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First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

Austin, Texas
posts: 4
First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

We are planning for a 7-8 day trip (traveling with a two and a half year old kid) . After doing some research, I am trending to explore the inside passage of Alaska. Thought about taking the cruise from Seattle but realized that they spend too little a time at each port. So I am thinking of flying from Seattle to Juneau and starting my trip from there. Any suggestions on how I can plan my trip and the best places to visit? We are interested in seeing the glaciers, wildlife, marine life and explore nature. I don't think we can do too much of hiking or fishing since we are traveling with a kiddo. Main intention of the trip is to see the beauty of Alaska and at the same time relax! Any advice or sample trips based on your experience would be awesome! Thanks...

haines, alaska
Destination Expert
for Haines
posts: 6,928
reviews: 29
1. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

Alaska Air is the only commercial carrier that flies into Juneau......from there you can take a ferry or small plane to many other towns in SE Alaska.....

A sample itinerary:

Fly into Juneau, stay two nights, rent a car for the one full day you will be there.....drive to Mendenhall Glacier, Eagle Beach would be great for a picnic, take Mt Roberts tram, visit some of the museums, if you will be there in August drive down to Sheep Creek to watch the salmon run......

Fly or ferry over to Gustavus (Glacier Bay) for two more nights.....staying at the lodge is the most convenient as that is where the boat tour departs and returns......

Fly the short hop over the mountains here to Haines for three nights.....rent a car.....drive out to Chilkoot Lake for bear viewing, nice park in town for the kiddo and gravel beach for him to explore, museums for rainy days, drive out the highway to the Yukon, an hour up and back from town will get you into some spectacular scenery....stop often, make a day of it........bring your passports to get back across the border into the US.......August would be the optimum time to see bears, you may see whales from the ferry......lots of eagles and seals, moose once in a while.......

Ferry back to Juneau from Haines and fly out the next day........

http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/

http://www.wingsofalaska.com/index.php

This is just once suggestion.....you could choose other towns instead, but try not to include more than three for your short time here.....that will give you more time to enjoy and explore your surroundings.......

Austin, Texas
posts: 4
2. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

Thank you so much for the great advice!!

We are not US citizens and don't have a Canandian visa.

Can we still visit Haines and the Chilkoot lake?

If not, can you suggest some other place worth visiting? Skagway or any other place? Also, so we need to book the ferry in advance or can it be booked on the spot?

We are planning our alaska vacation at the end of June.

And one more question:

Based on the cruise schedules, I think a 7 day cruise from Seattle spends too little a time at the ports. From your perspective, do you think I'm better off seeing the places at the ports at our own pace by not taking the cruise or is it a better idea going with the cruise since it takes you to 4-5 ports?

Thanks in advance...

Regards.

haines, alaska
Destination Expert
for Haines
posts: 6,928
reviews: 29
3. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

The cruise that you are looking at from Seattle is usually a round trip cruise......my opinion is that the seven day, one-way cruises are a better value.....even though you would need to pay for airfare to return home, they go further and you can study the itineraries to see which ones spend longer time in each of the ports.....I would also choose one which cruised into Glacier Bay.....none of the cruises stop in 5 ports, most just stop in 3.....Glacier Bay is not a stop, you stay on the ship the entire time you are in Glacier Bay........

As walk on passengers you can take the ferry without reservations, just arrive about 1 1/2 hrs before leaving and you can purchase your tickets......

In addition to the Alaska State Marine Highway ferry, there is also a smaller passenger only ferry that goes between Haines and Skagway several times a day....... http://www.hainesskagwayfastferry.com/

Many of the excursions in Skagway require a passport since they will cross the border into Canada, but the shortest train ride, just up to the pass and back, does not........

Hope this gives you enough information to start with your planning.......

Austin, Texas
posts: 4
4. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

Hello mombear!!

We are getting closer to finalizing our alaska trip plans. I think i will follow your suggestions. Tentative Plan is as follows:

June21-july 3

Day1- fly from austin to seattle (evening) and stay overnight in seattle

Day2-fly from seattle to juneau reaching juneau at 12 pm. Rent a car and stay in juneau

Day3-sightseeing in juneau

Day4-sightseeing in juneau

Day5-take the rental car from juneau to haines via ferry. Not sure how long the ferry will take? Any idea?

Day6-stay in haines, drive around to chilkoot lake etc

Day7-stay in haines, visit yukon

Day8-stay in haines, drive around to scenic places

Day9-fly/ferry travel to gustavus from juneau or then go there from haines? Can you suggest which one is easier given the distances and travel time? Stay in glacier bay national park that night.

