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travel by personal auto

NW Illinois
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travel by personal auto

We visited Alaska in 2005 with a cruise and inland tour. Makes us just want more. If you travel with your own automobile up the Alaskan Hiway and then around the state, is it possible to find last minute overnight accomodations? What if you have a motorhome? Can you find last minute campsites?

Once in Alaska is it possible to get day trips at the very last minute? You know, wildlife viewing, flight seeing, etc. Thanks bearbait05

Manitoba, Canada
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1. Re: travel by personal auto

Hi bearbait05, welcome to the forum.

If you want to have that kind of flexibility, I suggest you take an RV. Then you can pull over almost anywhere for the night. One place you would have to pre-book for sure is Denali, if you plan to go there.

As for day trips, it depends on the trip. Bear-viewing tours are often booked up months in advance. If you have the flexibility to wait around someplace for a day or two, most other tours would have vacancies--perhaps even the day you want them--but no one can guarantee for sure. That's why people make reservations.

However, if you're wanting to stay at hotels/B&B's or if you're on a tight schedule, if you don't make reservations you're going to have some major disappointments. Up to you if it's worth the risk.

NW Illinois
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2. Re: travel by personal auto

Hi Manitoba Maple

Thanks for the speedy reply. Your answer held no surprises. We suspected it would be this way, but we just wanted someone's input. Sounds like the thing to do would be make reservations during the winter or spring, plan a leisurely drive to and around Alaska and leave plenty of time to keep reservation dates. Hanging out shouldn't be a problem. Fairbanks and Anchorage have some great things to see as does Seward and all the highway miles in between. I'm still interested in anyone else's ideas. The more the better. Thank you. bearbait05

Ward, AR
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3. Re: travel by personal auto

everyone needs an idea of what your interests are to help you best. hiking, rafting, kayaking?

NW Illinois
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4. Re: travel by personal auto

Hi flame70

Excellent question! We aren't into the sporty activities. Beautiful vistas have always been the best for us. Since 05 wildlife viewing has taken on a whole new importance. So viewing from cars, buses, trains, boats and easy walking tours are more up our alley. Museums, cultural centers, wildlife sanctuaries, etc., would be right for us. Thanks a lot, bearbait05

Manitoba, Canada
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5. Re: travel by personal auto

How many days will you have, and what month?

NW Illinois
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6. Re: travel by personal auto

We are planning for 2009 (too much going on at home for this year). We would probably go in July and August. Time is no object; we are retired. Money isn't really a problem either; the kids don't need it anyway. I can't express how excited I am about finding this web site!!!!!! I've been reading past entries from various travelers and you are all fantastic! Thanks to all of you.

Manitoba, Canada
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7. Re: travel by personal auto

Wow, you’ve got time for lots of things then! I strongly urge you to rent an RV in that case to give you all the flexibility you'll want.

When you get to Alaska, get your RV, get groceries and other supplies.

Then head north to Denali. Stop in Wasilla to see the Iditarod HQ, then on to Talkeetna to overnight (travel time: 3 hrs). Perhaps spend the next day doing a jet boat trip and/or flightseeing, and either later that day or the next, drive on to Denali (3 hrs) to either Tek or Savage River Campground. Take a shuttle into the park as far as Wonder Lake at least one day, go whitewater rafting, free Ranger Sled dog demo, hike a short entrance trail, dinner theatre, etc. Since this is so early in your trip, you can pre-book all these things months in advance.

You can wing most things from there. Where possible, phone ahead a day or two to make reservations for a tour. Or if you don’t mind hanging around, just show up and see when they have room. The only other activity you will need a months-in-advance reservation would be if you’re interested in bear-viewing? That’s often done as a day trip from Homer. Don’t know if that appeals to you or not.

After Denali, go north to Fairbanks for 2 or 3 days (U. of Alaska museum, Riverboat Discovery, Ice Museum, either Gold Dredge No. 8 or El Dorado Goldmine, Pioneer Park, Creamers Field, Large Animal Research Station, etc.) Then head south east (stop briefly at North Pole to mail postcards and see Santa Claus House) taking 2 or 3 days to get to Valdez (the last part of that trip is extremely scenic, so take your time).

In Valdez do a day-long boat tour to Columbia & Meares glaciers (should see some wildlife along the way), see the museum, watch the films in Sugar & Spice store about the 1964 Earthquake and the Pipeline (you can see the terminus just outside of Valdez, though you can’t visit it any more due to terrorist concerns). If you’re at all interested in kayaking, here you can do it amongst icebergs at a very reasonable cost (even if you’re just a beginner).

