If you’re behind the wheel, steer north by northwest toward the top of the world. The highways through Canada and Alaska offer breathtaking scenery and the freedom to explore at your own pace. Most travelers choose the Alberta to Alaska Highway route or the British Columbia-Yukon route. Expect potholes and flying gravel. View details about these roads at www.northtoalaska.com.
Regardless of your approach, you’ll be overwhelmed by all the natural beauty and wildlife, yet close to amenities necessary to make the trip comfortable and memorable. The highways are open year-round, but the best time to travel is from late spring to early fall. More facilities are open, the weather’s friendlier and the wildlife plentiful.
The drive is at least 2,000 miles from the Lower 48 so plan, plan and plan before you leave. First, make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape. If you’re pulling a heavy load, upgrade the shocks. Second, secure an atlas and road maps, and then sign up with a roadside service, such as AAA, that includes long-distance towing. Third, anticipate needs along the way. Bring extra oil, a couple of spare tires, extra belts, a first-aid kit, snacks, water and lots of gas money.
Remember that Canada dispenses gas in liters — 3.78 liters equals 1 U.S. gallon. Gas is also more expensive, especially in remote areas, and seldom conveniently located. When your gas gauge reads half a tank, it’s best to take a break from driving and fill up.
Crossing the Border
Travel through the Canadian-U.S. borders requires a valid passport. Canadian Customs officials can deny entry based on a criminal record, including a DUI conviction. They can also search vehicles and travelers at their discretion. For details, visit www.canadawelcomesyou.net.
Anyone younger than 16 years old may cross land and sea borders using a U.S. birth certificate, but minors not accompanied by both parents must carry a notarized letter from their legal guardian and/or the other parent granting permission to travel into Canada.
Dogs and cats with rabies vaccination and health certificates signed by a veterinarian may accompany their owners. Both certificates must clearly identify the animal(s) in your possession. Failure to present these certificates — if asked — could cause you to be prohibited from entering the country.
You must also show proof of sufficient funds. Canada accepts most major U.S. credit cards, plus you won’t have to worry about the conversion rate. Nevertheless, take a good stash of cash in case you end up somewhere that doesn’t accept credit cards. For the rate of exchange, go to www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/exchange/10-year-converter.
Canada also allows nonresidents to transport certain classes of firearms, but they must be declared, so be sure to check with the Canada Border Services Agency before you leave. Find Canada’s gun control laws and download required forms at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf. Or save yourself the hassle and ship your firearms instead.
The U.S. Department of State encourages all Americans traveling outside the country to register at https://step.state.gov/step.
Consulate General of the United States,
615 Macleod Trail SE, 10th Floor
In the Calgary area: 403-266-8962
Elsewhere in Canada and in the U.S.: 703-249-4643
The consular district includes Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, excluding Nunavut.
Consulate General of the United States,
1075 W. Pender St., Vancouver, BC, Canada 604-685-4311
The consular district includes British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.
For a more leisurely mode, travelers can hook up with the Alaska Marine Highway’s oceangoing ferries at Bellingham, Washington, or Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The water route also affords the opportunity to take in the natural splendor of southeast Alaska’s many parks and communities off the road system.
The passage includes vehicles, people and cabins that sell out early, so make reservations as far in advance as possible. On overnight trips passengers frequently sleep in lounge chairs, on the floor inside lounges, or in their small tents on the solarium deck or the stern of the cabin deck. The shower stalls are public on most ferries, and a cafeteria serves food on all vessels.
Pets with a valid rabies certificate and a health certificate are permitted but must be confined to your vehicle, except for exercise on the vehicle deck during specified times or stops. Vehicle access is restricted for most of the trip.
Remember that ferries are not cruise ships. The scenery outside the windows is the same viewed by more than a million cruise ship passengers every summer, but the similarities end there. Bring coolers full of food and beverages, plus blankets, pillows, towels, entertainment and a camera. For reservations, schedules, fares and other information, visit www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs.
If a cross-country road trip and border crossing aren’t appealing, then fly into Fairbanks International Airport. Daily direct flights from Seattle typically take 3 ½ to 4 hours, and you can ship household goods and vehicles by road or barge.
Whether traveling by air, land or sea, you can expect an unforgettable journey through some of the most rugged and breathtaking scenery in North America.
