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Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

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posts: 6
Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

I want to surprise Hubby with Alaska vacation (with me of course) for his 50th birthday. I have learned a lot already by reading all the great advice on this forum. I would really appreciate some feedback on our tentative itinerary. Primary Interest is seeing wild life (land and water) and Alaska scenery.

7/1 - Arrive ANC noon, pick up rental car, stay at Embassy Suites or Holiday Inn Express, get supplies and check out ANC (maybe Tony Knowles Coastal Trail).

7/2 - Drive to Denali, stay at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge or McKinley Chalet Resort.

7/3 - Shuttle bus in Denali

7/4 - Rafting or Hiking in Denali

7/5 - ?? Should we spend 1 more day at Denali? Head to Seward and spend 1 more day there? Or should we spend a day somewhere in between??

7/6 - Drive to Seward, stay at Holiday Inn

7/7 - Kenai Fjords Cruise 10:00 - 6:30

7/8 - Fish House Combo Halibut/Silver Salmon Charter 6 - 6 (Hubby loves to fish but I don't know if he would prefer Salmon or Halibut charter)

7/9 - Kayaking (not sure where) and Sea Life Center, drive to ANC, stay at Embassy Suites or Holiday Inn Express

7/10 - Flight leaves ANC 6:00 a.m.

Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 13,275
reviews: 24
1. Re: Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

Hmm. Seeing that you are from Green Bay and I am in MN, I have asked that your post be removed immediately :-)

OK, seriously, here are some comments. First of all, are you sure that your husband's primary interests are what you stated, or are they yours, or are they both?!

I have not stayed at either Embassy Suites or Holiday Inn Express, but I know the brands. Embassy Suites is a nicer more upscale hotel (and newer in Anchorage - just opened last year). But it is further from the Coastal Trail). You should be able to get bike rentals that afternoon before the shops close. Consider picking up your car off-airport for a better rate (might or might not be better off-airport but check both).

If you stay at Embassy Suites, check out restaurant.com for a discount on the restaurant in the Embassy Suites hotel. Don't pay the "list price" for the coupon. There are always codes for 70-90% off the certificates.

Remember to stock up on food in Anchorage or Wasilla for Denali. No food inside the park and the only potable water in the park past the entrance area is at Eielson.

I personally like to stay away from "Glitter Gulch" where the cruisetour passengers stay. It is right outside the park entrance, but is REALLY busy with lots of tourist, T shirt and souvenir shops. Have you considered looking in Healy?

With your desire to see wildlife, I would definitely plan a second day of shuttle bus into the park. I would book both days to Wonder Lake. If the weather is bad, you can get off at Eielson and return on a different bus.

I would plan July 3 and July 4 for the shuttle bus. You can incorporate your hiking on these days. Look at the Top Questions about Denali for suggestions on day hikes and/or ask your bus driver. Do your hiking on your way back out of the park. Also, you might think about only going to Eielson on the day you do your hiking (but book to Wonder both days since you don't know what the weather will be like).

July 5 do the rafting this morning, then after the rafting drive to Girdwood. For a nice treat, stay at the Alyeska Resort. You could also stay in Anchorage this night. But driving from Denali to Seward is too much in one day - could be up to 12 hours if you have road closures, accidents, slow RV's in front of you, etc.

You might want to consider a Prince William Sound cruise on July 9th on your way back from Seward to Anchorage. They depart in the afternoon so you could easily drive Seward-Whittier-PWS tour-Anchorage and be in Anchorage by 7pm or so. I would spend this night at the HI Express. At that ungodly hour of the morning for a departure, every extra few minutes helps and the HI Express is closer to the airport.


Talkeetna, Alaska
posts: 148
reviews: 5
2. Re: Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

I am certainly not the itinerary expert on here, I will leave that to Manitoba Maple or FTI...however, I do have a couple of comments:

First of all, what an amazing birthday gift! Your husband is a lucky guy!

Ok, as far as driving from Denali to Seward is almost 400 miles, and with July 4th weekend traffic (slow RVs on the highway), I would not recommend doing it in one day! You show leaving Denali on Monday, July 5th, but you should know that Seward will be packed that weekend as they have a huge Independence Day celebration that draws about 30,000 folks! Hopefully by Monday they will start clearing out.

Those who know me know how much I love Talkeetna, and I would suggest that you look into stopping there for a day/night on your way south to Seward. If you have any interest in a flightseeing tour with or without a glacier landing, this would be a great place to do that. If you want to travel further south before stopping over, Girdwood would be a great choice as well.

I noticed that you are staying at mostly chain hotels. Is that a personal preference? I bring it up because there are so many great cabins, lodges and B&Bs in Alaska that, in my opinion, you may want to consider for a more personal experience. While we were in Seward in 2008, we stayed at The Paddle Inn, which is right on Resurrection Bay. The views are amazing and you can walk along the rocky beach. They are a big pricey though.


We also did Kayaking right up the beach at Sunny Cove and it was wonderful! Neither of us were experienced, but the guides were patient and were a lot of fun! (a couple of college students from UA Fairbanks)


The cruise into the Kenai Fjords is a great experience! We were lucky enough to see several humpbacks as well as orcas! We chose to go with a smaller operation rather than one of the larger cruise boats. That is a personal choice, but I am attaching the link for the one we used. Again, it was much more personal and less crowded.


