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Alaska visit

Plymouth, Minnesota
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Alaska visit

We are considering a trip to Alaska. We do not want to go on a cruise, and are thinking about doing a self-guided land tour through a travel agency. Has anyone had any experience with Alaska.org or can anyone recommend one?

Thanks!

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Alaska visit

While I have occasionally used their website for info, it is very easy to book your own land tour - that is what TA is all about. If you give us how many days you have, lodging preferences & budget, what activities you hope to enjoy, there are many here on the forum that can help you plan the Alaskan vacation you are dreaming about. :)

Manitoba, Canada
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2. Re: Alaska visit

Coalminer, it looks as if they want a travel agent, since they had lots of good suggestions on their other thread: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k34271…

I too use alaska.org for all sorts of info, but I don't know of anyone who has used them as a travel agent so I can't comment about that. But I would imagine it is good. Another one that I have heard good comments about is http://www.alaskatravel.com/

Plymouth, Minnesota
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3. Re: Alaska visit

Here is Alaska.org's itinerary that sounded like it would be something we would like:

Day 1 • Anchorage

An Explore Tours representative will meet you at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport with your travel documents and answer any questions that you may have. Overnight in Anchorage - Alaska’s largest city.

Day 2 • Anchorage/Talkeetna/Denali

(Pick up your rental car downtown this morning). Head north to the colorful town of Talkeetna (approximately 2 hours, 112 miles, 180 km) for a scenic jetboat safari along the Susitna and Talkeetna Rivers. Back on land, continue north and overnight near the Denali National Park entrance (approximately 3 hours, 151 miles, 243 km).

Day 3 • Denali National Park

Spend the day exploring Denali National Park on a full day tour inside the Park. During this fully narrated bus tour to Kantishna (90 miles inside the Park) watch for bear, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, and a variety of other wildlife. Includes lunch at a lodge in Kantishna before returning to the Park entrance for your overnight.

Day 4 • Denali/Fairbanks

Depart Denali for an enjoyable drive north to Fairbanks, a city located in the interior of Alaska, (approximately 3 hours, 125 miles, 201 km). Keep an eye out for wildlife and other photo opportunities along the way. In the evening, relax at your leisure. Overnight in Fairbanks.

Day 5 • Fairbanks/Glennallen

Take a little time this morning and explore Fairbanks, a city located in the interior of Alaska. Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Museum of the North, one of Alaska’s premier cultural attractions. Depart Fairbanks and continue your scenic journey traveling along the Richardson Hwy. to Chitina, a rural community on the edge of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (approximately 8 hours, 377 miles, 606 km). Overnight in Chitina.

Day 6 • Glennallen/Kennicott

This morning park your car at the Chitina airstrip for a scenic flight with Wrangell Mountain Air to McCarthy. Upon arrival, take a short transfer to the historic ghost town of Kennicott located overlooking the Kennicott/Root Glaciers. Overnight in Kennicott.

Day 7 • Kennicott/Valdez

Explore the historic Kennecott Mill or take an optional tour. Enjoy spectacular glacier and mountain vistas. In the afternoon, take the return flight to Chitina. Pick up your vehicle and take the Edgerton and Richardson Highways to Valdez (approximately 3 hours, 120 miles, 193 km). Valdez is the southern terminus of the Alaska Pipeline and gateway to Prince William Sound. Overnight in Valdez.

Day 8 • Valdez/Anchorage

Board the ferry with your rental car and embark on the Alaska Marine Highway through Prince William Sound to the coastal town of Whittier. Drive through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, North America’s largest tunnel, and north along Turnagain Arm back to Anchorage (approximately 1.5 hours, 57 miles, 92 km). Be sure to watch for Beluga whales in Cook Inlet and Dall sheep along the rocky cliffs. Overnight in Anchorage.

Day 9 • Anchorage

Return your rental car in Anchorage. End of tour.

Any other suggestions? I almost came close to scrapping the whole Alaska trip ~ just seemed overwhelming to me.....how many days to spend, where to stay, etc. Thanks for the help.

New York City
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4. Re: Alaska visit

Fronnie,

You would probably be able to put the land tour, driving, and the ferry portion together yourself, if you wanted to, and add a few days or locations for good measure.

But, if you are more comfortable with a travel agent type planned and arranged tour, why not !!

Manitoba, Canada
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5. Re: Alaska visit

Well, you haven't told us WHAT it is you like about that tour, so it's hard for us to comment. But you're totally leaving out glaciers and marine wildlife (you might glimpse some on the ferry, but no guarantees on that). So I would suggest you add a wildlife/glacier afternoon cruise out of Whittier (26 Glaciers).