For all personnel assigned to forts Wainwright and Greely, the government pays to ship personal property, household goods and one privately owned vehicle, plus travel to the state. If shipping a POV at government expense, a member may still be authorized to drive to the new duty station, because driving falls under a travel entitlement and shipping a POV falls under a shipping entitlement. The following information will help you prepare for the move.
On receipt of orders to Alaska, contact your local transportation office. Start planning your move well in advance. Shipping your personal property to Alaska normally takes 30 to 40 days, depending on how much you have and where you ship it from.
Your grade and whether you are serving an accompanied or unaccompanied tour determine the maximum HHG weight allowance. Exceeding your weight entitlement could cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, so estimate the weight of your goods carefully before shipping. A good rule of thumb is 1,000 pounds per room, excluding bathrooms, but including basements and garages.
Alaska is also considered an administrative weight-restricted area for single unaccompanied Soldiers in grades staff sergeant and below, sergeant first class and above residing on post, and officers residing on post. Look up administrative weight limitations in the Overseas Consignment Guide or contact your local transportation office.
You can transport personal property in two ways: a government-contracted move or a Do-It-Yourself (DITY) move. For a DITY move, the government pays military personnel 95 percent of the cost for a contracted move.
The origin transportation office must preapprove DITY moves or partial DITY moves. These moves are subject to federal and state taxes (28 percent) off the top.
The government also pays for a baggage shipment, but keep in mind that the weight of the baggage shipment counts against your maximum weight allowance. Some members, especially if they take leave en route, simply combine their property into a single shipment.
If you choose the single-shipment option, you may request at the originating transportation office that the government temporarily store most of your belongings and deliver only essential items until you receive quarters. At the time of pickup, be sure to designate the items for “partial delivery” and note authorization on your government bill of lading.
The government will also place any property you leave behind in nontemporary storage for the duration of your overseas tour. Ask your transportation office to discuss the Overseas Consignment Guide instructions for your new overseas duty station.
In lieu of household goods, you can ship your mobile home, but the process can be frustrating and expensive. The government reimburses shipping costs based on your authorized maximum HHG weight in accordance with JFTR, Vol. 1, Chapter 5.
Excess weight is extremely costly, and you may be required to modify your mobile home to enter the state. The base lacks mobile home lots, and space is scarce in nearby communities. Direct any questions about this difficult process to the transportation office or call the Alaska Department of Transportation, Weights and Measures Section at 907-341-3200.
SPONSORS AND TRAVEL
Apply for a sponsor and concurrent travel for family members before leaving your present duty station. In most cases, your sponsor will authorize travel if housing is available. At that time, also determine the status of any dependents since the government won’t pay for new or unauthorized dependents or their property.
For more information, contact your local transportation office.
Here are some suggestions to consider before shipping your household goods to Alaska:
- Normally, the departing duty station authorizes nontemporary storage.
- Large, oversized or overstuffed furniture or workbenches longer than 7 feet 6 inches may not fit in quarters.
- Unless in two parts, queen-size box springs may not fit up the stairways. Two-piece king-size beds will, but very large dressers won’t.
- Avoid freezers larger than 17 cubic feet.
- TV antennas generally aren’t needed.
- Government quarters include a washer and dryer, a stove and a refrigerator, but no drapes.
- Avoid such liquid items as canned foods and drinks from October through May because they will freeze and rupture if left in an unheated area.
Alaska’s motor vehicle laws and regulations are subject to change. Consult the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at www.doa.alaska.gov/dmv for current information or contact the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate legal assistance office if you have any questions.
Every person who operates a motor vehicle on Alaska streets, highways or other public property must have a valid Alaska driver’s license or permit unless an exemption applies. All drivers are asked to keep their address information current with Alaska DMV. United States military personnel who have a valid driver’s license issued by another state and who maintain permanent residence in that state need not obtain an Alaska driver’s license; family members, however, are not exempt.
Military personnel, your Alaska noncommercial license is valid while you are active duty and you choose to maintain residency in another state.
U.S. government personnel operating a government vehicle on official business are exempt from the Alaska driver’s license requirement.
Civilians in Alaska longer than 90 days must obtain an Alaska driver’s license.
If you become a resident of Alaska, you are required to obtain an Alaska license within 30 days.
Family members of military personnel and civilian employees are subject to Alaska licensing and registration requirements. Visit the Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles office or the DMV website, www.doa.alaska.gov/dmv, for updates and more information.
