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Planning a trip to Alaska without Cruises, please help

Planning a trip to Alaska without Cruises, please help

Old Mar 19th, 2008, 04:20 PM
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Planning a trip to Alaska without Cruises, please help

My husband and I (60+) are going to Alaska between June 24th - July 13th. Here is my intended itinerary. We know we can't see everything

Toronto - Anchorage - 2 days -pick up car
Drive to Seward - 1 night
on to Homer - 1 night (or skip if someone tells me not worth it)
OR HOMER FIRST, THEN SEWARD AND DROP CAR OFF and take a bus back to Anchorage
Back to Anchorage - 1 night
Fly to Fairbanks - take the tour up to Arctic Circle - 2 nights
Rent a car and drive to Denali -3 nights (take a flighttour)
Drive back to Anchorage - drop off car - 1 night
Fly to Juneau and from there take the Marine Highway boat down, stopping off a different ports until Ketchikan.
Ketchikan - to Seattle
Seattle - 2 nights
Seattle - Toronto

If anyone thinks this is not doable or we won't see as much as we can in various cities, then we'll curtail some of it. Pleas let me know and give me some advice. Thanks so much. I religiously use Fodors on all my trips.
MxSmrs is offline  
Old Mar 20th, 2008, 07:01 AM
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Not sure why you are dropping a car off in Seward, but still returning to Anchorage, and taking a BUS??? Keep the car and pick either Seward or Homer, Homer is definately a 2 night area, not 1.

I would cut a day of Denali park and see Fairbanks. What "Arctic" tour are you taking?? Some are definately better than others.

The Inside Passage by the ferry takes more time than you may think. Consider at least 2 days in ports and decide now, where you can go with the schedule.

This is a marathon trip with a lot of time in transit. Be certain this is what you want??
BudgetQueen is offline  
Old Mar 20th, 2008, 07:33 AM
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If it were me, I'd save the SE panhandle area for another trip and spend much more time on the Kenai Peninsula on this trip. The area is spectacular and it deserves a lot of time to explore and savor.

As BQ pointed out, your current itinerary is very heavy on in-transit time and, for me, it would not be the trip I chose.
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 07:49 AM
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The one thing that puzzles me is your use of one-way car rentals, followed by common carrier (bus or plane) back to where you started. What I have consistently found -- including on my trip to Alaska -- is that you save a ton of money by renting a car with unlimited mileage for a week (or two) and returning the car to its original site. This means picking up and dropping off in Anchorage. Yes, it means doubling back, but Alaska is so beautiful that I didn't mind seeing it twice.

I'd skip the trip to the Arctic Circle unless this is something you've dreamed about all your life. Plain and simple, there just isn't that much up there -- compared to the Kenai, there's no scenery or wildlife north of Denali. Yes, there is a sense of isolation and adventure in knowing that the nearest phone is over 100 kilometers away, but the area is relatively flat and tree-less. Keep your trip between Homer and Denali, and you'll save a lot of time, trouble, and money.
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 08:02 AM
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Sounds like you are beating the road a lot and not budgeting time to enjoy anything along the way. Why drive to Seward just to take off for Homer the next day? All you would be doing is driving. What is the point of that? You'd have no time to take a cruise of the Kenai Fjords National Park (a marine park primarily.)

We flew from the Midwestern US to Anchorage and rented a car for about 8-9 days, late May before hotel prices went up. During summer, hotels will be extremely expensive: presumably you have reservations lined up.

We drove from Anchorage up to the Denali area for a couple days, took the bus trip to Mile 53 of the park (you cannot drive beyond Mile 13 of the park,) visted the NP headquarters and dog kennels, plus Jeff King's Husky Homestead, did some day hiking and sightseeing to mile 13 in the park,stayed at the Princess's hotel in McKinley Village.

Drove back to Talkeetna (some doubling back is necessary since Alaska is not abundant with paved roads,) stayed at the most beautiful hotel there with fabulous views of Mt. McKinley, took a flightseeing trip up to McKinley base camp (a hightlight of our trip,) poked around the charming town of Talkeetna.

