directly? Otherwise, if you’re up to connect or help me put together a custom itinerary, I’d be so grateful. I’d, of course, compensate you for the service.

    Looking forward to hearing from you 🙂

  • Rosa Soto

    just want to thank you for all of these wonderful suggestions. I hope that I can make it out here in August 2021.

  • Candace

    Hi, Thanks for the helpful updated info on travel to Alaska. I am planning a trip to Alaska for 2nd week of July 2021. I mainly want to go to Denali NP and Kenai pennisula for a week. I was told by a friend that mosquitoes are a huge problem in July. Should I not go because of this. Is it exaggerated? Please advise. Thank you.

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