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sheryl

Help me plan trip to Alaska

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For some time I've been thinking about planning a family vacation to Alaska.  DD thought she'd have the opportunity through our church and one of the summer mission's programs but that had to be canceled.  

Anyway, I'd like to know what I need to consider for planning.  Here are some of my ideas thus far:

1.  When to visit.  Thinking this will be in a year or so and will need to coordinate when dd is home from college - mid June is what I've come up with so far.
2.  Would like to see the northern lights.  I understand from reading that it depends from which city as to when they are available to see?   May - Sept is prime.  But, year round. ???
3.  Fly in to Fairbanks or Anchorage?  I've ruled out Juneau.  I'm guessing b/c it's a smaller city it may cost more to fly in to.  ???
4.  I would love to drive to Prudhoe Bay until I found out it is 20 hours by car from Anchorage to there.  I know most people fly here and there in Alaska.  Would it be worth it to fly to P Bay? Expensive? 
5.  How many days?  One day flight to and from.  That's 2 days for travel.  We will NOT be used to long flight, extreme time difference, etc.  Will need to add a day to rest up.  Maybe 4-5 days in Alaska?  For the sake of budget, probably not more.
6.  Based on 4-5 days, what would you suggest?  We would like to explore, see, experience common and unique/not well-known points of interest.   And, again, Alaska is a huge state so if we travel to experience/see an attraction, how far should we travel?  Again, further would be a possibility if by plane.
7.  I don't remember the 24 hours of daylight time range, but I will NOT be able to sleep if it's light outside.  More than likely accommodations come with blackout curtains but I may need a sleep mask.  
8.  Everything is more expensive because of location and availability, etc.  What do we need to know about this?
9.  What is the cost for a commuter flight from Fairbanks OR Anchorage to another location say 6 hours away.

Tips, suggestions?  Links?  Recommendations?

We may try to stay in an Airbnb.  Good idea or no?

Edited by sheryl

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Sidenote: Yes, Juneau is small, and only accessible by boat or plane. It is crammed onto the shoreline and surrounded by high mountains with no road/pass.

However, JMO, but being limited to 4-5 days for the sightseeing of Alaska (plus 2 days on either end for getting there/back), sounds like a lot of expense and travel, travel, travel, and not really getting to see much. Just me, but if wanting to go that far away to visit such a big and interesting place as a special family vacation, I'd carve out the time (10-14 days of actually *being* there), and splurge and spend the $$ (if possible) to have a very special once-in-a-lifetime trip as a family.

I would highly recommend working with a travel agent who knows Alaska well, and who can help you maximize your time, find you deals, and line up flights and accommodations that match up well so that you're not spending loads of time waiting around for flights or spending hours and hours driving.

Or, you might consider getting a land tour package, rather than doing it all yourself or through a travel agent. Here's an 11-day "coast to coast" (Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay and back). And here are other land tours, of different lengths and to different sites.

One possibility you haven't mentioned is an Alaskan cruise. A cruise can sometimes be cheaper than you think, because it is including your transportation, food, and lodging, all in one. And it goes at a leisurely pace, so you quickly recover from travel to *get* to the launch site, it goes at a gentle pace, and you have a leisurely opportunity to really take in the location. And there are options of add-on of an excursions into the interior, which go to Denali National Park, and/or to Fairbanks. That would take care of all of your hotel/food/travel -- you would just need to get to Seattle. (Or if going out of Vancouver BC, then you would need to get passports.)

Our Alaskan cruise took us in to see Glacier Bay, which has multiple glaciers, and can't be accessed any other way than by cruise ship. It was amazing! The landscape was fantastic; from the ship, looking at the shore, we saw loads of bald eagles, a brown bear, mountain goats. And in the water we saw otters, a pod of orca, a pod of baluga whales. And a humpback whale come right up the boat and literally looked DH and I in the eye before rolling over and going under the boat. We also had stops in Juneau, Skagway, and Seward, with a train back from Seward to Anchorage and flying home out of Anchorage. We did an add-on excursion in Skagway, the "gateway" to the gold fields during the 1899 Gold Rush, of taking the train up the pass, seeing the mining history, and back again. Other people on the cruise were doing the 1 week excursions to Denali and to Fairbanks and back again. We made that trip almost 17 years ago, and it is a treasured memory.

Anyways, just a thought! Wishing you a fantastic Alaskan vacation, however you decide to do it! Warmest regards, Lori D.

 

Edited by Lori D.
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PS -- I'm sure you've already been researching and seen some of these, but here are some websites about vacationing/traveling in Alaska: We Are Travel Girls: "The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Alaska" and Alaska.org. The Smarter Travel website lists the different regions/areas of Alaska and what the main attractions are in each, so if you have limited time for travel, you might look over those areas and focus on just one area to maximize your 4-5 days of being in Alaska. Just a thought!

Another side note: From those websites, it looks like the prime time to see the Northern Lights (Aurora) is actually Sept. - April, so if the main reason you wanted to travel to Prudhoe Bay/Arctic Circle is for the Aurora, then you may want to re-think that side trip.

Also from those websites, it looks like mid-June through mid-August is the most expensive time to travel; if you can travel between mid-May to mid-June or mid-Aug to mid-September, you can reduce costs by as much as 25%. Our cruise was in mid-September, so we got a great deal.

 

Edited by Lori D.
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My parents went last year for their 40th anniversary. They did one of those river cruises that took them for 2-3 days, with stops in certain places. I believe they purchased the trip as a package deal with everything laid out for them (which, having little Alaska experience, worked well for them). It was a pricey trip, though. 

ETA: they went in July and had great weather. 

Edited by alisoncooks
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You would be highly unlikely to see northern lights between May and September, simply because it’s far too light outdoors.  Best time for northern lights is January and February - of course, that’s also when it’s coldest!  🙂

Prudhoe Bay - I wouldn’t characterize PB as much of a tourist destination unless you’re fascinated by the oil industry.  Most Alaskans have never been there, unless they work there.

Anne

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Fly to Anchorage and take the train to Fairbanks and back, then take another train ride or drive from Anchorage to Valdez.  So many pretty stops and sights for fairly little money, and lots of day excursions and activities in both options.

https://www.alaskarailroad.com/ride-a-train/schedules

 

The train is my favorite way to do the state, aside from small charter boats.

Edited by Arctic Mama
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We lived in Anchorage for awhile.  No way would I consider all you have talked about.  You would miss a ton.

