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9 Day Trip to Alaska

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Dec 4th, 2012, 11:07 AM
  #1
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9 Day Trip to Alaska

My husband and I are planning a trip to Alaska for our 1 year anniversary in June, and I am trying to get some ideas. It is a 9 day trip, but, with flying, we have 7 days to experience Alaska. Here is my rough schedule thus far. I wanted to get opinons to see if we were packing in too much in 7 days, or if one place isn't worth visiting. I also wanted to get opinions on what to do in each of the places as well. My husband and I are both in our 30s, we like the outdoors, are adventerous, and like to experience new things. Thanks!

Day 1- Arrive in Anchorage and drive to Denali
Day 2- Denali
Day 3- Denali and head toward Seward in the evening
Day 4- Seward
Day 5- Drive to Homer in the morning and spend the rest of the day there
Day 6- Homer
Day 7- Drive to Anchorage and spend the rest of the day there
Day 8- Anchorage
Day 9- Head home

Thank you everyone for your input and help!
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Dec 4th, 2012, 11:48 AM
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I think your itinerary as written won't work. It doesn't give you enough time, and ultimately I think you will decide to drop Homer...not that it isn't worth it, its great, I just think you have to choose Denali or Homer.

It may be challenging to drive from Anchorage to Denali on arrival day, depends maybe on where you are flying from, but I believe that's a 6 hour drive, not counting stops.

Then, you need a full day in Denali to take the shuttle into the park. A minimum of 8 hours on the bus, maybe 11-12 if you want to go farther in. No way you want to start driving to Seward after that, so spend a night in Denali.

Then it's 7-8 hours from Denali to Seward, again without stops.

The best thing to do in Seward is the all-day Kenai Fjord tour. Again, you aren't going to want to drive far that day.

So if you want to do those things, and set up your itinerary around that. Then maybe include: flight seeing from Talkeetna, Exit Glacier, Girdwood, Glacier cruise from Whittier, hiking, kayaking, fishing, bear viewing (flight seeing), gold panning, helicopter landing on a glacier, visiting a sled dog camp. These are some things you might be able to do in multiple places, you don't necessarily have to go far off the path to do them.
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Dec 4th, 2012, 11:57 AM
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If you make it to Homer, what I enjoyed the most was a visit to Halibut Cove with dinner at the Saltry - you go by boat on the Danny G- it is really a beautiful spot - but as China-cat says, you have not left yourself a lot of time so Halibut Cove may be too much
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Dec 5th, 2012, 05:54 PM
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I was just gonna say, be sure to set-out from Anchorage to Seward early enough to see it all in daylight. Waiting until the next day to depart is a better alternative than to do any significant part of the journey at night (missing the views).


And Anchorage itself, while it has most of the amenities, it doesn't woo you to allocate much time to the city proper. So if need be, you can skimp on Anchorage in favor of one of those side trips.

Seward is definitely worth the round-trip, so just decide whether you prefer the Homer trip or more time in Anchorage.
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Dec 5th, 2012, 07:45 PM
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I am also planning a trip to Alaska and trying to plan an itinerary. Maybe something like this would work for you.
I am assuming your flight gets into Anchorage early afternoon.

Day 1: Drive to Seward--beautiful drive with lots of stops, hikes, scenic views (about 2 1/2 hours with no stops)

Day 2: Kenai Fjords Boat Trip --take the longer trip

Day 3: Hike Exit Glacier. You don't mention if you like hiking. If not, enjoy other activities in Seward. Drive to Homer(4 hrs without stops)Another scenic drive

Day 4: Homer

Day 5: Drive to Girdwood (4 hrs with no stops)Anchorage or Palmer/Matanuska or somewhere else--maybe someone here can give advice. You need a stop for one night here.

Day 6: Drive to Denali. Stop in Talkeetna for flightseeing?

Day 7: Denali

Day 8: Denali

Day 9: Head home--if you have a late flight, you could sightsee in Anchorage, flightsee

As suggested, leaving Homer out would allow you less driving. It would also be a wonderful trip if you spent the entire time on the Kenai Peninsula and skipped Denali.

