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Itinerary Help for Last Minute Vacation…

Itinerary Help for Last Minute Vacation…

Old Jun 6, 13, 3:01 pm
  #1  
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Itinerary Help for Last Minute Vacation…

Hi all,

I just found out that I will be getting some time off from work and before thinking too much about it, I booked a flight from California to Anchorage as well as car rental. But I’ve never been to Alaska and have no itinerary planned… Ouch…

It will be my wife and I as well as our two kids ages 7 and 9. Landing in Anchorage June 29th, 2013 at 1am and flying out on July 6th at 4pm. We will have a rental car.

What to do, where to stay… Having never been to Alaska before, and having a short time to spend, looking to do the most interesting things in a trip that will be exciting but not overwhelmingly rushed. We enjoy nature, wildlife, scenery, etc. Not looking at any Rail travel as read that it is a time waster. I understand Denali is a must see, but how many days? Where to stay? Where else to go? I know around July 4th will be hard to book so any suggestions would be appreciated.

I would sincerely appreciate any itinerary suggestions or even must see locations or any hints or tips as we will need to solidify our trip and book accommodations…

Thanks in advance for your time.

John.
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Old Jun 6, 13, 9:18 pm
  #2  
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Please read the other threads in this forum. Nearly the exact same question has been asked several times recently, and I've provided detailed info on my trip last summer with my 8 and 13 yr old.

Cut and past from my itinerary/planning document of what I'd recommend:

Alaska Native Heritage Center
Matanuska Glacier Ice Fall Trek
Reindeer Farm - Palmer
Iditarod Headquarters - Wasilla (only if it's on the way)
26 Glacier Tour - Whittier
Portage Glacier - hikes in the area, including Portage Pass, while you're on the Whittier side and Byron Glacier Trail on lake side
Kayak Resurrection Bay - Kayak Adventures Worldwide
Seavey's IdidaRide Sled Dog Tours
Exit Glacier hike
Alaska Sea Life Center
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

This is mostly in Anchorage area, plus a couple of nights in Seward.

We had 2 more days, but I left off our 2 day trip to Talkeetna and Denali, so this should easily fill your time, if not more. Denali was nice, but I don't recommended trying to squeeze it in with your time available.

Anchorage has hotels, so that shouldn't be a problem. We stayed at the Spring Hill Suites by the University. A bot away from town, but a great place for a family. Seward is more challenging, especially this late. We stayed at a B&B - you may want to start your planning there, see if/when you can find 2 consecutive nights, and plan travel around that. We stayed at the Havenwood House - very nice, but they were nearly booked up when we made plans in about February.
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Old Jun 6, 13, 11:52 pm
  #3  
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Thanks CPRich for the quick reply. I'm going to review yours and other threads. I thought Denali was a must for an Alaska trip...

Thanks again.
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Old Jun 7, 13, 7:29 am
  #4  
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Welcome to FT!

While Denali is spectacular, having done it with kids of similar ages I'd give it a pass this trip. Not only will lodging be difficult (and expensive) the big issue is in-park logistics. Private cars aren't allowed into the interior of the park, so to get anywhere you have to use shuttle buses. Distances are long, and while there's a good chance you'll see wildlife from the road, it can become very boring and tedious for the kids, and we all know what having antsy kids is like.

So I'd pass on Denali and instead think about a very scenic, very interesting big loop. (I love loop tours as you don't have to retrace your steps. This is an ongoing problem with Alaska, where there are few roads "in" and "out" of most cities.)

Basically, leave Anchorage to the north and take the Glenn Highway to Matanuska Glacier, then continue east to Glennallen, then south to Valdez on the Richardson Highway. The Richardson is one of the most beautiful roads in North America (a real contest when you count some other Alaska and BC highways). Visit Valdez (town okay, surroundings gorgeous) then take the state ferry back across Prince William Sound to Whittier. Head south from Whittier to the Kenai Peninsula (Seward, Homer etc.) for three nights or so, then back to Anchorage. Here's a Google map.

Note you will need to book the ferry in advance, also confirm with your rental car company that they'll allow it. http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/

If this is too ambitious, then add a Kenai Fjords cruise out of Seward, for your best shot at seeing numerous marine mammals.

Due to pressure from cruise passengers, I'd shoot for overnights in Seward on weekdays, not the weekend. But you need to get on the stick for accommodations pronto. Staying away from downtown Anchorage is your best bet; having a car will really help.
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Old Jun 8, 13, 11:20 pm
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Denail is great, but it's a full day to drive up there. Then, because you need to use the park service buses, a full day there, and another full day driving back. There are too many other wonderful things to see that make it not worth 3 days in any visit less than at least 10-12 days, IMHO.
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Old Jun 9, 13, 2:16 pm
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Thanks you again CPRich for the input and thank you Gradyloo for the input and suggestions.

I found it rather tough to find accommodation on such short notice and during the summer vacation on July 4th weekend no less... Also, since I am not at all familiar with Alaska, I thought it would be better to cancel the flight I booked and plan this trip a little more in advance for better reservations, costs, etc. I would still likely only be able to do 7-8 days, but I assume that if I book at least a couple of months in advance I could pack more into it...

Gradyloo, I really like your idea there. This will be the trip we will take. What is the earliest in the year to the latest in the year for this type of trip? Using regular rental car, no snow tires, comfortable weather, etc.? Thank again for taking the time.

Best wishes.
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Old Jun 9, 13, 9:31 pm
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On my previous trip, about 12 years ago, I also did the loop over to Valdez and took the ferry back to Whittier and down to Seward, so that's certainly another option. Iirc, the ferry was a bit pricy and timing wasn't good for last summer's trip.
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Old Jun 19, 13, 8:18 am
  #8  
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Originally Posted by ybz1 View Post
Gradyloo, I really like your idea there. This will be the trip we will take. What is the earliest in the year to the latest in the year for this type of trip? Using regular rental car, no snow tires, comfortable weather, etc.?
Generally planning the trip for June, July or August is best. Tourist season starts in late May, though there can sometimes be snow in some places even then (though the roads are generally clear of snow). Early September is another possibility and fall colors are already starting to show, but by mid September many tourist facilities are already starting to slow down.

Best with a rental car is to book as soon as you can. I generally plan my Alaska trips more than a year in advance. That way I can book a rental car 10-11 months in advance. Waiting longer than that and the rental car cost can easily double or triple.
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