I would probably fly into Anchorage and rent a car and tour from there.  It would be very easy to see so much within 2 hours of Anchorage.  Seward is a beautiful little town that runs sight seeing 1/2 day cruises and has a marine wildlife place, Alyeska is a big ski resort that you can take a tram to the top and spend some time.  You could flight see out of Talkeetna to see Denali if and that is a big if it isn't fogged in.  Hatcher's pass is a beautiful drive, Lake Eklutna is beautiful and has walking trails.  Hotels and car rentals in the summer are crazy expensive and it is crowded.  If you don't mind the snow go in March and that opens you up to snow machine tours as well as skiing.  Look up Hobo Jim and see if he is in the area and playing anywhere.

Edited by Mama Geek
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1 hour ago, sheryl said:

We may try to stay in an Airbnb.

Oh my, see me cringing. The most common thing would be to rent an RV. Have you priced them out? That's what we did, and it's AMAZING. You can get any size, not too pricey, park largely wherever you want (boondocking). Check the schedule on the northern lights. We missed them, sigh, because the one night we were far enough north we were tired and it rained. 

I used a Frommer's guide to plan our trip. Alaska is an astonishingly huge place, so it makes more sense to pick a region and really do it. There are going to be lots of places you just can't get to. I would try to go longer than 4-5 days if you can. Your travel there is the worst part of the cost, or at least it was for us. Once you're there, adding on days isn't that bad if you're in an RV. Parking was free or uber cheap most nights, so we just bought groceries in town and did our thing.

It's really important to fish. Hike. See the mountain (Denali national park). Other than that, don't go too fast, kwim? It's more an experience, not a list of things to check off. There's cool stuff, like abandoned mining towns (we saw two), a crazy museum in Fairbanks, the glacier tours (must do), sled dog tours (must do), hiking a glacier (not me, haha, but my dh did it). There's an aquarium we hit that was really great. Great pizza. Crazy fur shops in Anchorage.

You're just not going to be able to see everything. If you really only have 4-5 days, that's 1-2 days on the coast, 2 days to see the mountain, done. You're not doing North Pole and Fairbanks and the bears and and and kwim? Tighten it down.

Personally, we thought it was amazing to do the loop up and then down. Well we did it a little more crazy, because we wanted to cut across the Denali highway, which is really astonishing. But these are long drives and the drives themselves are to be enjoyed. Like we'd pull over and boondock for the night and walk the stream beds and look at things. There's the pipeline, which has stops where you can see how it's done (the tech, the cleaning). 

I'm cringing at the b&b idea because there's not really a lot there. I mean where Sarah Palin lives there's a Super Target (or was it walmart?) and all that, totally civilized. But I found it pretty rough in-between the major cities. Houses covered in tyvek, partially built. I'd rather have an RV and keep going. Lots of people tent, but that wouldn't be me, lol. 

We went in the fall and we ended up going to their state fair. That was pretty cool too. Even with 2 weeks we didn't make it down to Valdeez and didn't make it to the other side of the penninsula to see the bears. It's just really THAT BIG. Don't underestimate it. We flew the mountain, and that was amazing, highly recommend. Ate lots of salmon. This is not a really built-up place, but if you get the guide books and hit the restaurants, some are good. Lots of reindeer sausage too. 

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9 minutes ago, Mama Geek said:

We lived in Fairbanks for awhile.  No way would I consider all you have talked about.  You would miss a ton.

I would probably fly into Anchorage and rent a car and tour from there.  It would be very easy to see so much within 2 hours of Anchorage.  Seward is a beautiful little town that runs sight seeing 1/2 day cruises and has a marine wildlife place, Alyeska is a big ski resort that you can take a tram to the top and spend some time.  You could flight see out of Talkeetna to see Denali if and that is a big if it isn't fogged in.  Hatcher's pass is a beautiful drive, Lake Eklutna is beautiful and has walking trails.  Hotels and car rentals in the summer are crazy expensive and it is crowded.  If you don't mind the snow go in March and that opens you up to snow machine tours as well as skiing.  Look up Hobo Jim and see if he is in the area and playing anywhere.

Yes, yes!!! We got Hobo Jim cds and listened to them while we road in the RV. Then we met him at the state fair and he gave ds a dog you could choke and make sing one of his songs, haha. Yes, we flew out of Talkeetne to see the mountain. We fished from Seward. You can charter a boat and certain times of year the fish just pull out. Then you WHAM them with a sledgehammer, haha. The mines were both within 2 hours of Anchorage, like she's saying. There was a falls we hiked that was scenic. Ds screamed the whole way, lol.

The all day boat tour of the glaciers was so wonderful. Really don't miss it. https://www.nps.gov/glba/planyourvisit/glacier-bay-tour-boat.htm  Our boat had a park service guide on it explaining things. Iirc they also had a quick museum and some trails there where you could walk up to a glacier. Great stuff.

The pizza in Anchorage is AMAZING. Wait was crazy long but so worth it. Then you take your pizza and park at the inlet and watch the belugas as the tide comes in. 

Edited by PeterPan
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Re: Northern Lights.   You may see them if you stay up late (or get up early) between 1am and 4am on a cool clear night that was warm during the day.

Re: Sleeping.  Bring the mask with you and get used to using it before you come.  Few locations have sufficient black out curtains to meet your needs.  Trust me on this one.

Re: What to do. Arctic Mama’s train suggestion is my favorite to recommend to visitors.  You see great stuff - amazing views and historical things - and the stress level is very low.  Mama Geeks car trip would be my second choice.  A wonderful thing to do is A Fjord boat trip out of Seward and they coordinate with the train schedule too.

Enjoy your trip!  Bring a rain coat and a fleece jacket regardless of when you come because Alaska’s a big place and it has its own weather.

ETA: Re Pizza.  Moose’s Tooth Pizza has a sister restaurant nearby called Bears Tooth with the same pizza.  You can call BT and order the pizza for pick up without the wait and then eat in one of our many parks.  It really is something amazing.  Menu is online too.

Edited by AK_Mom4
Forgot the pizza!
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This *might* be the company we used for our RV rental, can't remember. https://www.greatalaskanholidays.com  They picked us up at the airport, did our orientation, made it all easy peasy. We shipped bulky things directly to them like sleeping bags. Groceries are pretty easy to get in Anchorage, basically like anything you're used to in the lower 48, just maybe a little more expensive. So we got the RV, stocked up, and were on our way. 

There are places you can overnight that are literally within view of beautiful glaciers, beautiful lakes. Unless you really like the b&b and want to be stuck in one place, an RV is much nicer. It's pretty sweet waking up with a glacier view. :biggrin:

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Shoot I was thinking about Anchorage and Fairbanks when I typed we lived in Anchorage and toured Fairbanks 1 time.  I am going to fix my post

 

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OK, I'm headed out but am reading these replies and will chat with y'all later.  Be on the lookout.  All excellent ideas.  PeterPan, as much as I like your idea, we probably will not rent an rv.  However, we will not be stuck at an air bnb.  That's our sleep place, kwim?  We'll be out experiencing by car, boat or maybe take that commuter flight somewhere.  So much to consider. Will reread these and respond but need to get going for now.  Please check back in later.  Thanks! 

