Things to Know Before Moving to Alaska

Moving to Alaska means relocating to a one-of-a-kind state, one filled with natural beauty—and one where work is available, the state pays you to live there, and experiencing either sunshine or darkness twenty-four hours a day can be a real thing.

Geographically, Alaska is the largest state in the United States, by far, with 665,384 square miles. That’s more than twice as big as second-ranking Texas (268,596). With a population of just 738,023 in 2022, only 1.2 people, on average, live per square mile.

While you might picture soaring glaciers and wild tundra, much of the southeastern portion of the state is forest. The Tongass National Forest comprises 16.8 million acres and Chugach has 4.8 million acres. Then, of course, there is the temperature to contend with. You’ll need to bundle up during much of the year. Although temperatures vary by what part of the huge state you’re in, the average temperatures of Anchorage can give you a sense of what to expect.

Mid-May to Mid-September is the warm season with average highs at 59°F or higher. July typically sees the most heat at an average high of 67°F and low of 55°F. The coldest part of the year is from November through early March with averages below freezing. January is the coldest month with an average low of 13°F and high of 24°F.

This guide shares additional things to know before moving to Alaska, a unique state with a fascinating lifestyle. For a seamless relocation, count on Suddath’s Alaska moving services.

City Living in Alaska

Moving to Anchorage, Alaska

Although Alaska, when looking at averages, is sparsely populated, city life does exist—especially in its largest city, Anchorage. With a 2022 population of 291,131, just about 40 percent of Alaskans live in this one city.

When moving to Anchorage, Alaska, it may be the most unusual form of city life you’ll experience. While serving as the state’s urban center, it’s also home to mountains and glaciers, eagles soaring overhead, moose on the sidewalks, and salmon swimming in the streams.

Demographically, it’s a young city with about one in four people being under the age of eighteen and an average age of 32. Linguistically, it’s incredibly diverse with nearly one hundred languages being spoken.

Moving to Fairbanks, Alaska

Although much less populated than Anchorage, Fairbanks has a 2022 population of 32,711, similar to many suburban areas of mainland U.S with a more rural feel. Nicknamed the “Golden Heart City,” nearly one in three residents are in the 25 to 44-year-old range. This city is ethnically and culturally diverse, typical of the state.

Fairbanks runs along the Chena River at the northern end of the Alaska Railroad. Overall, Fairbanks is known as a military town plus an educational center (largely because of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks) and a healthcare region. When moving to Fairbanks, Alaska, you’ll be relocating to a beautiful region.

Moving to Juneau, Alaska

The capital of Alaska, Juneau has an average population of 32,451, but this number can grow by several thousand during the tourism season. In fact, the two main occupations in Juneau are governmental jobs and ones in tourism. When it comes to your natural neighbors, this city has more bald eagles than anywhere in the United States, and bears are common. Juneau residents need to be hyper aware when even just in their yards to keep an eye out for bears and other wildlife.

Younger generations mostly live in the downtown area while people who want to live further away from nightlife are located in the quieter valley. This is a walkable town with plenty of outdoor adventures to enjoy. When it’s not the tourist season, life can be pretty quiet.

Remote Living in Alaska

If you’re relocating to Alaska’s more remote regions, you may enjoy a sense of community that is hard to find anywhere else. Other things that will be hard (or impossible) to find include conveniences many people are used to: fast foods, reliable cell phone reception, choice of radio station, wide selection of stores, and even electricity. For many people, this can be an ideal lifestyle. Investigate to make sure it’s right for you and choose a highly experienced mover when shipping household goods to Alaska’s more remote areas.

Alaska Economy

The main industry in Alaska is oil with about 85 percent of state revenue coming from this industry. A secondary one, tourism, attracts more than one million people each year, and so many people are employed in fields that support tourism activity. The third largest industry in Alaska is fishing with nearly six billion pounds of seafood caught annually. Three additional industries of note are timber, mining, and agriculture.

Employment rates are satisfactory currently with an unemployment rate of 4.6% in Alaska. Some jobs are seasonal, fluctuating with tourism. These can include working at national parks and in resorts, being employed by cruise lines and fishing lodges, and so forth.

The cost of living when moving to Alaska may well go up compared to where you live now, but it can be partially offset in a couple of ways. First, cost of living is about 26.07% higher than average with only Hawaii, Washington D.C., New York, and California being higher. This is true, in part, because of utilities costs in a state where it can be cold much of the year as well as the cost of shipping goods up to the state.

However, Alaska doesn’t have a state tax. Some cities have local income tax but not all do. This can help to make up for the overall higher cost of living, and residents who opt into the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend Division can receive annual checks that average $1,100. In 2018, the amount was $1,600.

Relocating to Alaska for Work

If you already know you’re moving to Alaska for work, here is information about our corporate moving services. If, on the other hand, you want to relocate to Alaska but are still seeking a job, the Alaska Department of Jobs and Workforce Development provides information.

