Car rentals advice in Alaska in June

Jan 25th, 2018, 03:30 PM
  #1  
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Car rentals advice in Alaska in June

Guess I don't understand how to search forums - can't find anything on renting a car! We are 4 seniors (70-75) who want to rent a car for in Fairbanks and return it to Anchorage, after 12 days. Will want at least 2 to be able to drive the car. We can use our credit card to take the collision waiver option. All advice and good or bad experiences are appreciated. We hear horror stories of agencies that charge huge amounts for the tiniest scratch on the car. Also looks like some roads are restricted (like driving in Denali NP). We plan to drive stay a couple days each in Denali, Talkeetna, Anchorage, and Seward. How are the roads? .Thanks in advance.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 03:35 PM
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Jan 25th, 2018, 03:37 PM
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hi Susan, is there a way for you to move this post into the United States Forum? Just for a heads up, it will be moved as this is the lounge, not a destination forum.
To answer your question, I have no idea. It has been so long since I was in Alaska but the roads were not bad at all. I live in Minnesota and they were similar. I think you need to ask these questions to the rental agencies.
ziggypop is online now  
Jan 25th, 2018, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by susanwr View Post
Guess I don't understand how to search forums - can't find anything on renting a car! We are 4 seniors (70-75) who want to rent a car for in Fairbanks and return it to Anchorage, after 12 days. Will want at least 2 to be able to drive the car. We can use our credit card to take the collision waiver option. All advice and good or bad experiences are appreciated. We hear horror stories of agencies that charge huge amounts for the tiniest scratch on the car. Also looks like some roads are restricted (like driving in Denali NP). We plan to drive stay a couple days each in Denali, Talkeetna, Anchorage, and Seward. How are the roads? .Thanks in advance.
First, one way rentals in Alaska are typically very, very expensive. You'll be money ahead renting a car and doing a round trip drive, even if that means your overall schedule requires you to fly between Fairbanks and Anchorage or v.v. at the beginning or end.

The major rental companies don't allow their cars to be driven on unpaved/gravel roads, but with your itinerary that's not going to be an issue. All the places you mention are served by modern and paved roads; the driving is quite easy although one needs to be careful of animals in the road, especially at dusk or at night. (A moose can do serious damage to a Toyota.)

You can't drive your own car into the interior of Denali Park; you have to ride buses, either tour buses or schoolbuses that shuttle visitors through the park.

How will you be getting to Fairbanks in the first place? And when in June?
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Jan 26th, 2018, 03:18 AM
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We are flying into Fairbanks on June 7 and flying out of Anchorage on June 19. Then on to Juneau for a few days with a day cruise of Glacier Bay NP.
Would you suggest we take the train for the Fairbanks/Denali/Talkeetna/Anchorage legs instead of a car rental? That's a lot of money for 4 too! If yes, how easy is it to get around without a car?
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Jan 26th, 2018, 06:03 AM
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I just checked Expedia to see what a one-way rental would cost for four days, Fairbanks to Anchorage, and a big enough car for 4 would cost over $1200. By comparison, the same four days as a round trip, Fairbanks - Fairbanks would cost around $275.

A car for the full June 8 - June 19 period rented in Fairbanks and returned there would be $490; the same dates rented and returned in Anchorage would cost around $1200.

A one-way plane ticket between FAI and ANC (or v.v.) is just under $100, so $400 for four. I don't know what the train costs, but it's probably more than flying.

So you can do the math. If it was me I personally would fly into Fairbanks, get a car for the whole trip, hit your destinations, then drive back to Fairbanks and on June 19 just fly to Juneau from there. The one-way fare from FAI to JNU is around $60 more than ANC-JNU, which you'd save easily on the $700 savings in car rental above. Hope that makes sense.

It sounds like you haven't booked accommodations around Denali yet. You should finalize your itinerary and do that as soon as possible. Pressure especially from cruise-tours and general tours tends to soak up hotel inventory around Denali quite quickly.