Note that this advice is coming from someone who has never been to Alaska.
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Dec 6th, 2012, 09:27 AM
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Two books to get: Discovering Denali and Milepost
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Dec 6th, 2012, 12:19 PM
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Thank you everyone for the advice... I am going to have to go get some books and do some more research before deciding on an itinerary!
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Dec 6th, 2012, 01:01 PM
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I have been to Alaska twice, once by land and once by sea. In my experience, we saw so much more by sea. We went with Special Expeditions on a very small ship (80 passengers) and it was fabulous. We saw calving glaciers up close, we went on shore every day to different villages you can only access by sea or air. We saw sooooooo much wildlife from bears to whales and everything in between. I remember it being quite expensive, but I bet you could find something. By land, we drove up to Coldfoot, spent a couple of nights in the Kantishna Road House in Denali (recommend) drove to Anchorage and ate at the Seven Glaciers Restaurant at the top of the glacier. We didn't see much wildlife and the drives were long and boring. If I had a choice I would definitely go by sea again. (and I'd try to squeeze in a visit to the Polar Bears)
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Dec 10th, 2012, 05:56 PM
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The last post makes Alaska-by-land sound like a short trip which took one afternoon.

What happened along the 2400-mile path from, say, Vancouver, Canada to Coldfoot?

The whole idea of going to Alaska by land is the very remoteness of the path there.

When you set out on the Alaska Highway expecting to see people dancing, a man selling ice cream, another playing guitar, and a bronze man telling stories as if it were another Saturday in the park, then you're doing it wrong.

Perhaps the difference between driving to Alaska by land (from the lower 48) and taking a boat to Alaska is akin to the difference between driving through Manhattan yourself vs. merely taking a cab. You could argue that you might even see more for having ridden in somebody else's vehicle but you really didn't get the full effect that way.

A couple who post on this board recently took a round-trip drive from Florida to Alaska and created a great website with some impressive photos for anybody wanting a clearer sense for what it is like to drive to Alaska.

In closing, does one go to Alaska for the water? or for the land??
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Dec 10th, 2012, 08:11 PM
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northwestmale: I wouldn't know what happened on the drive from Vancouver to Coldfoot because we flew into Fairbanks and out of Anchorage. Actually, the best part of the trip was the drive from Fairbanks to Coldfoot because is was so isolated and unusual. The hotel at Coldfoot was a real experience we enjoyed. Don't know where your quote came from but it could not be farther from the description of my expectations. I tried to describe the highlights of our land trip all of which were very interesting and beautiful. In my experience, the sea trip was much more isolated and natural. Note, we did not take the love boat, we went on a small ship adventure cruise where the entertainment nightly was the naturalists talking about what we saw and what we would likely see the next day. Every day we were sent ashore in zodiacs and hiked through amazing scenery or bogs and one day even boot sucking mud. We saw many more animals than we did on the land trip even counting the 6 hour bus ride through Denali to the very remote Kantishna Road House.

Oh and by the way, after having worked in NYC for 17 years, I'd say the cab ride is much more exciting than driving yourself!
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Dec 11th, 2012, 04:36 AM
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Either way sounds great to me.

We had a fantastic experience doing a similar driving trip that sd mentions and we did see tons of wildlife. We drove from Anchorage to Alyeska and then on to Seward/Kenai NP area. Drove over to Soldotna and took a float plane to fish at Wolverine Creek right at the edge of Lake Clark NP. Saw tons of eagles, 20* bears, all kinds of marinelife including several humpbacks. Saw calving glaciers up close. Ate with the locals in several places.

My mom and dad did a 7 day cruise/10 day land tour last year. They enjoyed the cruise, but like the land a whole lot more. I do think the way SD describes a small boat with excursions would be the best way to go-if you did want to do it from a boat. I think anyway you do it, the longer you can spend there the better. It is a big big place and takes time to get from one place to another.
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Dec 11th, 2012, 09:54 AM
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The small ship cruises sound fantastic. I have read great reviews. Alaska is expensive, but those cruises are really expensive--maybe someday.
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Dec 12th, 2012, 06:44 PM
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OK... HOW, exactly does flying to Alaska count as having "been to Alaska" "by land" ???