Every vehicle in Alaska must be registered unless specifically exempted by law. There is an exemption for vehicles registered to active-duty military members stationed in Alaska on military orders who remain a resident of another state. Those individuals are not required to register their vehicles in the state of Alaska. However, nonresident active-duty military members may choose to register their vehicles in Alaska. In such cases, the nonresident active-duty military member will not be required to pay the Alaska vehicle registration tax but will be required to provide a copy of the member’s leave and earning statement (LES) or a military affidavit indicating their state of legal residence. An affidavit form is available on the state’s DMV website.
Vehicles registered to nonmilitary members are required to be registered within 10 days of becoming employed in the state.
If you intend to establish residency, you must register your vehicle within 10 days of entering the state or taking a job within the state. Required documents include a valid title, proof of insurance and a completed application. A nonresident may operate a vehicle registered in another state for up to 60 days.
All auto owners must maintain liability insurance for the following minimum amounts: $50,000 for bodily injury or death of any one person, $100,000 for bodily injury or death for any accident and $25,000 for property damage.
Drivers must show proof of insurance when operating a vehicle. Failure to do so could result in impoundment of the vehicle. Some rural areas are exempt from registration and from mandatory insurance. For more information, visit the Alaska DMV website.
Winter roads are a real challenge, so SLOW DOWN. Many drivers forget to adjust for snow-and-ice conditions. As a result, speed and slamming on the brakes cause countless accidents every winter.
On the other hand, front-wheel and four-wheel-drive autos with studded snow tires can reduce white-knuckle fever. For rear-wheel drive, center extra weight — such as sandbags — over the rear axle to help with sliding and traction. Also keep in your vehicle such emergency supplies as blankets, flares and food in case of breakdowns, bad weather or accidents.
If you’ve never driven on ice and snow, expect to learn when winter hits. Basically, snow and ice greatly reduce tire traction so your car or truck — four-wheel-drive or not — will take a lot longer to stop.
Clear vision also prevents accidents, so be sure to brush and scrape the snow and ice off your windshield, the rear and side windows and the outside mirrors, as well as your headlights and taillights.
Traffic, SUVs, motor homes and tourists abound, so drive defensively. Expect frequent stops — especially in scenic and wild-animal areas — and look out for hard-to-see motorcyclists and bicyclists. The long, warm days also signal road construction. Be alert for workers on the road, and pay attention to heavy equipment and speed-limit signs. Fines double in construction zones.
If arriving in your POV, security personnel at the gate will direct you to the Welcome Center or wherever else you are required to go to report in. After hours, you will most likely be directed to the guest house.
If you arrive via commercial air, signs posted at Fairbanks International Airport provide a phone number to call for transportation. Even better, if you have a sponsor assigned by your receiving unit, arrange in advance to have him or her greet you at the airport.
The main gates at forts Wainwright and Greely are open 24/7. Both installations have a visitor center at their main gates. At Fort Wainwright, the Trainor and Badger gates have limited hours, and the Richardson Highway gate is closed.
Upon arrival at forts Wainwright and Greely, Soldiers must sign in at the Welcome Center.
At Fort Wainwright, Soldiers sign in at Building 3401 and during duty hours (7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday) report to the Military Personnel Division (MPD) front desk, 1st floor. The Replacement Detachment Staff Duty and Welcome Desk is open 24 hours a day. After hours and holidays, report to Building 3419 Rhineland Avenue. If you arrive in Fairbanks by air or are uncertain where to report, call the Welcome Center at 907-353-4311, 24 hours a day.
At Visitor Center, go to Building 556 during duty hours Monday through Friday and to the front gate at all other hours. The Welcome Center phone number is 907-873-3663.
Soldiers MUST have concurrent travel to be authorized to bring family with them when initially arriving in Alaska and to be paid for the dependent travel. This travel decision must be processed through the losing installation Levy Section before PCSing to Alaska. If family members travel before they are authorized, you will not be reimbursed for their travel. If you are authorized to bring your family members with you initially, their names must be listed on your orders.
If your family is with you in concurrent travel status, you will be sent to lodging, open 24 hours a day. Lodging is available on a space-available basis for Soldiers without reservations, arriving at or departing on permanent change of station orders.
All personnel traveling on PCS orders are required to check with the Lodging Office before seeking transient accommodations off post.
Only Family Housing can authorize a temporary lodging allowance; you must check in with them as soon as you are scheduled for in-processing.
