Alaska Family Trip Planning - 2012

May 28th, 2011, 04:48 PM
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Alaska Family Trip Planning - 2012

We are in the early stages of planning a trip to Alaska in June/July 2012 with our 9 and 12 year old. We are coming from the east coast and will be gone around 14 days (including air travel to/from).

We made a reservation on a 7-day Innersea Discoveries Cruise (from Juneau to Ketchikan) and then plan to spend sometime up north after the cruise. Below are a few early questions as we research our options.

1. Anyone with experience on Innersea Discoveries Cruise --- 2011 is their first year (part of the longer in business American Safari Cruises)

2. The cruise ends in Ketchikan. Can't seem to find any non-stop flights from Ketchikan to Anchorage - everything goes through Seattle it appears. Any ideas?

3. We are thinking of spending about 5 days after the cruise in either the Kenai Pennisula area or the Denali National Park area (assuming we don't have time for both). Any strong feelings on which one to pick for our first trip to Alaska and after the cruise?

4. We are compiling our own list of musts, maybes and wishes for the trip but interested in your "can't miss" experience, site or activity. Our two kids (will be 9 and 12) are fairly active and used to travel.

stephenholdridge is offline  
May 28th, 2011, 06:39 PM
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Hi. Does Innersea Discoveries Cruises have any suggestions on how to leave Ketchikan? Maybe a charter airline will take you to Anchorage. There is not a lot of ways to get out of Ketchikan. Boat or plane. Maybe you could contact the tourism board in Ketchikan and ask them.

The cruise sounds very exciting. You might have time for both Kenai and Denali. Are you getting a rental car or taking the train? Alaska is absolutely gorgeous. You will all love it.
michele_d is offline  
May 28th, 2011, 07:21 PM
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"2. The cruise ends in Ketchikan. Can't seem to find any non-stop flights from Ketchikan to Anchorage - everything goes through Seattle it appears. Any ideas?"

Alaska Airlines flight 67 flies KTN-->SIT-->JNU-->ANC. That may be the best you can do.
Vic's travels:
Orlando_Vic is offline  
May 29th, 2011, 02:05 AM
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3. With 6 days you could do some of both Kenai Peninsula and Denali. I thought I had worked out a brilliant plan - but proved to be wrong - since I hoped you could fly Ketchikan to Fairbanks - but there are no sensible itineraries to do so. Some thoughts on Denali/Kenai - pros and cons.

Denali - it would seem a mistake to go all the way to Alaska and skip Denali. There is one main road in/out of the Park and except for a few miles at the entrance, all transportation is by chartered or Park buses or shuttles. The road is unpaved, long and if you have a fear of cliffs/heights with no guard rails, a challenge emotionally. You will see animals - unknown is how many and how close. We were there June 2008 and saw grizzlies with babies on side of road, moose babies in distance, assorted smaller mammals and lots of birds. But the trip was 13 hours - so animals/hour was not great. It was a beautiful day so we saw mountain unclouded in distance and lots of scenery. We stayed in a little cabin cluster and really felt like we were in Alaska. However, there was a lot of down time and not much else to do. Think of it more as an experience than an event.

Kenai Peninsula. We were going on a more traditional larger ship cruise and thought Kenai might be redundant. Took Kenai Fjords all-day cruise and found it was not - lots of sea mammals, land cretures on shores, calving glaciers, fishing boats - after I got done being seasick it was an enjoyable and interesting day. Enjoyed our time in town as well.

Ketchikan-Anchorage - aren't there some sort of water ferry things in Alaska that go that route? I think I remember posts about this in past.

You could start in Anchorage. Day 1 - drive to Denali, spend 2 nights - with the day in the middle being the one you spend in Denali. Day 3 - drive to Kenai - it is a long drive, especially if you stop somewhere. Spend Day 4 and part of Day 5 in this area, returning to Anchorage for flight home late Day 5 or Day 6.

