Alaska is a big, beautiful, and unique destination and there are many things to consider when designing a custom tour program. The size of the group, the amount of time guests have to travel, and their desired activity level are just a few of the important factors we must consider when creating a custom private Alaska program.

Based on our years of experience we have compiled a list of questions that have proven helpful in determining exactly what our guests are looking for in their Alaska visit. We've also provided detailed explanations about why the answers to these questions are so important. You'll find these questions outlined below for your consideration.

Please review this information carefully and consider the answers to each of these questions and how they relate to your 'dream' visit to Alaska. And when you're ready to contact us to request a custom proposal, you'll find that these questions and details are also incorporated into our Custom Proposal Request form.

What is 'Independent Private Touring?'

While most guided tour programs are for larger groups of visitors, Alaska Private Touring also specializes in designing private custom itineraries for individuals or small groups of 10 or less. A local guide will meet you upon arrival and will accompany you throughout your journey while also serving as your private driver. Our knowledgeable and friendly driver/guides will not only get you where you need to go, but by sharing their unique stories and experiences will become welcome traveling companions to accompany you on your Alaska journey.

Our private touring programs offer the best possible opportunity for visitors to enjoy the benefits of a guided program, but on a custom independent basis. Your personal driver/guide will take care of the logistical details such as reconfirming services so that you can truly sit back, relax, and take in the amazing surroundings that Alaska has to offer.

Driver/guides are most applicable to highway touring and are not practical for all destinations in Alaska. For some itineraries a driver/guide may not accompany guests on the excursions or during stays at remote nature lodges. In other cases we may recommend a separate guide to accompany guests who are touring independently but wish to have a first-class, one-on-one experience.

While not all Alaska visitor services can be provided on an exclusive basis, depending on the caliber of experience you or your guests may be looking for, Independent Private Touring can also be designed to include 'private' excursions. Small vessel charters, private visits, or even specialty private excursion guides can be included on a case-by-case basis for a more exclusive experience.

What is a 'Custom Group Tour?'

For parties of more than 10 guests, or for tour leaders or tour operators wishing to promote and publish a group program, Alaska Private Touring is your go-to resource for group tour planning and operations. In the case of a Custom Group Program, the exact number of travelers may not be known at the time of planning, and so we will secure a specified number of rooms or tour seats on your behalf so that you may confidently promote and sell the program.

Because larger touring vehicles are typically required for Custom Group Tours, a separate guide or tour leader is required to supplement the services of the driver. Whether you provide a tour leader or we provide a local guide to accompany your guests, this person is responsible for reconfirming services, assisting with check-in procedures, and communicating with our Private Touring Team in the event of any unexpected delays or weather issues.

What is the estimated size of your party?

This information assists us in determining the properties, activities, and transportation options that are best suited to your party.

What are the approximate ages of your party, group, or target market?

Knowing the approximate ages of the guests who will be traveling allows us to choose and recommend activities that are most appropriate. If your party includes small children for example, we will endeavor to include activities that are best suited for them. Knowing a bit about the approximate ages of the travelers also enables us to plan a suitable travel pace to ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy their visit to Alaska.

How long do you plan to spend traveling through Alaska/Yukon?

Alaska and Yukon are BIG and travel times between various destinations can be longer than what you might expect. The amount of time you have to spend in Alaska/Yukon will largely determine how much of this vast land you will be able to include in your custom visit.

What is the expected level of accommodations?

We can generally provide custom proposals also based on the following designations:


Tourist-class properties:
Clean and comfortable accommodations with additional facilities/amenities. Some properties may have a small restaurant or offer a simple, complimentary breakfast.


Moderate properties:
Include common guest amenities and facilities/services. Some properties have a restaurant or offer a complimentary breakfast, plus other amenities such as shuttle service, or tour desk.


First-class:
Upgraded accommodations by Alaska standards, often the best available. Rooms are nicely decorated and offer great comfort. Often properties have additional facilities such as a restaurant, bar/lounge, and gift shop. Exercise facility and or pool typically only found in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Please keep in mind that Alaska does not offer any 5-star accommodations, and that first-class accommodations are available only in a few destinations. When first-class properties are requested we will use the best available accommodations as appropriate in the more remote Alaskan destinations where there are not many choices.