TLA is available for single Soldiers in pay grades E-6 and above, married Soldiers in all grades arriving without family members due to deferred travel and for all married Soldiers on concurrent travel accompanied by command-sponsored family members. TLA is authorized to partially offset the cost of temporary lodging for the first 20 days after arrival, unless government housing is immediately available. TLA can be extended on a case-by-case basis.
Soldiers and their families arriving between Oct. 1 and April 1 should be adequately equipped with cold-weather clothing. Particularly from December through March, temperatures can fall to 40 degrees below zero, or even colder.
Fort Wainwright has a finance office to assist you in resolving most financial arrangements during in-processing.
All pay accounts for Soldiers stationed at forts Wainwright and Greely is handled by the Defense Military Pay Office on the second floor of the Welcome Center in Building 3401. Open 9:30 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The customer service phone number is 907-353-1307.
The Department of Defense authorizes a cost-of-living allowance (COLA) for all Soldiers stationed in Alaska. The amount of COLA service members draw depends on rank, years of service, duty location and the number of command-sponsored family members. Soldiers stationed at Fort Greely will receive hardship duty pay-location to compensate for the austere living conditions. Basic allowance for housing is payable to Soldiers authorized to obtain quarters, based on the economy.
Call Holiday Inn Express on Fort Wainwright at 907-353-3800 to make reservations. Or call 877-711-TEAM, or visit www.IHGArmyHotels.com.
To make reservations at Fort Greely, call 907-873-4311.
Reservation service is available 24 hours a day. Reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Please call at the earliest possible eligibility for the best chance at confirming your reservation.
Official visitors are military, Department of Defense civilian employees, contractors and guests of the command on letters of authorization or TDY, PCS, annual training or other orders. There are other types of official guests too, so if you are unsure, please call for clarification. Official visitors may make reservations 180 days in advance of check-in.
Unofficial visitors are usually military and family members not on orders, retirees, hospital visitors (unless on orders) and guests of permanent party. There are other types of unofficial visitors too, so if you are unsure, please call for clarification. For unofficial reservations from June 1 to Aug. 31, call three days prior to the check-in date. For reservations from Sept. 1 to May 31, call 14 days prior to the check-in date.
When making a reservation with a credit card, you can guarantee the reservation for late arrival after 6 p.m. Your card will be charged only if you do not arrive or cancel your reservation by 6 p.m. on your scheduled arrival date.
Nonguaranteed reservations are canceled daily at 6 p.m.
Walk-ins are welcome, especially when space is available. A good time to call to check for same-day space in the peak season is 6 p.m., when nonguaranteed reservations are canceled.
Check-in is after 4 p.m. Checkout is 11 a.m. Exceptions to checkout time can be coordinated with the front desk when occupancy allows. A charge for late checkout may be added to your account.
Rates are subject to change. Please contact the reservation desk for current charges. Payment types accepted include cash, checks, money orders and credit cards.
The Front Office is available 24/7 to assist with your requests. From reservations to maintenance requests to accepting payments for other Alaska Army Lodging organizations to providing transportation (if equipment and personnel are available), we will be glad to do it.
- Continental breakfast is provided daily. Hours are posted in each building (with the exception of Fort Greely).
- Convenience sundries can be purchased at front desks.
- Daily custodial service is provided.
- Message service: automated guest room voice mail is provided. We will also gladly relay messages manually as requested.
- Storage is available through coordination with the front office (with the exception of Fort Greely).
- Telephone service is provided through the on-post military system. You can make local, toll-free and DSN calls at no charge and use a calling card to make long-distance calls.
- Fax and copier services are available for official government business and for a fee for unofficial business.
- Newspaper machines are at various locations on each post.
- ATMs are at various locations on each post.
- Facilities for people with disabilities are available at Fort Wainwright.
- Limited pet rooms are available to guests who meet policy parameters. There is a limit of two pets per room, and additional fees and deposits are associated with pets and pet rooms (with the exception of Fort Greely).
- A guest laundry is available in each lodging building, as are soap vending machines.
- Beverage vending and ice machines are in most buildings.
- In-room amenities include clean, comfortable furnishings; cable television; a hair dryer; a microwave, small refrigerator, iron and ironing board; a guest safe; coffee service; and limited personal convenience items. In-room kitchens are available at Fort Wainwright.
- Items such as bed-boards, movies, games, cribs, rollaway beds and sofa sleepers are available.