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I have to say we did a quick trip to Alaska and I have no regrets.  That said we tend to schedule pretty tightly and research well.  Most of our travel is in quick chunks.

Back in the early 90’s my favorite frequent flyer airline started service to Anchorage and had super cheap fares and was giving a huge number of air miles to fly the route.  Dh, Fil, and I booked for a 4 day trip in the summer.....all that was available.  We rented a suite at a modest Anchorage hotel and rented a car.  We made a list of goals and accomplished most........first full day we drove up to Mt. McKinley and saw lots of things along the way......fil’s giant cabbage which was the thing he demanded we find, musk ox, dog sleds........The next day we drove to Seward, did a Glacier boat trip along the way, saw beluga whales and mountain sheep during that drive.  Ate well and had a great time.  We all said that we would cruise the next time but honestly I am satisfied with my trip.  Lots of other places on my list....... 

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18+ year resident here. 🙂

June-July are prime as far as weather and availability of guided activities. Those months are also more mosquito-filled though. May and August will be cheaper, and possibly rainier, though less buggy. Early September will be cheaper still, but with some activities done for the season.

Northern Lights are more of a winter activity, because there is so much light in the summer. Not impossible to see, but the viewing won't be prime.

For a first time visit, I'd fly to Anchorage and focus on the Kenai Peninsula, with perhaps a drive to Denali National Park. Keep in mind that Alaska is huge and driving times are long on relatively remote roads. You aren't going to find the highway services that you are used to in other places (flush toilets with sinks at rest stops, for example, are not happening on the road here.)

I do like Fairbanks in the summer, but that is probably not the Alaska you have envisioned for your trip. And so you know, it's a six hour drive, easily, from Fairbanks to Anchorage.

That drive to Prudhoe Bay, apart from the time involved, is one where you have to carry extra gasoline for the car, and is probably not feasible in a rental if you have restrictions on going off pavement (in fact, for any rental, check on those restrictions. There are companies that will rent for off-pavement driving.) Dings to the windshield are super common here, so make sure your insurance is in place.

The flights to and from Alaska frequently involve odd times/overnight flying, so plan for that in your recovery time.

4-5 days is unlikely to be enough time with all the driving involved. Again, huge state.

Yes, expensive trip. Lodging, excursions, even more if you add in flights. No way around that here. If you opt to tent camp and hike, that is your cheapest option, though that means bringing more gear and having knowledge of the area. And you will want to dress for weather, which means both cold/rainy and hot in summer.

Editing because I just read the post above mine and want to clarify driving times for that sort of trip. Anchorage to Denali National Park, where McKinley (now Denali) is is 3 1/2-4 hours of solid driving. To go into the park and see the mountain closer, you have to get on a bus if you want to go past the first 15 miles of park road (the mountain is quite a ways in the park) so you are talking several hours on a bus on this narrow park road. The drive to Seward from Denali National Park will be about 5 1/2-6 hours, though road construction (or crashes on the road, which frequently shut it down for a time) can add significantly to the time. Someone mentioned the train and that is a good option, though not inexpensive and not faster 🙂

Edited by GoodGrief1
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On 5/15/2019 at 10:34 AM, Lori D. said:

Sidenote: Yes, Juneau is small, and only accessible by boat or plane. It is crammed onto the shoreline and surrounded by high mountains with no road/pass.

However, JMO, but being limited to 4-5 days for the sightseeing of Alaska (plus 2 days on either end for getting there/back), sounds like a lot of expense and travel, travel, travel, and not really getting to see much. Just me, but if wanting to go that far away to visit such a big and interesting place as a special family vacation, I'd carve out the time (10-14 days of actually *being* there), and splurge and spend the $$ (if possible) to have a very special once-in-a-lifetime trip as a family.

I would highly recommend working with a travel agent who knows Alaska well, and who can help you maximize your time, find you deals, and line up flights and accommodations that match up well so that you're not spending loads of time waiting around for flights or spending hours and hours driving.

Or, you might consider getting a land tour package, rather than doing it all yourself or through a travel agent. Here's an 11-day "coast to coast" (Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay and back). And here are other land tours, of different lengths and to different sites.

One possibility you haven't mentioned is an Alaskan cruise. A cruise can sometimes be cheaper than you think, because it is including your transportation, food, and lodging, all in one. And it goes at a leisurely pace, so you quickly recover from travel to *get* to the launch site, it goes at a gentle pace, and you have a leisurely opportunity to really take in the location. And there are options of add-on of an excursions into the interior, which go to Denali National Park, and/or to Fairbanks. That would take care of all of your hotel/food/travel -- you would just need to get to Seattle. (Or if going out of Vancouver BC, then you would need to get passports.)

Our Alaskan cruise took us in to see Glacier Bay, which has multiple glaciers, and can't be accessed any other way than by cruise ship. It was amazing! The landscape was fantastic; from the ship, looking at the shore, we saw loads of bald eagles, a brown bear, mountain goats. And in the water we saw otters, a pod of orca, a pod of baluga whales. And a humpback whale come right up the boat and literally looked DH and I in the eye before rolling over and going under the boat. We also had stops in Juneau, Skagway, and Seward, with a train back from Seward to Anchorage and flying home out of Anchorage. We did an add-on excursion in Skagway, the "gateway" to the gold fields during the 1899 Gold Rush, of taking the train up the pass, seeing the mining history, and back again. Other people on the cruise were doing the 1 week excursions to Denali and to Fairbanks and back again. We made that trip almost 17 years ago, and it is a treasured memory.

Anyways, just a thought! Wishing you a fantastic Alaskan vacation, however you decide to do it! Warmest regards, Lori D.

 

Hey Lori!  Thanks!  Yes, it would seem logical to take a cruise.  I've never taken one before but have a feeling I might feel queasy on one.   

On 5/15/2019 at 11:15 AM, Lori D. said:

PS -- I'm sure you've already been researching and seen some of these, but here are some websites about vacationing/traveling in Alaska: We Are Travel Girls: "The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Alaska" and Alaska.org. The Smarter Travel website lists the different regions/areas of Alaska and what the main attractions are in each, so if you have limited time for travel, you might look over those areas and focus on just one area to maximize your 4-5 days of being in Alaska. Just a thought!

Another side note: From those websites, it looks like the prime time to see the Northern Lights (Aurora) is actually Sept. - April, so if the main reason you wanted to travel to Prudhoe Bay/Arctic Circle is for the Aurora, then you may want to re-think that side trip.

Also from those websites, it looks like mid-June through mid-August is the most expensive time to travel; if you can travel between mid-May to mid-June or mid-Aug to mid-September, you can reduce costs by as much as 25%. Our cruise was in mid-September, so we got a great deal.

