5 Reasons to Book your excursion directly with local tour operators

5 Reasons to Book your excursion directly with local tour operators

Booking your Alaskan cruise can be very overwhelming. Options abound when choosing even the basics of your cruise, and on top of that there are a huge variety of options for excursions in each port. The cruise to Alaska is amazing in itself, but the shore excursions are what take you deeper into Alaska and create those memorable once in a lifetime experiences for you and your family or friends. There are also several ways in which you can go about booking your adventures. One being through the ship’s shore excursion department or your TA, another through third party vendors such as Alaska Shore Tours, get your guide, or Trip Advisor, and yet another, and oftentimes overlooked option is booking with independent and local tour companies directly. Considering we’re the latter, I’m going to share 5 reasons why you should book independently for your upcoming cruise!

1. We’ve got your back! The primary benefit touted by the cruise ships for booking through them is their return to ship guarantee. Many of our guests ask about this before booking with us and I understand how getting left behind is huge concern for cruisers! However, most local tour operators we’ve worked with in and around Alaska provide the same guarantee.  Be sure to ask  before you book for the peace of mind, and you won’t be left behind! As a small company, we are able to pay close attention to cruise ship times, and have ultimate control over each and every tour. We always allow ample time between a tours end and your ships All Aboard. We’ve never had a ship leave without a group on tour with us, and we intend to keep it that way! Our guarantee is this: Should you, for whatever reason miss your ship, we would fly you to tour next cruise port to reunite you with your ship. These types of guarantees are very common among small independent tour companies. We’re committed to keeping up our positive reputation.

2. You’re here for a good time, and so are we.  The second biggest benefit most ships offer is a satisfaction guarantee. Now I can’t speak for all local companies in Skagway or other ports, but I can for Beyond Skagway Tours and we stand behind our product. We offer privately guided tours that are customized to fit your needs (within reason of course!). Our customer experience is our #1 priority. We strive to give our guests a clear picture of what to expect while on tour with us, and If you feel we didn’t live up to your expectations, we ask you to let us know so we can make it right. 

3. Shop small and support the whole community. As small business owners here in Skagway Alaska, we feel the biggest reason to book with local tour operators is that by doing so you are supporting the livelihood of the whole community you are visiting, whether it be the bustling city of Juneau, our home here in Skagway, or the small town of Talkeetna! The American Independent Business Alliance found that for every dollar spent at a small business returns three times more money to the local economy when compared with shopping at a chain store. They suggest that the multiplier effect created by shopping locally offers a long lasting impact on the prosperity and well being of residents and local organizations. By booking with local small businesses you are helping Alaskan families thrive. Your purchase will help fund the children’s educational programs, schools, and sports, the communities emergency services, community recreational facilities, the local library, and so much more. This means your purchases leaves the community, its’ economy, and its’ population stronger! which means it will remain a great place to live and visit for generations to come.

4. We love Alaska! Another BIG reason to support local is that when you do so, you are also supporting the environment. Alaskan residents are the stewards to the land that you have come to visit. We are here because we are called here by the mountains and rivers. We are called to this great wilderness to love and protect it. We care deeply about the land, so we give back! Beyond Skagway tours is committed to going green. We offset our carbon emissions by donating annually to the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, REAP, a non-profit organization in Alaska, dedicated to education and exploration of clean energy in Alaska. We commit $5 for each tour sold to REAP, and offer a donation matching option to all guests who book a tour with us. We also pay our employees a full 8 hour day each summer to volunteer for community enhancing projects, such as the bi-annual community Clean Sweep, which keeps truck loads of windblown trash out of our ocean each year ( and keeps our city beautiful and clean ).

5. Authentic Alaska. Another factor that should be considered is that when you book locally, you are also getting a more authentic experience. You will typically be paired with a guide who lives here in Alaska and who can share more of their personal experiences of life in AK, why they choose to live and work here, and what that experience is really like, in addition to the incredible history of our area!

So when you hop on the Internet to research different shore excursions for your cruise, I encourage you to dig a little deeper and find a company that offers an experience that excites you, an experience that will teach you something new, and an experience that you won’t soon forget! Dig a little deeper and find a company you are excited to give your business to and support the whole community in the process.

3 Reasons to visit Alaska in September

3 Reasons to visit Alaska in September

Now that we are settling into mid September, we are finally able to slow down as the busy cruise ship season winds down. Another summer has come and gone. The seasons have shifted. Fall breathes fresh perspective and  ruminant feelings. With the seasons change I am drawn to cozy sweaters, hot lattes, and blueberry picking in the mountains with good company. I’m also inspired to share some of the reasons to love September in Alaska, and encourage you to book your cruise to visit our beautiful little town of Skagway Alaska in the fall! So here are our three top reasons you should consider booking your 2020 cruise in September.

In our minds, the best reason to book your cruise to Alaska its the dramatic decrease in crowd sizes, which makes this our number one reason to book in the fall. Alaska’s peak season is in June, July, and August, simply because school is out and families have the time and ability to take their whole family vacation. During the peak season you will see full ships, and over crowded ports. During peak season it can be tough to break free of the crowds. The shoulder seasons as we call it, is in the months of May and September. These two months still offer beautiful scenery, but you know what’s missing? The maddening crowds! Back to school means  you’ll be much more likely to book your preferred excursion. During peak season in Skagway, many of the best local tour operators are booked solid on full port days.  Which means, if you don’t book early, you’re not as likely get your #1 tour choice, and just plain lucky if you do. Shopping in the shoulder seasons is also so much more enjoyable. You can browse shops in peace, get much more personal attention from shop owner and clerks and find deals on exactly what you’ve been looking for. So whether you’re a nature lover who wants to hike free from the crowd, a shopper, or an adventure tour enthusiast, September is the month for  you!

