Alaska trip with toddler

Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 08:41 AM
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Alaska trip with toddler

Hi everyone. We are planning a trip to Alaska this September with our 18 month old toddler. I guess that excludes most long tours/cruises/etc. We essentially want to enjoy the natural beauty of Alaska and may be see some bears and glaciers. Here's our itinerary:

Day 1: arrive in Anchorage, pick up rental car, stay overnight.
Day 2: drive to Whittier, take a short cruise to see glaciers (are there any 1.5-2 hour cruises available?). Drive back to Anchorage and stay overnight.
Day 3: drive to Denali, stay overnight.
Day 4: take any short (2 hrs or less) tours of the park - I've heard there is one but don't know details. In the afternoon, drive back to Anchorage.
Day 5: spend the day in Anchorage taking in some local sights and relaxing.
Day 6: fly back home

Does that sound like a reasonable itinerary considering that we'll have a toddler with us? Anything we should keep in mind? Any one thinks going to Denali is a waste if we're not going to take the shuttle bus tours inside the park?

Any and all advise and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot in advance!

S&P
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Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 08:05 PM
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Hi, sandp. We just came back from a 2 week trip with our youngest, a teen. We have 4 children and I really gave your questions some thought. I really thought about what I'd do if in your position and knowing what I do about Alaska. Personally, I think I'd focus on the Kenai Peninsula and save the Denali trip for next time. You could make much shorter drives between lodging/towns, take breaks at the many incredible viewing spots, parks, hiking trails (you would not have to hike them, but it'd be a break from the car, and you'd get to enjoy the scenery). Visit places like Portage Glacier Visitor Center, Seward, Homer, Anchor Point--see the eagles and the tractor launch, the Russian churches, etc. You might not do a lot of boat tours, but you'd seen absolutely gorgeous views, great seaside communities, and enjoy what may be a condensed area of the best of Alaska. The toursaver book might save you money with some of the things you could do, even with a toddler, like museums, the wildlife conservation center, etc., but I'm not sure if all the coupons would be good through September and since the lodgings will be less expensive in September, it might not be worth it to you. Check it out at toursaver.com.

I hope this helps. I just don't how enjoyable the long drive to Denali would be only to get a 1-2 hr drive into the park--where you will see little, if anything, of the park, and McKinley may not be visible at any time you're there. And, honestly, the Parks Hwy is the least scenic of all Alaskan highways, especially if McKinley cannot be seen. I hope I have helped. Feel free to ask more questions if you'd like.

BayouGal is offline  
Old Jun 22nd, 2005, 10:35 PM
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You did not tell us, which date you wwant to travel.

Access to Denali Park is limited after Sept 15, as the bus tours stop for yearly winter break at this time.

Take a look into the bus schedule, before you book your flights.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 05:00 AM
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Only my opinion. I too would definately ship Denali Park at this time. The tour you are referring to is the Natural History tour, anyone who has been there would describe the tour as totally worthless. Even 3 hours- which is the timing is WAY too much time with a toddler on a crowded bus with people paying $45 pp. Slim chance of wildlife and so so scenery on this portion.
The Kenai suggestion is wonderful for scenery, you can take a short walk for viewing of Exit Glacier, see Seavey's sled dogs, go to the Sealife center all in Seward. The ONLY boat ride I would ever consider taking a toddler on would be the 1 hour Portage Glacier cruise. You have little to no chance for seeing bears- you need far further into Denali Park for the chance, and binoculars are necessary.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 05:46 AM
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I too would wait to do Denali on your next trip.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 06:59 AM
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Thanks a lot to all of you for replying to my post. We both had doubts about going to Denali with our daughter if we weren't going to take the shuttle bus or hike. Now it's clear to us that we should skip it and focus on the South Central region instead (Anchorage, PWS, Talkeetna, etc).

By the way, our trip is for the 1st week of September (1st to 6th).

Thanks again.

S&P
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Old Jun 24th, 2005, 12:24 PM
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Greetings again everybody. Based on everyone's suggestions we've come up with a revised itinerary. Would appreciate it if any of you experts could comment.

Day 1: arrive in Anchorage, pick up rental car, stay overnight.
Day 2: drive to Whittier, take the Major Marine glacier cruise, drive back to Anchorage.
Day 3: drive to Talkeetna and spend the day enjoying the views (perhaps do a flight over Mt McKinley). Stay overnight.
Day 4: drive back to Anchorage, taking a detour over Hatcher Pass and see Independence Mine. Perhaps stay overnight at a scenic location(?)
Day 5: spend the day in Anchorage
Day 6: fly out.

Since we are travelling with a young child our emphasis is on seeing gorgeous views and staying at various scenic locales - not on doing any particular activities (hiking, fishing, etc.) which can all wait for a future trip. So if anyone has advice on how to improve our itinerary to meet our goal that would be great.

Can anyone suggest any nice (scenic) places to stay on Day 4? Anything we should do on Day 5 instead of hanging around Anchorage? And finally: I have heard various people write on this forum about having gone over Hatcher Pass but my question is, if it's unpaved how do you do it with a rental car?

Whew! I know that's a lot of questions but we really appreciate any and all feedback.

Thanks a lot!