Day10-spend the day in glacier bay national park. Take day trip to see the park. Return in the evening 4pm relax

Day11-in the afternoon travel from gustavus to juneau

Day12-fly from juneau to seattle stay overnight in seattle

Day13- fly from seattle to austin in the morning/afternoon.

Couple of questions -

1) Can you recommend some good places to stay in haines? Its going to be me, my husband and 2 and a half yr daughter. I am looking for a relaxing place to stay in haines. Hopefully not too pricey.

2) Can you recommend a good hotel in juneau? We will be renting a car in juneau.

3) Is it a better idea to go from juneau to gustavus or haines to gustavus given our schedule above?

4) Is it easier to take the rental car from juneau to haines on a ferry or just rent a car in haines itself for the stay there?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions. Any more advice or suggestions to tweak the plan would be awesome!!

Regards.

Issaquah, Washington
posts: 3,722
reviews: 10
5. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

There are at least 2 trip reports from 2012 that include travel by ferry in SE Alaska. In the attached link, look at #39 from BIaDK , and #44 from Pamjo. They visited a few ports, including Gustavus and Haines. Their reports will give you suggestions on sights, activities, lodging, etc. The timing of the ferry can be a little awkward at times, but these travellers were able to manage very successful trips. (There may be other reports that include ferry travel ... look at the first line of the report and you'll know.)

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k52891…

Edited: 12:33 am, March 16, 2013
Issaquah, Washington
posts: 3,722
reviews: 10
6. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

You will need passports if you drive to the Yukon. Possibly a VISA too ... check with your consulate or embassy on those requirements.

haines, alaska
Destination Expert
for Haines
posts: 6,928
reviews: 29
7. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

Comments on your itinerary:

Day one: There are lots of reasonably priced motels in Seattle withing half mile of SeaTac and most have free shuttles that will pick you up and drop you off at the airport......we often break up our trips this way and have gotten really good rates at the Red Roof Inn through Hotels.com.....I think it is the closest one to the airport and Denny's is just a couple blocks walk away for reasonably priced food......

Day 2 to 4: Nice to see you are not rushing your trip.....with a rental car you should be able to see most of the Juneau area and still have enough down time for your child.......there are some nice parks in Juneau......I like the Travelodge in Juneau, they have large rooms, heated indoor pool and an onsite restaurant........also a free shuttle to take you to airport or ferry terminal

Day 5 I would turn in your Juneau rental car prior to boarding the ferry.....then the motel shuttle to the ferry......Depending which ferry you are on, it will take 2.5 to 4.5 hours of sailing time......as passengers you will need to arrive at least an hour early.......put your luggage on the luggage cart and it will be locked and stored on the car deck......keep all essentials with you though......

Day 6. Rent a car in Haines, that way, you can fly to Gustavus (Glacier Bay) from Haines......and then after your visit to Glacier Bay you could either fly or ferry directly to Juneau, instead of having to return to Haines for the car.....(you would also save the expense or putting the car on the ferry)......

Where to stay in Haines ?......Best motel (not luxury, but most rooms have an ocean view and they have laundry facilities) is the Captain's Choice....they also rent cars and will pick you up at the ferry terminal......Another place right downtown is an apartment over the real estate office called "The Attic".....it has full kitchen and is located right across the street from the Visitors Center.....Nice rental outside of town a bit with stunning views is the River House, but that one is a little pricey........

And yes, if you are crossing over to the Yukon, even for a day trip, you will need passports and possibly a Visa as Yescanada points out......but a day trip up to Haines Junction and back will offer some of the best scenery of your trip......

It sounds like a very well thought out itinerary....It is really refreshing to see one with enough days planned in each place to really enjoy being there..... ..Looking forward to reading your trip report when you return !!

Edited: 10:45 am, March 16, 2013
Austin, Texas
posts: 4
8. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

Hello there!

I have a few more questions:

1. Is there a fast ferry (the one that goes in 2.5 hours) from Juneau to Haines?

2. Is there a fast ferry (the one that goes in 2.5 hours) from Juneau to Gustavus?

3. Is there a fast ferry from Haines to Gustavus (and viceversa)?

If there is one, do you know if there is any transportation from hotels (shuttle service) in Juneau to the ferry terminal. I've heard that the fast ferry terminal is 14 miles from downtown Juneau. If we were to take a cab, approx how much would it cost?

I checked the flight fares are $180 per head. If the ferry is cheaper, I'd rather take that to avoid another flight journey.

Thanks for helping make our trip easier to plan!

9. Re: First trip to Alaska - need advice planning

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