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Itinerary and hotels May 28-June 4 2017

Itinerary and hotels May 28-June 4 2017

Old Jul 14, 16, 5:08 am
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 463
Itinerary and hotels May 28-June 4 2017

We have booked award flights for 3, one 12 year old and two 60+, flying in and out of Anchorage. We fly in on May 27, landing at 2 AM and depart on June 5.

We would like to spend May 28-June 4 sightseeing outside Anchorage. We are not hikers or campers. We are interested in seeing scenery and wildlife and in doing a couple of boat tours..

I have been reading the various threads in this forum for suggestions, and have a very rough of idea of where we might want to go and what we might like to do. I thought we would have some time to do quite a bit more research before locking in the specific itinerary. However, one thing that really worries me is that it looks like even this far out some hotels are booked or mostly booked on the nights we might want to stay there. So, I am feeling a bit worried and pressed to commit to the actual itinerary and book our hotels quite soon.

Another concern I have is that it may take us longer than we expect to get from one place to another--we plan to rent a car. I read that due to only having one main road to many or most places we are going, there can be tie ups in tourist season and drive times may be much longer than google directions, for example, may suggest.

My expectation is that we will be paying 250 a night or thereabouts in many cases for our room, though of course I would wish it were less. (This is based on places I have looked up, where I think we will be going.)

Possible Itinerary and questions:

May 28 drive to Denali area stay possibly in Healy area or "Glittergulch."
Earthsong Lodge, Denali Lakeview Inn, and the Princess Denali Lodge are all places I have read recommended in FT or by a friend (Princess Denali Lodge) Suggestions of different places or thoughts on these?

May 29 take shuttle tour in Park

May 30 drive to next destination. Where should be our next destination given the wish to tour on Prince William Sound? Should we stay one place if we tour the Sound and another for the Fjord?

How many nights should we stay in area? I read on here that it is not uncommon for a tour to be canceled due to rough seas or weather. Since we would like to do possibly two tours I think would need to stay someplace(s) the nights of May 30-June 3 that will provide good proximity to the tour companies.

We would like to take a couple of tours of the Prince William Sound and/or theKenai Fjords, depending on recommendations--chiefly interested in wildlife whales, otters, birds, etc and glacier.

I had thought we would need to divide time between Seward if cruising the fjords, where some places seem to be booked or booking up fast, and Whittier for the Sound, where there seems to be few hotels. However, a friend who is recently back from the area suggested Summit Lake Lodge. They drove in for their tour of the Sound. She said the drive was just over an hour. So that raises the question of whether I am looking in too specific an area for our lodging when we are in the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound areas. How should I divide the time to accommodate the tours? Is there one place I should stay to do both fjords and the sound? Should we stay 2 nights in Seward and 2 nights near Whittier? Are 4 nights and 3 full days enough time to do a couple of tours in that area?

June 4, we would drive back to Anchorage from wherever we stay.

We would also like to work visiting sled dogs and gold panning in for my great niece, but I understand there are dogs in or near Seward, at Denali, and at Earthsong.

Thank you for your patience wit this lengthy post and for your assistance!

Last edited by travelpye; Jul 14, 16 at 5:14 am
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Old Jul 14, 16, 8:33 am
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The (unavoidable) problem with visiting both Denali and Prince William Sound/Kenai Peninsula is that Anchorage is between them, with no reasonable way (in a short time) to bypass the city between the two areas.

I would actually reverse your order - Whittier/Seward first, Denali last - in order to give the weather and conditions in Denali as long as possible to move into "summer" status. While it might or might not make a difference next year, sometimes access inside the park in Denali can improve in that short a period of time, while it won't make much difference on glacier tours (Whittier) or Kenai Fjords tours (Seward.)

Here's how I'd time things in your case:

Sun 28-May - Arrive, overnight Girdwood (Alyeska hotel)
Mon 29-May - Glacier cruise from Whittier, overnight Seward (Memorial Day)
Tue 30-May - Kenai Fjords cruise from Seward, overnight Seward
Wed 31-May - Return to Anchorage, overnight Anchorage
Thu 1-Jun - Drive to Denali area, overnight Denali
Fri 2-Jun - Day in Denali - at least to Eielson visitor center, overnight Denali
Sat 3-Jun - Return to Anchorage, overnight
Sun 4-Jun - Depart

Girdwood is a terrific "first night" (it won't get dark) in Alaska - it's incredibly scenic and the drive there from ANC will knock your socks off. Splurge for dinner at the Seven Glaciers at the top of the Alyeska gondola.

Staying in Girdwood will make getting to Whittier very easy for a glacier cruise the next day. You access Whittier through a one-way tunnel from Portage Valley, which is just down the road from Girdwood. After the cruise, it's around 90 min. through more beautiful scenery to Seward.

Take as long a Kenai Fjords cruise as you can manage, but be mindful that some of this trip is on big water, so bring seasickness nostrums if needed. Spend that night in Seward too.

Visit Exit Glacier on your way back to Anchorage from Seward, and if you want a glimpse of an old mining community in a superb setting, take the Hope cut-off on the way back to town.

Take the bus as far as you can into Denali NP - Hopefully Eielson will be open (it's supposed to open by June 1, the day before).