I will give you one word of warning....my husband and I made our first trip to Alaska in July 2008. After we got home, we couldn't stop talking about what an amazing place it is! So, to make a long story short, we sold our house and bought a B&B in Alaska! Be prepared to fall in love with the 49th State!

Enjoy Your Alaska Adventure!

Andi-Ownver/Talkeetna Chalet Bed & Breakfast

Kiawah Island...
Destination Expert
for Kiawah Island, Charleston
posts: 6,692
reviews: 11
3. Re: Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

If you are truly making this a surprise, make sure that hubby has all the appropriate clothing for all the activities you have planned (layers, fleece, quick-dry, hat, gloves, waterproof-breathable, etc.).

Wouldn't want him unhappy because he's not dry and warm!!!

I agree, look into some of the smaller, local places to stay, lots of great experiences and people out there, outside of the chain hotels.

South Florida...
posts: 1,002
reviews: 48
4. Re: Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

I agree with fti....while in Healy stay away from glitter gulch ~ for a little more Alaskan feel and quiet privacy I can recommend Aspen Haus B&B. You would have a private cabin, in the woods away from the crowd. The breakfast is sort of an expanded continental with Ann Marie baking daily goodies ~ bread and delicious muffins. You will have a stocked refrig with everything else that you need. It will be about a 15 minute or so drive to the park itself but well worth it to stay away from the chaos around the commercial area of Healy. Personally I would spend the extra day in Healy....I would also research Seward and consider staying away from the usual chain hotels..why not try something more local? I have stayed at the Salt water Lodge which has a spectacular view and will be at Seavey's Abode Well cabins in July. Good luck and if I can help let me know.

posts: 6
5. Re: Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

Thank you all. You gave me great suggestions. John, thanks for being willing to look pass my cheese head. And in case you were wondering I am a huge Packers fan. We tend to be bred and raised that way around here.

You've convinced me to not make the trek from Denali to Seward in one day. I'm researching some of your suggested options now.

I owe you all a really big thanks for opening my eyes about my accommodation choices. I originally picked chain hotels because they had the highest and most consistent reviews. We never stayed at a B&B so I didn't consider them. However, we don't particularly like crowds or chaos so based on your feedback I have started checking into some of the cabins and B&Bs available. Wow, there are some amazing choices.

Regarding making sure hubby is properly outfitted. I plan to surprise him with the trip on his May 16th birthday. That will give us 6 weeks to enjoy the final planning and preparations together. I am thinking I need to have all our reservations set before then. The one outing I wish I could get his input on the most is the fishing charter. Do you think there will still be a good selection of options available if I wait until mid-May to make those reservations so he can provide input?

I have some more research and planning to do but wanted to let you all know what a positive impact you have had on our trip already. Thanks!

Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 13,275
reviews: 24
6. Re: Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

>>I originally picked chain hotels because they had the highest and most consistent reviews.

I don't rely very heavily on the lodging reviews on Trip Advisor. I know a lot of people do, but you do some searching on Trip Advisor forums, you will see lots of people having issues with the reviews. Bogus ones that are positive, bogus ones that are negative, "one post wonders" who I take with an extreme grain of salt, etc.

First order of business is to nail down the flights then your car rental. Car rental prices are already quite high for the summer. My guess is they will only get worse!

I wish I could give you advice/info about the fishing charter but I don't fish. My guess is that you could probably wait until May and still have some options for fishing. Others here will pipe in with recommendations, so I would call some of the companies - maybe in Seward and other places - and ask them what they think about booking 6 weeks out. Many, many people don't plan their trips even 6 weeks in advance (or if they do, they don't plan the tours and activities until they get there). So my gut feeling is that you will be OK, but you should get some confirmation from others more experienced with fishing than me.

Chugiak, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage, Alaska
posts: 2,077
reviews: 10
7. Re: Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

'so I would call some of the companies - maybe in Seward and other places - and ask them what they think about booking 6 weeks out.'

The operators will indeed be able to give you the best ideas about when they fill up. I have booked a charter just a couple weeks in advance in the Summer. I didn't get the first one I tried, but they referred me to another charter and I actually liked that Captain even better than the one I'd had before.

Look for a six pack- a boat with just six people on it. Less people = less time waiting for everyone to get their limit of salmon before heading to the halibut grounds which means more time fishing for that as well.

The combo halibut/salmon charter is the best of both worlds. That's been my favorite one, and I'll be doing it again this Summer in Seward. Just be prepared for the costs. It's about $260/person for the full day charter (and yes, I do recommend a full day since there's a lot of 'driving' between fishing holes that eats up a lot of time) and then if you get fish, you'll have to pay for the processing (vac pack and freezing). Since you are doing your fishing at the end I *HIGHLY* recommend taking your fish home as an extra piece of luggage. It is *much* cheaper to do this than to have it shipped if you get more than say 20lbs of fish.

You can buy a fish box (or seafood tote as someone referred to it today) and frozen gel packs from your fish processor. It's a box that is lined with styrofoam. Since your fish will already be frozen, that and the gel packs will keep it that way easily for 24 hours or so. You can also drop it off at the airport on the 9th at their freezer storage for about $15 for them to store it a day. Just make sure you plan enough time before your flight to grab it before checking in. If you keep it in their freezer, it'll stay frozen no problem by the time you get home with it.

Edited: 1:30 am, February 01, 2011
8. Re: Feedback Wanted on Surprise Alaska Vacation

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