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Alaska Itinerary - please help!

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Jul 15th, 2011, 08:37 AM
  #1
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Alaska Itinerary - please help!

Hello, I'm finally getting started on our Alaska itinerary. This is a last-minute trip (August 2011) so I need to get started on reservations right away!

I am trying to make this a relaxing trip (as relaxing as an Alaska itinerary could be) because I'll be 26 weeks pregnant by the time of the trip, that's why I'm shooting for at least 3 nights in each location.

Day 0 Fri Arrival in Anchorage 7:15pm
Day 1 Sat Anchorage - check out the zoo and musem
Day 2 Sun Anchorage - day trip to Whittier
Day 3 Mon Seward - train to Seward
Day 4 Tue Seward
Day 5 Wed Seward
Day 6 Thu Denali - drive to Denali
Day 7 Fri Denali
Day 8 Sat Denali
Day 9 Sun ???
Day 10 Mon ???
Day 11 Tue Leave Anchorage (late night flight)

1. I don't have anything for the last 2 days of the trip so please send me recommendations - should I add more nights to Seward and/or Denali, or do we add another location (Homer? Talkeetna? Juneau?)?

2. Has anyone ever rented a car in Seward, then dropped it off in Anchorage?

3. From Seward to Denali - would it be better to drive straight through or break down the trip with another night in Anchorage?

Thank you in advance!
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Jul 15th, 2011, 09:00 AM
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I rented a car in Anchorage and dropped it off is Seward. Yes, the drop fee might be high. Hertz was the only rental agency in Seward at the time I rented my car a couple of years ago.

We did a flyout/fishing trip/bearviewing at Soldotna that was awesome. I don't know when the salmon runs are, so you would have to check dates and places for that.

You might want to spend those extra days at Girdwood. The Alyeska Resort there is very nice. We did a Helicopter/glacier landing/dog sledding from there.
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Jul 15th, 2011, 10:44 PM
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Thanks, spirobulldog, will check those activities and look up Girdwood as a possible add-on.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 05:24 AM
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Here are some random thoughts.

Skip Whittier. There is nothing there to see. Substitute Girdwood and include the nearby Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and a tram ride to the top of Mt. Alyeska.

Don't try to drive straight through from Seward to Denali. It requires too much time. Additionally, the Seward-Anchorage portion is one of the most scenic in the entire state. It is something to be savored. You may even want to pull over to the side of the road to snap some photos.

You may even want to consider skipping the train to/from Seward and hang onto the car the entire time. Go Anchorage -> Denali -> Anchorage -> Seward (via Girdwood) -> Homer -> Return to Anchorage. You will see that I've added in Homer for the extra 2 days. That is a perfect filler for that amount of time & considering the fact that you'll already be in Seward.

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Jul 16th, 2011, 06:16 AM
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Train is a pain with trying to rent a car. But the train to Seward was a highlight and it is very scenic.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 11:12 PM
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Just back from 2 weeks in Alaska - loved the Denali area- we actually got to see the mountain and only 10% of visitors get to see. Recommend a bus trip through the Park - we saw a grizzly right beside our bus.

We stayed one night in Talkneetka which is a cute little town - some fun restaurants - one is run by a former white house chef - we went on a river float there.

We also loved the Homer area - stayed at Alaskan Suites - nice group of 5 cabins overlooking the bay - had some great halibut meals here. One of our very favorite things to do was to take a ferry to Halibut Cove and have dinner at the Saltry - very nice experience- reservations needed.
Halibut Cove was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
We rented a car in Homer and dropped off in Anchorage - it was VERY expensive

Loved the trip - just got back tonight
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Jul 17th, 2011, 12:06 AM
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Thanks everyone!

Orlando_Vic - thanks for the tip on the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and a tram ride to the top of Mt. Alyeska. Taking note of these for our possible stop in Girdwood. I was trying to avoid a one-night stay in Anchorage on the Seward-Denali route so it looks like Girdwood is our best possible option to avoid that.

spirobulldog - a friend of ours went on the trip to Seward and said it was the best train ride she's ever been on (and she's been to Switzerland and New Zealand).

sunbum1944 - glad to hear that you had an awesome 2 weeks in Alaska! Thanks for the recommendation on Homer. For your Denali trip, did you use the shuttle bus or one of the shuttle bus or the narrated bus tour? I'm thinking of using the shuttle bus but am concerned about the bathroom situation (I've read that there are no toilets on the shuttle bus).
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Jul 17th, 2011, 07:21 AM
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"I'm thinking of using the shuttle bus but am concerned about the bathroom situation (I've read that there are no toilets on the shuttle bus)."

That is true - no toilet facilities. However, they do take breaks at rest stops with bathrooms along the way.

