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Alaska on a budget, September travel

San Francisco...
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Alaska on a budget, September travel

I am posting this question for my neighbour who has just booked flights to spend four days in Alaska, she is on a budget and is travelling solo. I haven't read a guide on Alaska, and I am trying to help her, so please forgive me if these questions sound stupid or are very basic.

We have looked at the Rusts flightseeing website, and my neighbour had a fit when reading the prices (to be honest, so did I), is a flightseeing tour as must? If so, which one is good in mid September? She was particularly interested in bear viewing but we have read bad things about Rusts bearviewing safaris (on this website and on others), obviously, this is one of the more expensive flightseeing excursions. The main complaint we have read is that Rust operates these tours regardless of whether bears are present, I do understand that they can't control where the bears are but it sounds like they operate this tour without checking if bearviewing is good on a particular day.

Any comment/advice on flightseeing excursions and bearviewding will be appreciated. Thanks.

Lake Tahoe...
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1. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

Your neighbor is the one traveling and you are doing the research? This sounds like you could wind up behind the eight ball. From what it sounds you could blamed for a decision she didn't care for.

I don't think bear watching is a good idea for someone on a budget, especially if traveling alone. Doesn't she have a friend to go with her?

Manitoba, Canada
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2. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

"I do understand that they can't control where the bears are but it sounds like they operate this tour without checking if bearviewing is good on a particular day."

How are they supposed to do that? The bears are wild and go where they want to. Even if the lodge had someone go outside and say "Yup, there are 5 bears here right now" doesn't mean there would be any bears around a couple of hours later when the plane got there. Or vice versa.

Rust's has an excellent reputation. I'm not sure where you're finding all these "bad" reviews of them. I looked at one here on TA, and the stupid woman spent 3/4 of her review complaining that Rust's wouldn't drive her to her apartment, when she even admitted they advertise picking up only at some hotels.

Regardless, I agree with the previous poster. Mid-September is a poor time of year to go bear-viewing--if that is your neighbor's only reason for going to Alaska, she made a bad choice timing-wise. And why would anyone on a "budget" spend $800 in one day? Plus accommodations. Doesn't make sense to me.

"is a flightseeing tour as must?"

No. And if she had a "fit" when she saw the prices, she isn't going to be happy with the tour even if it's a good one. Plus, as a single person, she'd have to fit in with other booked trips (no one is going to go with just one passenger), so that might not fit into what she wanted to see.

Except for bear-viewing, you haven't mentioned her other interests. If her trip is mid-September, she might be too late for Denali (last shuttle into the park is Sept. 16, assuming no major snowfall before then), but she still could take a glacier cruise or Kenai Fjords cruise. If she likes to drive, there should be some nice autumn colors.

Edited: 19 August 2010, 02:12
Bridgewater
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3. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

"If she likes to drive, there should be some nice autumn colors."

I think she's going to have aother fit when she sees the prices of car rentals.

I have flown with Rust's on several occasions and found them extremely professional, concerned for my safety, and a lot of fun to be with. I will be booking with them again for my next trip.

Manitoba, Canada
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4. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

"I think she's going to have aother fit when she sees the prices of car rentals."

They're not so bad in mid-September. About $35 per day with taxes, insurance over and above that. But she should book ASAP and then keep an eye on the prices to see if she can find a better deal.

San Francisco...
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5. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

Thanks for the replies. Let me begin by saying I now realise the op was poorly worded. I am helping my neighbour who is elderly and is on a limited income, she does want to see and do Alaska properly and what things do cost needs to be taken into consideration, she is not a backpacker or on a backpackers budget and I think I wrongly have given that impression. I am not doing the work for her or arranging the itineary, but I am helping her when it comes to using the internet, she does not like computers and refuses to use them. I haven't read a Alaska guide, she has. THat's the backgournd information that i so poorly explained in the op.

Having said this, can we please start again and I would appreciate any help she can get for organizing her upcoming trip.

She will be in Anchorage for 4 full days.

