Another Alaska question - planning for 2008

Old Sep 15th, 2007, 10:36 AM
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Another Alaska question - planning for 2008

There are 4 of us (all women) planning to go to Alaska in 2008.

Is there a "shoulder season" in Alaska where lodging, etc is less expensive, but the weather is still nice and most places are open?

If not, when is the best time to plan our trip? We all would like to see lots of wildlife, but I am sure the seasons vary for different animals. What is the best times for whales and for bears?

We are debating 2 options.
1. Taking a cruise from Vancouver to Seward. Renting a car for a few days and flying home from Anchorage.

2. Flying directly to Anchorage and renting a car for a "road trip". We definitely want to go to Denali, Homer, and take the boat trip at Kenai fiords NP.

We will have 8-12 days (not counting travel days). Camping is not an option. Long hikes are not an option for one person in the group, although short hikes will be okay. All of us enjoy history, beautiful scenery, and wildlife viewing.

Lodging just needs to be safe and clean. No frills necessary, although I think we would all prefer our own bathroom facilities.

We are meeting next Friday evening to share our ideas so any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 04:17 AM
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Not sure of a shoulder season but you shouldn't have to worry about too many frills at b&bs, in fact, check the details about too few frills. Some offer a hot breakfast and sociable host(s), others are just a room over the garage etc with a cold bagle, coffee and OJ for breakfast. We got spoiled on our last trip because the first b&b we stayed at was Alaska's Garden Gate in Palmer which was built to be a B&B and Karen loves to cook. In deciding your dates, you might look into other activities. In mid-June the wildflowers are wonderful, there's a quilt show Quilting on the Kenai that was very interesting. There's a wonderful craft and music festival in Girdwood around 4th of July, Forest Fair and several towns/cities have a big 4th of July parade. If you like gardens, look for garden tours. At that time of year moose and their calves are hanging out close to homes. We usually see moose anywhere on the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is best place for eagles. Check old posts about best time for bears since it depends on where you are going and when salmon are running. Also fun is Anchorage's public market on Saturdays. Aim for 12 days since people have trouble fitting in everything if they want to do both Denali and the KP area. BTW the Forest Fair was my closest encounter with a black bear that was attracted by the smells from the food vendors. For history, don't miss the Pratt Museum in Homer or Independence Mine near Wasilla. The Transportation Museum near Wasilla is small but had some interesting displays about early aviation.
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 05:02 AM
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A few years ago we were in Alaska during the last week of May/first week of June, and it was considered "shoulder season" with regard to rates for our RV, crowds, etc.

We had extremely beautiful weather, but I realize that it was probably an exception. A couple of days got into the low 70's, and we only had a rain shower one time, which lasted about 5 minutes. I think normally you should be prepared for rain. If you're going to Denali National Park, be prepared for cold, too. That's the only time we were gloves, scarves, etc.

We saw lots of wild life on our trip, too (grizzlies, moose, caribou, sheep, foxes, one wolf, bald eagles, puffins, whales, etc.)

We flew into Anchorage and rented an RV for the week. With a group of women, I would fly into Anchorage, rent a car, and drive.

We took a boat trip from Seward, and it was wonderful.

Another good thing about going early is that the mosquitos aren't as bad as later in the summer.

Have fun planning!
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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mlm, there are a couple of other active threads on Fodors about Alaska summer trips which may be of help ...

Is there a "shoulder season" in Alaska where lodging, etc is less expensive, but the weather is still nice and most places are open?

May and September are the shoulder months, some of the cruise lines offer discounts for example. A lot of tourist places shut down after mid-September (many Denali lodges for example) but the first week or two in Sept things are open. A trip in May or Sept can be great or you can hit bad weather, especially rain in May on the coast.

What is the best times for whales and for bears?

Dunno much about whales, but for bears I'd look into going to Homer and then doing a one-day fly-out bear viewing trip. Anytime from June to Sept they will put you among bears because they fly to at least five different places, depending on where the bears are actively feeding at the time. It's similar from Anchorage but with fewer options.