Though Alaska and Yukon offer some great properties, it is important to note that in general the hotel standards here are considered lower than those found elsewhere.

Another consideration in determining the most suitable level of accommodations is price. Due to Alaska's relatively short visitor season, prices here will generally be higher than similar accommodations in other destinations.


Nature Lodges

For independent travelers or smaller, more adventurous groups there are a variety of nature lodges throughout Alaska that can be integrated into a custom Alaska itinerary. As most of these lodges are a bit remote they are typically accessible only by small plane. And due to the exclusive nature of the lodges many of them include meals and a variety of activities to keep guests busy. Capacities are limited but nature lodges can be a great way for visitors to get 'off the beaten path' for a truly unique Alaskan experience.


Bed Configurations

Hotels in Alaska typically have either two double OR two queen-size beds, depending on the property. Rooms with three or four beds generally do not exist, and in many cases rollaway beds are not possible due to the size of the room. For these reasons all rates provided for triple or quad pricing are based on EXISTING bedding in the room, meaning guests will be required to share. Child rates (guests under 12) can be provided upon request and are also based on children sharing a room with at least one full-paying adult, and using EXISTING bedding.

What are the approximate dates of travel?

If you already have specific dates, such as in the case of a Pre/Post Cruise tour, please include these with your initial request. If not, please provide an approximate date or month for which you wish to plan or let us know what specific activities/events you wish to include for your group and we'll be happy to provide suggestions.

Alaska's primary visitor season is during the summer, typically mid-May and through mid-September. While some hotel and tour suppliers offer lower 'shoulder-season' rates in May and September, weather conditions can vary from one year to the next and not all activities are operating at this time.

Many services in Alaska are seasonal in nature and do not operate year-round. This can mean challenges in the early season with vendors and properties reopening and training seasonal staff. Later summer visits to Alaska can result in weather challenges, particularly in the northern regions of the state where an early snowfall may affect services.

If you are interested in winter activities, there are definitely a few things to keep in mind when planning your Alaska visit. Aurora viewing (Northern Lights) begins in the northern region of the state in late fall and continues through the winter into early spring. But if you also wish to combine some other 'famous' Alaska winter activities, you may wish to plan your visit a bit later. There is typically not enough snow for dog sledding or skiing until late November or even early December. There are also a number of annual winter events that take place in Fairbanks, such as the Winter Ice Festival, and in/near Anchorage such as the Fur Rendezvous Festival and Iditarod Sled Dog race. Please see Alaska in Winter for more information.

Do you already have an itinerary in mind?

We have provided several Sample Itineraries to help get you started, which have been organized by the total duration of each program. Please know that we don't expect this small list of samples to meet everyone's needs. We invite you to peruse our samples and we invite you to peruse our samples and let us know which program most closely matches your ideal itinerary. From here, we can assess your specific needs and customize the program to make it a perfect fit. If you need a bit more time, let us know where you would prefer to spend it. Likewise, if you need to cut out a night or two, we will be happy to provide some suggestions based on the amount of time you have.

If you already have an itinerary in mind just forward it our way. Our Custom Proposal form will allow you to easily forward itinerary attachments. Alternately, you can provide a link to an itinerary you have found on another website. We will take a look and let you know how best to customize it to meet your needs.

What do you wish to do and see?

If you do not have a specific itinerary in mind, are there any destinations that you specifically wish to include in the itinerary? Are you planning for a first-time visit to Alaska and thus wish to have a fairly comprehensive 'introductory' tour? Have you or your guests visited Alaska previously and wish to focus on a new or specific aspect of the destination? If limited on time, what are the main priorities?

Who will be accompanying your guests?

Regardless of the size of your party, the service provided by Alaska Private Touring includes a detailed documentation package that will include a daily operational itinerary, travel vouchers, visitor guides, and brochures that explain in detail the services and activities that will take place each day. Additionally, Alaska Private Touring provides 24/7 customer service contact in the event you require assistance outside typical business hours.

Even with all of this external support provided by Alaska Private Touring, each group must also have an internal representative who is responsible for communicating the schedule with the group members, reconfirming services each day, and for checking the group in at the time of each included service.