A lot of driving - but obviously Alaska is big. A reasonable argument could be made for not traveling so much and then I would spend the entire time on Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage.
gail is offline  
May 29th, 2011, 06:53 AM
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Several years ago we took our then teens for an 8 day trip to Alaska. We rented an RV, skipped Denali and spent our time on the Kenai. For us, less driving and a slower pace was perfect. Enjoyed various towns, Kenai Fjords day trip, kayaking in Homer, museums, dog sledding kennel, visited glaciers up close and personel, and took lots of hikes. We saw bears, moose and lots of marine life. When and where you see wildlife in Alaska seems to have to do with luck. I have known people who have seen lots, and then some who have seen little, on both the Kenaai and Denali.
Barblab is offline  
May 29th, 2011, 08:16 PM
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I am currently spending a week in the Kenai. I wish I had spent some time in Denali (I have been to Denali before, had never been to Kenai)
bigtyke is offline  
May 30th, 2011, 07:14 AM
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Thanks for everyone's input - I think we are going to try and find a way to fit time in kenai and denali into the schedule. Regarding Denali - any recommendations on lodging inside the park (very expensive) vs. lodging at park entrance and do day trips into the park?
stephenholdridge is offline  
May 30th, 2011, 03:07 PM
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Denali Lodging Recommendation: Denali Dome Home B&B (in nearby Healy)

Denali Restaurant Recommendation: Black Diamond Grill (also in Healy)
Check out their Tripadvisor reviews:

Vic's travels:
Orlando_Vic is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 06:43 PM
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We are doing a very similar trip this July. I posted my preliminary itinerary. If u click my screen name you'll find it. I'll be sure to get my trip report up when we return.
MiamiBeachMomma is offline  
Jun 6th, 2011, 03:14 PM
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MiamiBeachMomma - thanks for the link to your alaska trip itenerary. Would love feedback on the innerseas cruise. We are planning for June/July 2012. Also how are getting from Ketchikan to Anchorage? I can only find flights that go thru Seattle or multiple stops in between - maybe that's the only choices?
stephenholdridge is offline  
Jun 8th, 2011, 08:58 AM
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Yup. Are are flying the 5ish flight with a ton of stopovers on the way to Anchorage. It isnt optimal - but your right - those are the only choices.

We are doing the family departure on the cruise with my 8 and 11 year old. We are really excited!!! I still have to book the night in Anchorage and I havent made a res yet. I want somewhere that I can do laundry easily so we only have to pack for one week instead of 2. Let me know if your research has brought you across something.
MiamiBeachMomma is offline  
Jun 10th, 2011, 08:13 AM
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Our kids will be 9 and 12 when we take the trip next summer so will look forward to your family's feedback on the cruise and activities.

We haven't checked into Anchorage lodging yet --- just confirmed the cruise reservation for 2012 during one of the family weeks (last week of June). Air fare schedules for us won't be bookable for another month or so.
stephenholdridge is offline  
Jun 11th, 2011, 06:07 PM
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5 days is a tight time frame for interior Alaska, if you want to include both Denali Park and Seward.

What time does your flight get into Anchorage? If earlier evening, I would recommend you head right to Seward. There is a laundry in town, but look at doing it in Ketchikan- if your plans allow.

You need to have two nights in Denali. IF you stay in the park, you need even more time, in my opinion, with Skylon Lodge the cheapest. Otherwise, just consider doing a shuttle bus to Eielson, with lodging outside the park. Having a rental car, will offer you plenty of extra activites of interest.

Before you get into any bookings, map out your entire itinerary, and what activities are going to fill your areas. Do not underestimate time and distances necessary.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Jan 30th, 2012, 04:23 PM
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Here is an update on our plan:

One week cruise (juneau to ketchikan) on Innerseas Discovery at the end of June - it is family adventure week and our kids are 9 and 12.

Anyone have any additional experiences with Innerseas Discovery cruises and children?

We are also thinking of spend 4 nights the following week at Camp Denali. Anyone have experience with Camp Denali and children?
stephenholdridge is offline  
Jan 30th, 2012, 05:14 PM
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Maybe Bill_H will comment as he has stayed there several times I believe.

