trip to Alaska this summer with children

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Feb 2nd, 2009, 11:56 AM
  #1
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trip to Alaska this summer with children

We are in the process of planning a trip to Alaska for the summer. We have three boys, aged 4, 10 & 12. We are an active family and love to hike, do water sports and other outdoor activites, etc.. Our tentative itinerary looks like this:

1- land in Anchorage & spend the night there

* Which hotel should we stay at in Anchorage? We land around 4:30, I believe, so we would like to venture into Anchorage for dinner and might as well stay in a hotel in the city.

* can you recommend a good restaurant for dinner? children LOVE seafood (they are very excited about eating fresh salmon, halibut and crabs!).

2- drive up to Denali NP-- spend the afternoon hiking (guessing we will leave Anchorage very early since we are coming from the east coast)

* which hotel do you recommend here?

* what should we see on our way up?

* restaurant recommendations?

3- Denali NP

+ we would like to do some sort of rafting or float trip-- can you recommend companies that accommodate children well?

4- Head South toward Kenai NP

* any recommendations for what we should see and where we should stop?

5-6 Exploring Kenai Penisula

* Where should we stay?

* What activities do you recommend for our family? We would love to do a kayak tour of Kenai Fjords, but I am not sure as to the cut off age for this? boat tours? other activites?

* restaurant suggestions?

7 depart Seward for 7 day cruise of the inner passage

* we will visit Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan-- what do you recommend that we don't miss?

* the cruise excursions seem expensive vs arranging on our own-- do you think this is the case?

* we are interested in a flightseeing tour combined w/ dogsledding-- where is the best place to do this? who would you recommend we book through?

14-16- Vancouver
* where do you recommend we stay?

* what should we be sure to do?

* restaurant recommendations? any place that has dim sum which is particularly good?

I know I asked a lot of questions!! We are just at the beginning our planning this trip and are very excited about it.

Thank you in advance for sharing your knowledge with us!
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 12:25 PM
  #2
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I forgot to ask about places to look at/buy art, especially in Kenai. I am guessing that my husband will end up taking the older boys on a kayak trip and my youngest son and I will be on our own for the day.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 12:36 PM
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You are doing almost the identical trip to the one we did last June - with our almost-adult kids. Some comments.

Forget "water sports" in Alaska - unless you do some kayaking or perhaps a float trip - too cold.

When you land in Anchorage after flying from the East Coast you will be completely time-disoriented. It will feel like 8:30 PM, you will be tired having been up very early for a flight, but due to long summer days in Alaska, it will look like early afternoon. You will likely not be able to do much else than eat dinner. We ate at a place called (?something) Brewhouse downtown - it is on all the TripAdvisor listings as favorite restaurant - I just forget the name. Every place has fresh fish.

Drive to Denali. Stop in Wasilla for groceries and supplies - there is nothing north of there. Stop in Talkeetna for lunch and a little sightseeing. You will then arrive at Denali around dinnertime. We stayed at Grizzly Bear cabins - they were fine, but do a search here and you will find other comparable lodging.

Denali. The paved road on which you can take prvate vehicles only goes about 15 miles in. There is a Visitors Center and marked day-hike trails there. To get further into the Park you must either take one of the Park shuttles or a reserved bus. We did the reserved bus that goes all the way into the Park, you get lunch, and then it turns around. A 13-hour day that was a little much. One thing to be aware of (we were not) - if any of you are height-sensitive the busses travel down a dirt road that is about 2 centimeters wider than a bus, about 1/3 of the time hanging on the edge of a cliff. I was terrified as was my 22 year old son. My 18 year old dtr and husband thought it was exhilerating. We saw lots of wildlife (when my eyes were open). The dirt road on the cliff is tolerable until you meet up with another bus going in the opposite direction. I am still shaking thinking about it.

We then did the drive from Denali to Seward in one day - a long day, but we did our sightseeing going north. It was suggested here that we pick one Kenai town and stay there rather than hopping around - and it worked fine. Did an all-day boat trip to see glaciers calving and sealife.

Then back to Anchorage for a night prior to the cruise - husband and son did a day hike from Anchorage.