I would also play down Talkeetna. It's a pleasant enough place to stop for a meal, but IMO not a destination worth more than a few hours. It's also very heavily impacted by tour buses during the summer.
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Jan 26th, 2018, 08:48 AM
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Also be aware that there may be a charge per day for the extra driver. We found a deal that allowed extra (non related) driver through AARP or something similar but when we picked up the car was told that the agencies in Alaska are private and do not participate in that particular deal. Not sure if it is true for husband and wife.
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Jan 26th, 2018, 09:06 AM
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> Will want at least 2 to be able to drive the car
Most car rental agencies charge a fee for an extra driver BUT also waive that fee if the second driver is the legal spouse of the original renter.
Do **NOT** list only one driver and then allow that second driver to drive. If there's an accident involving that second driver, even if someone else is 100% at fault, you've voided the contract and are now totally responsible for all damage to the rental, even if you paid for CDW.

> We hear horror stories of agencies that charge huge amounts for the tiniest scratch on the car
It can happen, with any rental company in any place. Your best defense is to inspect the car carefully when you pick it up, insist that the rental person list all "damages," take photos of anything that might be a problem, and then take photos when you return the car. This won't prevent the company from claiming you did a lot of "damage," but it would probably help you win the argument when you refuse to pay the extra billing.

> How are the roads?
Even 30 years ago, we found most roads to be paved and in fine condition.
If you plan to drive around Alaska, _The Milepost_
The Milepost | Since 1949, The Bible of North Country Travel
is an ABSOLUTE must.
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Jan 26th, 2018, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by PaulRabe View Post
>Most car rental agencies charge a fee for an extra driver BUT also waive that fee if the second driver is the legal spouse of the original renter.
roads?.
I've been the second driver and legal spouse of original renter and have never had the 2nd driver fee waived. Sometimes it's been waived due to my frequent rental status or because there has been a special deal, but never automatically because I am someone's spouse. Is that something new, or just for Alaska?
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Jan 26th, 2018, 02:03 PM
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> Is that something new
No, but it's the policy for Avis, Budget, Fox, and Enterprise. Hertz & National waive the fee if you sign up (at no fee) in their "clubs."
It's also the law for all rentals in California, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
https://www.autoslash.com/blog-and-t...al-driver-fees
Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty, and Sixt charge for all additional drivers, including spouses.

Since I invariably rent from Enterprise, a company that has always waived this fee, I just assumed it applied to other companies. Sorry I was presumptuous.

Last edited by PaulRabe; Jan 26th, 2018 at 02:05 PM.
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Jan 27th, 2018, 02:45 AM
  #11  
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Thank you for your comments. Our flights are booked - so it sounds like we either bite the bullet and pay the one-way rental fees, or possibly the driver in our party (a retired Marine who is used to driving hundreds of miles) could drive the car back to Fairbanks from SEWARD and fly back to Anchorage to catch our flights to Juneau!) I doubt this is realistic, and we are splitting the car fees 3 ways: half to the married couple and the other half to the two unrelated parties in our group. We can afford it, but of course, saving money is nice too!

I have hotels reserved for the entire trip: currently 3 nights in Fairbanks (the first night we arrive from mainland at 7:25 and 10:25 PM from the east coast. So we'll be tired). Then 2 nights in Healy (Denali), 2 nights in Talkeetna in a house in the woods, 2 nights in Anchorage, 2 nights in Seward, 1 last night in Anchorage before flying to Juneau for an 11:05 AM flight the next day.

We are starting to think we should spend more days in Seward and go to Homer too. Sounds like you recommend Talkeetna might be best just for a lunch break on the way to Anchorage. Is it reasonable to skip Anchorage too and drive directly from Denali to Seward or some some other town on the Kenai Peninsula? Might be able to find a 6 night VRBO in Seward and use it as a base even if it meant driving back into Anchorage as a day trip?

Thanks again. I'm knew to posting in Fodors and not sure how to get your comments and my questions visible to others who might have more ideas too.
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Jan 27th, 2018, 04:32 AM
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The reason why the Milepost was recommended is because just about every place is listed and places to eat between Denali and Anchorage are few and far between. From the Talkeetna area, I think we stopped in Wasilla for lunch. Anchorage to Seward is about 3 hours. I can't remember time between Talkeetna and Anchorage. Here's a mileage chart Alaska Mileage Chart | Distance & Travel Times Between Alaska Cities
Sure, you could take a picnic lunch. Also be aware that you'll probably want to stop between Anchorage and the turnoff to Seward which is a very scenic drive with some options for things to do (i.e. tram up Alyeska) The 3 hour drive can easily turn into an all day drive.
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Jan 27th, 2018, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by susanwr View Post
Thank you for your comments. Our flights are booked - so it sounds like we either bite the bullet and pay the one-way rental fees, or possibly the driver in our party (a retired Marine who is used to driving hundreds of miles) could drive the car back to Fairbanks from SEWARD and fly back to Anchorage to catch our flights to Juneau!) I doubt this is realistic, and we are splitting the car fees 3 ways: half to the married couple and the other half to the two unrelated parties in our group. We can afford it, but of course, saving money is nice too!