 

Tonight I'll be looking at these links.  The Smarter Travel website looks great and that's exactly what I'd like to learn - main attractions by regions.  I'm looking at hotels and Airbnbs.  Will need to consider staying longer - you're right, 7=8 days is not nearly enough for the investment of time/distance.

The Northern Lights I'm confused about.  I thought I read that the "lights" are visible year round but depends on location.  After learning Prudhoe Bay is 20 hours by car to Anchorage, I doubt we'll do that.  We could fly but as you and/or someone has pointed out there is MUCH to see in this huge state and we won't be able to see it all.  So, we need to look at the link above and decide by region where we want to "vacation".   No, I'd like to go to P Bay b/c it's on the northern edge.  I doubt we will even though it seems incredibly interesting.  Separate to P Bay is the opportunity to see the "lights".  I think that would be an incredible event to see in person.  Again, I thought I read (not sure what I read now) that the lights are available at various times depending on location.   My reasoning was to stay in the vicinity where we would see them or drive a short distance to see them.  Will need to rethink this. 

I am eyeballing the last 10 - 12 days in May.  That will stretch our tourism dollar our a little more but we won't see the lights.  Oh well. There's more to see! LOL!   

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On 5/15/2019 at 11:30 AM, Arctic Mama said:

Fly to Anchorage and take the train to Fairbanks and back, then take another train ride or drive from Anchorage to Valdez.  So many pretty stops and sights for fairly little money, and lots of day excursions and activities in both options.

https://www.alaskarailroad.com/ride-a-train/schedules

 

The train is my favorite way to do the state, aside from small charter boats.

I LIKE the idea of the train.   Would we still need to rent a car if we're traveling a this place to train, that place maybe by boat?  I doubt we'll take a commuter plane.   When you suggest take train from AK to Fair and then back, you are suggesting to spend the night?  It's 6+ hours one way between the 2 cities.  Would you recommend a charter boat?  

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I have traveled a bit. Currently in LA (it is thunderstorming and 58 degrees - so much for the surfing vacation the kids wanted)... And our trip to Alaska is one of my favorites of all times. (another side note--- you know when you have to have a painful procedure done so you try really hard to think of something nice - I think of the wildflowers in Alaska) We rented the RV and drove around. GO to DENALI. So amazing! We flew in and out of Anchorage. I made every meal but two in the RV so it saved a lot of time and money. Just enjoy the journey. It is a spectacular state; I loved every minute. 

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11 minutes ago, sheryl said:

... I've never taken one before but have a feeling I might feel queasy on one...


DH gets motion sick VERY easily -- he MUST either drive the car or be in the front passenger seat to have enough view to prevent getting queasy. He got a motion sickness patch from the doctor (and a second one to replace it halfway through the trip), and never felt the least bit queasy.

The inside passage is very very smooth water. The only time we felt like we were on the water was when crossing a little bit of open sea on the last day to get to Seward, and we felt a bit of choppiness. And one night, about 2am, when the ship was turning to back in to the narrow inlet port at one of our stops -- I actually got very queasy, as we had an "inside" cabin with no windows. I very nearly grabbed my coat to go up on deck for fresh air and a VIEW to prevent puking, but then the boat docked and the motion stopped, and my head and stomach settled.
 

11 minutes ago, sheryl said:

I am eyeballing the last 10 - 12 days in May.  That will stretch our tourism dollar our a little more but we won't see the lights.  Oh well. There's more to see! LOL!   


That's coming up like, NOW, so you might be able to find a super "last minute" deal where either a land package or a cruise is trying to fill space. Whatever you decide, hope you all have a fantastic trip! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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3 hours ago, sheryl said:

I LIKE the idea of the train.   Would we still need to rent a car if we're traveling a this place to train, that place maybe by boat?  I doubt we'll take a commuter plane.   When you suggest take train from AK to Fair and then back, you are suggesting to spend the night?  It's 6+ hours one way between the 2 cities.  Would you recommend a charter boat?  

If you’re taking the train there then charter buses will usually do the excursions, or taxis.  But to drive to Valdez or such yes you’d want to rent.  You can definitely get by from all the major train stops without one though, and some of the train trips include bus charters if I recall.

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3 hours ago, sheryl said:

Yes, it would seem logical to take a cruise.  I've never taken one before but have a feeling I might feel queasy on one.  

People get patches from their doctor. The cruise we took this winter to the Caribbean was very calm but *many* people had those patches. My mother got sick, took some medication (you can get it otc at the grocery) and recovered. I took ginger capsules 3X a day and was fine, no issues at all. Do you get sick in cars or with other motion? I think they other thing they say for cruising Alaska is to start at Vancouver and not be on the open sea if you want it calmer. 

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On 5/15/2019 at 11:45 AM, Mama Geek said:

We lived in Anchorage for awhile.  No way would I consider all you have talked about.  You would miss a ton.

I would probably fly into Anchorage and rent a car and tour from there.  It would be very easy to see so much within 2 hours of Anchorage.  Seward is a beautiful little town that runs sight seeing 1/2 day cruises and has a marine wildlife place, Alyeska is a big ski resort that you can take a tram to the top and spend some time.  You could flight see out of Talkeetna to see Denali if and that is a big if it isn't fogged in.  Hatcher's pass is a beautiful drive, Lake Eklutna is beautiful and has walking trails.  Hotels and car rentals in the summer are crazy expensive and it is crowded.  If you don't mind the snow go in March and that opens you up to snow machine tours as well as skiing.  Look up Hobo Jim and see if he is in the area and playing anywhere.

I'm going to look at Lori D's link she suggested - the link providing attractions by region in Alaska.  Is there some reason not to fly into Fairbanks?  The places you suggest above sound nice.  Would like to expand beyond a 2 hour perimeter though.   It looks like we will try to avoid summer now.   

On 5/15/2019 at 11:50 AM, PeterPan said:

Oh my, see me cringing. The most common thing would be to rent an RV. Have you priced them out? That's what we did, and it's AMAZING. You can get any size, not too pricey, park largely wherever you want (boondocking). Check the schedule on the northern lights. We missed them, sigh, because the one night we were far enough north we were tired and it rained. 

I used a Frommer's guide to plan our trip. Alaska is an astonishingly huge place, so it makes more sense to pick a region and really do it. There are going to be lots of places you just can't get to. I would try to go longer than 4-5 days if you can. Your travel there is the worst part of the cost, or at least it was for us. Once you're there, adding on days isn't that bad if you're in an RV. Parking was free or uber cheap most nights, so we just bought groceries in town and did our thing.