IMO, the shuttle buses are the best (and cheapest) way to go. If this is a last minute trip, I'd make those reservations now!
http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisi...servations.htm

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Jul 17th, 2011, 09:26 AM
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We used the narrated bus tour - they made several bathroom stops - shuttle bus would be least expensive way to go but I thought it nice to hear the narration and our driver entertaining-

She knew the areas to watch for wild life, took the time to slow down and watch for animals and when we saw something she would stop the bus and just sit there until the animal wandered off- not sure the shuttle would do that.
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Jul 17th, 2011, 09:57 AM
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sunbum1944,
The shuttle bus does everything you have mentioned.

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Jul 17th, 2011, 10:30 AM
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Agree. The only difference between the shuttle bus and a "narrated bus" is the price; the shuttle bus being cheaper.
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Jul 17th, 2011, 01:26 PM
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We took the 6 am regular shuttle bus ride thru Denali. The mountain was not out but it was awesome. Wendy, our bus driver, was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We stopped for bathroom breaks about every 90 minutes. We had prebooked this and had great weather but Wendy said the day before was black skies and rain and they still saw lots of animals.
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Jul 17th, 2011, 02:13 PM
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Thanks everyone! Our plan is to take the shuttle bus but since I have to go to the bathroom a lot, I was wondering if there was a toilet in the more expensive narrated buses . Looks like there's no toilet in either one so I'll have to wait for the bathroom breaks!
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Jul 26th, 2011, 06:53 PM
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I've finally put together an itinerary for our last minute trip! Thanks to everyone here who posted answers and helped me out! We can't do Homer on this trip (too far of a drive since we're driving to Denali) so we will definitely have to make a return trip to Alaska when our little one is older .

Day 0 Fri - Arrival in Anchorage (very late arrival)

Day 1 Sat - explore Anchorage, get our bearings

***if you had to prioritize, how would you rank Alaska Zoo, Anchorage Museum, and the Alaska Native Center?


Day 2 Sun - day trip to Whittier, motorcoach/cruise with 26 Glaciers Tour

Day 3 Mon - train to Seward (used Toursaver), Alaska SeaLife Center

Day 4 Tue - (Seward) Kenaj Fjord Tour with Major Marine (used Toursaver)

Day 5 Wed - (Seward) Exit Glacier

Day 6 Thu - Seward-ANC-Girdwood
10:30am - Coach from Seward to ANC
1:30pm - Pick up rental car at ANC
Drive from ANC to Girdwood, check out sights along the way
Check into Alyeska Resort
Ride the tram

***when I called the local Hertz office in Seward, the rep said that there was no available car from Hertz (pick up Seward, drop off Anchorage). When I called the 1800 reservation line, the Hertz rep said that they could request a van for me for $180+ per day. So the motorcoach from Seward to Anchorage (then pick up a car rental in ANC) was our best/cheapest alternative since we want to drive from Anchorage to Denali.


Day 7 Fri - Drive Girdwood to Denali
Day 8 Sat - (Denali) Denali Park Tour - booked the shuttle bus
Day 9 Sun - (Denali) extra day to explore park
***any recommended EASY hikes?

Day 10 Mon - Drive Denali to Anchorage - may stop by Talkeetna

Day 11 Tue - Depart Anchorage 1:35pm
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Jul 26th, 2011, 07:17 PM
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You might want to Hike the Winner Creek Trail which is near the tramway. The way you get across the creek is in this hand pulley car thingy.

I don't think you would need the entire day to hike Exit Glacier. Do take Bear Spray or hike along with other people. We did it first thing in the morning and were freaked out. Lots of bearsightings here. They might even do a Ranger-led hike each day I'm not sure though.

There is some really good Salmon Chowder at the little ski resort area at the top of the Tram. You can also hike above the tram for a little ways to the Glacier. I wouldn't get on the glacier unless you know what you are doing and have ropes. We went with a guide and did it. You don't really need the guide unless you are on the glaci er. The pool is nice at the Alyeska to watch the mountain.
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Jul 26th, 2011, 08:12 PM
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Thank you, spirobulldog! I will add your recommendations to our day at Girdwood. I didn't have anything beyond riding the tram (and wasn't sure of the difficulty of the hiking trails) so this is very helpful.

Will check out the Ranger-led hikes at Exit Glacier (and make sure to buy Bear Spray in Anchorage for our trip!).
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Jul 27th, 2011, 05:02 AM
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"***if you had to prioritize, how would you rank Alaska Zoo, Anchorage Museum, and the Alaska Native Center?"

#1 Alaska Native Heritage Center
#2 Anchorage Museum
#3 Alaska Zoo

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Jul 27th, 2011, 08:27 AM
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Thanks Orlando_Vic, appreciate your input! Can't wait for our trip!
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Aug 1st, 2011, 05:00 AM
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There are NO toilets on ANY of the Denali Park buses, all use the bus stops which are about 90 minutes apart.

I would book the shuttle bus to Eielson. You would then at least have one opportunity for flush toilets and sinks.

Be prepared for motion sickness, if prone on the Kenai Fjords boat tour. I see sick passengers every trip. Check with your MD, if ginger would be an option? or other advice?

You don't have a car for your first three days? Anchorage is far better with one, you can then easily drive to your boat tour out of Whittier.
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