If you already know that Alaska is, in fact, part of the United States – not part of Canada or its own country – then you're way ahead of half the shipping companies in the nation, which still insist on charging Alaskans international rates. But that might also leave you with the very reasonable question of how to get there. If you start from Washington state, you can travel to Alaska by road, air or sea.

Air Travel From Washington to Alaska

For many Alaskans, the Seattle, Washington, airport is a veritable bus stop on the way to anywhere in the Lower 48. Both Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines, two of the biggest players in air travel throughout Alaska, offer year-round nonstop flights between Seattle and Anchorage, Alaska's largest city. Alaska Airlines also offers year-round flights from Seattle to other Alaska cities, including Ketchikan, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Because summer is tourist season in Alaska, you'll see seasonal bumps in air traffic, too. Delta adds flights from Seattle to Fairbanks and a few other Alaska cities during the summer, and JetBlue offers seasonal, summer-only service between Seattle and Anchorage.

From Washington to Alaska by Ferry

There are two ways to go from Washington to Alaska by sea. The first is the Alaska Marine Highway state ferry system, which departs from Bellingham, Washington, before traveling to Prince Rupert, Canada, then traveling north through Alaska's Inside Passage, a chain of island communities in Southeast Alaska. There's also a cross-gulf ferry route that travels back and forth across the Gulf of Alaska, linking communities in Southcentral Alaska with Southeast Alaska; and another route that travels from Southcentral Alaska down the Aleutian Chain. So you can see quite a bit of the state, including remote communities, aboard the state ferry system.

Cruises From Washington to Alaska

The other way to reach Alaska by sea from Washington is aboard a cruise ship, which is by far the most popular way of traveling to Southeast Alaska. Seattle is a popular departure port for cruises headed to Southeast Alaska. The Southcentral Alaska ports of Seward and Whittier are also popular ports of call, and stops at other ports – including Unalaska/Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Chain and even the Western Alaska city of Nome – are becoming more common.

Driving From Washington to Alaska

Your final option for reaching Alaska from Washington State is to drive. Although this is by far the longest transit option, it's also one of the most stunning, taking you through vast tracts of wilderness in Canada and Alaska. Technically, the Alaska Highway, known to many as the Alcan because it passes through both Alaska and Canada, runs 1,387 miles from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction, Alaska. But you also have to get to Dawson Creek, which means tacking on another 805 road miles if you take the shortest route from Seattle. All told, you can easily take a week or more to drive the entire highway.

Because you'll be passing through Canada, bring a passport, passport card or NEXUS card, and make sure to read up on the admissibility requirements for crossing the border. If you have a criminal history, including DUI/OUI convictions, you may not be allowed into the country. That said, the ultimate decision is up to the border services officer at the entry checkpoint.