It's really important to fish. Hike. See the mountain (Denali national park). Other than that, don't go too fast, kwim? It's more an experience, not a list of things to check off. There's cool stuff, like abandoned mining towns (we saw two), a crazy museum in Fairbanks, the glacier tours (must do), sled dog tours (must do), hiking a glacier (not me, haha, but my dh did it). There's an aquarium we hit that was really great. Great pizza. Crazy fur shops in Anchorage.

You're just not going to be able to see everything. If you really only have 4-5 days, that's 1-2 days on the coast, 2 days to see the mountain, done. You're not doing North Pole and Fairbanks and the bears and and and kwim? Tighten it down.

Personally, we thought it was amazing to do the loop up and then down. Well we did it a little more crazy, because we wanted to cut across the Denali highway, which is really astonishing. But these are long drives and the drives themselves are to be enjoyed. Like we'd pull over and boondock for the night and walk the stream beds and look at things. There's the pipeline, which has stops where you can see how it's done (the tech, the cleaning). 

I'm cringing at the b&b idea because there's not really a lot there. I mean where Sarah Palin lives there's a Super Target (or was it walmart?) and all that, totally civilized. But I found it pretty rough in-between the major cities. Houses covered in tyvek, partially built. I'd rather have an RV and keep going. Lots of people tent, but that wouldn't be me, lol. 

We went in the fall and we ended up going to their state fair. That was pretty cool too. Even with 2 weeks we didn't make it down to Valdeez and didn't make it to the other side of the penninsula to see the bears. It's just really THAT BIG. Don't underestimate it. We flew the mountain, and that was amazing, highly recommend. Ate lots of salmon. This is not a really built-up place, but if you get the guide books and hit the restaurants, some are good. Lots of reindeer sausage too. 

Peter Pan,  I do like the RV idea but not for Alaska.  I'd like to rent one and we make an excursion here in the lower 48.  We will fly there, probably rent an Airbnb (pricing those out now and seem to be just as nice in accommodations and less expensive than hotels - at least what I've found so far), rent a car and visit.   You are right and glad you mentioned it b/c I was getting a little carried away - it's an experience, not a list to check off!  Your idea aligns with what Lori D and others have said about choosing a region. Lori D's link she provided does just that - lists attractions by region.  We, as a family, will review this link, discuss and choose the region we most want to visit.  With that said let's say we choose a region, would it be unheard of to take a commuter flight to 1 other region if there is a main attraction to visit and it's most logical to take a flight or a cruise there?  I guess that would mean staying over in yet another place 1-2 nights depending on distance from our chosen primary region.   The abandoned mining towns sound cool to see, Denali national park and I know we all would really like to take a glacier tour.  How long is a tour of glacier sight-seeing?  My daughter would LOVE to see the sled dog tour and dh and I would enjoy it too. 

I'm trying to figure out how to make Anchorage and Fairbanks happen......

My research is beginning on glacier tours and many of what your suggested......I like your list and those are things we would have chosen.   We will NOT be actually hiking a glacier though! 🙂 

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On 5/15/2019 at 12:00 PM, AK_Mom4 said:

Re: Northern Lights.   You may see them if you stay up late (or get up early) between 1am and 4am on a cool clear night that was warm during the day.

Re: Sleeping.  Bring the mask with you and get used to using it before you come.  Few locations have sufficient black out curtains to meet your needs.  Trust me on this one.

Re: What to do. Arctic Mama’s train suggestion is my favorite to recommend to visitors.  You see great stuff - amazing views and historical things - and the stress level is very low.  Mama Geeks car trip would be my second choice.  A wonderful thing to do is A Fjord boat trip out of Seward and they coordinate with the train schedule too.

Enjoy your trip!  Bring a rain coat and a fleece jacket regardless of when you come because Alaska’s a big place and it has its own weather.

ETA: Re Pizza.  Moose’s Tooth Pizza has a sister restaurant nearby called Bears Tooth with the same pizza.  You can call BT and order the pizza for pick up without the wait and then eat in one of our many parks.  It really is something amazing.  Menu is online too.

I need to figure out location/times for the "lights".  I'm still unclear about this.  Are you saying they are visible year round at those times?  Sleeping - good tip.  I've not slept with an eye mask as our room is dark.  I need a dark room to sleep.  I am on a cpap machine so transporting that by plane to Alaska will not be fun!   We would all like to take a train ride.   I need to learn about this more.  Do we stay the night?  Doesn't that mean packing up a small suitcase from our "base" (Airbnb primary location) to spend the night/s?  Are there any gorge's to travel over by car or train?  I'm a little squeamish thinking about it.  DD loves pizza - thanks for the tip. 

On 5/15/2019 at 12:01 PM, PeterPan said:

This *might* be the company we used for our RV rental, can't remember. https://www.greatalaskanholidays.com  They picked us up at the airport, did our orientation, made it all easy peasy. We shipped bulky things directly to them like sleeping bags. Groceries are pretty easy to get in Anchorage, basically like anything you're used to in the lower 48, just maybe a little more expensive. So we got the RV, stocked up, and were on our way. 

There are places you can overnight that are literally within view of beautiful glaciers, beautiful lakes. Unless you really like the b&b and want to be stuck in one place, an RV is much nicer. It's pretty sweet waking up with a glacier view. :biggrin:

We won't be renting an RV and need to make this work staying at a hotel or Airbnb.  Renting a car.  Taking a train and/or boat excursion and possibly a commuter flight.  I'm already considering how expensive the food/drinks will be.  I imagine we will shop Walmart, Target or such and still treat ourselves to a small, independent grocery for some specialty food, maybe.  What does a gallon of milk go for?  

On 5/17/2019 at 12:02 PM, mumto2 said:

I have to say we did a quick trip to Alaska and I have no regrets.  That said we tend to schedule pretty tightly and research well.  Most of our travel is in quick chunks.

Back in the early 90’s my favorite frequent flyer airline started service to Anchorage and had super cheap fares and was giving a huge number of air miles to fly the route.  Dh, Fil, and I booked for a 4 day trip in the summer.....all that was available.  We rented a suite at a modest Anchorage hotel and rented a car.  We made a list of goals and accomplished most........first full day we drove up to Mt. McKinley and saw lots of things along the way......fil’s giant cabbage which was the thing he demanded we find, musk ox, dog sleds........The next day we drove to Seward, did a Glacier boat trip along the way, saw beluga whales and mountain sheep during that drive.  Ate well and had a great time.  We all said that we would cruise the next time but honestly I am satisfied with my trip.  Lots of other places on my list....... 

Thanks!  I'm so glad it all worked out.  And, yes, that's what I'm doing as well.  Researching requires time but I'm hoping it will pay off.  

