We will be taking two grandchildren to Alaska next summer. I would like to do just a land trip, as economically as possible and see and do as much as possible. We could stay 1 week. Any suggestions?
We'll need more information........flying into where, what are your interests, what type of accommodations (camping, RV, cabin, b&b), what is your budget, will you be renting a car, what are the ages of the children ??.....Not nosey, just want all information given to be relevant.......
One week is only enough time to see two or three locations.........
I don't know enough to answer most of the questions. We can fly into anywhere.We'd like to stay in moderately priced places - if it had some atmosphere, that would be great and a bonus. We will be with a 13 year old boy and his cousin who is 12. I chose a land tour because I think they will love all the activites like hiking, helicopter ride, kayaking, whitewater rafting. etc. Budget is what it has to be, economical but not cheap, to experience Alaska as we should. We are priority members of Holiday Inn so if that is a choice somewhere, it would be a good ,- if not O.K. As you can see we are very flexible. The only thing not flexible is that we will begin our trip around August 13th.
Since you know your dates and have such a short window for your visit I would reserve your car rental now. They are expensive and tend to get more so as you dates approach but keep checking back for a better rate sometimes they will go lower. I would not recommend public transport with such a short window of time. If you are planning on visiting the southcentral area I would suggest flying into and out of Anchorage only because it is the most centrally located and less expensive than the other options. Moderately priced hotel rooms are going to be in the $150-$200 price range, B&Bs are a bit less expensive and you will get a meal with your stay. There are Holiday Inns in Seward, Anchorage and Fairbanks.
You might want to look through the trip reports listed under Top Questions on the Alaska Forum page. They are listed for 2010 and 2011. There are also some very recent posts where people have your same interests and time and they have worked out some nice itineraries.
Thank you so much for your response. I will start to do my homework. Then I will have some more questions.
Book your vehicle now as Spacefry advised. However, prices jump all over the place with no notice, so book something that can be cancelled (most can) and you might come across a really good deal closer to your trip. Last time I went, I reserved a good price 11 months in advance. Then a couple of days before my trip, I found a “special” on of the rental websites that knocked a couple hundred off my already good deal! A good site for comparisons is www.carrentals.com . If you are economical packers (basically 1 suitcase each), you can get away with a full-size car, which at the moment would run about $600 for the week ( mini-van would be a whole lot more). Book that now before prices go even higher. If you are vigilant, you should be able to knock a couple of hundred dollars off that.
Where will you be flying in from? The amount of travel time and the flight schedules will probably affected the precise amount of time you'll have to see/do things in Alaska. Jet lag that first day of arrival can be a challenge, even for the most seasoned of travelers. Good news is that many of us will fly home on redeyes, which would provide an "extra day" to do things close to the city of departure.
Based on your anticipated activities and limited time, I would say yes, fly in/out of Anchorage.
Your biggest choice will be whether to go north (Denali, Talkeetna, Mat-Su/Palmer/Wasilla) or south (Whittier, Seward, Girdwood). Reading the various trip reports as suggested should help you to hone in on which direction best serves the interests of your group. I'd encourage you to include the grandkids in the choices in activities.
Be prepared for some sticker shock. Tour prices can be expensive, but if you choose operators who participate in one of the discount coupon books, you can cut some costs. (There is also a "Top Question" on them on the main AK Forum page.)
While a hotel's reward program can be enticing, I would not let that be your deciding factor in making your lodging arrangements. My experience has always been that while I'm a member of all of them (Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, etc) I have done better with hotel pricing on my own or through AARP. B&B's are a very good option, as are smaller mom&pop owned properties that are throughout AK.
As you put together your plans and come back with more questions or to bounce ideas off other forum members, we ask that posters try to keep their posts regarding a single trip, together in their original thread. To do otherwise, results in difficulty in providing input that is continuous and based on the building of your itinerary.
Just curious as to why you posted on the Clam Gulch forum. Not much there and you will miss it as you drive through.
Your grandson is very lucky! What a great experience this will be ! As others have suggested, the 2011 trip reports are a wonderful resource. You'll find great suggestions on activities, excursions, lodging, and they also give you an idea of distances.
Manitoba Maple suggested a great itinerary for a family recently. You can tweak it according to your time frame and interests. It also has links to some very useful sites that will help you with your planning.
From the perspective of trying to be economical/frugal, here are some things to do that I consider to be on the cheaper (if not free) side and do not sacrifice Alaska adventure value:
- book/ride a shuttle bus into the park (at least as far as Eielsor Visitor Ctr). You can get on & off when you want & do hikes/walks, etc. (se: http://www.reservedenali.com/shuttles.aspx )
- if in Denali, I also recommend self-driving the park road to Savage River early in the morning (6:30am-7:30am) & evening (6pm 'ish) to increase the chance of seeing wildlife
You can easily spend a whole day in the
Girdwood/Portage area (south of ANC):
- hike the Winner Creek Trail (very cool hand tram & gorge) (see: http://www.alaskahikesearch.com/Hikes/Winner.htm)
- hike/walk to Byron Glacier (see: http://www.trailheadfinder.com/trail_editor/show/757) for great scenery & a possible chance to play in snow at the foot of the glacier
- Portage Glacier (great visitor center) (see: http://tinyurl.com/6f23w6c)
- AK Wildlife Conservation Ctr (see: http://www.alaskawildlife.org/)
- see spawning salmon at the Williwaw Salmon viewing platform, near Williawaw campground just before Portage Glacier (good interpretive signs here too)
- a difficult (but very rewarding) hike up to the Harding Icefield (see: nps.gov/kefj/…harding_icefield_trail.htm ). This hike will take 6 to 8 hours (round-trip). It's free (can't remember if there's a parking fee) and has amazing views/scenery on the way up/down and especially at the top.
- or a little detour to Cooper Landing on the way to Seward to see salmon jumping up the water falls (in season) at the Russian River Falls...
If you end up with a few hours (or more) in the
Anchorage area try these:
- visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center (see: http://www.alaskanative.net/ )
- visit Far North Bicentennial Park - a nice creek that may have salmon in it (go to the bridge just off the parking lot) and some great nature trails.
- head to the Alaska Native Medical Center and view (free) the great native art they have in the main hospital. Take the elevator to the top floor and walk down. Each landing has an amazing display of arts/crafts (see: http://www.anthc.org/anmc/)
- head up to the parking lot at Flat Top - Glen Alps Trailhead for the "Anchorage Overlook Trail" for some great views and photo ops. If you've some energy to use up, head up the trail to Flat Top or meander along the Glen Alps Trail for possible moose sightings (there's a parking lot fee).
- dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/chugach/trails.htm (item 17)
Good luck & enjoy AK,