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What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Hampshire, England...
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What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Hi,

I'm from the UK and am thinking of visiting Alaska in September.

I'm sorry for the naieve question, but was wondering what the best method of visiting would be?

ie would you recommend flying into Vancouver or Seattle and then cruising into Alaska by sea, or would a direct flight into Anchorage be better?

I'll be travelling alone so would be grateful for any tips you may have on a possible itinerary which would allow me to take in the major sites.

I know 7 days isnt long, but on a recent trip to New Zealand i heard great stories from an ex Alaskan local saying what a fantastic place to visit Alaska is, so I really want to visit however short that visiting time may be.

Any advice greatly appreciated,

Simon.

Fairbanks, Alaska
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1. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Hi Clank007, “ie would you recommend flying into Vancouver or Seattle and then cruising into Alaska by sea, or would a direct flight into Anchorage be better?”

Are you a cruise type person or do like to roam the earth by yourself? If you take a cruise and depending upon the cruise line you will be traveling up the inward passage and make a least on port of call in South East. But then I have never been on a cruise because I saw the movies The Poseidon Adventure and Titanic.

I am thinking that you might enjoy doing the Alaska thing the same way you did the New Zealand thing. Can you rent/hire a car? What do you like doing? What do you want to see? Can you drive on the proper side of the road? Do you watch Top Gear?

In 7 days of land travel I think you can get in the Kenai Peninsula and Denali National Park but MM is better at figuring that stuff out. So if it was me being that I am me I would do a land tour. Just because I like freedom of movement and if the ship sinks I don’t take well to cold water. So go climb a glacier in Kenai, take a day tour on a boat from Seward or Whittier and go see the big aquatic mammals. Go see the wild life in Denali and the animals. Heck even ride on our most awesome train!

Once you have figured out the cruise or not to cruise we will fill you up with an incomprehensible amount of good travel information.

Manitoba, Canada
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2. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Hi Simon, welcome to the forum.

Ask 10 different people the "best way to visit Alaska", and you'll get 10 different answers, lol.

Cruises are relaxing and offer lots of excursions and onboard activities; however, a solo traveler can find cruising to be rather expensive. You didn't mention your budget, so I don't know if the cost would deter you or not.

If you are an active person, I think you'd most enjoy flying to Anchorage and renting a car and doing your own thing. You could visit Denali NP (gorgeous fall colors in early September, click on my name and then on Photos to see a few pix I took last year at that time) and go on a Kenai Fjords cruise and/or glacier cruise out of Whittier. You could also go whitewater rafting, walk to the face of a glacier, maybe hike on a glacier (though most of those tours end in August), do a little goldpanning, take a dogsledding tour, maybe do a bear-viewing tour if you can afford that.

You might want to read through a few trip reports (see Top Questions, top right of page) to have an idea what other people did to see if it appeals to you.

Then come back here and let us know what activities you'd like to include, and we'll help you work out an itinerary.

South Florida...
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3. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Simon,

In my opinion the only way to really see Alaska is by driving the roads. As stated you could fly to Anchorage, rent a car and at least visit Seward, maybe Homer and Denali. If your are on a cruise your sight seeing would be limited and you would most likely be with a crowd of folks. Go for it! It is very easy driving in Alaska and although a week is not very long perhaps it will interest you enough that you will make a return visit for a longer period of time. By the way I am an experienced sailer and have taken many cruises...you miss a lot this way and if you find an area that you want to explore in depth you can do so if you are driving independently.

Anchorage, Alaska
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for Anchorage
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4. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

If you love cruising, then cruising might be the way to go; but if you don't absolutely love cruising, I'd pick by car/rv.

Another way I'd look at it would be; if this is a once in a lifetime trip, then definitely by land (ie flying into ANC). I'd be well rested going into the trip (sleep while traveling to & from AK) and do the week on 4 to 6 hours sleep every night so to maximize my AK exposure (fit in as many experiences as possible).

As others (& most) will likely tell you, you'll probably want to concentrate on Denali & the Kenai Peninsula. Anchorage has some good restaurants & museums to "fill in" some empty spaces you may have around arrival & departure times.

Good luck & enjoy,

Scott

ps - determine your dates & get a vehicle reserved asap and then continue to watch the rental prices for changes to your advantage.

