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The Roaming Boomers: Dressing for Alaska

We are about to head off on our very first Alaskan cruise where we will be exploring Alaska's Inside Passage. Yeah!

As we contemplate our trip, one of the first things that comes to mind is what to pack for an Alaska cruise? Are we thinking Eskimo fashion with mukluks, long undies, and a caribou-skin coat, or swimsuits and shorts?

We spent a fair amount of time scouring websites, the cruise line's FAQs, and here is what we learned:

  1. First of all, like Carol here, you have probably packed too much and can't even get your suitcase closed. Trust me, there's not much worse than having to lighten your suitcase in front of a bunch of people at the airport because your suitcase is too heavy. Pack a pair of clean undies for each day, but it's OK to wear bulky outer items more than once. Really. It is.
  2. Alaskan summer temperatures are generally 60s in the day and reach down to the 40s at night. Therefore, you are not likely to need winter clothing unless you plan to climb Mt. Denali. Instead, think layering. Include things like t-shirts, a comfortable shirt, a light sweater, and a light raincoat. If you get hot, you can start peeling layers.
  3. Think rain. I know, I didn't like this when I read it either. I'm thinking, "hey, I don't want cloudy skies in my photographs". But, the simple truth of the matter is that the Inside Passage gets over 100 inches of rain each year. Bring a light, rainproof coat (think layering) and a compact travel umbrella. You should also give some consideration to your walking shoes and how they might fair in the rain.
  4. Think Mosquitoes. I have encountered a great many veteran Alaska cruisers advise that we bring along mosquito repellent. After all, mosquitoes love water and there's a lot of water in Alaska. Rather than a can of mosquito repellent, consider mosquito repellent towelettes. They will pack easier.
  5. Think long range viewing. An Inside Passage cruise generally includes a day of cruising in Glacier Bay National Monument and Preserve. This means that you will not be leaving the ship, but rather viewing the glaciers from the deck of your cruise ship. Therefore, you will want to bring along a good pair of binoculars. Also, don't forget a nice long lens for your DSLR. I am bringing an 80-400 zoom for my camera. Rather than spend $1,600 on such a specialty lens, I am renting the lens from my local camera shop for $60/week. Consider doing the same.

Well, there you have it. Five travel packing tips for your Alaskan cruise of the Inside Passage. Have fun, be safe, and get ready to be gobsmacked (one of my favorite words) by the stunning natural beauty of Alaska.

David and Carol are contributors on the AARP blog, blog regularly at and keep us updated on their travels via their Twitter account. Do you have any Alaskan Inside Passage travel tips? If so, add them in the comments below!

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