Alaska - Basic Alaska-Yukon car/drive questions
Aug 14, 10, 10:17 am
I am usually rather diligent at doing all my homework before turning to FT with my questions, but for this I feel I could benefit from some quick answers before starting my searches for flights/hotels/cars.
I'm thinking about trying to redeem miles for a return trip to either Juneau or Anchorage in July 2011 and rent a car, one of my destinations being Whitehorse, Yukon. I understand that absolutely everything is rather expensive that time of the year...
Will I find rental cars with free mileage at both JNU and ANC and will I be allowed to drive it across the border and back (via Skagway/Haines ferry from JNU)?
(Or would I be allowed to drive a Canadian rental car from Whitehorse into AK and back? I have a European passport if that matters.)
If going to ANC, are there alternatives to driving day + overnight at hotel in Tok + driving day where I can have three shorter drives and find two overnight stops at convenient distances?
Do the car rental rates and accommodation rates in general differ a lot between Juneau and Anchorage, making one of them a more natural starting point for me?
TIA for any answers and suggestions!
Aug 14, 10, 1:08 pm
First, there's no need to rent a car in Juneau if you're planning to drive into the Yukon. There are car rental agencies in both Haines and Skagway that will supply you with a vehicle, so you don't have to pay for the car on the ferry from Juneau to either place.
The Alaska-owned branches of Avis in both Haines and Skagway will allow you to drop in Anchorage if that's what you're thinking - I was quoted a $300 drop fee in addition to the daily rate. The daily rates charged in Juneau/Skagway etc. are roughly the same as those charged in ANC, i.e. in July, quite high by US standards. Note you'll have to contact those agencies directly to make these arrangements; you can't do so using the global Avis website. Oh and yes, unlimited mileage applies. You should have no trouble hiring a car using your Swedish driving license and passport. The only people that have trouble driving US-registered rental cars into Canada are Canadian residents, due to weird Canadian tax laws.
Now having said that, I just have to offer a personal opinion that renting a car in Haines and/or Skagway and driving (via Whitehorse) to ANC is not the best use of your time and money. While there are certainly scenic portions of the drive from the Yukon to ANC, they are not especially remarkable compared to areas that can be accessed easily out of Anchorage itself, without the need for the 2-3 days' travel between Whitehorse and Anchorage. Driving is expensive, the accommodations available en route are unremarkable to poor, the prices high, and in July you can easily encounter delays caused by road construction/maintenance, or by many other vehicles - RVs, people towing trailers, etc. - on the highways.
Flying from JNU to ANC is quite inexpensive compared to all this, and you could put the same car-hire dollars and accommodation dollars to a better use (IMO) than you would visiting beautiful downtown Tok (not.) You could still take the ferry from JNU to Skagway, drive over the (stunning) White Pass - or take the train - to Whitehorse, then back to Skagway and back to JNU, then fly out - and get some good scenery and a feel for SE Alaska, but then have more time and resources to spend in southcentral/interior Alaska.
How much time do you have for your trip? That would make a huge difference in whether it might be best to drive between Haines/Skagway and Anchorage or fly from Juneau. Actually, by the time you get from Skagway or Haines on the ferry back to Juneau and fly to Anchorage, very likely it will require an overnight in Juneau so it might not be all that much longer to drive to Anchorage. You just have to compare and decide for yourself what is best.
Gardyloo said that the rates charged in Juneau/Skagway for rental cars are roughly the same as those charged in Anchorage in July. That depends on when you book. I find the car rental rates off-airport in Anchorage when booked 10-11 months in advance to be MUCH cheaper than Skagway or Haines and quite a bit cheaper than Juneau. I have gotten an economy class car off-airport in Anchorage for $120/week every summer since 2006. Skagway costs about $100/day! Already booked this same rate for June 2011 and this same rate is still available for July 2011.
I have also compared rental prices in Juneau then taking the ferry from Juneau to Haines to Skagway to Juneau vs. renting a car in Haines or Skagway and returning the car to the place where I rented it. I was looking at this very seriously for a trip I took to SE Alaska last month. The cost of the Juneau car rental for a week + ferry costs for the car and me were almost exactly the same as the ferry cost just for me as a passenger and renting a car in either Haines or Skagway for 4 days. So the only way to know what is cheapest *for you* is to crunch the numbers. I find the car rental prices in Haines and Skagway to be substantially higher than those found in Juneau.
All of these comparisons for me were for returning to the same location.
Aug 15, 10, 1:58 pm
A big THANK YOU to both of you for now. You gave me a lot of valuable input. ^ I'll probably be back with more questions in a few weeks when I have researched awards/rates for flights, hotels and cars.
Aug 21, 10, 5:48 am
Note that the $100/week rate from the Enterprise off-airport in Anchorage is most definitely a mistake rate (albeit one that recurs every year because of a peculiarity with their rate management system), so you're best to book that sooner rather than later, once summer traffic calms down and the Enterprise management has a chance to start thinking about next season and realize what they've done with their rates. Once they do that, it'll jump to the more-normal $90 or so per day (plus tax), so it pays to book sooner rather than later.