I wouldn't recommend going to Kantishna in Denali. Depending what month you go, either Eielson (8 hrs) or Wonder Lake (11 hrs), which means the park shuttle. Far cheaper, and best of all you can hop off almost anywhere to hike or take pictures, then catch a later shuttle to resume your trip. Can't do that with the tour buses....

What is it you wanted to do in Fairbanks? BTW, there is no way I'd suggest you plan to do anything there on day 5 and then drive nearly 400 miles....but you'd have time on Day 4 to do a couple of things.

That didn't look right, so I checked and it's 314 miles from Fairbanks to Chitina, not 377...

What plans do you have for Wrangell-St. Elias NP? Are you interested in kayaking? Are you okay with the long drives, or do you want to break them up? Any interest in culture or museums?

Manitoba, Canada
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6. Re: Alaska visit

How about something like this:

Day 1 • Arrive Anchorage, overnight (check hotwire.com to see if you can get a good rate, since Anchorage hotels are expensive). If you arrive early enough, drive south to Girdwood (45 min.) to overnight, with short stops at Potter Marsh & Beluga Pt: alaska.org/driving/portage-valley-whittier-s…

Day 2 • Drive to Wildlife Conservation Center (1 hr from Anchorage, 15 min. from Girdwood) to see rescued bears, moose, etc. If time, stop at Begich Boggs Visitor center to see the displays & film. Then drive through the 11:30 a.m. Tunnel (it’s open only 15 min. per hour in either direction) for 26 Glaciers afternoon cruise of Prince William Sound (pretty much seasickness-proof, but take your meds anyway since that is a problem for you). Overnight Girdwood, go up the tram if it’s clear for a great view (runs until 9:30 pm)

Day 3 • Drive to Matanuska Glacier (3 hrs) for 2 pm Ice Falls Trek on the glacier with MICA (I think hubby should be able to do it, confirm with MICA. I did it last year with my bad knee…you could always do the shorter hike, but it doesn’t get out to the glacier, which is sort of the whole purpose IMHO….) If time on the way there, either swing north a bit to visit scenic Hatcher Pass, or stop in Palmer to see the Musk Ox Farm. Also be sure to pick up supplies/snacks for McCarthy in either Anchorage or Eagle River. Overnight Sheep Mt. Lodge.

Day 4 • Drive to Chitina (4 hrs. plus stops) for 2:45 pm (or 5:45) flight to McCarthy wrangellmountainair.com/getting_to_alaska.htm . Overnight McCarthy.

Day 5 • Mill tour, exploring/hiking on your own. (Root Glacier hike would be too difficult for hubby.) 2 pm flight to Chitina arriving 2:25 pm. Drive to Valdez (2+ hrs) to overnight, stopping to see Worthington Glacier, Horsetail Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, etc: http://www.alaskagold.com/valdez/roads.html If late June or later, just outside of town drive along Dayville Rd. to the fish hatchery to see the returning salmon, and hopefully see sea lions or black bears eating the fish. Overnight picturesque Valdez.

Day 6 • long but mostly scenic drive to Fairbanks (364 miles). Stops include the Wrangell-St. Elias NP visitor center to do the short interpretive hike for a great view of Mt. Drum and the boreal forest: nps.gov/wrst/planyourvisit/wrangell-st-elias… , if time detour a bit on the paved portion of Denali Hwy (rental cars aren’t allowed on the gravel part), stop at Rika’s Roadhouse in Delta Junction to see the displays and have a meal or snack (also good photo-op for the Pipeline). In Fairbanks, maybe Salmon Bake at Pioneer Park, see the 8:15 show at Palace Theatre in the park. Overnight Fairbanks.

Day 7 • 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 pm – Riverboat Discovery (no worries about seasickness here either, but wouldn't hurt to take your meds to be super-cautious). After lunch, visit the Museum of the North. Pick up supplies/snacks for Denali, then late afternoon or early evening drive to Healy (2 hrs) to overnight.

Possible activities at Denali when you have time: see the visitor center displays & film, drive the 14 miles into the park that cars are allowed to look for wildlife, entrance area hike, free Ranger sled dog demo.

Day 8 • early shuttle to Eielson (8 hrs) or Wonder Lake (11 hrs). Must reserve the shuttle in advance at www.reservedenali.com . Bring binoculars for both of you, plus food & beverages as none are for sale in the park. Get off somewhere to hike for a while, then catch a later shuttle to resume your trip. Overnight Healy.