She has already said she'd like to go on the 26 Glacier cruise for one day, this operates until the end of September.

Denali didn't sound too interesting to her and she doesn't want to visit.

As for flightseeing, she is two minds, and would welcome any comments from people who have been flightseeing.

She still has nothing planned for three days, I know there is a museum she said she'd visit, but that will take half a day at most.

Any advice will be appreciated.

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San Francisco...
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6. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

Forgot to mention we had read some negative reviews about Rusts on cruise critic too.

Manitoba, Canada
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7. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

Is she renting a car or relying on public transport? And you still haven't told us what her interests are. If she's not interested in Denali, I assume she'd not interested in wildlife or scenery. So what would she like to see and do?

If she can afford flightseeing, that is an enjoyable thing to do. If she doesn't want to go with Rust's, maybe try Regal Air.

As for the complaints about Rust's, I'd have to read them to decide if they appeared valid. But nobody can please everybody all of the time. And no outfitter can promise bears on every trip (and yes, we do know of some outfitters who HAVE taken people bear-viewing when they know there are no salmon running to attract them). Rust's is the Anchorage operator recommended by Alaska.org, and he's usually pretty particular about who is included in his website. You can have a look yourself: http://alaska.org/flightseeing/

Sounds like she is coming in the off-season. She might consider an overnight trip to Lake Clark NP. She'd have to ask the lodges what the chances are of seeing bears that late in the season, but staying there for 24 hours (or more) would give her a much better chance than being there only about 6 hours during a "day" trip.

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San Francisco...
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8. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

I think she'd rather not rent a car if this can be avoided. Thankfully she is not scared of cars like she is of computers. I'll ask and report back.

She is interested in wildlife especially bears, she deceided against Denali for two reasons, she could not accomodate Denali too well date wise, and the fact that it would take 3 days (one to travel to Denali, one within the park and one to travel back to Anchorage).

Is there a difference between Rusts and Regal air I mean in terms of the quality of the flighseeing flight? Which flightseeing excurion is best (not company wise but to which location) from Anchorage in mid September.

She also want to see the nothern lights, but it might be too early in the season.

I'll try to find the complaint I read about Rusts, I do remember it is on cruise critic. Nevertheless, my neighbour and I do understand that the bears come and go as they please, not as the tourists please. It is an expensive excursion and I those who don't see bears must be disappointed.

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San Francisco...
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9. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

Manitoba Maple, heres the link:-

boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php…

Just got off the phone and I was right, she doesn't really want to rent a car. She'll be over soon looking for hotels in Anchorage online.

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Manitoba, Canada
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10. Re: Alaska on a budget, September travel

What dates will she be in Anchorage?

"Is there a difference between Rusts and Regal air I mean in terms of the quality of the flighseeing flight?

I wouldn't think so, but not having been on either, I can't answer with first-hand knowledge.

"Which flightseeing excurion is best (not company wise but to which location) from Anchorage in mid September."

Can't answer that either. Depends what she is interested in seeing. BTW, if she wants to consider the overnight to Lake Clark, she might look at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. But they have a 3-passenger minimum from Anchorage, so she'd have to rely on other people going the same day. Also, she should first check to see if bears are expected to be around the dates she'd be there--keeping in mind that wildlife has its own agenda and no one can promise what it or the weather will do.

"She also want to see the nothern lights, but it might be too early in the season."

She has a chance to see them, but Fairbanks is the best place for that because it is farther north and has less cloud cover than Anchorage. It's only an hour by plane between the 2 cities. Again, no guarantees, and in fact if she goes to Fairbanks only for 1 night, her odds of seeing aurora aren't very good. She'd have to spend a few nights, and even then no guarantees.

As for the cruise critic thread...you call that a bad review? One person said "fantastic", the next said the trip was shortened due to weather but they still got to see several bears, the 3rd said "incredible". The only dissenter was the 4th who went early in the season (June) without checking first with the lodge, and didn't see any bears, and seemed to realize that wildlife can't be guaranteed. I don't call that a "bad" review at all.

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