Healy, Alaska
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5. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Only wanted to add that you should plan to visit in early September - many places close by Sept. 15th for the tourist season. :)

Las Vegas, Nevada
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6. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

I think you should visit the travel section of your local bookstore and buy a travel book about Alaska, one with lots of photos and a map. Get familiar with the different areas of Alaska, the different sights and activities.

Then look at the cruise ship itinerary and see if the ports will address your main interests. Would you have to do a round trip cruise or would you be able to fly into Anchorage, cruise to Vancouver and fly home from there?

Alaska
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7. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Whatever itinerary you choose, start in the north or in the mountains / Denali and work your way south.

Good luck. With a tight schedule you have tough choices to make.

Lake Tahoe...
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8. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Simon,

Be aware that if you are cruising and by yoourself you are going to have to pay for the extra berth in two-berth cabins. Perhaps there are cruise lines that only charge 150 percent for single passengers. When our daughter traveled with us in 2003 she had her own cabin with infant daughter. She was charged if it were two adults. This is even after she had been employed by them a few years ago as an guest entertainer.

Our very first visit to Alaska was in 1991 and we used the Alaska Marine Highway (the Alaska State Ferry System) as walk on passengers. We sailed into Prince Rupert on the old Queen of the North from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. We rented a car at Victoria and turned it in a Port Hardy. We also rented cars at Sitka, Skagway, Jasper, and Victoria. After the big excursion we discovered it would have been cheaper to bring our own car. But, then would not have been able to use the rail segments, (Amtrak, VIA, and BCRail).

In 1994 we took our second trip to Alaska and brought our car.

So if you are interested in the Panhandle (Southeast Alaska) use the ferry system. You could take the train to Belingham and be a walk on passenger. You could also fly into Ketchikan and transfer to the ferry there. Don't know if they have air service into Prince Rupert.

You should also visit the interior too. However, it is going to be hard to do this without a car. Also, be aware that accommodations are based on double occupancy. It would be nice to have a travelling companion to help share expenses.

Toms River, New...
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9. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Clank - Alaska ferries are terrific (Alaska Marine Highway). In early July, my wife and I flew to Juneau via Seattle. We took a taxi to Mendenhall Glacier, and stopped for snacks and adult beverages on the way to the ferry terminal at Auke Bay. We had booked passage plus a cabin down to Ketchikan. Cabins are expensive, but you have other choices. If you simply book as a foot passenger, you can pitch a tent at the stern, substituting duct tape for tent pegs, sleep in a deck chair (bring a sleeping bag) in the heated but open at the rear "Solarium", or sleep indoors in a "Recliner Lounge". We took M/V Matanuska south, leaving Auke Bay at about 11 p.m., arrived Ketchikan about 6 p.m. the following day. The scenery was spectacular, the cafeteria had good, reasonably priced food (or you can use its microwave), laundry machines and a bar, and the ferry people were just terrific. We stayed at the Best Western Landings, which has a free shuttle to town, about 2 miles. From Ketchikan, you can take a float plan tour to Misty Fjord (ours was canceled due to bad weather). The town has 2 very good totem pole sights (if you go, read about them first), Totem Bight and Saxman Village. We then took M/V Columbia northward, leaving about 9 am. Instead of returning to Juneau directly, we went farther north to Haines (where we did not leave the ship), Skagway (a late 1890's gold rush town), then back to Juneau, arriving at 11 the following evening. Again, the scenery is just spectacular. US Forest Rangers are aboard, providing interesting talks about all manner of things, and you may spot whales. You will certainly see bald eagles. Returning to Juneau, we stayed at the Driftwood Lodge, which has free shuttle service to and from the Auke Bay ferry dock. Things we did in 3 days in Juneau - Mt. Roberts tram, 1800 feet up, but go only if visibility is good, whale watching trip, Tracy Arm cruise to North and South Sawyer Glaciers, floatplane flight over Juneau Icefield (or fly to Taku Glacier Lodge), and a helicopter flight landing on 2 glaciers.

Lake Tahoe...
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10. Re: What's the best way to visit Alaska?

Regarding pitching a tent on deck of the ferry - that is if you can find space. We took the Columbia up from Bellingham the end of June 2009 and the space was taken up fast. The cabin space is not unreasonable and fills fast. Travelling without cabin space can be very hard if you are on the elderly side for a trip that takes several days.