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Help planning land portion of trip

Ottawa, Canada
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Help planning land portion of trip

Hello,

We are just starting to investigate a family trip to Alaska for summer 2013. We are a family of four with two boys who will be 11 and 12 for this trip and we all enjoy hiking, kayaking and nature and wildlife viewing.

We were considering booking a 7 night small ship cruise which travels between Juneau and Ketchikan and would go into some of the smaller bays and coves including Tracy Arm, Wrangell and Misty Fjords. The cruise would include some hiking, glaciers and kayaking.

We're trying to decide what to include in the land portion of our trip which we would do before the cruise. We were considering flying to either Anchorage or Fairbanks, then travelling by rail or car (whichever is cheapest) to Denali for 3 or 4 nights, with maybe a night at Talkeetna. We are trying to decide if it is worthwhile to include a couple of nights in Seward before taking a ferry to Sitka for a short visit and then to Juneau to get our cruise.

Given the cruise part of our trip, is it worthwhile to plan for Seward and the Kenai Fjords?

If yes, then what's the best way to get to Seward from Anchorage? Any thoughts on car or rail between Fairbanks and Seward with stops in Denali and Anchorage?

I'd like to fit it all into a 10 night land portion although I'm starting to think a full two weeks might be worthwhile.

Any thoughts and experiences are welcome.

Also, any difference in

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Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

While I am not great with day to day itineraries, I will tell you that if you rent your car about 10 months in advance, you can get a cheap deal and it will be FAR cheaper than a train. Even though some sections of the train are great, traveling by train thru some of Alaska is very limiting - you have to stay in hotels near the train & eat there as well - a car will give you much more flexibility. You might also consider renting an RV - not necessarily cheaper, but that does provide the greatest flexibility as you don't have to have everything prebooked other than a campground in Denali. If you really wanted a train trip, I would book from Anchorage to Seward, where you can take a ferry to your other destinations. Also, it is usually cheaper to fly into Anchorage. Good luck with the rest of your planning! :)

Wasilla, Alaska
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2. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

You mentioned a ferry to Sitka from South Central.... That's know as the Cross Gulf ferry and it goes from Whittier, not Seward. It runs on a limited schedule a couple times a month. You'll want to do the research to make sure it's running when you need it to. I think you are going to discover that you'll wind up flying from Anchorage to Sitka. You can then easily take a ferry from Sitka to Juneau to start your cruise.

The 2013 Summer schedule for the ferry hasn't been released yet... I'd look for it to come out in October. It'll be posted here: www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/schedule_pdf.shtml

fti
MN
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for Alaska
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3. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

I would probably try to concentrate your land tour time in SE Alaska if you are taking the cruise that only goes there as well. Check the trip reports since someone recently returned from such a cruise and really enjoyed it.

Maybe spend time in Glacier Bay and Sitka before the cruise departs Juneau.

If you do go to Anchorage/Denali/Seward I would allow at least 10 days for that alone and I would fly into Anchorage then fly from Anchorage to SE Alaska. If you go to Sitka, you should definitely have two weeks and fly from Anchorage to Sitka.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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4. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

If you look at the 2012 trip reports you'll find a report on a recent Inner Seas Discovery cruise. The trip reports are listed under TOP QUESTIONS.

Adirondack, New York
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5. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

If you have only 10-14 days for your land portions then the ferry from Whittier not only sails twice a month but also it take 42 hours to get to Juneau. Maybe you should forget Sitka and just focus on arriving in Anchorage and visiting Seward, Denali, Talkeetna, Fairbanks. Consider adding Homer and maybe Hatcher Pass to your itinerary. Please do not try to include too many destinations especially if you want to do some hiking, kayaking, nature and wildlife viewing.

I think that Coalminer's suggestion of RV is a great choice for the family of four

Day 1 Anchorage

Day 2, 3, 4 Seward

Day 5 Hatcher Pass or/and Matanuska Glacier

Day 6 Talkeetna

Day 7, 8, 9 Denali NP

Day 10 back to Anchorage to fly to Juneau or fly from Fairbanks but you need to find out id you can return RV in Fairbanks if you decide to rent one in Anchorage

Or

Day 1 Anchorage

Day 2, 3, 4 Homer

Day 5, 6, 7 Hatcher Pass or/and Matanuska Glacier

Day 8 Talkeetna

Day 9, 10, 11 Denali NP

Day 12, 13 Fairbanks

Day 14 back to Anchorage to fly to Juneau or fly from Fairbanks but you need to find out id you can return RV in Fairbanks if you decide to rent one in Anchorage.

Or

Day 1 Anchorage

Day 2, 3, 4 Seward

Day 5 Hatcher Pass or/and Matanuska Glacier

Day 6 Talkeetna

Day 7, 8, 9 Denali NP

Day 10 back to Anchorage to fly to Sitka via Juneau or fly from Fairbanks but you need to find out id you can return RV in Fairbanks if you decide to rent one in Anchorage

Day 11, 12, Sitka

Day 13 ferry to Juneau

Day 14 Juneau for whale watching

Every single destination has some fabulous hiking, kayaking in Homer and Seward, wildlife in Denali, nature viewing is around every corner in Alaska.

Seattle
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6. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

We just returned from a wonderful trip that included ten days spent on the Kenai Peninsula (Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park) and Denali. While we could happily have stayed forever, we found ten days was enough to see and experience the best of these two areas. We traveled by rental car, reserved ten months in advance based on advice given here. The cost for the car was only $300 for two weeks.

The Harding icefield hike at Seward is fantastic and a must-do if you enjoy hiking.

I suggest you fly into Anchorage for your Kenai and Denali adventure (spend one night in Talkeetna when driving between Seward and Denali to break up the drive). Return the car to Anchorage and fly to Juneau (or Sitka) for your cruise.

Anchorage, Alaska
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7. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

Car vs train

If you're going to be in south-central AK for a few (or more) days, I'd recommend a car rental (over train) for the convenience. Book a car now (at the lowest rate you find) and then check every week for a lower price. When you find a lower price, book it & cxl the prior reservation.

Ottawa, Canada
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8. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

Thank you so much for all your advice.

I think flying between Anchorage and Sitka or Juneau will definitely be the way to go.

I am also now going to look into an RV rather than a car rental and hotels for Denali/Anchorage/Kenai area.

Enzian - your trip sounds fabulous and 10 days would be the most we would. Do you have any good accommodation recommendations?

Adirondack, New York
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9. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

If you have only 10 days I cannot imagine how can you fit Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna, Denali, Juneau and Sitka into your itinerary. IMO, the most scenic mode of traveling to/from Sitka is by the ferry through spectacular Narrows.

Edited: 28 August 2012, 20:36
fti
MN
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10. Re: Help planning land portion of trip

>>If you have only 10 days...

The first post mentioned 10-14 days for the land portion. So I assume this is just for the land portion and not the cruise.

In any case, I would suggest flying from Anchorage to Sitka then take the ferry to Juneau. If you fly just from Anchorage to Juneau then take the ferry from there, you are adding a lot of extra time that you really don't have.

Edited: 28 August 2012, 20:46