Day 9 • Morning in Denali if still things to do, then drive back to Anchorage (5 hrs), stopping at Talkeetna if desired for flightseeing or jetboat trip. Overnight Anchorage.

Day 10 • Spencer Glacier train/bus/rafting trip: alaska.org/girdwood/spencer-class-v-whitewat… Late flight home.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Plymouth, Minnesota
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7. Re: Alaska visit

Thanks for all the help and suggestions....really appreciate it. Hubby doesn't like flying on small planes, so that might have to be re-done. Looks as though all of this can be done on our own....just needed some guidance which you all have done.

Thanks again!

Manitoba, Canada
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8. Re: Alaska visit

If hubby doesn't like flying on small planes, you'd need to re-vamp the itinerary if you want to go to Wrangell-St. Elias NP. Most rental cars aren't permitted on the gravel McCarthy road (you can ask your rental company if interested) and if you do rent one that does allow that, be prepared to change a tire yourselves. That's the one stretch of road you'd be on that you couldn't expect other travelers to be along within a few minutes....

If you want an itinerary similar to what I wrote above, a couple of ways you could deal with that.

A.

Day 3 - Drive to Matanuska Glacier (3 hrs) [or you might want to drive just north of Anchorage the night before, maybe Eagle River Motel, to knock an hour off driving for today and give you more time at Hatcher Pass] for 2 pm Ice Falls Trek on the glacier with MICA. If time on the way there, either swing north a bit to visit scenic Hatcher Pass, or stop in Palmer to see the Musk Ox Farm. Also be sure to pick up supplies/snacks for McCarthy in either Anchorage or Eagle River. Drive to Copper Center (2.5+ hrs.) to overnight.

Day 4 - 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 pm: day trip shuttle to McCarthy www.kennicottshuttle.com/itinerary.html , gives you about 5 hours in the park to look around, maybe do the mill tour. Overnight Copper Center.

Day 5 – Drive to Valdez (2.5 hrs) stopping to see Worthington Glacier, Horsetail Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, visit the fish hatchery: http://www.alaskagold.com/valdez/roads.html . Late afternoon/evening drive back to Copper Center (2 hrs).

Day 6 - drive to Fairbanks (now only 264 miles, lots more time to do things along the way, or maybe get there early to visit the museum in Fairbanks so you can leave for Denali earlier the next day or do other things in Fairbanks, depending on your interests). Overnight Fairbanks, etc.

OR

B. skip Wrangell St. Elias:

Day 3 • Drive to Matanuska Glacier (3 hrs) for 2 pm Ice Falls Trek on the glacier with MICA. If time on the way there, either swing north a bit to visit scenic Hatcher Pass, or stop in Palmer to see the Musk Ox Farm. Also be sure to pick up supplies/snacks for McCarthy in either Anchorage or Eagle River. Overnight Sheep Mt. Lodge.

Day 4 • Drive to Valdez (4.5 hrs), stopping at Wrangell St. Elias Visitor Center for a nice view of Mt. Drum, do the interpretive walk, stop at Worthington Glacier, Horsetail & Bridal Veil Falls, fish hatchery: http://www.alaskagold.com/valdez/roads.html. Overnight Valdez.

Day 5 • Drive to Paxson (3.5 hrs). Drive (at least part of) the first 22 miles of scenic Denali Hwy that are paved, exploring along the way. Overnight there or back at the junction to Richardson Hwy if Denali Highway Cabins has room. Can also see if they are running their evening wildlife float.

Day 6 • Drive to Fairbanks (3.5 hrs), stopping at Rika’s Roadhouse in Delta Junction for lunch. Visit Museum of the North (or maybe Chena Hot Springs or 3 pm El Dorado Goldmine tour, etc.). Dinner at Salmon Bake at Pioneer Park, see the 8:15 show at Palace Theatre, overnight Fairbanks. etc.

There are a hundred different ways you can do this trip. By now you're probably getting a pretty good idea of how to fit things together, and I’m sure you’ll have a great time no matter what you choose to do!

Edited: 11:39 am, March 06, 2010
Texas
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9. Re: Alaska visit

Fronnie,

We are planning our own trip with great help from TA and we bought the Moon Series book on Alaska. You might be able to check it out at the library. We frequently use the Moon Series. Author lives in Homer, AK. With the TA responses, Moon Alaska, and internet searches we have built our itinerary.

Good luck,

TLC97

Plymouth, Minnesota
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10. Re: Alaska visit

Again, thanks for all your help....much appreciated.