Take a couple of days on a very scenic drive to Anchorage, maybe stopping at Wrangell-St. Elias visitor center (are you interested in flightseeing that park too?), Matanuska Glacier to do an ice fall trek (maybe stay overnight, accommodations listed on MICA guides’ website), then on to Hatcher Pass/Independence Mine. Stop in Palmer to see the visitor center and Musk Ox Farm, maybe Reindeer Farm too. Next stop at Eklutna Village and Eagle River.

Spend a day or two in Anchorage seeing Native Heritage Center, zoo, Earthquake Park, Pt. Woronzoff, walk part of Tony Knowles Trail (might see moose, so be careful), take a 1 hr trolley tour of the city, watch the floatplanes on Lake Hood, more ideas: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60880-i350-k78686… .

From there, head south to Seward on another incredibly scenic drive with many stops: alaska.org/driving/turnagain-arm-drive.htm, stopping at Potter Marsh, Beluga Point, Portage Glacier Visitor Center, maybe do an easy 1 hour walk to Byron Glacier to walk on that glacier and see if you can spot some iceworms, Wildlife Conservation Center, stop in Girdwood to go up the tram for a great view if the weather is clear. You might enjoy exploring the tiny town of Hope. Spend 2 or 3 days in Seward, doing a 6 to 9 hour Kenai Fjords wildlife cruise, Ididaride or Godwin Glacier sled dog tour & ride, museum & film, SeaLife Center (maybe do a Puffin or Octopus encounter), Exit Glacier, watch fishermen come in with their catch.

From there go to Cooper Landing for a wildlife raft trip down Kenai River, horseback riding, hike to Russian River Falls, etc. Then on to Kenai (wildlife refuge area, and the mouth of the Kenai is another place you might see the Beluga whales). Then down to Homer for several days. Lots of things to do there: Pratt Museum, Islands and Ocean visitor center, Wynn Nature Center, galleries to stroll through, take the Danny J to Halibut Cove for dinner and to see the gallery of Dianna Tillion, tidepooling (seeing the creatures left behind after high tide), take a water taxi ride to Gull Island (the afternoon tour of Danny J visits there), and of course bear-viewing. If you plan to do that, you should know the rough target date near the end of your trip (after all, you have to know when to return the RV) and book the tour for then. Flights sometimes get cancelled due to weather, so try to have a back-up day available too). Then drive back to Anchorage.

The way I would cap this off is to take a train to Seward to catch a 7 day southbound cruise to Vancouver, to see southeast Alaska (Juneau, etc), which is very different from what you’ll have just seen. Plus after several weeks on the road, it would be nice to be a bit pampered, and let someone else "do the driving" too!

Of course, there are other places to go and things to do, and I’m sure other posters will have suggestions for you to consider. Good thing you’re starting your plans early!

Just one question: can I come with you? :-P

Ward, AR
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8. Re: travel by personal auto

the raft trips from Denali can be whitewater or just a scenic float. you can paddle yourselves or do an oar raft where the guide will handle that part. denalioutdoorcenter.com

micaguides.com for Matanuska Glacier hikes. there is the 3 hour tour and they also have a shorter educational hike if you don't want the longer one.

novalaska.com at Matanuska Glacier area also has raft trips and glacier hikes.

Since you have such a nice long time to be in Alaska, you really should go ahead and get 'The Milepost' and read through it to get an idea of where else you may want to go in addition to ideas you find here.

The Sealife Center in Seward is really a great place to see animals up close. alaskasealife.org

The bear-viewing trip we did with Emerald Air might suit you if you are interested in bears. Chris and Ken split the small group of people up into a group that wants to walk more and see more bears, and a group that wants to do little less walking and watch the bears you see first.

Can't remember if anyone mentioned Ekluta Village State Park. There is an Athabaskan Indian Village and Russian Orthodox church tour where you will see colorful spirit houses.

NW Illinois
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9. Re: travel by personal auto

Hey guys,

Thanks for the great ideas. Thank goodness we have time to consider them as well as any others we might receive. Bears and whales are tops on our "to see" list. We saw both in 05. Magnificent animals. I,m sure we will have more questions at a later date.

bearbait05

Manitoba, Canada
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10. Re: travel by personal auto

Bear viewing is best done on a day trip out of Homer, and after the end of June. Or you could fly to Brooks Camp for 2 or 3 days.

Whale-watching is best done out of Juneau or Icy Strait Point, with nearly 100% success. If you're not planning to cruise, your best bet would be to fly to Juneau and do an extended whale-watching tour (or two!) You could also do a day cruise to Tracy Arm or Glacier Bay.