1. It’s not always snowy and cold
If you’re starting your experience in Alaska during your summer job, you’ll discover that temperatures in July and August average in the mid-seventies (Fahrenheit) throughout Alaska. If you choose to live in mild southeast Alaska, you’ll notice the region enjoys a nice, temperate climate influenced by the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest. Temperatures in this region tend to hover between 30 degrees in the winter and the mid-60s in the summer. But yes, there are extremes in temperature and weather, especially if you choose to live somewhere like Fairbanks, squarely in Alaska’s interior, where it can sometimes drop to 50 below zero!
2. Extremes apply to light and dark, too
Because of Alaska’s location on the planet, year-round residents of Alaska will experience longer-than-normal days in the summer and shorter-than-normal days in the winter. On the first day of summer, June 21, the sun doesn’t set until around midnight, and then it never quite gets totally dark, with the sunrise coming again not soon after. Cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks hold summer solstice events with activities like midnight softball tournaments and running events to celebrate. It’s great fun unless you suffer from insomnia – the lack of darkness won’t help with that. The short days of winter can be cozy for some people, but if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, probably not so much. It all just depends on your personal preferences!
3. It can be pricey
The cost of living is generally higher in Alaska, largely because of the cost of transporting goods here – Alaska’s not exactly central to large distribution centers. You might feel the pinch with groceries, fuel and other consumer goods. A remote village, for example, might see a gallon of milk sell for $7.50. Housing costs can be expensive, though maybe not when you compare it to rent in the large cities in the lower 48. A one-bedroom apartment in Anchorage falls in the range of $1,000-$1,600 monthly. Rent in smaller towns in Alaska can be less. Plus, there is a government subsidy– you actually do get paid for living here. Each year, residents can receive money from the Permanent Fund, a benefit of oil royalties. In 2015, each person received more than $2,000.
4. It’s a pretty great place to retire
While Alaska rent isn’t the cheapest, it is less expensive to live here than in some other popular retirement areas like California and Florida. To learn more, read our blog about the 5 common myths about retiring in Alaska.
5. You can complete your education here
The state of Alaska is home to the University of Alaska system, with the largest being UA-Anchorage, home to about 17,000 students, followed by UA-Fairbanks, home to about 11,000 students. The UA system also has many satellite locations throughout Alaska, including in Southeast Alaska communities. There are other options, including the private Alaska Pacific University. Whatever area of study interests you, you’ll likely find a school to accommodate you.
6. You should probably pack light
Alaska is a long way from everywhere. You’ll either need to drive here through Canada or take the ferry from Seattle. It’s probably best to be able to fit your belongings in your vehicle, or your suitcase if you’re flying. You can ship your belongings, but understand that shipping costs are often based on distance.
7. You should have all your ducks in a row
The state Division of Employment Security recommends having a job in place before you come to Alaska, or enough money with you or available to you to travel home, just in case you don’t find work. We have some year-round jobs available for those interested in staying a while. Note that you cannot travel through Canada without having cash or credit cards that work in Canada, and you need a valid U.S. passport.
Think you’ve got the right spirit of adventure for moving to Alaska? Start out working with us for a summer first and see how you might like living here year-round.