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On 5/17/2019 at 12:46 PM, GoodGrief1 said:

18+ year resident here. 🙂

June-July are prime as far as weather and availability of guided activities. Those months are also more mosquito-filled though. May and August will be cheaper, and possibly rainier, though less buggy. Early September will be cheaper still, but with some activities done for the season.   OK, that's just good info too.  We need to choose bugs or rain.  🙂 Would you give me an idea of what activities are wrapped up by September?  What would we miss?

Northern Lights are more of a winter activity, because there is so much light in the summer. Not impossible to see, but the viewing won't be prime.  It's possible then? But not prime?

For a first time visit, I'd fly to Anchorage and focus on the Kenai Peninsula, with perhaps a drive to Denali National Park. Keep in mind that Alaska is huge and driving times are long on relatively remote roads. You aren't going to find the highway services that you are used to in other places (flush toilets with sinks at rest stops, for example, are not happening on the road here.)    Thanks for this because I do like clean hands!  So there are compost toilets at rest areas on highways?  No sinks? 

I do like Fairbanks in the summer, but that is probably not the Alaska you have envisioned for your trip. And so you know, it's a six hour drive, easily, from Fairbanks to Anchorage.  Actually I was thinking Fairbanks b/c it's more interior, but tell me why I might not want to consider it.

That drive to Prudhoe Bay, apart from the time involved, is one where you have to carry extra gasoline for the car, and is probably not feasible in a rental if you have restrictions on going off pavement (in fact, for any rental, check on those restrictions. There are companies that will rent for off-pavement driving.) Dings to the windshield are super common here, so make sure your insurance is in place.   I've learned that AK to PB is 20 hours by car.  Not going to happen, although I bet it's beautiful! 

The flights to and from Alaska frequently involve odd times/overnight flying, so plan for that in your recovery time.   Yes, many are a good part of a day arriving or leaving in the late night/early morning hours which will make a little nervous to fly at night!  

4-5 days is unlikely to be enough time with all the driving involved. Again, huge state.

Yes, expensive trip. Lodging, excursions, even more if you add in flights. No way around that here. If you opt to tent camp and hike, that is your cheapest option, though that means bringing more gear and having knowledge of the area. And you will want to dress for weather, which means both cold/rainy and hot in summer.  I've tent camped often when I was younger  but not happening on this trip with so little time! 🙂

Editing because I just read the post above mine and want to clarify driving times for that sort of trip. Anchorage to Denali National Park, where McKinley (now Denali) is is 3 1/2-4 hours of solid driving. To go into the park and see the mountain closer, you have to get on a bus if you want to go past the first 15 miles of park road (the mountain is quite a ways in the park) so you are talking several hours on a bus on this narrow park road. The drive to Seward from Denali National Park will be about 5 1/2-6 hours, though road construction (or crashes on the road, which frequently shut it down for a time) can add significantly to the time. Someone mentioned the train and that is a good option, though not inexpensive and not faster 🙂     Are the roads narrow with "drop offs"?  That would be more compromising.  A narrow road not so much unless there is snow/ice on it but a narrow road with drop offs, that's another story!  We have drop offs galore in Appalachian mountains here in NC!  By drop offs, I'm referring to no guard rail, narrow road butted up to mountain on one side and only a bit on the other side where it does DOWN! 

 

Edited by sheryl

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15 hours ago, Lori D. said:


DH gets motion sick VERY easily -- he MUST either drive the car or be in the front passenger seat to have enough view to prevent getting queasy. He got a motion sickness patch from the doctor (and a second one to replace it halfway through the trip), and never felt the least bit queasy.

The inside passage is very very smooth water. The only time we felt like we were on the water was when crossing a little bit of open sea on the last day to get to Seward, and we felt a bit of choppiness. And one night, about 2am, when the ship was turning to back in to the narrow inlet port at one of our stops -- I actually got very queasy, as we had an "inside" cabin with no windows. I very nearly grabbed my coat to go up on deck for fresh air and a VIEW to prevent puking, but then the boat docked and the motion stopped, and my head and stomach settled.
 


That's coming up like, NOW, so you might be able to find a super "last minute" deal where either a land package or a cruise is trying to fill space. Whatever you decide, hope you all have a fantastic trip! Warmest regards, Lori D.

I think I could do a day trip boat excursion but I'm talking about sleeping on a boat.   Don't think I could do that, patch or not.   I'm referring to May 2020. 

 

13 hours ago, AK_Mom4 said:

Viewing the Northern Lights: this site has some good advice on how to see these.  I have the aurora.cam notification that comes to my phone.  It really is all about  catching the right weather and being able to see the horizon without light pollution.

http://www.alaska.org/things-to-do/northern-lights-viewing

Thanks so much for this!

12 hours ago, Arctic Mama said:

If you’re taking the train there then charter buses will usually do the excursions, or taxis.  But to drive to Valdez or such yes you’d want to rent.  You can definitely get by from all the major train stops without one though, and some of the train trips include bus charters if I recall.

I'll need to map it out and check with AAA and Frommers.  I'm unclear still about the length of time.  If by train it takes quite a while to get to destination and the time back is just as long then wouldn't you be sleeping on a train? Or, are you referring to short day trips by train?

12 hours ago, PeterPan said:

People get patches from their doctor. The cruise we took this winter to the Caribbean was very calm but *many* people had those patches. My mother got sick, took some medication (you can get it otc at the grocery) and recovered. I took ginger capsules 3X a day and was fine, no issues at all. Do you get sick in cars or with other motion? I think they other thing they say for cruising Alaska is to start at Vancouver and not be on the open sea if you want it calmer. 

Well, I won't be able to "sleep" on a boat.  I could take a day trip.  I need to read up more to find out if y'all are saying these boat excursions are longer or shorter.  I'm sure there are both.  But, it will depend on what we want to see as to where we will go and how far away that place is.  

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2 hours ago, sheryl said:

I think I could do a day trip boat excursion but I'm talking about sleeping on a boat.   Don't think I could do that, patch or not.   I'm referring to May 2020...

 

...I won't be able to "sleep" on a boat.  I could take a day trip...


Unless the day trip is on a river or small, calm lake, those smaller boats on open water are far more apt to make people queasy from motion than doing the inside passage cruise (calm waters) in a cruise ship that is so big, it's like being in a floating hotel, which also works to minimize any sensation of motion. 🙂

May 2020 -- that makes MUCH more sense! (:D And it gives you lots of time to research and plan -- and save! -- to make it a fantastic big trip. Whatever you end up doing in Alaska, hope it's a wonderful trip. Cheers!

Edited by Lori D.
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3 hours ago, sheryl said:

Well, I won't be able to "sleep" on a boat. 

