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3-4 weeks in Alaska on a shoestring budget suggestions?

3-4 weeks in Alaska on a shoestring budget suggestions?

Old Apr 28, 16, 1:00 am
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3-4 weeks in Alaska on a shoestring budget suggestions?

I have an opportunity to get award tickets to Alaska for 3-4 weeks (mid June - mid July), flying into Fairbanks and leaving from Anchorage.

The problem is everything seems extremely expensive in Alaska, but we'd like to stay within $30-40 daily budget (for both of us).

Currently we plan to spend some days in Fairbanks, then go to Denali and hike / camp for a couple of weeks and spend the rest of the trip in Anchorage.

Regarding accommodation the idea is to stay the first and the last night in each town on points (we barely have enough for that) and the rest at some campground in a tent. 2 weeks in Denali in a tent obviously.

Food - shopping at supermarkets and cooking it ourselves. Should be fine in FAI and ANC, the logistics could get very tricky in Denali, haven't thought it out yet.

Transportation isn't cheap but there seems no way around it (is there?). We prefer train or bus to renting a car. Getting around and out of Fairbanks and Anchorage to sightseeing places I thought of renting a bike, but even that is $30-40 per person per day... Any way to get this down?

Do you think this plan could work? Have we overlooked anything? Any suggestions how to minimize the accommodation, transportation, food costs further?

Anything else we could/should add to the itinerary (without breaking the bank) to not miss major sights, since most likely we won't return to Alaska anytime soon?

Thanks in advance for any input!
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Old Apr 28, 16, 3:16 am
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fti
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$30-$40/day total will be next to Impossible. But spending as much time in Denali National Park as possible will be key. Definitely camp at either Tekanika or better yet Wonder Lake Campground. That will give you the chance to purchase a camper bus ticket. That costs about $40 per person for as long as you stay inside the park. Once you come further east than mile 20 of the Park Road you need to buy a new ticket. Another option is to go back country camping for part of the time. There is no charge for Backcountry camping and the camper bus ticket is valid for that as well.

Buy all of your food 4 Denali in Fairbanks. It is much cheaper and you get much more variety. If you stay inside the park for 2 weeks and Backcountry camp, you can cache some of your food in food lockers at various places inside the park. There is some great hiking in Denali National Park, both day hiking and overnight hikes. Ask a park ranger, Rangers in the backcountry office, or the bus drivers. There is also a book you could purchase in Fairbanks by Ike Waits with something like 40 suggestions for day hikes or overnight hikes in Denali National Park. A great place to stay at the beginning or end of your time in Denali National Park is the Denali hostel. Excellent, clean and very friendly. They have transportation several times a day to and from the park.

It is true that renting bicycles can be expensive. I have purchased more than one bicycle in Alaska. Inexpensive bicycles are less than $100 each. Bring them with you and sell or give them away at the end of your trip.

Taking the bus from Fairbanks to Denali is probably the least expensive. Then from Denali to Anchorage there are at least two bus companies or the train. I am not sure I would stay in Anchorage for too long. There are some interesting things to see and do for several days. You might consider renting a car for a couple of days to get out of Anchorage. The area south of Anchorage for an hour or so is a jackpot of activities that are free or very inexpensive. If you can take your bicycle from Fairbanks to Denali to Anchorage on the bus or train maybe you could stay in Girdwood and use your bicycle to get around that area. The train and at least one company, Magic Bus, can also get you between Anchorage and Girdwood. I am pretty sure there is a second company that does shuttle service between Anchorage and Girdwood but the name fails me at the moment.

If you don't have enough points for your entire time, there are some decent hostels in Anchorage. There is also a public transportation system in Anchorage called The People Mover. It can be relatively slow with all connections going through downtown but it is Fairly reliable and inexpensive.

FYI when I tent camp in Alaska I figure $10 to $12 per day for all my food. That is eating very well and cooking all of my meals. You can get by cheaper if you buy things like mac and cheese Etc. Stay away from the freeze-dried food since they are very expensive.

If you take the bus from Denali to Anchorage you might consider a couple of nights in Talkeetna. There is a campground right on the water and the bus company charges $10 more for the Stop in Talkeetna than they charge for the trip from Denali to Anchorage without stopping.

Last edited by fti; Apr 28, 16 at 3:35 am
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Old May 2, 16, 11:37 am
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Agreed that $30-$40 will be difficult, not impossible, but difficult. Like fti mentioned, you'll want to spend as much time in the backcountry as possible so you're not paying for campsites, but that comes with its own costs like freeze-dried food, water purifiers, etc. If you already have all the gear you'll be fine, but it can add up quickly if you don't. If you're experienced with backcountry camping that actually sounds like it would be a wonderful trip. You could also spend some time in Denali National Park, then its lesser-traveled and lesser known sister Denali State Park, and then hike in the Chugach National Forest near Anchorage, there's no shortage of excellent hiking/camping/backpacking in AK.

Two things to look into are the Northern Lights and Alaska Toursaver coupon books. Both of them cost money (I forget how much) but they offer 2-for-1 on the Alaska railroad, rental car discounts, and discounted campsites, iirc. You might want to check it out to see if the savings > cost. After beginning of July you can often buy them for half-price on eBay.
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Old May 6, 16, 6:04 pm
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I agree. $40/day will be a very difficult budget to keep. If you are flying into Fairbanks and want to be on the cheap you could consider hitchhiking to the park entrance. It's right off the highway and you can walk the 1 or two miles to the visitor center where you catch the bus. I don't think you will have to much problem with hitchhiking there. Get someone with a truck so there is room for your stuff including all your groceries in the back.

