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Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

Yul
Montreal, Canada
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101 posts
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Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

Well, we just did it! Booked our 2009 trip to Alaska – WOW! The kids (12 – 9 – 7) and the wife are very happy (daddy also) but he is feeling a bit overwhelmed... We have done many trips together and I never had a problem in planning our itinerary but Alaska is such a unique place that I just don’t know where to go, what to do and long to to stay, etc. I have read so many reports on TA but I just can’t get a fix on how to start things. Please help !! FYI, we will be arriving in ANC on the 24th of June and leaving on the 5th of July, giving us +/- 11 full days to book. Other things that may be useful to know: we will renting a car, we don't want too much time in the city or chain type hotels (a cabin is nice), must see bears, must walk on glacier, must see the view from a boat or train and we want to spend a few day in Dawson City (Yukon). Where should we go for the 4th of July? Also, with 3 kids and a limited budget, we must keep expenses in check so we can’t do any fancy or remote excursions that can cost a lot of $$$. Can you please suggest a few 11 day itinerary since I would like to book things as early as possible to have more options and maybe save a few dollars.

Thanks from an anxious father...

Yul
Montreal, Canada
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101 posts
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1. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

Family w/ 3 kids feeling a bit overwhelmed

Sorry for the typo...

Manitoba, Canada
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2. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

LOL, don't worry about typos. In fact, it's pretty much a requirement to make them if you want to post on this board, because the rest of us do that all the time! It's not OUR fault TA doesn't have spell-check. Of course, I wouldn't use it even if it was offered.... ;-)

"and we want to spend a few day in Dawson City (Yukon)."

Ummmm...do you have friends/relatives there to visit? Otherwise, it is a tiny town really out of the way from Alaska. Here is some info:

http://www.dawsoncity.org/gettinghere/

You said you're arriving in Anchorage on June 24. Did you intend to stop at Dawson on your way there, or way back? Is that part of your ll days? What time does your plane arrive and leave?

For the 3-hr. Ice Fall Trek on Matanuska (2 hr. drive NE of Anchorage), the minimum age is 8. Will your youngest be that age, or at least almost, by the time of your trip? You'd have to check with the outfitter (MICA) to see if it's okay with them. Otherwise, you'd have to do the shorter Glacier Hike.

Your best chance to see bears in the wild would be a shuttle into Denali, but no guarantees. Most people do get to see at least one. How much time do you think your kids would be willing to spend on a bus? The longer, the better chance of seeing wildlife.... If you "must" see bears, another alternative is the Anchorage Zoo or the Wildlife Conservation Center an hour south of there.

For the train, I'd suggest a trip from Anchorage to Seward, where you could take a 6 hr. Kenai Fjords wildlife cruise (also spends a bit of time at a calving glacier). You could either return the same evening, or better still, stay overnight and visit SeaLife Center, walk to Exit Glacier, do the Ididaride sled dog tour, maybe fish or kayak, and return the following evening on the train. You don't really need a car in Seward, it's very small. The only place you'd need transport would be Exit Glacier, and you can either take a taxi or go with the Exit Glacier Guide's shuttle at about $10 pp. Of course, you can rent a car there if you want to. Or drive down from Anchorage if you'd rather take the train some other place.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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3. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

I am not as gifted as Maple with itineraries, but I would suggest about 3 days in Denali, 2 in Seward, 2 in Homer, your days in/out of Anchorage and maybe 2 in Fairbanks?? That would give you a good overview of Alaska. I would nail down approximately where you want to go, and then we can help you with the specifics of those areas, accommodation details, etc. Seward is about the only town in Alaska known for it's 4th of July activities, so if that interests you, plan to be there by the 3rd and make your reservations early. :)

Oh - did you read Noah's helper trip report - they just did a family trip, so maybe that will be a bit of help to you as well. Any other details we need to know to help you with details?? Happy planning! :)

Yul
Montreal, Canada
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101 posts
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4. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

Hi Manitoba Maple and coalminer (and others)

A few answers to your questions:

1) Yes Dawson City is a must since my wife lost a close relative in a tragic accident in Dawson - she must go there to remember him and see where and how he lived, etc. We will of course visit what should be seen while were there. BTW what is there to be seen in Dawson??

2) We are flying in and out of ANC so the visit to Dawson City is in the 11 days. Note that the 11 days does not include the day of arrival but counts the return day since the flight is late. Our flight will arrive +/- 2:30pm on the 24th and depart +/- 8:00pm on the 5th.

3) For the Ice fall trek, my son will be 2 1/2 short of his 8th birthday. I sent an e-mail to them and they said I could book a custom/private tour. Same thing but adjusted to the capacity of my youngest. I just would not be eligible to the 10% discount for 4 or more. I love that idea.

4) Zoo or conservation park: I know my wife will want to see them "in the wild". Are there specific tours anywhere between ANC - Fairbanks - Dawson City that are not left up to chance as Denali? If not, what is my best way and how many days to visit Denali and what about those shuttle buses?

5) The Seward proposal does sound interesting. Is it nicer to do it by car or by rail? If I go by train, where could I leave my rental car overnight? Also, what do you propose for the 2 days in Homer and Fairbanks?