Driver/Guide (Maximum 10 guests)

Independent private touring guests will typically be accompanied by an experienced driver/guide. This experienced Alaska travel professional will not only accompany you for the travel portions of your program, but will provide assistance with reconfirming the various included services and making sure you are checked in and expected for each. Depending on the specific program, the driver/guide may not accompany you on the excursions or during your stay at remote nature lodges, but will ensure you get where you need to be, when you need to be there.


Group Tour Leader (FOC)

For larger groups, many of our clients will bring or provide a tour director to accompany the group to Alaska, who also provides this 'internal' role. If the group will travel with its own Tour Leader please let us know and we will be happy to build in a 'Free of Charge' (FOC) place in the program for this group representative. In this case the costs of the Tour Leader's services (rooms, transportation, tours, meals) are spread out and shared by the paying guests tour cost and the Tour Leader travels 'Free of Charge.' We will plan for the Tour Leader to accompany the group in his/her own 'single' room by default, but can budget for a shared room upon request.

Some clients who are new to Alaska may be hesitant to send a Group Tour Leader who is not familiar with this destination. Please keep in mind that we will provide a very detailed operational itinerary and documentation package for your tour leader that will provide all the information needed to accompany your guests through their Alaska visit. All the details about where the group needs to be, when they need to be there, and what will be needed once they arrive will be detailed in the itinerary. Additionally, all drivers provided for your group are extremely familiar with Alaska / Yukon and can supplement your tour leader's knowledge by providing additional information and local history in addition to making recommendations for comfort stops, dining options, and sightseeing highlights during the groups travels.


Local Guide

As an alternative to an internal Tour Leader accompanying your group's visit through Alaska/Yukon, Alaska Private Touring can also provide local, experienced guides to accompany your guests. This guide would meet guests upon arrival in Alaska, and travel with the group throughout the itinerary until the group's departure. In this case the guide would participate in the same excursions as the guests, stay at the same hotels, and provide local knowledge and information to help make the experience unique for your guests. The local guide will also be responsible for reconfirming services, addressing any issues that occur during the group's visit, and will act as liaison between your guests and our office. This additional guide service allows your guests to travel comfortably with the peace of mind that comes from knowing someone else is taking care of them every step of the way.


Languages
As an added benefit to Local Guide service, we can provide language-specific guides to accompany groups visiting from all around the world. While some languages are a bit more common than others, we can typically provide guides that speak the following languages:
• German
• French
• Italian – limited
• Spanish
• Russian

We may, with advance notice, be able to secure local guides who speak other languages on a case-by-case basis. All language-speaking guides are subject to availability at the time of your group confirmation.


FOC and Local Guide

It's not uncommon for our travel partners to ask us to include both a local guide – someone knowledgeable about the destination – and an FOC for a group or company representative to accompany the group. We are happy to include both options in our custom program offer at your request.

What meals do you wish to include?

For Independent Touring guests, we are happy to include daily breakfast upon request. While some lunches and dinners may be included as part of an excursion or lodge stay, we recommend guests purchase any non-included meals on their own to provide the most flexibility. In the case where meals are not included as part of our program, we will include a list of recommended options for most destinations to accompany the final documents provided.

For larger groups of 10 or more guests, we can include daily breakfast, half-board, or full-board, depending on your exact needs. Please keep in mind that prearranged meals are particularly expensive in Alaska. Included meals will include the cost of the meal, any applicable taxes, and gratuity. For this reason we still typically recommend guests traveling with a larger group purchase meals on their own while traveling in Alaska, but of course also understand the convenience in having these meals included in the program.


Breakfast (Independent Touring and Custom Group Tours):

Most properties in Alaska and Yukon offer a simple, self-serve continental or full American buffet breakfast. Others may offer a plated breakfast option. The exact options will vary from one property to the next and take into consideration the level of accommodation.

While a few hotels do include a complimentary breakfast, these are typically continental-style breakfasts with few hot options. When daily breakfast is requested we will do our best to incorporate properties that offer a complimentary breakfast so as to provide the best value.


Lunch Information (Custom Group Tours):

Depending on the activities planned for each day, lunch venues vary greatly. Some excursions include a lunch due to the timing of the tour and lack of options. Other excursions have the option to include a lunch. In other cases, the custom Alaska program may include travel by train during the typical lunch time, and so lunch can be included on the train or left as an option for guests to purchase on their own.