The cruise excursions are expensive, either from cruiseline or private vendor, although you can save a little money doing it privately. There is not much to see in the ports without additional transportation - train, helicopter, plane, bus. Just walking around the towns gets you jewelery stores and t-shirt shops. In Skagway son and husband did an independent hike, dtr and I did a culinary/inn tour. In Juneau you splurged and did the helicopter glacier landing - a highlight of the trip. In Ketchikan husband, dtr and son did zipline and I did rainforest hike.

I loved Vancouver - I would move there in a minute. A great walking city. We stayed at Sunset Inn/hotel since they had big suites at a reasonable cost. It is outside of downtown which we liked. We had a problem in that the elevator was broken and we were on the 9th floor and there was a misunderstanding about relocating us to a lower floor - however, I would not write off this place because of this - the suite we reserved was huge with a balcony and great views. I would actually try it again.

One thing I wish I had realized before I went. Although I knew Alaska was very expensive, we still went way over what even I had thought the trip would cost. It is easy to say that it is likely the one chance you will make this trip with your kids and very difficult to economize - stuff justs costs a lot. So whatever you are budgeting, it will probably cost more.

I think I answered some of your questions - and some you did not ask.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 12:59 PM
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http://www.photoworks.com/members/spirobulldog
click on "view all" then click "alaska"

We did Kenai area last summer.
Drove from Anchorage to Girdwood/Alyeska first night
Glacier hike $80pp- wouldn't reccommend this
Dogsled/helicopter/glacier-$400pp
very good, helicopter ride about 10 minutes each way-very scenic, you will spend a lot of time with the dogs, the ride itself is really only 15 minutes of so. It is very interesting, unique and we would certainly do it again. Hike Winner Creek Trail-free. Paraglide from top of the mountain.
www.alipineairalaska.com

We then drove on to Soldotna and went Salmon fishing/Flyout/bear viewing. I can't imagine not catching fish and not seeing bald eagles and bears on this tour. We did it on Jul 1. we shipped back 140lbs of fish $350pp about 6-8 hours. you land and takeoff in water. we saw 20+bears with in 25 feet of our boat. they caught salmon left and right also. this is a lot of bang for your buck on this trip.
www.highadventureair.com

we then drove on to Seward
did an evening kayak tour.
www.kayakak.com
very good $100pp or so
about 4 hours worth. your 4 year old would not do this. We were in our kayaks @ 11pm with the sun blazing
We also did the full day Kenai Fjords tour. saw a ton of wildlife including whales, saw calving glaciers. $90pp or so.

The sealife center is worth a visit while in Seward.

We dropped our car in Seward and took the train back to Anchorage before catching our plane. Train was super good. We had dinner on the train.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 01:08 PM
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The flight tour to see bears out of Homer was the highlight of our trip to Alaska with our sons ages 9 and 11. it is one thing to see a bear from the tour bus in Denali (bring binoculars), it is quite another experience to be within 10-15 feet of them. The boys also found fishing to quite fun because the salmon were running and it was next to impossible to not catch a fish. While we enjoy water sports, we didn't do any, other than glacier boat tours, as it is relatively chilly in Alaska (especially the water) even in mid-summer. Rather than splitting up for kayaking, I suggest one of the glacier boat tours out of Seward as you will see the glaciers at a much closer distance than you will from your cruise ship. Search this forum because there are hundreds of posts about family trips to Alaska.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 02:07 PM
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On the Kenai Peninsula, there are some nice gift shops that carry signed prints. In the town of Soldotna (next to the town of Kenai) there is a gift shop called Malfunction Junction. Horrid name but some interesting things. Basement level carries furs. In Homer there are several nice shops with very nice quality handmade items and art, at least one that is more of a gallery. In Talkeetna there are several galleries. I particularly like the work of David Totten. Friends have an original. You may actually be surprised at home many artists and fine craftsmen are in AK.
On the way to Denali you might make a stop at the Iditarod Museum where we saw puppies that are future Iditarod sled dogs. A Reddington grandchild watches over the puppies and encourages people to hold them. Your boys might have a chance to ask questions from another youngster about living in Alaska and training sled dogs. We enjoyed Independence Mine. It's another good stop on the long trip to Denali.
There was a recent post about taking children to Homer that had some really good ideas.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 04:05 PM
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Spirobulldog
Who didyou rent your car from? I looked at a couple of car rental agencies but didn't find any where I could drop the car off in Seward (we would like to pick up in Anchorage and drop off in Seward).