I would think it depends on how much and what you do at Camp Denali and what your kids expect. It seems a little laid back just reading about it. So, if your kids like something going constantly, then it might be a bit long. Now, I haven't stayed there so I really don't know anything at all, just commenting on what I have read. I like to stay busy the entire trip. My wife and 18 year old daughter can relax or stay busy. My daughter could do either at age 9-12 also.

We had a great time in Kenai/Seward area on our only trip to Alaska. My parents did Denali and they loved it. Especially landing on Glacier at McKnly.

I would do as many as possible of the excursions(hikes, kayaking, etc) that they offer on board your cruise. It looks good. personally, I would NOT try the stand up kayaking as seen in one of their photos-And I do pretty much everything. Here is a link to some reviews I found.

lot of innersea discoveries videos on youtube-just search it.

Camp Denali Reviews

Go to August, 14, 2008 for a very very positive review with kids on TA.

I think you will have a great time. Be sure and give us a trip report as your cruise and certainly Denali are something I hope to do sometime.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 30th, 2012, 05:22 PM
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I finally posted my trip repot about our cruise.
MiamiBeachMomma is offline  
Feb 5th, 2012, 07:14 AM
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Thanks all for additional responses. Trip report from MiamiBeachMomma was very helpful as well as the links to some of the reviews and videos from spriobulldog. I think we are going to give Camp Denali a shot - I spoke a couple of times with them. So here are all the details as of now --- any other ideas, reviews or things to see along the way are welcomed. We leave in late June of this year.

Day 1: Fly to Juneau (through Seattle). Arrive 2.30pm. Staying at Goldsbelt Hotel with waterview room (room to fit 4 of us wasn't available at Capital Inn). Reviews were mixed but hotel is convenient for cruise departure. Still open to other suggestions.

Day 2: Explore Juneau by foot. Board Innersea Discoveries cruise 5.30pm. Two next door cabins (315 and 317) - one for the kids and one for the parents.

Day 2 - 9: Innerseas Discoveries cruise from Juneau to Ketchikan.

Day 9: Disembark cruise around 9am. Explore Ketchikan by foot. Take 5pm flight to Anchorage. Pick up car at Anchorage airport and stay at Courtyard Marriott Airport (points).

Day 10: Leave Achorage next morning and drive to Denali Park Entrance Area. Explore along the way and park entrance area. Stay at EarthSong in two-room cabin (Healy). Kids are excited to see the sled dogs that stay there.

Day 11: Drive from Healy to Deanli Park Entrance. Leave rental car in free parking area. Meet Camp Denali bus by noon. Bus ride through park, arrive Camp Denali around 8pm.

Day 11-15: Camp Denali

Day 15: Leave Camp Deanli on their bus around 6.30am and arrive park entrance around noon. Drive to Anchorage. Stay at Marriott Anchorage downtown.

Day 16: Leave Anchorage around 2.30pm for flight home.
stephenholdridge is offline  
Feb 5th, 2012, 08:17 AM
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If you have time in Juneau, do take the city bus out to Mendenhall glacier. We saw our first bears fishing there.
emalloy is offline  
Feb 5th, 2012, 09:23 AM
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Just wondering if you are locked into sailing Juneau to Ketchikan. I recommend looking into the Juneau to Sitka sailing to see Glacier Bay National Park. Plus I like Sitka so much more than Ketchikan. Then you can fly Sitka to Anchorage.

Another thought, there is a fast ferry from Juneau to Sitka that takes 4 hours. That would give you more time on the ground for outings.
Kansan is offline  
Feb 5th, 2012, 09:52 AM
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We visited the Husky Homestead at Denali Park and really enjoyed. They put on quite a presentation! and you get to hold the puppies before the show.

Stop in Talkeetna - very cute town, several nice restaurants- the ranger station is interesting. They monitor the climbers on Denali - when we were there they were getting ready to do a rescue on the mountain. We also went for a nice river raft trip from there.
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