Some people get bitten so hard by the Alaska bug that they’re ready to make the move without a job offer in hand.
If that sentence describes you, you’re in the right place. We’ll show you what you need to know about moving to Alaska without the security of a job. Our tips will help you get settled in quickly and ensure your basic needs are met while you find your feet as a new resident of the Last Frontier.
Start Saving to Cover the Basics
If you move to Alaska without a guaranteed paycheck, you’re going to need some savings to take care of your basic needs on arrival: food, shelter, and transportation.
Make sure to sock away at least three months’ worth of savings before you make the move to Alaska. Six months’ would be ideal (if you can swing it)!
Once you arrive, you’ll need that money for your day-to-day expenses, like groceries. You’ll also need to cover things like first month’s rent and a security deposit for a rental. Plus, it might take you a few months to find the right job in Alaska. Having some money saved up will give you the wiggle room you need to pay your expenses while you secure the ideal gig.
Finally, make sure you leave enough for an emergency plane ticket back home—just in case.
Will I Need a Car?
It depends on where you live, but if you’re staying in Alaska for the long term, the answer is probably yes. A car also offers you the freedom to truly explore the state and all it has to offer. And isn’t that why you moved to Alaska in the first place?
If you’re living in one of Alaska’s cities—Anchorage, Fairbanks, or Juneau—they do have public transportation options. Additionally, some people use their bikes to get around in some areas. However, in the cold and icy winter months, you may prefer the warmth and flexibility of your own car.
Thinking About Driving Your Car to Alaska?
Here’s how to get it there in one piece. (Plus, shipping options if you decide not to make the drive!)
What About Homesteading?
The homesteading program on federal lands ended in October 1986. However, many people still have the mistaken impression they can head to Alaska, pick out a parcel of land, and live on it for free.
Unfortunately, that’s not possible in Alaska anymore. However, there are legal options for purchasing land from the state, including over-the-counter purchases and land auctions. You can read more about them on the Alaska State Department of Natural Resources website.
Considering Moving to the Alaskan Bush?
We’ll show you what you need to know before relocating to Alaska’s remotest areas.
While you’re socking away some savings, it’s time to start your research.
Get to Know the Landscape in Alaska Before You Arrive
A little background information can go a long way. Armed with some solid data about life in Alaska, you’ll hit the ground running once you arrive—and get settled in quickly.
What Industries Are Big in Alaska?
If you’re planning to find work when you arrive, it’s helpful to understand the biggest industries in the state. That way, you can match up your skills with open positions—and focus your job search to make the most of your time.
In broad strokes, the largest industries in Alaska include:
- Oil and gas
- Tourism, leisure & hospitality
- Logistics and moving
Want to know more? Get a deeper rundown of the major industries and job opportunities in Alaska.
By doing some research on these industries, as well as available open positions, you’ll be ready to start your job search ASAP once you arrive.
Where Will You Find Job Opportunities in Alaska?
Finding a job in Alaska isn’t just about what industry you’re applying in, but also where you’re located. As a newcomer, consider starting your Alaska life in the state’s more populated areas. Even if you’re dreaming of living a remote lifestyle, it’s easier to find your first Alaska job in one of the state’s cities, which simply feature more opportunities. Once you get established, you can make moves toward a more remote lifestyle.
Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city, will have the largest number of job openings to help you get on your feet fast. Fairbanks and Juneau both offer significant employment opportunities with the government, if that’s what you’re looking for. Fairbanks is also home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, if working in higher education is something that appeals to you.
What’s the Cost of Living in Alaska?
While some dream of living off the land practically for free, the reality is that Alaska is an expensive state to live in. In fact, USA Today recently ranked Alaska the fourth-most-expensive state. Almost everything has to be shipped in, which adds considerably to the cost of goods.
Before you make the move, it’s a good idea to understand the true cost of living in Alaska. Compare this cost of living data with the salaries for the jobs you’re considering. Think about your goals for moving to Alaska, and evaluate your current savings.
If all the math works out, great! You’ll be able to make the move with confidence. If it doesn’t, you may need to adjust your vision accordingly. That might mean boosting your savings, reconsidering your job prospects, or investigating another area with a lower cost of living.
How Will You Get Around?
75% of Alaska is inaccessible by car
Alaska is more than twice the size of the state of Texas, but its highway system is nearly the smallest in the U.S. In fact, 75% of Alaska is inaccessible by car, including its state capitol, Juneau.
Alaskans have discovered plenty of ways to get around—including by boat and plane. However, as a newcomer, it’s important to understand the accessibility of the area where you plan on settling. If you choose Juneau, for example, you won’t be able to simply hop in a car and drive to Anchorage. You’re looking at a flight or a trip on the Alaska Marine Highway via ferry, followed by a car ride or a bus ride.
Living off the highway system in Alaska can be an isolating experience. It can be especially tough for someone who’s just starting their life in Alaska. Make sure you consider carefully before committing to an area that’s not accessible by road, especially if your employment prospects are still uncertain.
What’s the Best Time to Move?
Moving in the dead of winter might not be the best option for an easy transition to Alaska. Late spring or summer will give you a good stretch of time to get established before surviving your first Alaskan winter.
Winter in Southeast Alaska isn’t as brutal as other parts of the state. However, expect a lot of precipitation in the region. (Did you know that the Tongass National Forest is a temperate rainforest?) If you decide to move to Juneau in the winter, make sure you’re prepared with gear that will keep you dry throughout the colder months.
Finally, if you don’t have a job lined up, think about experimenting with Alaska life before you make it permanent.
Think About a Trial Period
Alaska isn’t right for everyone. We happen to know this first-hand, since we’ve helped a number of individuals leave Alaska and move to the lower 48. (Washington, Texas, California, and Oregon top the list of the most popular states to move to after Alaska!)
If you’re still not 100% sure whether Alaska is right for you—and you haven’t secured a job yet—consider trying out life in Alaska before making a full commitment.
Some people snag a seasonal job to give life in the Last Frontier a go. Several of these jobs even come with room and board. That means fewer out-of-pocket expenses, other than your ticket up here.
You might also consider a short-term rental through a site like AirBnB or VRBO. Come on up to Alaska, live like a resident for a month, and see how you like it. Shop for groceries, check out your living options, and investigate job opportunities. If you decide Alaska is the right place for you, you’ll have some experience under your belt—and maybe even a few contacts who can help you get established permanently. If Alaska doesn’t feel like the right fit, you can simply head home and make alternative plans.
Both of these options offer you a low-risk way to try life in Alaska without a job. They also might even just give you the confidence to take the plunge!
Make the Move to Alaska—Your Way
People make their way to Alaska for all kinds of reasons and in all kinds of ways. By doing your research and getting a good idea of what to expect, you’ll set the stage for a more successful Alaska move—one in which you settle in quickly for a long, happy residency in the state.
Ready to make the move? We’d be happy to help you get your belongings to Alaska, and we’ve got solutions for all types and sizes of moves. Talk to one of our Anchorage-based experts to get started.
Tell us about your move!