Getting ready for life in Alaska
Because life in the Last Frontier is very different from what you’ll find in the lower 48 (and moving there can pose some challenges), it’s a good idea to learn what to expect. U-Pack has helped people move to Alaska for more than 20 years, and we’ve compiled some tips and resources to help you through the process. Use this guide to explore:
- How to move to Alaska
- How much it costs
- What living there is like
- Popular destinations
- How to travel to Alaska
- How to PCS there
Already an Alaska resident and planning a move to another state? Check out this info on moving out of Alaska.
How to move to Alaska
There are three options for moving long-distance to Alaska: full-service movers, rental trucks or self-moving services. Often the smartest way to make the move is with a self-moving service like U-Pack® — you get to combine the convenience of a full-service mover with the affordability of a rental truck.
With U-Pack, you pack, load and unload, and we handle the driving. You can choose from two types of equipment, depending on the location and specifics of your move:
- 28-foot moving trailers are great for moves of all sizes. Just load into the space you need. We can deliver door-to-door in many Alaska locations, including major cities and military bases. You can also load and unload at the service center in Anchorage.
- ReloCube containers are 6’ x 7’ x 8’ and are great for smaller moves. You can reserve as many as you think you’ll need and pay only for the ones you use. Door-to-door service is available in central Alaska, or you can load and unload at the service center in Anchorage.
Read more about how U-Pack makes shipping household goods to Alaska easy and affordable.
Can my pet move with me?
Yes! You can’t put your pet in the U-Pack equipment, but you can take them with you. To enter Alaska with a pet, you should have their current health certificate and a current rabies vaccination (if the pet is three months or older).
Can I bring my motorcycle or snowmobile?
Yes, U-Pack can move your motorcycle, snowmobiles and other ATVs to Alaska. They can be loaded into the trailer or ReloCube if the fluids are drained before moving.
How much does it cost to move to Alaska?
Moving rates are based on several factors — where you’re moving to and from, how much you’re moving and when you’re moving — so prices will vary. The best way to determine how much an Alaskan move will cost is to get a quote from each service type you’re considering. It’s easy to get U-Pack quotes online or over the phone to compare. When checking prices for different services, remember to add all fees (fuel, taxes, etc.) to get the final price, if they aren’t included.
What is the cheapest way to move to Alaska?
U-Pack is one of the fastest, easiest and most affordable ways to move to Alaska. Many find it a great value because the price includes moving equipment, fuel, transportation, and liability coverage.
Is it true that I can get paid to move there?
That’s just a myth! But you can get paid to live there after establishing residency and applying for the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). Read more about the Alaska PFD.
Living in Alaska
Life in Alaska can vary widely from location to location. This makes sense when you consider its size — 663,300 square miles, to be exact. The image below shows Alaska compared to the entire U.S.; it’s more than twice the size of Texas! Some places are more populated and have plenty of amenities, where other areas are small, isolated villages.
Whether you’re looking to live in a larger city with all the amenities or a small village only accessible by ferry, Alaska can meet almost any need. If you want to attend a university, Anchorage or Fairbanks may be the best bet. But for a slower pace of life, rural communities like Gateway or Ester may be a better option. Take a look at some of the best places to live in each region of Alaska.
Alaska cities by population
If you’re looking for a bigger city, these are the 10 most populated places in Alaska (and the populations, according to the 2010 U.S. Census):
- Anchorage (291,826)
- Fairbanks (31,535)
- Juneau (31,275)
- Sitka (8,881)
- Ketchikan (8,050)
- Wasila (7,831)
- Kenai (7,100)
- Bethel (6,080)
- Kodiak (6,130)
- Palmer (5,937)
Cost of living in Alaska
While most things here are more expensive than the national average, it isn’t the most expensive place to live. In 2019, 16 urban areas were more reported to be more expensive than the most expensive place in Alaska (Juneau). Alaska was more affordable than San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and Alexandria, VA – to name a few. Overall, it’s the 7th most expensive state to live in. A few things are close in cost to the national average, like cell phone service ($179 in Anchorage, equal to the U.S. average) and pizza ($10.99 in Anchorage for a medium cheese pie compared to the $10.31 U.S. average). But some items are priced higher here.
For example, iceberg lettuce is higher than the average cost ($2.23 each vs. $1.55), and an eye exam costs much more ($256 vs. $104). To learn more, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce regularly completes a comprehensive feature on the state’s cost of living.