S&P
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Old Jun 24th, 2005, 05:58 PM
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From Palmer, the road to Independence Mine and Hatcher Pass area is paved. However it is gravel the rest of the way to the Parks Hwys. A rental would have to return on the paved road, the same way it went in. I do not know when the gravel portion closes for winter.

Sandp, I hate to sound like I am trying to beat a dead horse, but I think you need to reconsider even your new plan. IF, and that's a big if, McKinley is visable, a trip to Talkeetna will be worth it with your limited time. IMHO, Talkeenta--while a quaint and interesting little town--does not justify the time you'll spend getting to/from plus an overnight--again, with your limited time--the view from Anchorage to Talkeetna is just not that great when "the Great One" is not out. Plus, you should check into flying restrictions for the McKinley flights where a toddler is concerned.

Although I can see going to Whittier for the short boat tour with your child, IMHO, Whittier is the least attractive location on the Kenai. The rest of the peninusla is spectacular and it'd be a shame to be so close and miss so much beauty. It sounds like you want scenic views, changing scenery, nice little stops along the way to avoid too much car time, etc., and that sounds like the Kenai to me--all of Seward Hwy, Seward, Cooper Center, Sterling Hwy from Kenai to Homer--all some of the most beautiful locales we've ever seen in all our travels.

I am not trying to discourage you, but I'd hate to see you leave that magnificent state disappointed because of poor weather around McKinley and/or Whittier.
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Old Jun 24th, 2005, 08:19 PM
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My opinion only, the glacier boat tours are too much time for a toddler, also the chance of motion sickness that you can not predict. At the MOST I would go on the Portage Glacier cruise, not the ones out of Whittier which are several hours long. Again no way out.

The Hatcher Pass is paved Palmer to Independence Mine. I disagree on going to Talkeetna, it's a great location with plenty to consider along the way. Plus being only 2 hours it's a doable timeframe. Consider on the way, a stop at Eagle River Nature Center, Wasilla sled dog museum, short cart ride, transportation museum. Again rethink any flight, noisy, motion sickness risk, and again no way out if disruptions occur. I would spend time along the Arm, just wonderful scenery and in your car- you're in total control. A side trip to Hope, again a nice ride. The game farm near Girdwood would be worth a stop for close up animal viewing. In Anchorage plenty- even a walk to Ship Creek would be nice. Request their visitor guide www.anchorage.net included a nice walking tour map.
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Old Jun 26th, 2005, 03:20 AM
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We missed what used to be called Big Game Alaska near Girdwood which Budgetqueen suggested but friends with an infant and 5 yo liked it a lot. I think the whole family would enjoy the tram ride up Mt Alyeska. Keep in mind that you are visiting over Labor Day weekend. The State Fair in Palmer is that weekend. It may or may not be something you want to attend but it will probably affect lodging availability in that area. I think you would also enjoy the Sea Life Center in Seward. The drive down is spectacular plus you will be able to see seals in the marina. When our son was young, we sometimes visited a library for some quiet time. The Title Wave bookstore in Anchorage would also be a good choice. It's huge, there's a cafe area plus they have a large selection of children's books about Alaska. The trolley ride around Anchorage is short and interesting. The Anchorage Visitors Guide suggests more info on www.anchorage.net/kids
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Old Jun 27th, 2005, 02:22 PM
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We rented bikes in Anchorage and biked along the Tony Knowles coastal trail. We saw lots of parents on bikes w/ a little bike trailer behind them pulling the kids. They seemed like they were having alot of fun and it was a great ride!
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Old Jun 28th, 2005, 08:41 AM
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All of you have been so wonderful in helping us plan our trip. Thanks again for all your tips. We've come up with what we hope is the final itinerary. I promise this is my last post on this thread

Day 1: arrive in Anchorage and stay overnight.
Day 2: Anchorage to Portage Glacier & Whittier; take a short cruise; drive to Seward and stay overnight.
Day 3: See Exit Glacier and the Alaska Sea Life Center. Have lunch, then leave for Girdwood. Take the aerial tram up (for the view) and visit Big Game Alaska. Stay overnight at Girdwood.
Day 4: Drive to Palmer and Hatcher Pass. See the mine and visit the petting farm. Drive to Talkeetna in the afternoon and stay overnight.
Day 5: Drive back to Anchorage; spend the afternoon around town or just relaxing.
Day 6: fly back home.

We tried to estimate driving times between the various locations (we want to keep them under 2-2.5 hrs each) but Google Maps, MapQuest, etc. all give widely varying estimates. Can some experts please help us?

Does the itinerary sound too rushed or just about right? The trip to Talkeetna is to get good views of Mt. McKinley. Our daughter is ok with a couple of hours drive at a stretch (and we'll have a portable DVD player along to help )

Thanks again to everyone for all their help!

S&P
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Old Jun 29th, 2005, 12:09 AM
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Anchorage-Portage 1++ hour, Portage- Seward 2 hours (brief stops),
Girdwood - Palmer 2 hours, (frankly with your short time, there isn't much here to warrant an overnight?)

Hatcher Pass/Talkeetna 2 hours
Talkeetna/Anchorage 2 hours
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Old Jun 29th, 2005, 12:09 AM
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Also if you want to see McKinley a flight will be necessary.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:26 PM
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ttt
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