15 Must-Pack Essentials For An Alaska Trip

15 Must-Pack Essentials For An Alaska Trip
Packing for an Alaska trip can be difficult for many vacationers, no matter whether they're exploring "The Last Frontier" by land or sea. Alaska’s weather is highly changeable and it’s important to be prepared. In addition, you'll want to bring the right camera and tech equipment to capture stunning photographs of wildlife and scenic views. Taking part in some of Alaska’s most exciting excursions and activities requires specific gear as well.

If you’re planning an Alaska vacation via ship or on land, here are fifteen items to pack for your trip:

1. Lots of Layers. Alaska’s weather can change constantly throughout the day, so it’s important to be prepared. Bring lots of clothing layers and some light rain gear. Your requirements will also vary substantially based on the shore excursions you choose, such as adventure-based kayaking and hiking on glaciers. Make sure to pack a waterproof rain jacket with a hood, packable windproof umbrella, quick-dry waterproof pants for kayaking and hiking, a warm fleece, lightweight vest, hat, gloves, and moisture-wicking scarf. Tennis shoes or other comfortable shoes with good treads are key. Check the weather in advance. You may want to throw a pair of shorts, some short-sleeved shirts and a swimsuit into your suitcase as well.

2. Packing Cubes. Great packing for all kinds of Alaska weather and activities involves bringing a lot of gear, as you can see. Packing cubes help organize clothing and gear, plus they’ll make it easier to maximize what can fit into your suitcase, too.

3. Top Quality Camera Gear. Whales breach, spy hop and move quickly, so it's much easier to get good pictures if you have a camera with a long lens and a fast shutter speed. Bring along a digital SLR camera with a long lens if you have one, or a high-megapixel compact camera with a long zoom lens. Digital SLR cameras will deliver the best pictures of fast-moving wildlife and events, like breaching whales and calving glaciers. Due to possible wet conditions, it's important to protect your camera equipment so pack a dry bag or several large zip-lock bags and a waterproof phone case for your trip. In addition, pack plenty of camera digital image storage cards, batteries, and anything that you need to capture your vacation memories. Camera supplies will be far more expensive in Alaska than at home. My rule of thumb for Alaska: take the amount of digital storage cards and batteries that you usually bring on a normal cruise vacation and double it.

4. Portable Chargers. The scenery and experiences in Alaska are extraordinary, so you're likely to be on the go and using your cell phone and/or tablet constantly. Make sure to bring along portable chargers to take with you so you won't run out of battery power. If you're traveling with multiple family members, bring a few chargers for everyone to share.

5. Great Binoculars. Orcas, calving glaciers and breaching whales – oh my! There’s so much to see on an Alaska cruise, but some of it might not be nearby. High quality binoculars can be essential for viewing Alaska’s wonders. If you're lucky, you may even see a bear or two.

6. Travel Alarm Clock. Hotels and ship staterooms aren't always equipped with clocks, so bring your own battery-powered travel alarm clock along. You'll need to be up early for many Alaska shore excursions. While some people resort to using their cell phone as an alarm clock, others prefer to leave their cell phone completely off while cruising or traveling off the grid. If you're worried about waking up for an early shore excursion, request a wake-up call from your hotel or cruise ship, too. While out on shore excursions, it’s also helpful to wear as watch set to ship’s time as well.

7. Waterproof Shoes or Boots. Alaska’s terrain can be uneven, the weather is sometimes rainy, and a number of adventure-oriented activities require boots or shoes with good treads. Bring a pair of comfortable waterproof boots on your Alaska cruise along with several pairs of good socks in case one pair gets wet. Make sure to break in your shoes well before your cruise to avoid blisters and other problems.

8. Insect Repellent. Alaska’s mosquitoes are sometimes referred to as “the state bird,” and with good reason. Occasionally there are lots of them present, along with flies and other bugs. Pack good insect repellent (pump bottle or wipes) to use on your Alaska cruise. In addition, it’s helpful to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts if the weather is appropriate.

9. Sunglasses and Sunscreen. Some of Alaska’s best shore excursions involve being outdoors for hours whale watching, kayaking, hiking and fishing. On sunny days, it’s easy to get sunburned if you're not properly protected. Pack polarized sunglasses and good sunscreen with strong SPF protection for every member of your traveling crew.

10. Eye Mask for Sleeping. Alaska’s daylight lasts well into sleeping hours during the summer months. It’s wise to bring along an eye mask to help, particularly when blackout curtains are not available.

11. Motion Sickness Aids. Over-the-counter drugs such as Bonine, Dramamine and Benadryl can be very effective in preventing seasickness. Since they are available without a prescription, they can be easily obtained at local grocery stores and drug stores. All of these medicines can cause drowsiness and other side effects and different people may find one to be more effective than the other. Try them out to see which one works best for you. Many seasoned cruise guests swear by wearable seasickness prevention remedies such as Transderm-Scop patches and Sea-Bands. Sea-Bands are available from retail stores, while Transderm-Scop patches can be obtained from your doctor.

12. Multi-Outlet Power Strip. Many hotel rooms and cruise ship staterooms have only one or two outlets, which are never enough for all the tablets, camera battery chargers, cell phones, and all the other tech equipment cruisers bring with them on the ship. Pack a multi-outlet adaptor or a power strip with a six-foot cord to enable easy charging for all your gear. Make sure to avoid those with surge protectors as those are prohibited on some ships.

13. Lightweight Backpack. Shore excursions in Alaska can involve lots of walking, hiking and other activities. Bring along a lightweight backpack to use on port days. You'll need somewhere to store your gear, souvenirs and any layers that you're taking off throughout the day.

14. Reusable Water Bottle. Alaska vacations are active and it’s important to stay hydrated. Bring along a good reusable water bottle and fill it with fresh water throughout your vacation to reduce waste while you travel.

15. Masks and Small First Aid Kit. Given the current environment, it’s important to bring along several masks for every member of your crew. It’s wise to also bring along simple first aid items on your Alaska trip, no matter whether you’re traveling by ship or on your own. Pack Band-Aids, first aid antibiotic ointment, antibacterial hand sanitizer and wipes, hydrocortisone cream, pain/fever medication such as Tylenol, antihistamines like Benadryl for allergic reactions, anti-diarrhea medication, a thermometer, tweezers, and any prescriptions. Make sure to bring several extra days’ worth of prescription medication in case of travel delays.

In addition, make sure you have travel insurance and proper documentation for your Alaska trip. If you’re taking a cruise, be aware that your Alaska cruise may require passports depending upon your nationality and itinerary. It’s important to consult with your cruise line and travel agent well before your trip to make sure you have the appropriate documentation needed for your cruise.

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