We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Visiting Alaska from May 9 to May 31

Level Contributor
18 posts
Save Topic
Visiting Alaska from May 9 to May 31

My husband & I will be making our 1st visit to Alaska and are really looking forward to it. We will also be visiting a bit of eastern Canada,Eastern USA(New York etc) and Hawaii on the way home. It is a long way from Australia, so we try to fit in what we can! We are in our early 60's and try to be very acvtive. We will need clothes for both warm & cold areas but are naturally wanting to carry as little luggage as possible because we are travelling on ferries, self-driving and a couple of plane trips.

I can see from the forum that layered clothing is advised but how warm, will there still be a lot of snow in early to mid May, should we bring waterproof type boots, coats etc? Is dressing in Alaska more casual or formal?

Also, we would prefer not to book too much in advance in case the

weather is variable. Is this sensible? for example- the shuttle bus in Denali on about May 17 and the White Pass and Yukon Rail trip on about May 21 - should we lock these in?

My last query regards the Ferries, we are told the shedule can be very unreliable, are we really taking a chance using the system?

Hope this is not question overload, but I would appreciate some local opinions. Thanks

haines, alaska
Destination Expert
for Haines
Level Contributor
7,118 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Visiting Alaska from May 9 to May 31

Hopeful what a huge trip you have planned !

Maybe I can reassure you a little on the southeast Alaska bit.....I don't think you will need advance reservations for the White Pass Rail trip, we have booked it a day ahead of time during the height of summer for visiting relatives and never have had a problem.......

The ferries here have been a little iffy this winter because the newer fast ferry "Fairweather" is a lighter catamaran type boat that does not do well in really windy weather.......May should have more stable weather and the ferry system should be running on schedule by then....(cross your fingers ??).....I would suggest you contact the ferry from your hotel room the day before to make sure there have been no changes........

Dress here in the southeast is VERY informal.....rubber boots come in real handy.....(they are bulky to pack, but will take you anywhere comfortably....maybe buy them here and donate them to Salvation Army when you leave ?).....I would also add a fold up rain jacket .......

otherwise jeans or wool pants, and cotton shirts with fleece as a second layer and maybe a light jacket, should be all you need......

In Haines, we have had over 24 ft of snow this winter (not all at once, thank goodness) a new record.......Will try to have it all melted off by the time you get here......

North Bend, Oregon
Level Contributor
639 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Visiting Alaska from May 9 to May 31

I'll second MomBear's comments... casual is the name of the game here. Be comfortable and stay dry.

May is a wonderful time to visit also. Just in SouthEast, you've got a great jazz/blues (and yes, drinking) festival in Pelican, the Little Norway festival in Petersburg, and of course, the Craft Beer and Homebrew festival in Haines.

I don't remember TOO many years where it snowed in May. Of course, just when I thought Juneau was melting off to begin spring, it's snowing again here today!


Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
1,827 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Visiting Alaska from May 9 to May 31

From an outer layer of a Gortex-type mountain parka to a light Polar-tec or wool jacket underneath, continue on to a light sweater, a long sleeved shirt and then an undershirt. All of those layers together will allow bundling up for your time in the mountains or along the coast in windy, blowing rain. Then you can take them off and wear each individually as called for on better days. A warm hat will also be nice. Contrary to conventional wisdom, you could use a thicker cotton jacket under the mountain parka if you will not be out for extended periods or sweating too much. Cotton is only a bad insulator when it gets wet. For protecting the legs a cheap pair of outer rain pants or waterproof nylon or just plain nylon pants will add quite a bit of versatility. I have a pair of non-waterproof nylon pants that unzip to shorts. They have done a great job as outer pants unless I plan on a whole lot of time out in storms, and most tourists do not spend half a day in a storm.

You can go 99% of the places in Alaska with just a nice shirt and pants.

The idea of light rubber boots (mid calf) is a good one. Formal dress? I have heard of town dances in fishing towns where everyone was wearing their rubber boots and dancing up a storm. Donating them to SA is a good idea, and shopping for them there first is a good idea. Most of the time standard hiking boots will do just fine. Some Alaskans go hiking in the tundra with sports / tennis shoes, and I use an old pair for jumping in and out of the boat, and carry dry pants, socks and boots to change into after a day on the river. That avoids topping the boots and getting wet anyhow.

Personally I have had very good luck in not booking in advance. You are ahead of the tourist wave, so your chances are good.


Level Contributor
18 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: Visiting Alaska from May 9 to May 31

Many thanks to the people who answered me re my visit from May 9 to 31. I really appreciate you taking the time and I found the information very helpful. I am now more confident of what to pack and we are looking forward to a wonderful trip

powder springs, ga
Level Contributor
47 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: Visiting Alaska from May 9 to May 31


I agree. You really get some good advice on this website. Last year we went to Australia for a short visit and it was wonderful. Really loved the country and the people. Got some ideas for tours from this website and found some incredible guides that loved their country and gave us great tours.

We will be in Alaska for the first time in late May, early June on a cruise. Hardest part is working out the excursions.


6. Re: Visiting Alaska from May 9 to May 31

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 29 August 2009, 03:16