Alaska…The Last Frontier, Land of the Midnight Sun, The Great Land, Where Wild Meets Wild… Whatever you call it, it is undeniably a bucket list destination.
We have always wanted to explore Alaska. One of the reasons we started travel nursing in the first place was in hopes of having an opportunity to live and work in Alaska. With our dream in mind, we quickly learned that it was possible but not simple. There is a lot of planning involved in coming to Alaska (especially as a family with kids and dogs), and you need to save up your money for it too!
First, you need an Alaska nursing license.
We have all worked with different state nursing departments to get a nursing license. Sometimes it is simple and smooth. Sometimes it takes some time, follow-up, more time, and more phone calls. Alaska is the latter. So prepare in advance, start the process, and practice your patience. It may just be the season of the world, but they were quick to say that they are overwhelmed with an abundance of requests, so everything takes more time.
Second, you need to get a job.
Job listings in Alaska seem to be relatively frequent. Depending on your specialty and agency, a variety of jobs are posted in the major cities around Alaska year-round. Rates seem to vary greatly, and some are very dependent on location. For example, if you get a job in Nome because it is not accessible by car, the contract is likely to include housing and other accommodations. Most of the island contracts will not allow kids or dogs, so keep that in mind as well. Alaska seems to post its contracts farther in advance than other states. So keep an eye out early before they get snagged up!
Third, you need to figure out how you are going to get there.
This is a great, quick option. However, if you fly to Alaska, you have to rent a car when you are there. The land is so vast that you will want to drive to explore all the beautiful sites. Some housing accommodations include car rentals, so keep an eye out for those.
This is a beautiful but very long option. We drove from Arizona, which happens to be almost 4,000 miles. Driving the Alaska-Canada highway is such a memorable experience. If this is a doable journey for you, and you have the time, I couldn’t recommend it more. We allowed ourselves two weeks for the journey, and it worked, but the more time you have, the better. Grab The Milepost book and go. See the sights, and enjoy! However, what time of year are you coming to Alaska? We drove to Alaska in April, and even in April, we drove through one of the scariest snow storms we have ever been in. So plan accordingly and check the weather along your route.
This is an expensive but beautiful and laid-back travel option. There are ferries from Washington to Alaska, and they can take a few days to about a week to get to your destination, depending on where you are going. The challenge here is the schedule. Ferries do not travel between ports daily, so this would take advanced planning.
Fourth, you need to find a place to live.
Alaska is expensive, especially in the summer. Housing prices blew our minds. We travel as a family with dogs, so our options were more limited, but most furnished, 2-bedroom apartments or homes ranged anywhere from $4,000-$7,000 per month. The options in the $2500-$4,000 range were few and far between and not available, even though we were looking several months in advance. The summer fills up fast here, and the market is hot. Maybe you can travel with a buddy and share expenses? Maybe you are traveling alone and can find a bedroom option or a smaller, more affordable apartment? Maybe you can travel here via RV? RV travel would, of course, be very weather dependent, and planning ahead would be crucial as the RV parks fill up here months in advance. For us, our options were so expensive and so limited that we decided to rent an unfurnished apartment and rent furniture. Although this wasn’t the simplest, most ideal plan, it saved us thousands of dollars a month which was well worth it.
Fifth, you need to plan as many adventures as you possibly can, and have fun!!
Alaska is incredible. There is so much to do and see. From the moment we got here, we hit the ground running, knowing we will barely scratch the surface in the four months we are here. If you are coming in the summer, plan some of your big excursions ahead of time because, yes, you guessed it, things book up fast! So far, we have seen an abundance of wildlife, hiked a glacier, cruised the Kenai fjords, and gazed on some of the most beautiful lands we have ever seen. We have float plane excursions planned to go salmon fishing and view grizzly bears feeding on salmon jumping through a waterfall. We are planning campouts and a trip to Denali National Park. All of this requires appropriate gear and planning, a sense of adventure, and a decent travel fund. So gather your hiking gear, your clothing layers, your bug repellent, and your bear spray, and get out and start enjoying Alaska! All of the planning and preparation are beyond worth it. You can do it, and you’ll never regret making it happen!