One of the best and most convenient ways to explore Alaska and experience its many adventures is through an all-inclusive vacation. All-inclusives take the guesswork and hassle out of travel. You simply ‘arrive and thrive,’ leaving the tedium of planning to the pros.
Alaska and Fishing Vacations
The largest state in the union by a wide margin, Alaska is also the most rugged. Numerous American states have large and impressive mountain ranges, but nothing comes close to the vastness of rocky roller-coasters found in Alaska. It’s these incredible vistas and unspoiled wildnerness that comprise the cherry atop the sundae that is an Alaskan fishing adventure. For no matter which of the 12,000-plus rivers, streams, brooks, creeks or tributaries you happen to be fishing in, you will always have a perfect view of this beautiful yet unforgiving landscape. Imagine fishing in a postcard. That’s exactly what it’s like. Oh, and perhaps I should mention… Every single one of those aforementioned waterways is absolutely teeming with gamefish.
If you’ve never been on an Alaskan fishing vacation, sorting through all the available options, guides, lodges and charters is a daunting undertaking, to say the least. And if you’re interested in pursuing multiple species, in varying locations, trying to assemble your trip piecemeal, and have all the components work out without a hitch, is more difficult than pounding a square peg through a round hole—with a hot marshmallow! It’s for that reason that your best bet lies in an all-inclusive package. Airfare, airport shuttles, accomodations, fishing licenses, guides, meals—hell, even rods, reels & tackle if you want to skip the bother of bringing you own—just tell your favorite travel agent or adventure outfitter when you want to go and leave everything to them. That way, the only snags you’ll ever experience will be errant branches in the water!
So What Does All-inclusive Mean?
All-inclusive means different things to different people. Similarly, all-inclusive also has different connotations to the companies (namely, lodges and hotels) offering the packages. One of the most notable differences between lodges is the cost of transportation. Some packages include airfare—not just the major flight originating in your home city, but also the final transfer, which may require a float plane or “puddle jumper” if your final destination is a remote lodge far off the beaten path. For lodges accessible by car, airport transfers may or may not be part of the equation. If a shuttle service isn’t offered, a rental car may be required, thereby adding to your out-of-pocket expenses. Food is another important item to consider. Some lodges provide three meals daily (often referred to as Full American Plan or FAP), while others are just breakfast and dinner (Modified American Plan; MAP). Some lodges have an “open bar policy,” including beer, wine and other spirits in their rates, while others charge extra for “adult beverages.” And finally, there’s the tackle. Most lodges provide gear for their anglers, however it may not be on par with your current equipment. Don’t be afraid to ask what equipment they have. Chances are it all be in fine working order, but it may not be the most current gear available. That’s not to say it won’t be perfectly fishable, but if you’re picky about your rods, reels & terminal tackle, you’d be wise to find out before you plunk down your hard earned money. And if your outfitter/travel agent isn’t sure, take it upon yourself to source that info. At the end of the day it’s your trip, not theirs. Bottom line: Do your homework and fully understand everything your prospective package includes (or doesn’t include) before booking.
Bare Bones vs Luxury Lodges
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same can be said for the concept of luxury, a descriptor that is subject to massive interpretation. For example, I know people who think of camping as a motel without room service. I also know people who view luxury as a campsite with running water. You have to determine exactly what it is you are looking for, then find the accomodations and/or services that provide exactly (or as close to exactly) what you want. Don’t buckle to peer pressure—if you know you won’t be happy at a lodge that doesn’t have plush carpeting, king beds, and 300-thread count sheets, don’t agree to join your friends at a place with unfinished wood floors, bunk beds or army cots, and outhouses. Oftentimes, it’s the little things that matter. Little things have a habit of influencing the big things. And when your “big thing” means hooking up with a world record-class gamefish, you want to be in a very zen place for that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of course, there’s a flip-side to the bare bones vs luxury equation: cost. In most cases, you get what you pay for. This is especially true for travel. But again, this element requires a little honesty on your part. Well, okay, more than a little. Champagne tastes don’t mix with beer budgets. If you can’t afford (or if you’re not willing to pay) more than a set amount, don’t even bother looking in that higher price range—you’re going to be sorry. Simply come to terms with your finances and then select the all-inclusive package IN YOUR PRICE RANGE that satisfies all (or most) of your wants and needs. Once that aspect of your trip is over and done with, you’re free to pack and shove off on that epic adventure you’ve been dreaming of.
What Does All-inclusive Not Include?
Gratuity — This aspect of any trip will NEVER be subject to interpretation. You will ALWAYS be responsible for your own gratuities. Only in extremely rare cases are tips included for pilots, guides, camp cooks/chefs, and the other people tasked with making your stay memorable.
Alcohol — Some lodges have alcoholic beverages included in the package price, while others off it for an up-charge. And there are some lodges that don’t have any alcohol on offer, requiring you to bring your own.
Access to Services — Every lodge offers different services, once again either included in the package or for an additional fee. Fishing, hunting, guided sightseeing and photography excursions, fly-out fishing (float planes, puddle jumpers)… The list is endless. Budget your time and money accordingly, and don’t be afraid to ask question and make comparisons. After all, you’re the consumer—you owe it to yourself to explore all your options before making a final decision.
Changes to your Itinerary — A great question to ask when booking your all-inclusive Alaskan fishing adventure is about the flexibility of your itinerary. Some lodges don’t like to deviate from a pre-set schedule, however there are many factors that could require major or minor schedule changes. Weather. Illness. Transportation issues (shit happens!). And then there’s the simple scenario that you’re absolutely loving fishing for salmon and you no longer want to head off on your previously arranged halibut trip. In many cases, factoring the ability to be flexible is a trip component worth paying for.
Is An All-Inclusive Alaskan Adventure Worth It?
Truth is, only you can answer that question. In many cases, not only are all-inclusive packages worth the price, they end up being cheaper than if you tried to assemble the package yourself. If you’re the kind of traveler who doesn’t have time for research—you simply want to show up somewhere and let your hosts and guides handle everything—then an all-inclusive package is definitely the way to go. However, if you don’t mind putting in a little leg-work, or if you revel in details, then by all means take your time, do some research, and see how the prices compare. Whatever it takes to give you the best bang for the buck, or to experience all there is to see and do, you’ll appreciate your Alaskan adventure even more knowing you explored all available options before booking that trip of a lifetime.