Return to Anchorage for a last night before flying out.

Alyeska - http://www.alyeskaresort.com/
Glacier tours - https://www.phillipscruises.com/ or Major Marine (below)
Kenai Fjords - https://majormarine.com/
Gardyloo is offline  
Old Jul 15, 16, 4:48 am
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THANK YOU Gardyloo!
We are going to follow the itinerary and your suggestions with only once change. We are flying out of Anchorage on June 5 in the evening, so we will drive back to Anchorage on June 4. We will spend 2 nights at Alyeska, I think, and let my great niece do the half day gold panning tour that is quite near there.

Your post was much appreciated!
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Old Jul 15, 16, 12:39 pm
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Gardyloo's itinerary is really solid. I second his/her suggestions.
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Old Jul 15, 16, 10:33 pm
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I too like Gardyloo's itinerary. However, depending on your interests you might consider adding the second night to Denali vs. Girdwood.

Girdwood has lots of inexpensive/free activities like the Winner Creek hand tram, gold panning (Indian Valley mine for example), the Wildlife Conservation Center, and the Portage Glacier area (visitor center, day tour, easy hike to Byron Glacier).

Denali has rafting, ATV'ing, dogsled tours (watching and information, handling puppies, but not actually getting a ride), ziplining and other activities.

If you go to Alyeska Resort, be watching Groupon and other discount sites. I saw the Alyeska Resort going for $99 for a room for stays in May this year. That is a great deal.

Definitely do Denali last, mainly because the road into the park only opens as far as Eielson on June 1st. You can't go any further than Eielson until June 8th, so book a SHUTTLE bus (not a tour bus) to Eielson. I suggest booking that shuttle bus by mid to late March. Denali has always opened to Eielson on June 1st for the past 10+ years. In fact, the road is plowed and snow-free weeks before that. They just give it time to dry out and be graded, as well as allow for bus driver training on that portion of the road.

Instead of Anchorage you might consider driving further north 2 hours to Talkeetna or Trapper Creek. That breaks up the trip a bit more and many people like Talkeetna, though for me it is more of a lunch stop. Trapper Creek has a couple of nice lodging options too.

You might consider buying a Northern Lights coupon book for +-$55. They have discounts for the PWS glacier cruises and the Kenai Fjords glacier cruises among other things. You also might be looking on various tour operator websites for discounts. The Kenai Fjords tours have been 2-for-1 if purchased on Black Friday last year for example.
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Old Jul 17, 16, 5:17 pm
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Thank you all! I have us booked in Alyeska, where I think the tram will be a big hit with the 12 yr old, at Seward in Harbor 360, and EarthSong Lodge in Healy near Denali. Most all the glitter gulch places seem to be completely booked already the dates we will be there.

I have made note of the many other helpful suggestions, such as stopping at Exit Glacier and looking for the coupon books. Haven't decided on anchorage versus Talkeetna or Trapper Creek yet, as I do have points I could use in ANC. But we'll sort that out soon.

Thank you again! The cruises, in particular, look awesome! I am sure we will have a great time.
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Old Jul 18, 16, 2:20 pm
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Just a few things to note that may help you to avoid some stress. Arriving in late May you won't be there for the brunt of tourist season. That picks up around mid June. We were there June 6-12 this year and the drive between Talkeetna/Anchorage is remarkably deserted. As in, we would drive for 15 minutes, then one car would pass going the other way, then another 20 minutes, another car, etc.

Regarding your comments about how it seems that hotels are already sold out, I seriously doubt that is the case. You will certainly want to have things booked around Christmas, but I'm guessing the reason places aren't showing as having rooms available is because they haven't loaded their 2017 rooms yet. I ran into that when planning our last trip, and noticed rooms didn't start becoming available (especially at smaller properties) for booking until October - December.

I think your estimate of $250/night is rather high, given that you'll be there in May/early June. During our last stay in early June we stayed at the hotel Alyeska, for $119/night in a Deluxe Room, and then at Alaska Creekside Cabins in Seward where we got a cabin for $129/night. I would recommend checking it out. The place is rated as the #1 specialty lodging in Seward and its easy to see why when you get there. The owner, Tim, is awesome, and they have a variety of different cabins/price ranges based on your preferences. Rooms in Anchorage are much more expensive, and it often makes sense to use miles there if you have them.

You'll have an awesome trip. I was very glad we went when we did before most of the crowds arrived and before the snow melts off the peaks of the mountains. Everywhere we went was like a postcard.
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Old Jul 19, 16, 4:20 am
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Thank you, Big$Flyer, for the additional insights.

I had wondered if the issue was hotels not releasing rooms yet, but some places I looked at had availability that was extremely limited--not the category of room we needed available, while other rooms were bookable. I figured those hotels really might be sold out already int hopse room categories. I also assumed that around the Denali glitter gulch area that cruise ships and tour companies might have a lock on room inventory at places like Princess Lodge until they saw what they actually needed. Everything we booked was fully cancellable in case some lower rates or better availability turns up later on, and I will keep checking periodically. I'll definitely look at the Alaska Creekside cabin s in Seward, too.

Last edited by travelpye; Jul 19, 16 at 11:19 am
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