Get an insider’s look at why a glacier dog sledding tour is worth the splurge when you visit Alaska, whether for an extended period of time or just for a few hours on an Alaskan cruise. A fantastic option for kids and adults alike, glacier dog sledding tours take you into the heart of what makes Alaska such a popular destination. They’re just one of the reasons Alaskan cruises are great for the family.
Dog Sledding Splurge
To celebrate my mom’s 50th birthday last year, I went with four generations of my family, from my grandparents to my 3-year old niece, on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate. Everyone in my family loves adventure so as we were planning our cruise, we were immediately drawn to the Era Helicopters glacier dog sledding tour. Unfortunately, the cost of the tour was prohibitive for all 20 family members to join, but a group of nine of us, including my aunts and uncles and their kids (ages 18, 8, and 6), my husband, and I decided to go ahead with it. I’m so glad we did because all nine of us, both kids and adults, considered the excursion to be the highlight of the cruise even with the high price tag.
Alaskan Glacier Dog Sledding Tours
Based on the research we did on sites like TripAdvisor, and our own Princess Cruises excursion guide while preparing for our Alaskan cruise, glacier dog sledding tours are one of the most popular and most expensive adventures available in Juneau and Skagway. These tours include a helicopter ride over the glacier, spending time with the dogs, and experiencing the thrill of riding on a dog-sled for a couple miles on top of an Alaskan glacier.
What is Included with Your Alaskan Glacier Dog Sledding Tour
The price of most tours whether you book privately or through a cruise ship is $500-$600 per person, which includes transportation to and from the helicopter air field, a pair of glacier boots to wear on the glacier, the helicopter ride, the dog sledding experience, time afterward to pet and get to know the dogs, and sometimes a bottle of water or small snack. Each tour company differs slightly and our adventure with Era Helicopters did include bottled water while we watched our instructional video.
Why the Alaskan Glacier Dog Sledding Tour is Worth the Splurge
It’s not often that I spend $500 a person on anything and when I saw the price tag, I almost ran away and booked one of the less expensive excursions. I’m so glad I didn’t. When I travel, I search for the activities and tours that I’ll only be able to do in that location and while other people went on tours to see bears or hiked in the wilderness, I knew I could do either of those things on different trips. An Alaskan glacier and dog sledding tour is something that only Alaska offers, and that was the main reason we booked the tour in the first place. If I never return to Alaska again, I want to be able to say that I experienced what was unique to Alaska.
In addition to being unique to Alaska, the views from the glacier were unparalleled and something you could really only experience from a helicopter flying above them. The helicopter ride is why you pay the premium cost and honestly, the helicopter ride was one of my favorite parts of the adventure, second only to playing with the dogs after our dog sled race.
The other moment that made the cost worth the trip was as we were landing in the helicopter and the dogs went absolutely berserk, so excited for us to be there. The dogs really make the second half of the excursion worth every penny. The dogs and their mushers, who are seasoned veterans of the famous Alaskan Iditarod Race, spend months at a time up at the camps training the dogs for when race season comes around. And unlike if I were training for a race and dreading a run, the dogs really look forward to it and show their enthusiasm in both movement and loud barking as the helicopters land. If you can imagine how loud a helicopter is as it’s landing on the ground, the dogs were barking louder than that.
The actual dog-sledding itself is just an incredible experience whether you’re riding or driving (with the help of the instructor) the dog sledding team. The sleds go fast but not so fast that I was ever nervous about falling off. And the sled glides as smoothly along the glacier as if you were skating across a frozen ice rink.
The ride itself lasts around 25 minutes but with multiple stops to change drivers and let the dogs rest their legs, it felt more like 15-20 minutes. While I would’ve preferred the actual dog sledding portion to be a little longer, the feeling of freezing glacier air blowing by as these animals stretched out their legs on the snow was one I’ll never forget, and those are the moments that in my travel book are worth the money.
As my 6-year-old cousin put it, “that was the coolest thing ever.”
Out of all of the excursions I’ve done around the world, from ziplining in Belize to scuba diving in Hawaii, I tend to agree. There is nothing else like it, and I highly recommend everyone do it at least once even if it means skipping excursions in other ports on your cruise to save money for this one.
The Alaskan Glacier Dog Sledding Tour with Kids
I went with a large family group that included everyone from grown adults to a 6 and an 8-year-old. While all of the adults really enjoyed the tour and would do it again, the kids who loved it the most. They were able to experience every part of the adventure that the adults were from looking out the window of the helicopter to driving the dog sleds themselves. There are some age limits for kids that vary among tour companies, so make sure to check age limits before you book anything.
Things to Know Before You Go
- It is cold on the glacier so make sure to bundle up in warm coats, gloves, and hats.
- You can’t bring big bags into the helicopters so make sure whatever you want with you can either go into a pocket or can hang around your neck (like your camera). Large bags will be put into lockers before you take off in the helicopter.
- Tours are completely dependent on the weather and often get cancelled the morning of because the sky isn’t clear enough to fly. Book your trip as early in the week as possible to allow for rescheduling if the tour company has availability.
- Helicopters are seated by weight and only hold a small number of people, so if you have a larger group, you will likely be unable to choose who goes where and who sits in the front or back.