For example:

  • When moving to Anchorage, Alaska, you’ll find the most job openings available in the state along with more reasonable costs of living.
  • When moving to Fairbanks, Alaska, many jobs are related to the government and the university.
    When moving to Juneau, Alaska, tourism and government jobs are most common with tourism ones being seasonal.
  • When moving to Valdez, Alaska, you’ll be located in a place where tourism and oil jobs can be available.

In season, the Kenai Peninsula (Kenai, Homer, Seward, and Soldotna) has seasonal work often available in tourism and seafood processing. Kodiak Island has a booming fishing industry, seasonally speaking.

If you’re willing to go off the road system (more about that next), western and northern Alaska contain villages such as Barrow, Kotzebue, and Nome that can struggle to find “qualified professional and technical employees” and, sometimes, “qualified medical, city government and education professionals.” These can translate into opportunities for the right people.

Getting Around Alaska

Alaska’s highway system is limited at best. Some areas, including but not limited to Juneau and Ketchikan, are accessible by water and air only with huge swaths of the state in northern and interior Alaska only reachable by air. Because of this, these areas can have significant costs of living.

The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport serves as the state’s travel hub. From there, you can take the Alaska Railroad with its 470 miles of track connecting Seward to Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks. Stops are also made in Girdwood, Spencer Whistle Stop, Wasilla, and Whittier. Direct flights from the mainland are also available to Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka.

You can rent cars in Anchorage and other Alaska cities, plus in some towns. Note that prices are higher than in the mainland, and rental companies will hold you responsible for any damage done on non-paved roads (insurance doesn’t cover that, either). You can rent vehicles specifically tailored for gravel roads, though; gravel highways include the Denali Highway running between Canwell and Paxson, and the roads from Chitina to McCarthy among others.

Bus lines and shuttles are sometimes available from smaller companies, and some offer quite a comfortable ride. What’s most important: investigate how you’ll navigate where you need to go and then plan appropriately.

Recreation in Alaska

The state government website notes that people in Alaska take their recreation quite seriously, and they provide a helpful guide. Opportunities include:

  • Outdoor summer camping: Most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land can be camped on for up to two weeks at a time. No RSVPs, though; it’s first come, first served.
  • Hunting: This includes moose, caribou, Dali sheep, mountain goats, Sitka blacktailed deer, musk ox, bear, wolves and birds. BLM lands are typically open under the laws of the State of Alaska Fish and Game.
  • Fishing: More than 2.5 million acres of lakes and 100,000-plus miles of stream are on public land. Fish includes Chinook, coho, sockeye salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout, Arctic char, northern pike, Dolly Varden, and Arctic grayling. Sport fish are regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
  • Trails for hiking, biking, bird and wildlife watching, and much more. This includes the 730-acre Campbell Tract, 27-mile Pinnell Mountain Recreational Trail, million-acre White Mountains National Recreation Area, and much more.
  • Mountain biking: If you’re up for a significant challenge and a thrilling adventure, here’s information.
  • Horseback riding: The BLM Campbell Tract provides several trails to see the area in traditional ways.
  • Winter fat tire biking: There are literally hundreds of miles of trails for winter biking, ideal if you’re feeling cooped up.
  • Cross-country skiing: This can be a perfect way to enjoy Alaska’s winters. Here’s a map to guide you.
  • Ice fishing: The best time to go is right after water freezes and fish are still active. Follow safety guidelines carefully and fish for burbot, char, coho salmon, Dolly Varden, sheefish, trout, and whitefish.

Also consider gold mining! The BLM provides a panning for gold video. Plus, you don’t want to miss the Iditarod Sled Dog Race and other dog sledding competitions. Mush!

Education in Alaska

Public schools are consistently ranked “among the finest in the nation” with the Anchorage School District having ACT and SAT scores for college entrance above the national average. Most schools teach computer technology with many students participating in remote learning.

Universities include three separately accredited locations of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and Juneau with a dozen campuses around the state. Alaska Pacific University is the state’s only private liberal arts college, and Alaska is also home to Wayland Baptist University and Charter College.

Important Alaska Links

After relocating to Alaska, you’ll need to settle in and take care of business. You can find information at the State of Alaska website, including how to get a driver’s license, register to vote, find public notices, and more.

If you’ll be starting your own business, you can find plenty of help. If:

Each site provides plenty of practical information about things to know before relocating to Alaska as well as what you should do when you arrive.

Moving to Alaska? Need Help Shipping Household Goods to Alaska?

When it’s time to select international movers, please contact us for a free moving quote. Suddath’s movers are highly skilled and experienced in helping people who are relocating to Alaska to have a seamless experience. We’ll leverage our 100-years plus of experience to provide you with a stress-free move, shipping household goods to Alaska safely and with great care.

Whether you’re seeking a residential move to Alaska or you need our corporate moving services, we’re here to help.