During longer driving days it may be necessary to plan a lunch stop somewhere in route. Again, this meal can be included as part of a larger group's tour, or simply made available for guests to purchase on their own. The highways have a variety of meal options available in the more populated areas. In the remote sections there will be basic diners or cafes to ensure guests will never go hungry. The isolated locations and seasonal operations do have an effect on prices however, so prepare for a bit of sticker shock. Alternatively, most large towns have national grocery chains, should you opt for a picnic along the way.

Pre-planned group lunches typically include one entrée, plus choice of coffee, hot/iced tea, or soda.


Dinner Information (Custom Group Tours):

Group dinner options also vary greatly depending on the needs of the group, the destination, how large the group is, and the day's schedule. Restaurants may be located in the hotel, or the meal may take place in a local restaurant.

Generally dinners consist of two or three courses: soup/salad, entrée, and in many cases dessert. All meals include water, and choice of coffee, hot/iced tea and perhaps other non-alcoholic beverages such as soda.

Wherever possible, meals are typically planned so that guests will have a selection of main entrees from which to choose from. Some dinner venues require entrée selections to be made in advance. When the group is spending more than one night in a destination, we try to limit the number of dinners at a hotel restaurant to no more than one to ensure the group is able to experience the local cuisine.


Special Needs:

When requesting meals, please also specify any specific dietary restrictions at the time of your request, such as Kosher or vegetarian meals that will apply to the group as a whole. This will allow us to select the properties and/or restaurants most likely to be able to accommodate these needs when preparing our offer. While many hotels and restaurants are open to providing special culture-specific meals, please understand that these services will not be available in all Alaska and Yukon destinations.

If certain members of your party have specific dietary needs/restrictions, such as gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian/vegan options, please include these details with your final manifest so that we can pass this information along to our hotel and restaurant partners well in advance of your guests' arrival. Last-minute requests for special meals may be difficult to honor as many destinations are somewhat remote and have limited access to ingredients.

How do you wish to travel?

While vehicle transportation is the primary means of moving throughout Alaska and Yukon, other means of transportation can add variety and a welcome break to overland highway touring.


Highway Transportation

Vehicle charters are an economical and flexible way to travel in Alaska and Yukon. In Anchorage and Fairbanks there are a variety of charter vehicle services available for multi-day itineraries. State-maintained highways connect some of the most popular destinations in the Southcentral and Interior regions, as well as the Yukon Territory.

Transportation vehicle options include 10-12 passenger Sprinter vans to deluxe 55 passenger motorcoaches. The onboard amenities for motorcoaches vary between companies and particular vehicles, but usually include microphone, audio systems, and visual entertainment facilities. To ensure guest comfort, we recommend filling motorcoaches to no more than 80% capacity. This is particularly important for itineraries involving longer driving segments.

For tours beginning in Southeast Alaska, local coach charter services for ports such as Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan are used. Please keep in mind that vehicles in Southeast Alaska are typically somewhat older, but are in good condition, well maintained, and are very typical for this region of the state. Many companies contract their drivers as driver-guides for overland tours, thereby providing narration throughout the tour and eliminating the need for step-on guides. In addition, the drivers are familiar with itinerary stops and dining options along the highway routes and are happy to provide suggestions or recommendations.


Alaska by Air

Alaska has a significant regional airline network with Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau centering as the hubs. The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is the largest in Alaska and services the greatest number of international and domestic passenger flights. The airport has two terminals that service the airlines. The South terminal has limited passenger services, but does provide a complimentary shuttle to the North terminal where restaurants, cafes, and car rental agencies are located. From Anchorage you can access any region of the state with Alaska Airlines or a local carrier.

Fairbanks is a popular point of entry for those with limited time but wish to see as much of the Interior region as possible. There are a few seasonal direct flights in the summer, but most flights stop in Anchorage in route. Fairbanks is the main hub for the Interior region of the state, and is the best location for popular sightseeing flights to the Arctic Circle or aurora viewing.

Juneau can be used as a point of entry or exit for groups wishing to see the Inside Passage area without embarking on a multi-day cruise. Juneau has numerous direct flights to and from and also serves Juneau serves as the Southeast regional hub with daily flights to local cities offered by Alaska Airlines and local carriers.

