Camping on the Ferry is one thing, but do you know how to plan your journey to best accommodate your vacation goals? Unlike a traditional cruise, the Alaska Marine Highway or “the state ferry,” gives you the ability to customize your ports-of-call and length of stay while in port. You can stay for a year or a day (as long as a ship is coming or going) it is a very flexible and forgiving system to plan a trip around. Here are three tips to get you underway!

1. Plan and Book Early

Alaska Marine Highway State Ferry

Waiting in queue to drive onto the ferry. Photo Credit: Amanda Williams

If you want a stateroom or you’re driving a monstrosity of an RV you’ll need to book early. The ferry allows many vehicles onboard and is a drive-on ship, one of the coolest concepts to comprehend for our 3-year-old son, who road tripped to Alaska with us last summer.

For this reason, the folks that do the planning, logistics, and parking LOVE when folks plan ahead. You can catch the seasonal deals and ensure that the trip of a lifetime is the the trip YOU want it to be when you book.

2. Take in Uncharted Territory

Alaska Marine Highway System

Hidden Gem in Southeast Alaska: Kake. Photo Credit: Flickr/Christopher Michel

Never heard of Kake, Hoonah, or Metlakatla? Well, that’s because all of those towns are tiny. They are certainly not stops on the cruise itinerary and they rarely make headlines outside of a mention here and there on the Discovery Channel or National Native News on NPR. Does that mean they aren’t amazing? Heck no! Kake is one of the very coolest places I’ve ever worked, lived, or visited. Make sure to research the smaller ports and see the REAL Alaska. This is for those that like to be immersed in culture and live like a local. If you’re a glamper, this is just NOT going to be for you. Sorry. Rugged adventurer? Then yes, carry on!

3. Bring Your Vehicle, Dog, and Camera

Haines Alaska - State ferry

Haines, Alaska, along the Alaska Marine Highway. Photo Credit: Amanda Williams

No other transportation adventure allows you to bring everything but the kitchen sink. Unless your kitchen sink is in an Airstream or a Minnie Winnie, then by all means, bring it too!

No boarding the dog. No need for hotels if you drive an RV. Just the open waters of several world-class waters for sea life viewing, glaciers, and the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

The Alaska Marine Ferry is one of the best-kept secrets of the Last Frontier. It beats paying baggage charges and having to rent vehicles. It allows you to really experience life in Alaska as the locals do. It’s my absolute favorite boat to camp on with the family! Go see some of Alaska today, but if you’re wise, do it by sea!