Trip this summer to Alaska for two

Old Jun 1st, 2021, 12:21 PM
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Trip this summer to Alaska for two

There are some good deals to Alaska, and my husband and I are thinking of vacationing there this summer. Here are some things we are interested in doing - eating seafood at good local restaurants, maybe running a road race (5K), seeing whales, scenic train ride, and renting a car. Husband likes to fish as well. I like to experience local festivals... (Sitka classical music festival looks fun). Unlike many others traveling to Alaska, we are not interested in seeing bear or hiking. Found some good deals flying into one city and out of another as well. Does anyone have any advice to to offer?

Also, has anyone rented a car there as of late?
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Old Jun 1st, 2021, 02:38 PM
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If you are planning now for "this summer" you are probably a little late already.

Try pluggiing in some dates and see if you can find rental cars from Anchorage. There are already reports that they are generally unavailable.

The train to Seward is scenic. So that's an option to spend a week there.
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Old Jun 1st, 2021, 07:49 PM
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Be sure to check out transportation availability within any small town before booking a flight there. Somewhere larger like Juneau might work out better. Otherwise you may be walking or hitchihiking.
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Old Jun 1st, 2021, 08:58 PM
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We were in Anchorage and Seward last week. It was kind of a last minute trip, I think we booked two weeks ahead of time. No rental cars available at any price. We were told to try U-Haul but even they were sold out. We ended up renting through Turo which is kind of an AirBnB for cars. Kind of speedy, $100+/day for a 2013 Kia, but it it all worked out fine.
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Old Jun 1st, 2021, 09:56 PM
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I have relatives in Anchorage and Wasilla - my cousin's car was damaged and she needs a 2 week rental -- and absolutely nothing is available to rent including loaners from the dealer. tracilee successfully used Turo which is an option, but I'd personally be more than a little reluctant. Alaska isn't a place I'd feel comfortable renting a one-off privately owned used car with no rental fleet to fall back on and the huge/rural distances involved.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 08:13 AM
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Would you travel to Alaska without being able to get a rental car (as a first timer?)

Thanks for the info on the lack of rental cars. Would you travel to Alaska without being able to get a rental car (as a first timer?) I did find some in Sitka, but not sure what area we would like to concentrate our stay.. I'm still researching. I guess we'd go wherever it is possible to travel to Alaska and use a combination of train, ubers/taxis. We are pretty flexible. (Was thinking of doing a scenic one way train ride (looks kind of expensive tho - is it worth it?). And we could fly into one city and out of another one...

I've been researching for the past few days, but this trip seems like it is going to involve more of an intensive research effort than our typical trips. We are used to going to cities that are walkable...or where we can ride bikes, mopeds, or rent a car. We really still want to take advantage of the great airfare if it is possible to still see a good bit without a rental car...We like to keep moving.

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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 09:00 AM
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One of the advantages of the smaller towns in SE Alaska (of which Sitka would be my first choice by far) is that they're small enough that you can see quite a lot of stuff in a fairly short time. In addition, there are reasonable city bus services in Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka that will take you to many of the tourist highlights in those towns, and of course there are taxis as well. I also believe that Uber and Lyft are available in Juneau and Ketchikan, not sure about Sitka.

You don't say when you'd travel or for how long, and that can make a considerable difference in conditions depending on where you visit and when. I imagine it's possible that the rental car companies are scrambling like mad to reinforce their fleets now that limited cruising is due to resume later this summer, so you might find a different situation in, say, late August than you'll find earlier.

That said, if you can find car availability in Sitka during your planned time, I'd personally jump on it - for a couple of days at least, so that you could explore the area. Most of the SE Alaska towns have very limited local road systems, but there are places that are more easily accessed by car than on foot or on the bus - Saxman or Totem Bight park in Ketchikan, the Mendenhall glacier or up to the Shrine of St. Therese in Juneau, or the Fortress of the Bear in Sitka.