The national and regional airlines provide service in planes such as Boeing 737's or MD-80's, but local carriers use much smaller wheeled or float planes. Depending upon the destination, the planes may hold anywhere from six to thirty-six passengers. The plane equipment may be modern but the weather in Alaska is unpredictable. We recommend an extra day scheduled into an itinerary for groups traveling in remote regions with inclement weather.


Rail Transportation

The Alaska Railroad provides daily service connection between Anchorage and the southern ports of Whittier and Seward and also between Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks in the north. Including a railroad segment within a custom Alaska program offers a nice addition to highway touring, and is easy to fit into any itinerary. The Alaska Railroad is one of the most sought after transportation services in the state because it is more than just transportation – it is an attraction as well! Standard rail car service (also called Adventure Class service) is available on all rail segments. Standard rail cars are one-level rail cars with comfortable seats offering good leg room. Most trains have a dining car for optional meals and some also host a snack bar where guests can purchase additional food or beverages.

In 2005 the deluxe Gold Star service opened a new dimension of railroad comfort, offering panoramic glass dome views and an open-air observation deck on the upper level. Gold Star passengers enjoy confirmed upper level seating, priority check-in, and a private outdoor viewing deck. The lower level of each car is the dining area where meal service is INCLUDED for all guests. Exact meals vary depending on the actual rail segment traveled.
NOTE: Gold Star service is available for the Anchorage/Talkeetna/Denali and Anchorage/Seward routes.

Another upgrade option includes the first-class dome cars owned by the major cruise lines. These luxury dome rail cars include the McKinley Explore/Midnight Sun Express (Anchorage/Talkeetna/Denali only, with a slightly different schedule), and Wilderness Express. All of these options offer onboard narration, a restaurant/bistro located within the same railcar, assigned seating, and domed window viewing. Meals are available for purchase or can be included in your custom program.

For guests arriving/departing Alaska via cruise ship, the cruise lines do offer exclusive train service between Whittier/Seward and Anchorage. The schedules for this rail service are different from those listed above, and are exclusive to the cruise lines. Alaska Private Touring cannot book this special service and can only include rail service based on these specific schedules.


White Pass & Yukon Route Railway

For Yukon itineraries or visits to southeast Alaska, the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway offers a scenic and historic component to any program. Born of the Klondike Gold Rush and constructed in 1898, this iron trail connects Skagway to Fraser, BC through some of North America's most outstanding natural beauty. Daily service is offered between Skagway and Fraser, BC and provides a unique touring option for guests traveling between Skagway and Whitehorse, YT. Between Whitehorse and Fraser, guests typically travel via their private vehicle.
Note: Passports are required when traveling between Canada and Alaska.


Alaska Marine Highway Ferry Transportation
Many locations in Alaska are not accessible by train or road. The Alaska Marine Highway ferries provide an inexpensive alternative to reach these destinations.

The Alaska Marine Highway connects the Prince William Sound ports of Whittier and Valdez and provides a time-saving 'shortcut' while also providing a unique scenic element to an itinerary. Ferry vessels can accommodate a variety of touring vehicles, including full-size coaches, allowing the vehicle and driver to travel with guests.

The ferry system can also be part of the experience of traveling in Southeast Alaska and provides an enjoyable way to explore the various regions and also connects Alaska with northern British Columbia, Canada. Between the ports of Juneau, Haines and Skagway, the Alaska Marine Highway provides almost daily service, allowing flexibility for groups wishing to reach these destinations.

Overnight routes further south provide additional connections to Alaska's southeast ports. Travel on the ferry, however, is much different from 'cruising' through Southeast Alaska. The actual ferry vessels serving various routes vary greatly. Depending on the vessel there may be two, three, and four-person cabins used for a group and to maximize the vessel's capacity for each sailing, cabins must be shared as efficiently as possible. Most vessels offer cabins with inside or outside view, and with or without complete bathroom facilities. Availability varies from one itinerary to the next and for some specific routes names are required at the time of reservation.

Ferry service is not daily between all destinations and care should be taken to ensure your itinerary will match the ferry schedule. The Alaska Marine Highway typically publishes the annual schedule in late October for the following summer. If you are interested in including an overnight ferry journey in your itinerary, please contact us so that we can provide more information based on your specific needs.

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