I have hotels reserved for the entire trip: currently 3 nights in Fairbanks (the first night we arrive from mainland at 7:25 and 10:25 PM from the east coast. So we'll be tired). Then 2 nights in Healy (Denali), 2 nights in Talkeetna in a house in the woods, 2 nights in Anchorage, 2 nights in Seward, 1 last night in Anchorage before flying to Juneau for an 11:05 AM flight the next day.

We are starting to think we should spend more days in Seward and go to Homer too. Sounds like you recommend Talkeetna might be best just for a lunch break on the way to Anchorage. Is it reasonable to skip Anchorage too and drive directly from Denali to Seward or some some other town on the Kenai Peninsula? Might be able to find a 6 night VRBO in Seward and use it as a base even if it meant driving back into Anchorage as a day trip?

Thanks again. I'm knew to posting in Fodors and not sure how to get your comments and my questions visible to others who might have more ideas too.
Let me come back to the car issue for a minute. If you have to rent the car for a one-way trip, then when you're done with Denali and get to Anchorage, drop the car and get a new one that you can then return to Anchorage when you fly south. Otherwise you'll be paying the very high one-way daily rate for the whole trip. Skipping Talkeetna would also reduce the time you'll need the one-way car.

Using towns as "hub and spoke" bases for travel in Alaska is not very practical. Even though the distances on the map might not look great, drive times can be longer than you'd think. Roads are mainly two-lane, and long lineups behind trucks or RVs are common, or else traffic will stop because there's some animal at the roadside, things like that. So the idea of a 6-night VRBO in Seward might seem appealing, but if your aim is to, say, travel down to Homer, that's a very long day trip, much of which passes through not the most inspiring country.

To give you more time seeing things and less time behind the wheel, here's a possible alternative plan. Do the Fairbanks - Denali part of the trip, then drive to Anchorage and switch cars. Be sure to stop in the Native village of Eklutna around 45 min. north of Anchorage to look at the colorful and fascinating cemetery attached to the Russian Orthodox church.



Then drive to Seward for two nights. Then instead of carrying on down the peninsula, return to Girdwood for two or even three nights. Girdwood is technically part of Anchorage but it's around 45 min. from the city, in a valley extending into the mountains from Turnagain Arm. It's the home of the Alyeska resort (skiing, gondola into the mountains) and also has numerous B&Bs and VRBO places, as well as plenty of places to eat.

From Girdwood you could take one or more day trips, chief among which is one to Whittier for a glacier cruise. You could visit the Wildlife Conservation Center at Portage (where the Whittier turn-off is) or see Portage Lake. Or in lieu of Talkeetna, spend a few hours in Hope, an old mining village located on the south shore of Turnagain Arm, reached by a spur road from the Seward Highway. While in Girdwood, ride the resort's gondola up to its Seven Glaciers restaurant - highly rated - and don't forget to have a mutant cinnamon roll at the Bake Shop located on the ground floor of the hotel complex.

Google Girdwood and these places and see if anything appeals.

Regarding the Milepost, it's fine, but really, with an itinerary as straightforward as yours, I don't think it's necessary. If you must get it, I'd get a used copy; they publish it annually and not that much changes. (To be frank I think it's a borderline ripoff.)

