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itinerary and sightseeing help - Aug'13 travel from Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois
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itinerary and sightseeing help - Aug'13 travel from Chicago.

My wife and I have been rummaging through this great forum. I have been able to get some great info while still need some answers!

Few of my questions are:

[1] We are vegetarians - will there be enough options for us in this journey?

[2] Renting car vs. RV?

[3] Which are the things we can avoid and add in our trip?

[4] How can we make this cost effect for budget travelers? Hotel are expensive!

[5] Great scenic drives/ photographic spots in our journey.

[6] Coupon books worth it?

[7] Weather and dressing?

Our itinerary is something like this from 23'Aug [Friday] to 31'Aug [Saturday] from Chicago -

Anchorage - Talkeetna - Denali - Anchorage - Chicago.

[Day 1] Friday, August 23, 2013 >> 9.55AM - 1.50PM >> ORD to ANC

Unwind at hotel;

Get rental car;

Dinner at Bombay Deluxe Indian Restaurant - pack lunch and dinner for Talkeetna/ Denali.

[Day 2] Saturday, August 24, 2013 >> 8AM - 11.30AM;

6PM - 10PM >> ANC to Denali Via Talkeetna

Early Breakfast 7AM @ ANC;

Drive to Talkeetna;

Early Lunch 12PM;

1PM Flightseeing - 3 hrs;

6PM drive to Denali - check into hotel;

[Day 3] Sunday, August 25, 2013 >> 11.30AM - 3hrs+ >> Denali National Park;

Local drive around/ Relax at hotel;

[Day 4] Monday, August 26, 2013 >> Denali National Park;

Shuttle bus tour for DNP;

[Day 5] Tuesday, August 27, 2013 >> Denali National Park;

If we have energy do Mt. Healy Overlook Trail?

[Day 6] Wednesday, August 28, 2013 >> Denali National Park;

Drive around for photographic spots;

Final night at DNP;

[Day 7] Thursday, August 29, 2013 >> 11.30AM - 7hrs+ >> DNP to ANC; ANC; Day Cruise;

Check out of hotel;

Drive to Anchorage via Talkeetna;

Check in ANC hotel till Saturday;

Dinner at Indian restaurant;

[Day 8] Friday, August 30, 2013

9AM train to Whitter;

12.50PM Day cruise;

7PM train back to ANC;

[Day 9] Saturday, August 31, 2013

Relax/ local sightseeing/ Lunch at Indian Restaurant;

Prep for home;

Reach home Sunday Morning!

Thank you in advance for any feedback.

Mehul

fti
MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
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15,375 posts
28 reviews
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1. Re: itinerary and sightseeing help - Aug'13 travel from Chicago.

Welcome to the forum.

1) Yes you will find plenty of vegetarian options when dining in Alaska. You should also buy some of your own groceries for your trip to Denali for the shuttle bus into the park.

2) Only you can decide the cost difference and value between renting a car and renting an RV. An RV gives you more flexibility (you really only need to book Denali NP campground in advance. My guess is the RV + gas will cost more than rental car + lodging + gas. But you need to crunch the numbers and decide for your self.

3) See below

4) Best way to travel in Alaska on a budget is to plan way in advance. That is not possible now, so you just do the best you can. I don't eat out much when I am in Alaska (figure that savings when comparing RV vs. lodging). Another way to reduce the budget is to find lodging that might not be what you prefer. Can you accept shared bathrooms? Maybe cabins? Maybe a private room in a hostel?

5) So much of Alaska is "photogenic" that it is hard to give just a few tips here.

6) Like RV vs. rental car, only you can decide. Check the Top Questions about Alaska for info on the two coupon books. Figure out what savings you might have if you bought one (or both) books. If the savings is more than the cost of the book, buy the book. If not, don't buy it. Beware of buying the book for a "2-for-1" lodging deal that puts you in a location for more nights than you might otherwise really need to be there.

7) This topic is also covered in the Top Questions about Alaska. Same packing list whether one comes in mid May, mid September or anywhere in between.