Wonders never cease...
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Dec 13th, 2012, 11:54 AM
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NorthwestMale, I'm not sure I understand your question. The Alaska town I live in, and many other Alaskan towns, are only accessible by sea or air. I'm not sure how mentioning a road trip from Florida answers the posters' questions of how to prioritize her time in Alaska.
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Dec 13th, 2012, 12:34 PM
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crhq5, when we went to Alaska, we flew into Anchorage and spent the first night in Anchorage. The 2nd day we drove to Denali (seeing Talkeetna and making other stops on the way). The 3rd day we took the bus tour into Denali, and that was awesome!!! The 4th day we took a long driving trip to Seward, stopping at many scenic places along the way. The 5th day we went on an all-day cruise, which was also amazing. The 6th day we saw the aquarium in Seward, hiked to Exit Glacier, did more sight-seeing in Seward. The 7th day we meandered back toward Anchorage, did some-seeing that day, and flew home that night.

We wouldn't have had time to do Homer during our 7 nights there. One thing we liked was being able to stop and enjoy all the incredible things there. One time we stopped for about an hour to watch some Dahl goats climbing on rocks right beside the road.

The Milepost is the best book you can get to prepare you for your trip.
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Dec 15th, 2012, 04:07 PM
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Kansan,

Alluding to your place of residence in that context is entirely non-topical and is of zero benefit to the OP, whereas the same OP could perhaps use the recent reference of "driving from Florida to Alaska" (in a search done here at Fodors) to find real, actual photographs which are semi-current and which likely relate to some of the OP's possible destinations.

Additionally, the earlier reference by someone claiming to have "been to Alaska... by land" when they've done no such thing would be akin to claiming to have reached your apparent town "by land". At least in the case of your town, if it's on the Alaska mainland, it would be poooooossible (albeit perhaps mainly by sled dog or the like).
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Dec 15th, 2012, 10:05 PM
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NWM, sorry to be entirely non-topical and of zero benefit. Pot kettle black.

I live in the panhandle. Many say the most beautiful part of Alaska, where the mountains meet the ocean. All the best to you. Happy travels.
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Dec 16th, 2012, 04:57 AM
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The cheapest Special Expeditions trip is going for $5990 per person. The one we took is now $8,530! A bit pricey is an understatement. We wouldn't do that trip today. Kansan, since you live in Alaska, do you have any insight on the Alaska Marine Highway System? It looks interesting to me. Perhaps a way to see coastal Alaska at a more reasonable rate?

Most of the posts here about driving in Alaska talk about driving south from Anchorage. We went north of Fairbanks and then down to Anchorage, no further south. Perhaps that explains the lack of wildlife compared to these other posts. I guess we'll have to try "Alaska by land" (just for you NWM) again.
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Jan 18th, 2013, 10:50 AM
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My recommendation (with the amount of time you have) would be fly into Fairbanks. Check out the Riverboat Discovery and El Dorado Goldmine.

Drive to Denali and do a day trip in the park (the shuttle buses are a much better deal than the tour buses and they allow you to get on and off in the park).

Drive south to Seward (maybe staying overnight in Anchorage if you don't feel like driving the whole distance in one day). Between Anchorage and Seward you can stop in Girdwood for the Alyeska Tram or at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Other options en route include river rafting at Six-Mile Creek, or if you like fishing, Cooper Landing could be a good place to try that time of year.

A couple nights in Seward. Good attractions are a Kenai Fjords cruise by Major Marine, the Sealife Center, Ididaride kennel, Exit Glacier, fishing, kayaking.

Then you can return to Anchorage to fly home. If you don't drive yourself, some companies that provide transportation along these routes are the Alaska Railroad, alaskacoach.com, alaskashuttle.com, and akcruiseshuttle.com.
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