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jan 27th, 2018 at 05:48 AM.
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Jan 28th, 2018, 03:08 AM
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Thank you again for your most useful suggestions. I never would have thought of turning in the car rental, but it just makes so much sense! We are doing a one-day boat tour in Glacier Bay NP and will go to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau to, so perhaps there is no need to do a Whittier glacier cruise too. Will check out Girdwood. Any reason to stay in Seward for 3 nights? We will be doing the Kenai Fjords cruise one day. Also I really want to do a flight seeing tour- but should we do that out of Fairbanks, Denali or Anchorage? What about flight seeing of Katmai NP? Thanks again.
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Jan 28th, 2018, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by susanwr View Post
Thank you again for your most useful suggestions. I never would have thought of turning in the car rental, but it just makes so much sense! We are doing a one-day boat tour in Glacier Bay NP and will go to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau to, so perhaps there is no need to do a Whittier glacier cruise too. Will check out Girdwood. Any reason to stay in Seward for 3 nights? We will be doing the Kenai Fjords cruise one day. Also I really want to do a flight seeing tour- but should we do that out of Fairbanks, Denali or Anchorage? What about flight seeing of Katmai NP? Thanks again.
Well, personally I can never have enough glaciers, but that's me. My view is that two nights in Seward ought to be plenty.

For flightseeing I'd recommend Anchorage, perhaps with a big operation like Rust's - Alaska Flightseeing Tours & Air Taxi Services | Rust's Flying Service . The reason is that weather counts for a lot, but when the operator offers several options - Denali, Prince William Sound, bears, etc. - you can swap itineraries easily if you're weathered out from some particular destination or route. For example, in June Denali can be completely socked in for days on end, but you probably won't have weather difficulties over Prince William Sound, or across Cook Inlet in volcano country. Just more options.
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Jan 28th, 2018, 08:30 AM
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DW and I stayed at a nice B&B in Homer. We went to Seward and Exit Glacier as a day trip from there. We might spend 1 night in Seward if we ever went back but not 2 or 3.
The drop fee on the car is probably less than the fare for 4 people on the Alaska Railroad. We did drive the Skilak Road (unpaved) in our rental car (Subaru Outback 4WD) with no complaints by the rental company.
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Jan 28th, 2018, 08:38 AM
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Talkeetna was a favorite of ours as was Homer. The views of Denali from Talkeetna were breathtaking. We took a fly over of Denali from Talkeetna too.
We much preferred Homer to Seward. Homer has a beautiful bay, and offers several opportunites to go out on the water. No matter what your itinerary ends up, make sure you stop or stay in Girdwood on your way south.
The roads/highways in Alaska were uniformly good, no problems at all. There are frequest pull off areas for campers and RVs to let faster vehicles pass them.
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Feb 20th, 2018, 10:16 AM
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This is useful info! I use travel guides and trip reports to plan my trips. I booked a one way flight to Juneau on May 31 and we plan to do this trip in reverse, with a couple changes (Im not allowed to post URL yet, but it's a trip report by kapitall on fodors forum).It was cheaper to fly into Juneau from SoCal than to Anchorage, and we will need to end in Anchorage to try to hop a free military flight home (there are few flights, with short notice, but we are happy to extend our trip and can lodge on the base for cheap).
Instead of her 15 day trip, we plan to go for 20 days or so to add in some hiking. Where should we hike? Also, I realize it must sound crazy, but from the trip reports I've read in June, they haven't been very impressed by, nor seen much wildlife in Denali, so I'm considering skipping that leg of the trip!?!?!
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Feb 20th, 2018, 02:58 PM
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How are you getting from Juneau to Anchorage? I'm glad to hear that family members can still use Space-A flights. We didn't see a lot of wildlife on our trip out in the shuttle bus in Denali but we did see a variety. If it is clear (sometimes), the views in Denali are great. Are you going to still going to Fairbanks? I would not skip any part of the trip that DW and I took in early June 2016. We flew in and out of ANC. We only spent one night in Anchorage at the end of our trip. Don't forget that the sun sets late as you go through June. I took a sunset picture at the ANC airport a few minutes before we got on the plane to come home at midnight.
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Feb 27th, 2018, 08:21 AM
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About rental cars:

We have also used Gardyloo's trick. We turned in cars 3x for a college trip back east once.

It's time well spent to hunt for deals on rental cars. Besides AARP and AAA, airline mileage plans sometimes will have links on their websites. Hotel clubs if you're in them. Costco might. Pretty sure we even got a coupon in our credit union statement once. We used to get great coupons from the Entertainment book. And of course attach somebody's mileage plan to the rental.

Should you ding up the car... remember that the rental car companies don't just charge you for the repairs. They charge you the rack rate of the number of days the car is not rentable/in the fleet. We buy a rider from State Farm for the month to cover these "surprises." Haven't had to use it yet, knock on wood.
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