Thaks.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 04:58 PM
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There's no need to wait until you get to Wasilla to get any supplies you need. It'll be easier and probably cheaper to just get them in Anchorage. Eagle River would work too.

For a place to stay in Anchorage, I recommend the Anchorage Grand. Great location and good price ( for Anchorage). Have a look www.anchoragegrandhotel.com The Brewhouse mentioned is the Glacier Brewhouse, a large, bustling place.

For Denali there are lots of possibilities. Do you prefer B&B or hotel/cabin?

We stayed at Denali Lakeview and would recommend it .It's just north of the park near Healy.

There are several different shuttle bus options. The cheapest and probably the best is the regular park shuttle. Just bring your own lunch and save a bundle.

I also suggest you have a look at trip advisor as there are a number of experts and loads more information.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 07:34 PM
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Hertz is/was the only car rental place in Seward. I guess that is still the same. The local Hertz agent evidentally owns Renown Tours also. We used Renown for our Kenai Trip. The boat is faster and smoother than the rest. I will say that their food wasn't much. You might want an extra snack or too. But the tour was really good. If it were to do again, I would try to go with a much smaller boat, which would be bad if the water was rough. Very smooth, clear day when we went. I think Renown is good for a big boat. I am sure most of the big boats are similar. I did see that some of them offer a salmon bake. You just want to make sure you are going all the way to the glaciers. Don't do one that just stays in Res. Bay.

We dropped our bags off at the train depot in Seward and checked our car in before we got on the morning Kenai Tour. This saves a day rental fee. If I remember correctly Hertz people took me right to the dock, probably because I told them I had book with Renown. You could walk, but it is a few blocks away.
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Feb 3rd, 2009, 09:14 AM
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spirobulldog-- Thanks for the Hertz recommendation! I just can't believe how expensive it is to rent a mini van there ($1200+ for the week)... I also looked at your photos on line-- thanks for sharing them with me.

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Feb 3rd, 2009, 10:26 AM
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I don't remember our car being anywhere near that expensive. Sometime they really charge you if you drop off at a different location. I can never figure out, how they determine that, because sometimes it is about the same price.

I did a quick check for July 1 for 1 week and it seems about the same price no matter where you drop it off. I also checked away from airport location, and it seemed about the same pricing.


When are you going? If you decided to do any fishing for salmon that would make a huge difference. I don't know about Halibut.

maybe you should just buy a car and resale it or drive it home. LOL. $1200 is pricey. you might consider going the train all the way and not even getting a car. I don't know if that is a good idea or not. You really could do without one in Seward. why not just rent the car to denali, then take the train to seward.
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Feb 3rd, 2009, 02:49 PM
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I am guessing your cruise leaves from Whittier. We ran into the same rental car issue - seemed silly to drive from Seward to Anchorage and then return to whittier for cruise. But that is what made the most sense, as geographically insane as it was. Even if you do a one-way car rental and leave car in Seward, you have issue of how to get to Whittier for cruise.

After Seward, we returned to Anchorage for a night. AM of cruise, we dropped luggage at designated cruise "transfer" place, returned rental car to downtown location, did a little exploring of downtown, had lunch, and then returned to cruise pick-up location for bus to Whittier.

Bus ride to Whittier was actually plesant - nice scenery, the tunnel was fascinating and a little creepy, bus driver gave a historical narrative along the way and stopped twice for us to take photos.

Check-in for cruise took a little longer than other cruises we have taken - primarily because large busloads of passengers arrived at the same time and the lines were longer. Not horrible - perhaps 20-30 minutes. Strange not to have tropical steel drum band and drinks with little umbrellas as we sailed away, though.
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Feb 4th, 2009, 08:20 PM
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Spirobulldog, we are going in July. Where do you suggest we stay in Kenai? I think that we will need the car since we have three children (and from my memory the train wasn't inexpensive-- probably the cost would be similar since we are a family of five?).

Gail, our cruise leaves from Seward so we would love to leave our car there as well instead of driving back to Anchorage to drop it off.

