June land trip to Alaska, to share

Nov 19th, 2003, 08:15 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 18
June land trip to Alaska, to share

My husband and I travel a great deal, and I have always enjoyed planning the trips myself. I have often used the advice from fellow Fodor travels, and I thought it was only fair to share our experiences/info with others, in return.

We are a 55ish couple, who have a "love 4 travel." We like to save money, but we also like comfort (this will be evident in the trip diary).

We decided to experience Alaska by land; the daily diary follows:

6/20/03 Flight from Los Angeles to Anchorage via UA (cost? frequent flyer ticket). Taxi to Westmark Hotel, downtown on 5th St. $170.00 pn. Not happy with hotel, not updated, 70ish decor (would not stay here again).

Anchorage has a small downtown, maybe 5 streets to the north, from the bay. It is better to stay on the lower street numbers, nearer the water.

6/21 Moved to Holdiay Inn Express, near the airport (cost?, frequent stay program).
A great, new "fancy motel". Note, if you enjoy night life, this area is NOT near the downtown action (maybe 5 miles away, and I did not see much public transport).

We really liked Anchorage, a very cute town with friendly people. The weather in June was a mix; warm, cool, rainy. There are lots of shops (most having the same things to sell), but fun anyway. Sidewalk cafes & some very good resturants.

6/21 Rental car through Orbitz and High Country Rental, $325.00 weekly. I thought this was a great find at 50% less than Hertz, but.... after a bumpy ride we found reduced tire tread & oh no, rain with poor wipers. Fortunately, we didn't have any terrible road problems. Be careful of this great deal.

6/22 On to Denali area, via car. Great roads; easy, country driving (of course we live in the LA area). We think that Alaska maybe one of the most beautiful areas in the world (& we have traveled alot). About a 5 hour drive.

2 nights at Denali Princess Hotel @ $99.00 pn. This WAS a great web deal, booked directly with Princess (Cruise) website (www.princessalaskalodges.com). This is a large (very fancy "motel" site), on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the river. This is probably one of the better facilities in the area. There are other, older "cabins" on the hillsides, but comfort is important....

Apparently, Princess "trains" their cruise customers in from ANC. to Denali P. But, if you travel in late June, the cruising has not fully started, therefore, vancant rooms and deals. We would stay here again (but, book early in the year).

6/23 Exploring Denali. Denali is a National Park; there are no hotels inside the gated area. Warning: when booking a hotel room, be aware of the exact location to the Park gate (some hotels say Denali, but are 20 miles away).

Warning: you MUST pre-order you "park bus" ride tickets ahead of time; this can be done via the web, throught the National Park System and 800-622-7275 number. Plan to go the day before your reservation to obatin your ticket. When you arrive at the park headquarters, you will go inside and stand in a line marked "reserved" and "non-reserved".

It was apparent that some people had not pre-planned, and did not have the valuable "reg number." There are many, many of these unfortunate souls. There are limited buses, that fill up quickly, starting in Jan/Feb. No space, no go.

After obtaining you official "ticket" you will arrive the next morning to get on your bus, assigned by bus termination point. We choose to terminate at Wonder Lake, but this probably was not necessary....

I know I have too much detail, but I am hoping that the detail will help others with their research.

Next issue: Denali adventure bus ride, Fairbanks, & and the Arctic Circel trip.
Love4Travel is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 05:34 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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6/21 Rental car through Orbitz and High Country Rental, $325.00 weekly. I thought this was a great find at 50% less than Hertz, but.... after a bumpy ride we found reduced tire tread & oh no, rain with poor wipers. Fortunately, we didn't have any terrible road problems. Be careful of this great deal.

I am perplexed???? I have never paid these rates- perhaps this was for an SUV??? (not necessary however). My recent trip, I got a web special from Alamo for $129+ wk. For clairfication- June certainly is PEAK season and the cruise traffic is in full swing. Be aware the reference for the Denali Park Bus is accurate- book ahead but no need to book more than a couple months ahead- this is via the SHUTTLE buses NOT the tour buses.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Nov 21st, 2003, 09:50 PM
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Issue 2: Denali adventure: We booked with the Park System's bus service($30.pp), not a private van ($100PP). The Na'tl Park System provides big yellow "school buses", w/an experinced bus driver (note: roads are small, sometimes one-lane, dirt roads). We traveled to the end of the road, Wonder Lake. This was probably not necessary for us (the common traveler). Eislson's stop would have been just fine, with a view of McKinley. (Note: it is best to travel as early in the morning as possible because, in the morning McK's top becomes cloud-covered, as the daylight moves in}. We did not need to go all the way to Wonder Lake, because the views were the same; vast, vast, vast... I noticed that many of the bus riders, on the slow moving bus, fell asleep on the return. We did not see bear walking across the road.