Thanks for the info - Keep it coming, I love it.

(p.s.: I did a spell check on Word this time so I hope no typo’s are left)

New Jersey
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5. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

Hi Yul,

My mother, 17 year old daughter and I spent a week in Alaska last month, same time of year you'll be there next year. Weather was beautiful, 70's and sunny, lucky us. Anyway, here are some of my suggestions:

Cheapest to see bears in the wild and a MUST see if going to Alaska (our favorite part)-Denali National Park. You should go at least as far as Eielson Visitor Center. I would recommend the shuttle buses, not the tour buses, as the shuttles are cheaper and you can get off/on whenever you want to and can catch a bus back down if you're ready to go back instead of continuing. Start as early as you can to improve your chances of wildlife sightings and a view of Mt. McKinley. You have to take your own food and we found the "lunches to go" sold at the park lodges held enough for 2 of us, therefore saving some $. Dad might want a whole one.

In the park we saw moose, grizzlies, foxes, sheep, and caribou. All had babies with them. Of course, this can't be guaranteed, but is much cheaper than the Brooks Falls excursion which costs about $600pp! We took the train and liked it as we could walk around, dine and browse the gift shop instead of just sitting for hours (it was 7 1/2 hours long though).

Manitoba Maple had good ideas and if you want to be in Seward for the 4th of July, do the southern part of your trip at that time(glacier viewing,etc). Remember, you won't see fireworks like elsewhere, as it won't get dark at that time of year in Alaska. Anchorage does have a holiday parade if you're there that day; we were in Denali and missed it.

There are coupon books you can buy to save lots of $! Be sure to check it out!

Our only regret was that we would have liked AT LEAST 2 FULL days in Denali Nat'l. Park instead of the 1 and more days total to see south of Seward. The next time we'll stay longer and also visit Fairbanks.

I have to say transportation around Anchorage was easy and the People Mover is only a few $. Also, the people and service were some of the best ever!

Have a great trip! I will be going back!

Seattle
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for Grand Canyon National Park
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6. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

We spent a holiday weekend (Fourth of July, actually) in Dawson City when we lived in Fairbanks some years ago. We loved it. We had a relative who had a claim in the Klondike strike of '98, so it was fun to visit the claim (no longer in the family) and talk to the guys who were presently working it. And we enjoyed the guided walking tour of the town, especially the Robert Service cabin (so tiny and cramped---hard to imagine that place inspiring such vivid poetry).

The place is amazing---the devastation caused by the gold dredges is almost unimaginable until you see it.

You might find some ideas on what to see and do there here:

http://www.dawsoncity.org/

Remember to take your passports. . . and LOTS of mosquito repellant!

Manitoba, Canada
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7. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

Sorry, I can't help with the Dawson portion of your trip. Go over to the Yukon forum and I'm sure Murray ("Explorenorth06") will give you some great advice:

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g155045-i1403-Yuko…

I'd suggest you schedule that at the beginning of your trip. With transport, it will likely take up 3 to 4 days of your vacation.

When you've finished figuring that out, come back here and we can help you with the Alaska portion.

As to a couple of your other questions:

"I know my wife will want to see them "in the wild". Are there specific tours anywhere between ANC - Fairbanks - Dawson City that are not left up to chance as Denali?"

No. Unless you go on a bear-viewing tour (approx. $600 pp as mentioned by AnimalLover), your best chance is Denali. I've spent a total of nearly 4 weeks in Alaska (including a couple of inside passage cruises), and have seen only 1 wild bear--in Denali, and at a distance (needed binoculars to see anything other than a golden spec). Some people don't see any bears at all from the shuttle, but most do, and some are lucky and see them right near the road. Luck of the draw. Tell your wife that wild animals are on no one's schedule but their own. No guarantees.

"Also, what do you propose for the 2 days in Homer and Fairbanks?"

If you're spending time in Dawson, you won't have time to do both Homer and Fairbanks, unless you skip Seward. Don't forget you are traveling vast distances between cities and that takes up precious time. I would assume the things you can do in Dawson are pretty similar to what you can do in Fairbanks, so maybe skip Fairbanks. Ask Murray about that.

Charlottesville...
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8. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

Yul,

What airline did you book your flight with? I'm planning on the week before you and both Delta and Alaska Air won't let me book yet (return trip has to be within 330 days).

-Laura

Alabama
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9. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

That's an awful lot of driving with small kids, especially to have 5 people in a car. I would suggest cutting back on the number of places to visit, and spend more time at each stop. Have you considered renting an RV?

You don't need a car in Seward, so one option might be to rent the car only for Denali/Fairbanks/Dawson City, and take the train to Seward.

The more time you can spend in Denali, the greater your chance of seeing bears. Although I had a tough sell getting my family on the shuttle bus for a second day, we were all glad we did.

Do check out my trip report. We did do a couple of budget-breaking excursions, but our kids also enjoyed visiting any sled dog kennel, panning for gold, hiking, and just throwing rocks in the water or playing on a playground.

Alabama
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10. Re: Family w/ 3 kids felling a bit overwhelmed

Oh, you might consider the short hike to Byron glacier. It's free.