Fwiw, the mattresses are latex, not springs and they absorb the movement of the boat. And these boats are super computer controlled and stabilized. My mother gets sick on almost any ride, even Pandora Flight of Passage at Disney, and she was ok on the cruise with the water relatively calm. A bad hurricaine season storm would have gotten her, but just for more moderate she was fine. And she's really, really seriously sensitive, like go to bed with migraines, get medicine from the doctor and be sick for days sensitive.

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For my parents 50th anniversary in 2017, they took us all (me and DH and our then 5 kids, my brother and his wife and daughter, so 12 all together) on a 2 week trip to Alaska and asked me to plan it 🙂

I did a lot of research myself and knew pretty much what we wanted to do, but actually booked it through a tour guide who actually lives in Alaska so she could help me make sure I wasn't being unrealistic about distances and travel times and available services and whatnot. That was a good choice! We went in July and it was light for the whole time, it only got dusky in the late night hours. You are almost certainly not going to see the Northern Lights in summer.

They spent about $3500 per person (including all flights & transportation, gas, meals, excursions, lodging, and souvenirs - the whole shebang). They joked they were spending our inheritance and they weren't wrong ... but the memories were priceless.

We flew into Anchorage and rented 2 mini vans and spent time in Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna, Fairbanks, Denali, and Palmer and then flew back out of Anchorage. The only place I would have skipped would have been Fairbanks. It was fun and beautiful, but in hindsight I would have spent more time in the Seward area instead.

Flying in between locations is going to be $$$$ and also take up a lot of precious time. We would have loved to see things further north and west than Fairbanks, but it just wasn't feasible time or moneywise. I honestly don't know if we would have gone if we could only have stayed 4 or 5 days.

A lot of people go on cruises, which is fine and I'm quite sure they have a lovely time, but I feel like we saw a lot more (esp of the interior of the state) and had a lot more flexibility by not taking a cruise.

If you want more info about travel agents, itinerary, etc I'd be happy to provide it, but didn't want to give you more info than you actually want 🙂

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2 hours ago, Lori D. said:

 


Unless the day trip is on a river or small, calm lake, those smaller boats on open water are far more apt to make people queasy from motion than doing the inside passage cruise (calm waters) in a cruise ship that is so big, it's like being in a floating hotel, which also works to minimize any sensation of motion. 🙂

May 2020 -- that makes MUCH more sense! (:D And it gives you lots of time to research and plan -- and save! -- to make it a fantastic big trip. Whatever you end up doing in Alaska, hope it's a wonderful trip. Cheers!

Welllll, I don't know.  Isn't there a day trip to see glaciers?   🙂  I just don't want to sleep on a cruise-liner.  

1 hour ago, PeterPan said:

Fwiw, the mattresses are latex, not springs and they absorb the movement of the boat. And these boats are super computer controlled and stabilized. My mother gets sick on almost any ride, even Pandora Flight of Passage at Disney, and she was ok on the cruise with the water relatively calm. A bad hurricaine season storm would have gotten her, but just for more moderate she was fine. And she's really, really seriously sensitive, like go to bed with migraines, get medicine from the doctor and be sick for days sensitive.

DD and I tested out new mattresses a few years ago and I thought I'd "try" memory foam. I can't stand it.  I sink and feel trapped.  Weird.  

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On my way out but we drove into a state or national park on the way to Seward.  Thant Park had a short cruise and everyone stepped out onto the glacier.  

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15 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

For my parents 50th anniversary in 2017, they took us all (me and DH and our then 5 kids, my brother and his wife and daughter, so 12 all together) on a 2 week trip to Alaska and asked me to plan it 🙂

I did a lot of research myself and knew pretty much what we wanted to do, but actually booked it through a tour guide who actually lives in Alaska so she could help me make sure I wasn't being unrealistic about distances and travel times and available services and whatnot. That was a good choice! We went in July and it was light for the whole time, it only got dusky in the late night hours. You are almost certainly not going to see the Northern Lights in summer.    That's what the locals on wtm are telling me re: summer months.

They spent about $3500 per person (including all flights & transportation, gas, meals, excursions, lodging, and souvenirs - the whole shebang). They joked they were spending our inheritance and they weren't wrong ... but the memories were priceless.   THIS!  This gives me some idea for planning.  

We flew into Anchorage and rented 2 mini vans and spent time in Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna, Fairbanks, Denali, and Palmer and then flew back out of Anchorage. The only place I would have skipped would have been Fairbanks. It was fun and beautiful, but in hindsight I would have spent more time in the Seward area instead.    So, what were your accommodations?  It was a 2 week trip and what from I can tell you spent a couple of nights in each location?  Hotel?  Airbnb?  

Flying in between locations is going to be $$$$ and also take up a lot of precious time. We would have loved to see things further north and west than Fairbanks, but it just wasn't feasible time or moneywise. I honestly don't know if we would have gone if we could only have stayed 4 or 5 days.

A lot of people go on cruises, which is fine and I'm quite sure they have a lovely time, but I feel like we saw a lot more (esp of the interior of the state) and had a lot more flexibility by not taking a cruise.

If you want more info about travel agents, itinerary, etc I'd be happy to provide it, but didn't want to give you more info than you actually want 🙂   Honestly, that seems like quite a vacation for y'all.  I'm assuming  your travel agent worked discounts with the large headcount.  

 

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59 minutes ago, sheryl said:

 

I don't know why your quote isn't showing up? Oh well ...

We stayed at hotels or lodges, usually in 3 rooms but sometimes in 4. 1 night in Anchorage, 3 in Seward, 2 in Talkeetna, 2 in Fairbanks, 3 in Denali, and 2 in Palmer. We went south first, then north, then back south to fly back out of Anchorage, timing our stops so we never had to drive more than 5 hours on a traveling day.

I'm not convinced we got any deals on pricing despite our large group size ... Alaska in the summer is high season for sure and we pretty much took what we could get! We booked a full year ahead of time and still didn't get our first choice on some lodgings. 

It was a trip of a lifetime! 🙂

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Momto6 - 

Here is our conversation!  

For my parents 50th anniversary in 2017, they took us all (me and DH and our then 5 kids, my brother and his wife and daughter, so 12 all together) on a 2 week trip to Alaska and asked me to plan it 🙂

I did a lot of research myself and knew pretty much what we wanted to do, but actually booked it through a tour guide who actually lives in Alaska so she could help me make sure I wasn't being unrealistic about distances and travel times and available services and whatnot. That was a good choice! We went in July and it was light for the whole time, it only got dusky in the late night hours. You are almost certainly not going to see the Northern Lights in summer.    That's what the locals on wtm are telling me re: summer months.

They spent about $3500 per person (including all flights & transportation, gas, meals, excursions, lodging, and souvenirs - the whole shebang). They joked they were spending our inheritance and they weren't wrong ... but the memories were priceless.   THIS!  This gives me some idea for planning.  