Discounts. Everyone, well at least everyone I know, loves to stretch their dime. Vacations, especially Alaskan cruises can come with a hefty price tag. For many people this trip is on top their bucket list and they save for years to make it a once in a life time experience. However, you don’t have to pay top dollar when you book your cruise on the shoulder season. Cruise ship rates across the board are cheaper (and I just have to reiterate, they are also way less crowded!) when you book in September. By roughly mid September Local shops in each port have begun to discount items. Shop owners are looking to clear their inventory for next season, so they mark down prices to make those sales, allowing you to shop guilt free. Another important aspect of your trip to Alaska is the many and varied shore excursion choices. These experiences are well worth the price tag even in peak season. However, booking in September means you may be able to haggle a discount! From personal experience I know that if you are booking with a local tour company and ask for a late season discount, may just be lucky enough to get one (but don’t get mad at me if you don’t, I can only speak from my experience)! Since cruise ships are less crowded, the local tour operators are going to be hungry for you business! Most of these companies only operate in the summer, so they are very motivated to fill their tours and finish the season with a gusto. So go ahead, buy that locally handmade necklace, buy the kids some stuffed animals and books, bring home those mementos that will spark joy in your heart, book that tour you’ve been reading about, and make those once in a life time memories in Alaska!

This is our most obvious reason to visit Skagway in the Fall. The gorgeous fall colors completely transform the landscape blanketing the mountain sides with golden. As you travel up white pass into the alpine terrain you’ll see more reds, yellows, oranges, and even deep purple colors painted across the already gorgeous landscapes. The earthy smell of decaying leaves, low hanging morning fog, and the cool crisp air give that quintessential fall feeling. If your visiting from Florida, or anywhere where summer summer heat lasts into October, the refreshing air and cozy jacket weather is the perfect break from the heat!

If school constraints make it near impossible for some people to travel in the fall booking as close to the shoulder season as possible my still offer some of the above benefits to your cruising experience. However, if you have the freedom to book anytime through the cruise season you absolutely consider booking your cruise to see Alaska in the fall season! 

Air Travel with Children

Air Travel with Children

Just Go For It.

I recently traveled just over 4000 miles with the Beyond Skagway Tours grandkids (my three young children ages 7, 3, and 15 months). Alone. It took us 12 hours door to door and two flights totaling roughly 8 hours just to get to Juneau. We met up with Kate (also known as Aunt TeeTee) to explore Juneau for a day, then hopped a 45 minute scenic flight to our final destination of Skagway, Alaska. I know what you must be thinking: Is this women out of her mind? And maybe you’re right! It felt a little like the odds were stacked against me considering my 15 month old was cutting molars, and my 3 year old spiked a fever out of the blue, then vomited all over herself (and me) mid-flight #1. Hear me out though. The value of traveling and spending time with our family in Skagway far outweighs the burden of being stuck on a plane for a day with three wildlings. You just kind of have to get through it and I’ve learned a few tricks to make these long, intense, and sometimes messy travel days more bearable, or dare I say even a little fun? So here are three little tips to make your day on the fly a little smoother!

  1. Pack strategically. I check everything I possibly can. The less baggage you have to drag through the airport the better! I pack each kid a backpack for the airplane with coloring activity books, crayons, snacks (a fun new variety that they don’t normally have – packed in a ziplock bag), and headphones, The true game changer for me this time was packing our iPad with a pre-downloaded movie and a few episodes of their favorite tv show. I also picked up a headphone splitter so they could watch the movie together. I have a diaper bag packed with the diapers we need, wipes, a garbage bag, chargers, flight info, birth certificates and passports, and an extra change of clothes for everyone, including myself, because you just never know when the next blowout is coming. We also like a cozy blanket for naps (or catching vomit), and a favorite stuffed animal or two. I also highly recommend you bring a stroller. You can gate check it before boarding your plane. For me this is essential for getting everyone’s bags and tired feet to the gate on time. I also always bring my ergo baby carrier, just in case baby girl wants to be close to me in transit (they won’t let you wear this during flight, however). And DON’T forget to pack some baby and children Motrin! I have a small first aid kit in a ziplock back with Motrin, Neosporin, a thermometer, and a couple of band aids, because you just never know when its going to hit the fan!
  2. Give yourself extra time. This is sooooo important in keeping stress levels down. Checking bags and getting through TSA with kids always takes longer than you would think. If you have a lap infant like I did, you also have to check in at the customer service desk to check bags, so give yourself an extra 15 minute cushion in this case.
  3. Change your perspective and be patient. For me, flying is stressful and anxiety inducing. For my kids, it is a fun and exciting experience that transforms their day to day reality. One day they’re in the hot Florida sun, then just like that they’ve skipping rocks on a glacially fed lake in the land of the midnight sun. I find that my emotions are contagious, and if I let that stress and anxiety take over, it leeches onto my kids also. Then, everyone is stressed out, taking all the fun and excitement out of flying. So practice deep breathing, calm your nerves (employ whatever works for you here!), smile, and be patient. Try to really see this experience from their little shoes and everyone will have a lot more fun!
The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

Welcome to our blog. We’re here to share our love for all things Alaska with you. We’ll be posting about life in Skagway Alaska, travel tips for getting here, what to do while you’re here, and different facets about our businesses and what we can do for you!

The summer—no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness— 
O God! how I’m stuck on it all.

Robert W. Service