The park is beautiful. Once you take the bus into the park you may not want to spend the effort to come back to the entrance to resupply. The road is 90 miles out and the buses drive at about 20 miles per hour. There is also limited shopping options anywhere near the park and what is available is really expensive.

Two weeks is a long time to camp in the park. Expect lots of mosquitoes, temps dropping into the high forties at night, and rain. It could rain every day for two weeks or it could not. Plan for rain. Once you leave the park. Find a hostel for the night to get cleaned up and you shouldn't have any problems hitchhiking to Talkeetna. You can camp for free along the river. Not officially suppose to, but I've done it many times.

You can hitchhike from there to Anchorage. Anchorage is a fun city, but you will be very limited on $40 a day. Try couch surfing. As said before there are better places to see south of Anchorage including Girdwood, Seward, hope, and Kenai. Also some great hikes down that way. An idea is to rent a uhaul van for $19.99 per day then buy a blowup mattress from WM and you have a dry comfortable place to sleep. It costs $0.55 per mile, but rental cars are spending in the summer. You could rent one in Anchorage and drive it south to Seward. 150 miles. So $80 in mileage or rent one in Seward or Kenai then have wheels and a place to sleep. Wouldnt even have to stay in camp grounds that usually cost $20+ per night.

Another idea would be to buy a car in Fairbanks then sell it in Anchorage (buying a selling cars in Alaska is a pretty easy process and only cost $15 to transfer title into your name). You should be able to pickup an older dependable car in the $1500-$2000 range. Try to sell it for what you paid for it or take a small loss. Would probably be cheaper than a rental car.

Last edited by alaskantraveler; May 6, 16 at 6:14 pm
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Old Apr 10, 18, 11:04 pm
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Similarly will be visiting in November for about the same length of time but since I'll be flying in from Australia via HNL and SEA, I won't have my camping gear with me. Just extreme cold weather clothes same as anyone else would wear.

I've heard that the Chena hot springs near Fairbanks is worth visiting, and will be exploring Anchorage in my first week. Apparently there's a few nice trails east of ANC. From what I've seen so far, most folks tend to visit in the summer. That's when most of the cruises and tours operate.

The thing is, who knows what the weather will be like that time of the year. My guess is that it could be anywhere between 1C and -35C. Is it mostly dark then or will there be some light?

Moreover, Fairbanks is situated in flatter terrain. Personally I'm in awe of mountains and the higher the better. Denali national park is beaut, but how easy is it to visit without camping in a tent? Perhaps I should hire a car, although I'm not sure if a two-wheel drive car would cope with the ice and snow if there was a big thick dumping. I've noticed that the south east foot of Alaska is more mountaineous - what's the best way to visit and any thoughts/suggestions on day hikes? If the weather isn't too bad, perhaps a kayak tour but I'm not keen on paying upwards of $1000+ just for 2 nights paddling. For that price, heck, I could buy a kayak and take a week gliding from glacier to glacier, if you discount the logistics of food and shelter lol
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Old Apr 11, 18, 7:41 am
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Originally Posted by Catweazle View Post
Similarly will be visiting in November for about the same length of time but since I'll be flying in from Australia via HNL and SEA, I won't have my camping gear with me. Just extreme cold weather clothes same as anyone else would wear.

I've heard that the Chena hot springs near Fairbanks is worth visiting, and will be exploring Anchorage in my first week. Apparently there's a few nice trails east of ANC. From what I've seen so far, most folks tend to visit in the summer. That's when most of the cruises and tours operate.

The thing is, who knows what the weather will be like that time of the year. My guess is that it could be anywhere between 1C and -35C. Is it mostly dark then or will there be some light?

Moreover, Fairbanks is situated in flatter terrain. Personally I'm in awe of mountains and the higher the better. Denali national park is beaut, but how easy is it to visit without camping in a tent? Perhaps I should hire a car, although I'm not sure if a two-wheel drive car would cope with the ice and snow if there was a big thick dumping. I've noticed that the south east foot of Alaska is more mountaineous - what's the best way to visit and any thoughts/suggestions on day hikes? If the weather isn't too bad, perhaps a kayak tour but I'm not keen on paying upwards of $1000+ just for 2 nights paddling. For that price, heck, I could buy a kayak and take a week gliding from glacier to glacier, if you discount the logistics of food and shelter lol
No offense intended, but you really need to hit the books a little more than you have.

November is, along with April, one of the worst times to visit Alaska. With the exception of seeing the northern lights (which is always iffy depending on solar activity and - more importantly - cloud cover) most outdoor activities are fairly dicey. It's too early for reliable snow for skiing or snowshoeing, too late for any water-based activities like kayaking, fishing, etc., and not the best time to be driving, as roads can be icy (with which most people from Oz are understandably unfamiliar.)

Daylight hours are short and getting shorter; use https://www.sunrisesunset.com/USA/Alaska/ - to see. Temperatures may be above or below freezing, or even way below, and there's no way to know much in advance.

There ARE some activities that might be enjoyable. For example, the Alaska Railroad runs weekly service between Anchorage and Fairbanks; this is quite interesting in the winter (even if the calendar says autumn, it's winter.) If the roads are okay, you can rent a car in Anchorage and drive down Turnagain Arm for great views; visit Girdwood and maybe take the gondola up to the top for terrific views of the valley, mountains, glaciers and the inlet. https://www.alyeskaresort.com/resort/about-aerial-tram


And if you can afford it, a flightseeing trip is a must; look at Rust's in Anchorage as a reliable operator. If mountains and glaciers are your thing, this is the solution. Alaska Flightseeing Tours & Air Taxi Services | Rust's Flying Service
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