Thanks.
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Feb 5th, 2009, 12:39 PM
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When you say Kenai, do you mean Kenai the town? Or do you mean Seward. The tours of Kenai leave from Seward. Kenai the town is some distance away. Kenai pennisula is big area. Kenai River runs through it, and a lot of people just fish for Salmon in it. On Monday, guides are not allowed to fish, so the locals can fish on Mondays. We stayed @ historic Van Gilder in Seward. We would not stay there again. Didn't like anything about it. Im Soldotna we stayed at a B&B that was nice. We are not really B&B people. We like to get up early and get with it. Don't really like a big breakfast. We missed breakfast that morning, as we headed out at 6:00 for fishing. She did have us some nice muffins, fruit, etc for us to take with us. I can find the name, if you are headed that direction. It was a new house and had a bedroom for kids. Had a couple of beds in the room if I remember correctly. Alyska was our favorite place we stayed at.

There is a huge race(July 3 or 4??) in Seward. You would want to see this if you are in the area on that day. hundreds of people race up and down a mountain. A lot of them fall coming down and get cutup pretty badly. I think it is one of the oldest races in the US.
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Feb 6th, 2009, 05:59 PM
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No one has suggested renting a motor home instead of a car. Your children would enjoy the freedom of staying in parks and campgrounds. Plus eating would be cheaper as food in restaurants is quite expensive. Just a thought.
We did that last year (sans children) and had a great time.
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Feb 6th, 2009, 07:16 PM
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twoaussies, what an interesting idea... we hadn't thought about this... do you recall which rental company you used?
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Feb 7th, 2009, 03:53 AM
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we have friends that did an rv in alaska with 2 kids under age 7 and they loved it. you would have to drive back to anchorage to turn the rv in. Don't think that would be possible in Seward. But, you could ride the train back then. Bus service is available as well. You won't save money, but alaska might be a great place to give an rv a try.
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Feb 7th, 2009, 07:57 AM
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We rented a RV for our trip to Alaska. It was great. I'm not the RV or camping type, and I agreed to this trip kicking and screaming. My husband aad younger son thought the RV would be so fun. My older child was a bit of a sceptic. After the trip, we all agreed that we could not imagine touring Alaska any other way.

Renting the RV and being able to eat most of our meals in the RV (we bought lots of fresh seafood to cook) probably cost about the same as renting a car in Alaska (which is much more expensive than in the lower 48), staying in hotels/motels, and eating every meal in restaurants. The hotels and motels of Alaska are generally just standard, average ones. Even the nicest hotels in Anchorage are the level of a typical downtown Hilton in the lower 48. Nothing special. It also seemed that there were many more places to stay with a RV than there were motels outside of Anchorage. We preferred staying in state and national parks over the commercial RV parks because each RV spot had much more space and the locations were much more scenic. We only made RV park reservations ahead of time for a couple of nights, and that was in Denali. The remainder of our 2.5 week trip, we just found places to stay when we were ready to park the RV. It was very nice not to have to be to a certain destination because that would be where our motel reservation was.

It was also so easy to be able to eat when we wanted and not have to look for a restaurant. Rather than sitting in restaurants, we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Alaska as we ate all most all of our meals outdoors. It is also nice when traveling with kids to have a bathroom with you. No searching for a restroom, which can be few and far between in Alaska.

Our sons ages 9 and 11 loved being able to play and explore outside in the evenings. We met many more Alaskans staying in the state parks than we would have on a cruise or driving in a car and staying in motels. The RVs parked near us, particularly on the Kenai peninsula, were more often than not, Alaskans on vacation.

We rented from Great Alaskan.
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Feb 8th, 2009, 06:27 AM
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Alaska with a motorhome was one of our most enjoyable trips. As everyone says, it gives you so much freedom, especially with children. We stayed in National Parks where possible as they are very reasonable. The problem I can foresee is that you are leaving out of Seward. Dont know if you can drop off a motor home there.
If I may make a suggestion - explore Alaska for two weeks without the cruise. Save that for another time. A week is not enough time. Use the cruise money on a fly-in to bear country.
I wrote an article on hints for motor homing, right now it is No. 67 on this list.
If you have questions feel free to ask. Jean
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