Grocery costs can vary across the state since it’s more expensive to transport food to more remote areas. Prices are lowest in the urban communities (like Fairbanks and Wasilla) and highest in places where food must be flown in (like Bethel and Nome). Milk is currently around $4.78 a gallon, and gasoline is $4.95, according to a statewide average.
The unemployment rate is currently 6.2% — the highest in the nation — but it hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years. According to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the sectors with the most projected growth include health care, management, arts and entertainment, and food service.
Sunlight and darkness
Because of its location near the Arctic Circle, Alaska has different amounts of daylight and darkness compared to the lower 48. Winter is dark, with total daylight around 3-6 hours on average. Along with the cold, the need for more light can lead to higher-than-average electric bills. Many people take extra Vitamin D and use special sun lamps to fight the adverse effects of extreme darkness. In the summer, however, sunshine is abundant. Some places experience more than 20 hours of daylight, and when the sun does set, it still doesn’t get completely dark! To counteract this, residents may use blackout curtains in their bedrooms so they can sleep.
Alaska has an influential native culture and heritage, including festivals, native foods and even native languages being spoken in some areas. Hunters and fisherman often come to the state to enjoy outdoor culture and wide-open spaces. Because of Alaska’s location, there are some elements from Russian culture as well.
When looking at menus across the state, they have some unique items, including large game animals like moose, caribou and elk. Wild berries like lingonberries and salmonberries are common. Cold-water seafood like halibut and salmon are also popular since they can be caught locally. As far as the official state food, there isn’t any! But the king salmon is the state fish. An example of a traditional Alaskan dish is akutaq (also known as Eskimo ice cream), which is whipped animal fat with berries and snow.
After moving to Alaska, you'll enjoy summer temps in the 60s and 70s. Winter temperatures vary across the state. It'll be colder toward the interior and warmer near the ocean. Snowfall is always abundant, and Southeast Alaska receives the most rainfall. In the winter, allow for extra time to shovel snow and clear off the car.
The seasons fall differently here. Summer is short, mostly June through August. Fall is just a few weeks in September before the snow starts. It will snow through March, and April is the break-up, where everything is melting and thawing (and creating lots of mud). May is the spring month before summer begins again.
Traveling to Alaska
There are three main ways to get your family to Alaska: driving, flying or sailing. The best option will depend on your needs, but keep in mind that passports may be required to get there depending on the method of travel.
Driving to Alaska will take you through Canada and up the Alaska Highway (also known as the Alcan). The Alcan officially begins in Dawson Creek, BC (about 835 miles from Great Falls, MT) and ends in Delta Junction, AK — 1,422 miles later. After passing through Fort Nelson, BC, you’ll cross the Rocky Mountains — about 150 miles of narrow roads with curves and hills (and no guardrails through much of it). It can be overwhelming for some, which is why many turn to U-Pack as an alternative to driving a rental truck. Read this guide for more information about driving to Alaska.
Driving requires a passport because of travel through Canada. Canadian law requires all U.S. citizens to carry a valid U.S. passport, passport card or NEXUS card.
Alaska has several regional airports, but the primary ones are in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. So if you’re flying in, you’ll most likely land there. Direct flights are available from several cities throughout the U.S., but many require a stop in Seattle.
Flying does not require a passport because you’re traveling from state to state. Even if you happen to land in Canada (emergency landing, weather, etc.), a passport isn’t required because Alaska is the destination. Just make sure not to leave the airport.
The Alaska Marine Highway System includes more than 3,500 miles of coastline, making it a scenic way to get to the state! If you have some extra time or don’t want to drive through Canada, take a ferry in Bellingham, Washington. The boat will take you (and your vehicle) along the Canadian coast, to stops in Alaska cities like Whittier, Homer and Sand Point.
Sailing via the Alaska Marine Highway System (with no stops in Canada) won’t require a passport. But it will require a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license.
Making a military move to Alaska?
U-Pack helps military members get to several bases in Alaska, including Fort Greely, Fort Wainwright, Eielson AFB and JBER (Elmendorf AFB and Fort Richardson). Doing a Personally Procured Move (or PPM) with U-Pack is essentially the same as making a civilian move. But you may need empty and full weight tickets for reimbursement, and we can provide them.
Learn more about PCSing to Alaska.
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