However in all of those towns there are lots of activities available without a car, and in the case of Ketchikan and Juneau, lots of available activities and excursions aimed at cruise passengers that will be available once the boats arrive, and probably before then as well. There are whale watching cruises, visits to rain forests and historic sites, Native American and Russian American heritage sites... all sorts of things. My own view is that a two-destination visit to Sitka and Juneau (with a short flight or a longer ferry ride between them) would be a terrific introduction to the state. You already know that you can't see it all, but I'd probably save the typical Anchorage-Denali-Fairbanks-Kenai route for a later date when you don't need to hock your soul for a Toyota.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 09:21 AM
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I do not know if there are the hop on/ off busses if the cruise ships are limited, but we used one in Skagway and it worked for us. There also is a scenic train ride from there. The train from Anchorage to Denali was not very scenic until we got close enough to Denali that we could see it.

Juneau and Anchorage both could be done without a car

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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 09:34 AM
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I think the train to Seward is great. You don't have to book the more expensive Gold Star Service if Adventure Class is available. There should also be several shuttle services that run between Anchorage and Seward for around $70 pp. It might be worth some Googling to find out what's running. Then train one way and bus one way.

If it was me I'd see if I could find lodging in Seward (3-4 nights should be fine). The town is walkable and there are cruises and fishing charters avallable as well as the SeaLife Center. Maybe one of the SE Alaska cities on top of that. I'm not much of a fan of Anchorage, maybe a day if the museum is open (but not if you're also going to Juneau).

Alaska is going to be expensive, no matter what. At least you don't have to COVID test if you bring a vaccination card. If you can find lodging then this might be a good year to go, before the cruise ships completely overwhelm things.

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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 08:33 PM
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janisj, I was a bit uneasy about the Turo thing and would never have considered it had it not been for the lack of available rental cars. The fact that Turo showed no reviews for the car we were renting caused further trepidation but my nerves were calmed by the communication with the owner prior to the trip. He was very helpful and messaged several times with restaurant, lodging and sightseeing suggestions. I figured (correctly) that he wouldn’t be initiating so much contact if he was renting me a clunker. We drove as far as Seward, not sure how I would have felt about a trip farther afield.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 09:33 PM
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tracilee: Oh - I totally understand. And it sounds like you were happy with the owner/car. But turo definitely depends on the individual owner and his/her vehicle.
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Old Jun 4th, 2021, 06:39 AM
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Thanks so much for your help. Looks like we'll be booking today ... flying to Sitka on June 14 and staying in one hotel. Then changing hotels and staying in Westmark on the evening of June 15 and June 16 - this hotel did not have Monday night available. (BTW, how is Hotel Sitka? I did not read good reviews, but they have availability. I think that is the one that is on the water. My husband would love staying on the water.) On June 17 we will fly to Juneau... haven't started looking for hotels yet...hopefully we won't have a problem. And we will fly out on that Saturday from Juneau to Atlanta. I plan on booking this today. I have Sitka Westmark reserved, but we can cancel if needed. And will be booking flight today as well. If you can offer suggestions for decent hotels, please let me know.

Please let me know if you think we should stay longer in Juneau then Sitka...probably so since it's a bigger city. But I really wanted to catch a glimpse of the Sitka Music Concert that Wednesday evening. Any advice is welcome (please be kind).
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Old Jun 4th, 2021, 07:31 AM
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I definitely would chose Juneau over Sitka. While Sitka may be a better choice during normal years, I wouldn't miss the chance to visit Juneau without cruise ships.

I would drop a day in Sitka. Maybe you only need the rental car for only one or two days if you are just going to use it for "a drive". Kind of expensive, I imagine. And I definitely wouldn't waste time switching hotels. If you have to keep a car for the entire stay, it wouldn't matter where you are. Do you have to arrive in Sitka on the 14th? The Westmark looks like a good location. Could you arrive on the 15th and leave on the 17th or 18th?

I wouldn't have picked two SE Alaska towns, but rather one of the two towns and then the Kenai Peninsula from Anchorage, using the train and/or shuttle to Seward.

PS I would just go ahead and book!

If you haven't looked at Alaska.org it has links to various excursion that may be available which you can sort by town.

Last edited by mlgb; Jun 4th, 2021 at 08:10 AM.
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