We are debating 2 options.
1. Taking a cruise from Vancouver to Seward. Renting a car for a few days and flying home from Anchorage.


This would work great, you can drive to Homer and do a fly-out for bears. Biggest disappointment with this schedule would be if you don't visit Denali though. But a cruise plus Kenai would be great. Some of the cruise lines like Princess have lodges in key spots in Alaska so you can visit Denali, Kenai etc as part of the same package, something to check on (though I prefer the freedom of having my own vehicle).

2. Flying directly to Anchorage and renting a car for a "road trip". We definitely want to go to Denali, Homer, and take the boat trip at Kenai fiords NP.

This would also be fine, though a lot of people really enjoy the cruises. This is the kind of trip we do in late August and early Sept (drive to Denali for colors and animals, fly into Katmai for bears).

Lodging just needs to be safe and clean. No frills necessary, although I think we would all prefer our own bathroom facilities.

Most places fit this description so long as you are not in the bush.

Either trip option you presented should be fine.

Bill
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 03:55 PM
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Thanks for your replies. I have done quite a bit of research since my post and printed off a lot of information for my friends to review.

dfrostnh, the suggestion about the quilt fair is interesting. One of the women in our group is very much into quilting and would probably love to do this. I checked and this year it was the 3rd week in June in Soldotna. That time frame is a possibility.

Others seem to favor mid to late August. One of my friends was in Alaska in late July this year and said there were a lot of tourists everywhere so I don't think that would be a good time to go.

After reading information today, I think I would prefer to fly to Anchorage and take a road trip. I am going to suggest going to Denali and the Kenai Peninsula.

I need to get a feel for how many days in each place. The places I am considering are as follows:

Denali (definitely)
Soldotna (possibly for the quilt show)
Kenai Fjords-National Park tour
Homer
Seward
Valdez-Prince William Sound
Whittier-whale watching.

Any suggestions of a route, time to spend, and places we could realistically visit during a 10-12 day period (not including 2 travel days).

Thanks for any help anyone can provide.
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 04:07 AM
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for planning purposes Soldotna is about 1 1/2 hours from Seward where you take the KP Fjord boat trips. It is also about the half way point between Seward and Homer. You have to go thru Soldotna to get to Homer. Homer is about 5 hours from Anchorage. Sign up with Robin Place Fabrics for their email newsletter about the quilting show. I'm not a quilter but enjoyed seeing how different fabrics and embellishments were used. There was an area of traditional clothing worn by native Alaskans so that would be something you wouldn't see anyplace else.
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 02:55 PM
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I will contact Robin Fabrics and ask to join their e-mail list. I think all of us would enjoy attending the quilt fair so I am leaning toward the 3rd week of June. Is that usually a good time to visit Alaska.

Logistically I am still trying to figure out the best trip plan. Should we first drive to Denali and then back to Anchorage? Then procede to Seward, Soldotna, & Homer before going back to Anchorage? What about Valdez? Is it feasible to include this city on our trip? In looking at the map there doesn't seem to be any way to avoid backtracking.

Thanks again for any help and suggestions.
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 06:46 PM
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I would take the train from Seward to Anchorage if at all possible. It is a FANTASTIC ride. If possible do at least one ride in a helicopter or floatplane while there. We went dogsledding on a glacier and it was great. I would recommend the full day tour with Renown Tours for Kenai Fjords. Smoothest boat (only catameran, fastest and you see the most. The food on that ship is not much (it isn't bad just a cold salmon sandwich), but everything else is first rate. We were there on July 1 and thoroghly enjoyed our first trip to Alaska. We drove to Soldotna to fish, and by the way nearly hit a bear on the highway. You might consider an airplane tour of Denali and even landing on it in a ski plane. You might even consider skipping the cruise altogether and just fly into Anchorage. with 8 days the cruise would take up a lot of your time, however, with 12 days cruise and land would most likely work. You will find plenty of places to stay in Soldotna and Seward. Generally things are slightly less expensive around Sept 1. This is also a good time to view fall colors.
The only thing we didn't like about our trip was the fact that we couldn't get acclimated to the sun being up 24 hrs a day. Ask where yo
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