Alaska--how's this itinerary sound?

Jan 22nd, 2004, 01:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 312
Alaska--how's this itinerary sound?

After a solid 2 weeks of devouring Frommer's, reading messages and making phone calls, I think we've got a tentative itinerary nailed down, but would love some feedback from the Fodors experts! In particular, we still need lodging suggestions (we'd prefer to stay under $125/nt, but nothing *too* basic). OK, here goes:

Sat. 7/17--Fly into Anchorage (FF miles) and stay the night at one of their Hilton properties (hotel points). Pick up rental car.

Sun. 7/18--Drive to Denali, stopping off in
Talkeetna for Mt. McKinley flightseeing through Talkeetna Aero Services. Use Toursaver coupon for a summit flight. Overnight in Glitter Gulch area or Healy (suggestions?).

Mon. 7/19--Take AM Denali shuttle to Eielson or Wonder Lake (will reserve tickets in advance). Spend a second night in Glitter Gulch or Healy.

Tues. 7/20--Get up early and drive the Denali and Richardson Hwys to Valdez (the rental agency we're using allows this and we'll be sure to buy the insurance). Overnight in Valdez (where?).

Wed. 7/21--Spend the day hiking and exploring Valdez (any suggestions?). 2nd night in Valdez.

Thurs. 7/22--Use toursaver coupon for the morning ferry to Whittier. Drive to Seward and overnight there (possibly at the Alaska Saltwater Lodge?).

Fri. 7/23--Spend the day exploring Seward. See Exit glacier and the dogsleds at Ididaride? 2nd night in Seward.

Sat. 7/24--Take the day-long Kenai Fjords cruise (through Major Marine) to Holgate glacier. 3rd night in Seward.

Sun. 7/25--Drive to Homer and spend the afternoon exploring. Overnight possibly at the BayView Inn or splurge on LandsEnd?

Mon. 7/26--Take Emerald Air or HalloBay tour to Katmai for bear-watching. Not sure at this point if we can afford this, but hoping. 2nd night in Homer.

Tues. 7/27--Drive back to Anchorage with possible stop in Girdwood along the way. Overnight at another Hilton Property (hotel pts).

Wed. 7/28--Fly home.

Question: Would it be worth it to spend an extra day exploring Anchorage?

Thanks to everyone for your help so far. This board is really invaluable!

Julie304 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2004, 02:14 PM
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Looks pretty good to me. Made me tired reading it, though.

People are different, but I personally would consider dropping one of the nights in Valdez or Seward, maybe both, to be able to pay for the Katmai flight. I'm a broken record on this, but I strongly feel it's crucial for visitors to Alaska to get off the road system - either by flightseeing or traveling to a native village, in order to see something of the 90%+ of the state that can't be seen from behind a steering wheel. The Denali flight is good, but the weather can be poopy any time of the year and you might get cancelled out. In that case, having another aerial excursion lined up would be a fail-safe.

If you end up back in Anchorage a day or even two early, great. Plenty to do around town. If your rental agency will let you take the Denali Hwy, then they'll probably let you take the road to Hatcher Pass above the Mat-Su valley, an interesting day trip to an historic mining ruin. (Hell, if they'll allow it, give a thought to the McCarthy Road - on the way to Valdez - while you're at it - at least as far as Chitina. Pretty scenic stuff, and you may encounter critters pretty close up.)

Get the Milepost and start dialing for accommodations. By the way, any recent edition of the Milepost will do - they don't change much one year to the next.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2004, 06:59 AM
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I too agree- you have too much time in Seward, actually in Valdez only 1 full day as they will be a late arrival and early departure. Cut at least 1 day there. For clairfication- the toursaver coupon will have to be upgraded with Talkeetna Aero if you want the summit flight- the coupons are for the summit view. I would definately NOT do a day trip to Halo Bay and allow at least 1 overnight- key is to max. you viewing opportunities there, and you are better able to do so with an overnight giving a "second chance" for views. I like Touch of Wilderness in Healy. And in Valdez- Brookside Inn.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2004, 07:04 AM
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Actually the Hatcher Pass is now paved up to Independence Mine- so yes a great trip.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2004, 07:14 AM
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Thanks BQ. I figured it might be, consistent with the ongoing process of the Mat-Su Valley becoming a contender for the crown of most-paved-over former wilderness.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2004, 09:49 AM
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Budgetqueen--just to clarify, you're suggesting that we drop a day in Seward and add one to the Hallo Bay excursion? The problem is the 2-day package from Hallo Bay costs $2600 (for 2 people). Unfortunately, there's just no way we can afford to spend that much. Even the $950 for a day trip is really pushing it. Is this still worth doing if you can only afford a 1-day excursion? Also, do you know how Hallo Bay's trip compares to Emerald Air?

Gardyloo--we've thought about dropping Valdez altogther, but really wanted to drive the Richardson highway and I've heard Valdez is great for hiking even if the town itself isn't terribly exciting. As far as Anchorage is concerned, we weren't really thinking we'd end up with extra time, but were wondering if it would be worth the money to add another day specifically to see the city? We can stay for free in Anchorage so a day there is cheaper than a day elsewhere.

Thanks! If anyone else has lodging recommendations (of the B&B type) we're still looking for suggestions.
Julie304 is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2004, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Gardyloo and Budgetqueen give you great advise, but I'd like to comment on a few of the items you brought up. We stayed at Alaska Saltwater, Bayview, and did 3 nights at Halo Bay this past August (family of four). Alaska Saltwater is located right on the beach with nice spacious rooms and a great view. Also nice continental breakfast. It is a bit away from town on a rough road though. Bayview has spotless older rooms that are very compact to say the least. View from your room and chairs outside your door are spectacular. These two places are bargains compared to others we saw and would stay at both again. As far as Denal we stayed at Sourdough Cabins for $99.00 (Westmark Website). Clean, good location but extremely basic. If you don't mind driving a bit you'd probably be better off in Healy or south. Halo Bay is an expensive, but once in a lifetime type experience. Don't expect luxury, what you see on their site is very accurate. While there we had day trippers come in and they definitly saw bears. I don't know if a day trip is worth it or not though as our best viewing tended to be morning and evening. The bears were less active during the warmer part of the day.
DaveS is offline  
Jan 24th, 2004, 01:33 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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For a free night- I would definately add the day in Anchorage- plenty to see. request their visitor guide

There was a very favorable post about Emerald Air a while back?? You are asking some tough questions. Myself and my opinion only- no I would not do a day visit to Halo Bay- plenty of people do as remarked by the above poster. Determine what is right for you. Research fully of viewing opportunities and times of actual viewing/ sighing history etc.
BudgetQueen is offline  
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