Ever noticed those advertising disclaimers that say something like, “Offer not valid in Alaska or Hawaii.”? Be prepared to experience it first-hand. Yes, visiting Alaska is generally costlier than most other American destinations. HOWEVER, here are a few tips to help make your Alaskan roadtrip more affordable:

1. NORTHERN LIGHTS DINING & ENTERTAINMENT COUPON BOOK – This huge coupon book has the Alaskan consumer in mind. BUT, for the independent traveler who will spend a week or two on the go in Alaska, it’s well worth the $55 + shipping investment. The book is about the size of a paperback dictionary, and is filled with 340 pages of deep dining, lodging and attractions discounts throughout Alaska. Typically… two for one discounts. Some of the coupons are for national chain restaurants like Papa John's, DQ and Subway, and are redeemable at several locations. Only one coupon book is necessary for your family or group. CLICK HERE for more details and a complete list of discounts.

2. LODGING – During peak season, even Alaskan Motel 6s and Super 8s ask for 2-3 times what you would expect to pay in the lower 48. Mid-level lodging often commands luxury rates. Remember that MOST chain hotels/motels have policies that allow you to cancel with no penalty within a few days of your reservation. Just like airfare, lodging rates can fluctuate for the same dates. Shop around, lock in your first choice, then keep shopping all the way up to your departure date.

3. FLIGHT – There are many detailed theories as to how soon and which day you should purchase your airline ticket for any destination. General consensus is that the optimal moment to purchase your tickets is on a Tuesday or Wednesday about 54 days before your flight.  Weekday flights are usually cheaper than Friday and Sunday flights. These are generalities and analogous to trying to outsmart the stock market. However, in most cases, you’ll pay much more if you purchase your tickets more than three months in advance, or wait until within a week or two before your trip. Typically, flights that depart mid-week (Tues., Wed., Thu.) are less costly than weekend flights.

4. FOOD – Alaska is filled with wonderful unique dining opportunities, from food trailers to fine dining. No visit to Alaska is complete without the obligatory salmon dinner. Enjoying the local cuisine is an integral part of any travel experience, yet Alaska presents some additional financial challenges. Pack along a bag full of non-perishable snacks for the road. Crackers, chips, meat snacks, candy, nuts and granola bars are ideal (albeit, a bit unhealthy). You might even want to bring along some peanut butter and squeeze jelly. After landing in Anchorage, consider a quick stop at Fred Meyer or Walmart for supplies. You’ll need water, beverages and snacks. A cheap styrofoam cooler is also a good investment. Look for lodging that provides a free breakfast and eat heartily. Check for coupons and coupon book at visitor centers and hotel lobbies. And don’t forget the Northern Lights Dining & Entertainment Coupon Book. You certainly don’t want to deprive yourself of great restaurants and dining experiences, but three restaurant meals a day will add up very quickly.

5. GASOLINE – Gas prices in Alaska are consistently among the highest in the US. That being said, prices in Anchorage and immediate vicinity are nearly always the lowest in Alaska by far. Make sure you have a full tank when you leave Anchorage, and wait until you return to Anchorage before filling up. In general, the larger the community, the lower the price. Anchorage is the lowest. Small crossroads communities like Delta Junction, Tok and Glennallen usually have the highest gas prices. The price difference is worth the effort, but don’t take chances. You do NOT want to run out of gas in rural Alaska.

Due to basic economic principles, Alaska is more expensive than most of the country. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s certainly not the fault of the smiling front desk receptionist, the busy waitress, the friendly tour guide or the hard-working housekeeper. I suspect that all of those front line folks are regularly subjected to a great deal of cost-related grousing, so let’s not take it our on our Alaskan hosts. With some understanding and careful planning, finances need not be worrisome while enjoying this magical place.