We flew into Anchorage and rented 2 mini vans and spent time in Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna, Fairbanks, Denali, and Palmer and then flew back out of Anchorage. The only place I would have skipped would have been Fairbanks. It was fun and beautiful, but in hindsight I would have spent more time in the Seward area instead.    So, what were your accommodations?  It was a 2 week trip and what from I can tell you spent a couple of nights in each location?  Hotel?  Airbnb?  

Flying in between locations is going to be $$$$ and also take up a lot of precious time. We would have loved to see things further north and west than Fairbanks, but it just wasn't feasible time or moneywise. I honestly don't know if we would have gone if we could only have stayed 4 or 5 days.

A lot of people go on cruises, which is fine and I'm quite sure they have a lovely time, but I feel like we saw a lot more (esp of the interior of the state) and had a lot more flexibility by not taking a cruise.

If you want more info about travel agents, itinerary, etc I'd be happy to provide it, but didn't want to give you more info than you actually want 🙂   Honestly, that seems like quite a vacation for y'all.  I'm assuming  your travel agent worked discounts with the large headcount.

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Just chiming in on the sea sickness issue ... we did 6 hr day cruise on Resurrection Bay out of Seward to Kenai Fjords Naruonal Park. It was amazing and we saw all kinds of ocean life and glaciers calving into the water ... but 4 of the 12 of us were puking off the back of the boat and 1 of us (me) kind of wanted to die. DH said the waves were about 6 ft that day and the boat was shaped so it smacked up and down on top of them instead of slicing through them so that made it worse. It was disappointing because I was soooooo looking forward to that cruise! But I'm not sure I'd do it again.

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Is it too late to start booking a trip to Alaska for this summer?  I'm not sure how early you have to book or if places/activities are already filled up. We literally just decided we'd like to go this summer, I'm thinking August. I am overwhelmed at the thought of planning this trip because there is too much to see and do. I was going to contact a travel agent, but from what I read on another thread people here are more helpful. So here it goes. Do the sites here mentioned https://travelsites.com/ would be helpful?  Also, I don't even know what area of Alaska we need to go to in order to do all the things we want to do. Any help to get me started or should I plan it all for myself? 

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On 5/23/2019 at 9:06 PM, Momto6inIN said:

Just chiming in on the sea sickness issue ... we did 6 hr day cruise on Resurrection Bay out of Seward to Kenai Fjords Naruonal Park. It was amazing and we saw all kinds of ocean life and glaciers calving into the water ... but 4 of the 12 of us were puking off the back of the boat and 1 of us (me) kind of wanted to die. DH said the waves were about 6 ft that day and the boat was shaped so it smacked up and down on top of them instead of slicing through them so that made it worse. It was disappointing because I was soooooo looking forward to that cruise! But I'm not sure I'd do it again.

Right, that would probably be me but I'm not sure how else we'll be able to see the glaciers unless we take a boat.  ???   I can take a boat that goes out and back in same day but not sleep on a boat night after night. 

On 5/28/2019 at 7:30 AM, nathandev said:

Is it too late to start booking a trip to Alaska for this summer?  I'm not sure how early you have to book or if places/activities are already filled up. We literally just decided we'd like to go this summer, I'm thinking August. I am overwhelmed at the thought of planning this trip because there is too much to see and do. I was going to contact a travel agent, but from what I read on another thread people here are more helpful. So here it goes. Do the sites here mentioned https://travelsites.com/ would be helpful?  Also, I don't even know what area of Alaska we need to go to in order to do all the things we want to do. Any help to get me started or should I plan it all for myself? 

Well, this summer is might be getting a little late to book but perhaps it depends on what you want to do.  Summer is peak season in Alaska.  The snow is (mostly) melted and land is more easily accessible.  And, the obvious cooler temps - a great getaway for those of those who want to escape the heat of summer.  As others have said, focus on a region and take it from there.  Prioritize what you want to see/do.  That's what we're doing.  We're not planning for this summer, however. 

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9 minutes ago, sheryl said:

Right, that would probably be me but I'm not sure how else we'll be able to see the glaciers unless we take a boat.  ???   I can take a boat that goes out and back in same day but not sleep on a boat night after night. 

 

Without a boat you wouldn't see them calving into the ocean, but we still saw plenty of glaciers. We hiked to Exit Glacier in Seward and got some pretty views. In Palmer at Knik River Lodge we took a helicopter ride out to a glacier and took a dogsled ride on top of it. And about an hour east from Palmer we drove out to Mantanuska Glacier and actually got to hike out to it and walk around on top of it, which just might have been the coolest thing we did the whole trip! Seeing the glaciers calve from the boat was cool, yes, but the wildlife on the cruise (otters, seals, puffins, orca whales, humpback whales) was more exciting than the glacier actually.

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Oh boy!  It would be nice to see a calving glacier but I would rather take a look at a glacier itself and perhaps take that dogsled ride!  We'd all really like that.  I'm going to map out where you were.  Remind me - you were on the coast the whole trip or did you travel to the interior?

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Last summer we flew to Anchorage, rented a car to go out & back to Denali (I was a bit worried about this but it was FAR easier than I expected, vastly cheaper than the lot of us on the train, and enabled us to stay in this little jewel ~3 miles out, rather than in the gateway clomp of large hotels immediately outside park gates).  Then we flew to Juneau (which, FWIW, has the most easily accessible-on-land glacier I've ever heard of -- you just drive up to the visitor center parking and walk on a flat groomed trail for less than a mile and there it is.).  That portion of the trip took 5 days and was easy-peasy Pam-generated not crazy-expensive logistics.

Then we chartered a small trawler (which somebody in the group has to be able to captain and which also adds significant expense), and made our way slowly down the passage to Ketchikan.  There are LOTS of parts of Alaska that are best seen/ only possible to get to from the water.

Ketchikan is also fun, if a bit honky-tonk, and with a terrifically interesting totem state park and cannery factory tour and breathtaking-scenery zipline. You don't need to rent a car in Ketchikan; there's only one maybe ~10? mile strip of road and it's easy to call Ubers.

If you're not up for a boat segment, it'd be easy to splice together our first 5 days, then fly to Ketchikan for another 2-3, then depart from Ketchikan.

Alaska Air is very good about O/W segments and split tickets so it's no problem at all flying into one city and out of another.

Happy planning.  Alaska is amazing.

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1 hour ago, sheryl said:

Oh boy!  It would be nice to see a calving glacier but I would rather take a look at a glacier itself and perhaps take that dogsled ride!  We'd all really like that.  I'm going to map out where you were.  Remind me - you were on the coast the whole trip or did you travel to the interior?

Definitely saw the interior! We flew into Anchorage, then drove south to Seward, north to Talkeetna, north again to Fairbanks, south to Denali, south again to Palmer, then back to Anchorage and flew back out.

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