From Denali area we traveled north to Fairbanks. The point of our trip to Fairbanks was to experience the "Arctic Circle", to the north. One cannot take their rental car too far north because the paved roads end and become gravel. The gravel road follows the pipeline and is meant for trucks. We chose to go with "Trans Arctic Circle Treks Company @$130 Pp(www.arctictreks.com). This was a very professional company & took good care of their costumers. One must be greatly interested in the Arctic adventure to spend the time traveling North to a sign (w/mosquitos) which states "Arctic Circle" then returning (10 hours in all) , after seeing a moose, 5 miles from the road. For most of the trip, one is traveling over the Tundra Area, same-ole, same-ole. However, keep in mind this is a Calif. girl speaking, and her Wisc. scientist husband "loved it??" (ah, via la difference).

Orginally, we thought we would drive Southeast, back to Anc. but the locals advised, this would be a waste of 3 hrs.; so. we returned to Anc downtown, via the same Denali route, and stayed at the "Historic Anchoage Hotel" (330 E St/ (Expedia $ 170. PN)

Great, comfortable location, revised, old hotel. Beware: some rooms are located over a noisy music/gift store, and the noise floats up; we changed rooms.

6/27, to Seward (126 miles), This is a very beautiful drive, along the Turnagin Arm (Bay). Driving along/around the coast, toward the Seward fiord is spectacular. At this point, I said to my (Wisc. born husband), "I would like to retire here, it's so pretty," whereupon he said, "that's nice, [you Calif. born, surfer-girl (60's), let's return this Dec. & make the decision." Well, OK, I'm too busy to get up there right now, plus it maybe a little cold...
Anyway, Seward is where the big cruise ships come in. It is a small fishing-town. We stayed at the Hotel Seward ($120.)PN (a strange, odd shaped room, back of the hotel, but clean). The hotel has an excellent bay location (not boat harbor), near the sea-life exhibit. You will want to travel to Seward to experience the "fiord/sea-life cruises"; any number to chose from, located at the harbor (the smaller the boat, the better).

Next issue: To Homer, Land's End, & Halibut Cove, Artist's area.

Love4Travel is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2003, 10:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Just wanted you to know I am enjoying your write-up.
Sandy4 is offline  
Nov 25th, 2003, 06:05 PM
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3rd issue. Homer (Thank you Sandy4, I wasn't sure anyone was reading this).

Most of the drive to Homer is beautiful; through the mountains and along the coast. One of my goals on this trip was to see a moose, and in this area I finally saw a mother and two little ones, too cute.

Upon arriving in the Homer area you are in what I would describe as a "sea-cliff" town. Homer is small and this area has quality art galleries. Also, there are a number of B&Bs, further out of town, with spectacular views of the bay below. We even saw one with a small golf course in the front yard.

When you drive down the hill and on to the spit, Homer's personality changes. It becomes a true fishing village. There is a little shopping area along the road with gift shops, nothing special. Finally, you will reach the end of the spit and Land's End (motel-type accomodations with a restruant attached). The accomodations were a little scruffy for me, but my husband thought they were OK for a fishing area. We did have a great view room, with a balcony overlooking the bay, for $165 pn. The room was small and one side of the bed was pushed against the wall so that one person had to crawl across the bed to retire. Also, the mattress was on top of a plywood base.

We went to dinner that night in a resturant on top of the hill and met a "Princess Cruise" couple who had walked out of their Land's End reservation after seeing the rooms.

The next day we had a fun boat trip across the bay to Halibut Cove. This cove is family owned and they have a resturant with pretty good food. You can walk around their area and visit an artist shop. I would do this again.

If you do not enjoy deep sea fishing (mostly for Halibut, don't book more than 2 days. I don't think we would return to Homer again, after seeing it once.

Our trip ended with the return drive back to Anchorage (about 200 miles). Easy driving through some great areas. Especially the sights by the Turnagain Arm. If you time it right, you might see baluga whale and/or the bore tide. Also, there is a bird watching area, with walkways into the marsh; I saw another moose here.

Our final night we stayed at the Hilton (downtown) $?, frequent stay program. This is a fabulous hotel and location. Views and one block from the main street.

Tips: The Milepost book is important for those who will be taking a road trip. Although much of it is advertising, it also describes sights and important turn-offs with "every" milepost on the road. While driving, the passenager can be reading what is coming up next. With such a vast area, this tool is extremely valuable, you won't miss something. I purchased the book at home and studied it before the trip, but it's heavy to pack.

Book ahead as much as possible for summer trips. Things seem to fill quickly.

Alaska is certainly on my return list.

One month after our return home to Calif., we left for Japan. I will share this trip next for those how are interested. Best regards, happy travels.
Love4Travel is offline  
Jan 10th, 2004, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1
THANK YOU! We're in the process of a driving vacation in Alaska. Your detailed review was the most helpful I've read anywhere on the net.

THANK YOU for taking the time to write such an in-depth review of your travel.
moxieohio is offline  
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