We have several of Rick's books (Paris, Ireland, London) and am now in search of something for Alaska. Any suggestions for the first time traveler?
I recommend you go to your local library and/or bookstore and peruse the travel section. See what books cover the specific things you're interested in. Pick a section (e.g. Denali, or Ketchikan, or Kenai peninsula) for an area you are visiting and compare the coverage across several books.
You could also look at a site like https://www.tripsavvy.com/alaska-travel-guide-book-reviews-recommendations-1608987. And you could go to Amazon.com and check out reviews on various Alaska guidebooks.
I don't think there's anything for Alaska that would compare with the kind of guidebooks RS produces.
I haven’t used a book to plan our Alaska trips because I used to live there, and know where we want to go and what we want to see and do. But I have looked at some travel books at the bookstore, and I like the National Graphic Traveler and Moon books on Alaska.
You can look at these for ideas, but Alaska is so big, and there is so much to see, that you will need help putting together a realistic itinerary. The people on the Alaska forum on Tripadvisor are really good at this. I suggest you go there for help, after you have a rough idea of what you want to see.
The first step is choosing between a cruise up the Inside Passage with land tour before or after, or an all-land based trip using rental car, RV, and/or train. And then you need to understand the logistics of exploring Denali National Park, as private cars are not allowed to drive the road into the park (except campers with reservations to reach the campsite).
There is a fairly “standard” itinerary for a two-week visit that includes Denali National Park and the Kenai Peninsula (Seward and/or Homer) with or without a Matanuska Glacier hike. It works for many first-time visitors, particular cruisers as the cruise ships disembark at Seward or Whittier. But many will want to include Valdez, Richardson Highway, maybe Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Kodak, or other places.
And then there are the expensive bear-viewing excursions to consider. . . .
Are you thinking of next summer? Do you have a budget in mind? How many people?
If you plan to drive the Alaska Highway, and/or do any significant driving within Alaska, your best resource is The Milepost, a publication with more information than you can imagine about food, lodging, campgrounds, fuel, rest stops, scenic attractions, etc. https://www.themilepost.com/
You do realize Alaska is really big? For instance the distance between Fairbanks and Ketchikan is greater than between New York and Dallas. Ketchikan, Fairbanks, and Anchorage are all very different. As are smaller places like Valdez and/or Sitka. Local websites will give you more than most guide books can.
My recommendations are dependant on what you want to see or do. If you want to se the interior and Denali go to Fairbanks. You want to fish, Kodiak or Valdez. You want to see the Glaciers and some of the cities, take the inland passage by ferry or cruise ship.
If you want a base and to do day trips I'll back Fairbanks again. You can get to Denali, the Arctic Circle, Cheena, North Pole, the University, and just out in the woods/tundra/etc without too much trouble.
Nothing substitutes for you doing adequate research. If you wish to buy one or more highly promoted travel packages and accept whatever is provided. Despite being more than twice as large as Texas, large scale tourism tends to concentrate bodies in a number of scenic areas. Plan on often feeling like a salmon in a crowded stream unless you veer off a bit.
When I vacationed in Alaska, I purchased a packaged tour from Alaska Railroad. It was affordable, flexible, and got me everywhere you can get to from Anchorage on a train. A fun filled 10 days.
Seats on the train were comfortable, food available and some of the best sight seeing you can imagine. The best part of the tour is there was no actual group. You had your train tickets, hotel reservations, and dinners set up. You were responsible to show up when and where your next event was located. I saw some of the same people at different points along the way, but also many others who were all doing the railroad tours.
The railroad travel people were always available by phone and quickly resolved any issues that came up (only one real issue was one of the glacier tours was cancelled due to weather and the refund was in my account before I got off the phone with them.)
You can also check out Alaska Tour & Travel an Anchorage based agency that I can vouch for. Just google it.
It would be really nice if spd1961 would return and comment on the suggestions made so far, and provide more input on the type of trip they are looking for. Otherwise, we are just groping in the dark.