Then headed back through Anchorage down toward Seward, spent some time at Porter Glacier and the visitor's center there. Took a full day sightseeing cruise on the Gulf of Alaska on a large boat that had a National Park ranger as commentator (another highlight of our trip,) drove back to Anchorage stopping at places that looked interesting on the way (fresh strawberry pie at a cute log cabin restaurant along the way?) Tried to get through to Whittier but you can only travel through the tunnel at certain times via car (depends on the train schedule.) I'd certainly prefer to get through the tunnel at Whittier to see some of Prince William Sound if possible.

We also took a big ship cruise of the inside passage at another time. There was no comparison between the two trips--the cruise did not give us a realistic idea of what Alaska has to offer. That is a very poor second cousin to touring on your own, and it's so easy to do if you drive.

I would skip the Inside Passage on this trip and visit the upper portion of Alaska. If you want to see Homer, or Fairbanks, or take your Artic Circle tour, be sure to budget enough time to savor each area, not just rush from place to place. The Inside Passage is very similar to what you see when visiting British Columbia. You will also be competing with thousands of cruise ship passengers at every port, and what do you plan to do with your luggage when in port? If you don't have a car in port, your ability to see much besides the portside souvenier and jewelry stores will be rather limited.
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 04:42 PM
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Instead of taking the bus back from Seward, I would take the train. If you are against taking a train, keep your car and skip the bus. I think your trip is doable, but you will be doing a lot of driving. What do you plan on doing while in Seward and Homer? There is a lot to do there, so you might want to have in mind your intentions to know how long you want to stay at each place. You might want to schedule a couple of extra days just to allow for driving. For instance, it sounds like you are just driving to Seward and then on to Homer without allowing a day or two at each spot. Sometimes it isn't much more expensive to return cars to a different location, at other times they will really stick it to you.
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 06:52 PM
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The Kenai peninsula is wonderful, and I'd take days off the Arctic tour and Fairbanks to do it. We spent two weeks in Alaska a few years ago in mid-summer, renting a motorhome. The water is definitely the place to be.

You can't miss Denali, but much of the rest of the inland was much like northern Maine, Canada, the upper peninsula of Michigan and other northerly destinations. The water, on the other hand, is unforgettable. So, I'd spend as much time along the coast as possible. Not necessarily SE Alaska, I agree with another poster that saving that for another time might be a good idea, but the coastal area was spectacular and unlike anything you will ever see elsewhere.
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Old Mar 21st, 2008, 11:33 AM
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Thanks everyone. I am just getting started so I guess I am not focused as yet. I'll take your advice, go as far as Denali and skip the Fairbanks area. I really did want to go down the Marine Highway with the local ferry so I will concentrate on Anchorage and near the coast instead.

I was hoping to stay a night or two in Juneau, etc. I've been on cruise ships and "hate" the cattle drive. I hope I won't feel like that anyway when the ferry gets into port. How do all the cruise ships and the ferry work out getting into these ports anyway?
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Old Mar 21st, 2008, 03:53 PM
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Hi, I would like to put a good word in for Fairbanks and the Arctic. We are 60+ and have been to Alaska several times. The Kenai is beautiful but can be very rainy and wet. The Kenai fjords are amazing but the boat ride is rough and many people get sick. Fairbanks in summer is warmer and has more sunshine. We took a day trip to Barrow and although it was expensive it was one of the most fantastic days of our lives. We did not see polar bears but we saw whales and snowy owls. The Arctic Ocean is incredible as are the people who live in the town. There are many ways to get around Alaska and the distances are vast so flying has its advantages. We found the bus to be the next fastest because if we have a rental car, we find interesting places to stop and it takes longer. I like the train, although it is slow it gives you time to enjoy the scenery and look for wildlife. You are wise to start inquiring early so that your trip will be wonderful.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2008, 06:40 PM
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We spent two weeks on the Kenai Peninsula and enjoyed every minute of it. It didn't rain at all and I didn't find the Kenai Fjords boat ride to be rough at all, but it was very cold when we were watching the glaciers calve. I wouldn't miss Homer but you must stay two nights to make the drive worthwhile.
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 11:10 AM
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take a train ride.
skip everything past Denali.
go all the way into denali.
westtexas is offline  
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