I assume you have checked car rental rates both on-airport and off-airport for your dates. Book a car rental now if you haven't and keep checking regularly for price drops.

If it were me, I would be on a shuttle bus into Denali NP on both Sun Aug 25 and Mon Aug 26. Your interest in scenery and photographic shots seems high, relaxing at the hotel?? I would relax both days on the shuttle bus - get into the park, try to spot wildlife, etc. If you call for Denali shuttle bus reservations, you get a third day on the bus free when you book two days. So I would call and also book Tue Aug 27 on the bus. Book all days to Wonder Lake. Then once you arrive, decide which two of the three days you will use depending on weather. Also decide how far you will travel on the shuttle bus, depending on the weather (I would only go to Wonder Lake if Mt. McKinley is visible).

Aug 28 maybe use that day to drive to Savage River (15 miles into the park), do the easy Savage River Loop hike, see the sleddog demo, the visitor center film and exhibits and more.

I don't understand Aug 30. Will you still have your car? You want to take the train to Whittier, which will greatly increase your costs vs. just driving. Plus, talk about scenery and photos - the entire stretch of road between Anchorage and Whittier is so photogenic. I want to drive that road on my own and stop multiple times at the various pullouts for photos, looking for Dalls sheep on the mountainside, even for moose or other wildlife viewing that is sometimes seen. If you really want the train ride to Whittier, I guess you could do it this day, then on Aug 31 drive the same route with your car. You can easily spend a full day along this route. Do note however that this is Labor Day weekend so you will probably encounter more traffic on both Friday and Saturday than normal.

You obviously like Indian food, but I suggest you venture out and try other food as well. Three times or more eating Indian food (as much as I like Indian food myself) can get old when there are so many other choices available.

If you are indeed taking the PWS glacier cruise, I would think you can easily save the cost of the coupon book just with this, whether you drive or take the train. Northern Lights coupon book has both Alaska Railroad and PWS tour coupons in their book.

Chugiak, Alaska
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2. Re: itinerary and sightseeing help - Aug'13 travel from Chicago.

If you are going for Indian food because they have good veg options, know that there are tons of veg friendly places in Anchorage. One of my friends is border line Vegan and she loves Spenard Roadhouse, Organic Oasis, Moose's Tooth, and grabbing prepared food from New Sagaya (a grocery store in Anchorage). Also the two best Indian restaurants in Anchorage are Yak and Yeti (the one on Spenard has more options than the one next to REI) and Bombay Deluxe. I like Y&Y over Bombay, but Bombay has a larger menu. And I could eat Indian food for a week straight not get tired of it, but understand that there are other good places in Anchorage that have nice veg choices.

In Denali, I'd get a reservation at 229 Parks. And there used to be a food truck that had good Thai food.

And like John, I'd skip the train ride and drive. Plenty of great stops and the pull-outs are on your way south to Whittier so leave plenty of time to stop and enjoy the scenery on the way down.

USA
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3. Re: itinerary and sightseeing help - Aug'13 travel from Chicago.

From your forum name I gather you are looking for Indian food.... New Sagaya in Anchorage has yummy naan for your picnics, boil-in-a-bag Indian dishes that could be opened to microwave, & other options. The one plus regarding your RV question is that you all could cook your own food. Or perhaps find cabins with a stove, bringing some simple cookware.

Bring clothes to dress in layers & a rain jacket.

Chicago, Illinois
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4. Re: itinerary and sightseeing help - Aug'13 travel from Chicago.

Many thanks to FTI and AT,

Our confirmed itenary and expenses for others to view and plan off, of:

[Day 1] Friday, August 23, 2013 >> 9.55AM - 1.50PM >> ORD to ANC

@ ANC.

[Day 2] Saturday, August 24, 2013 >> 8AM - 11.30AM;

6PM - 10PM >> ANC to DNP Via Talkeetna

1PM Flightseeing - 3 hrs;

Skip staying at Talkeetna and head directly to DNP;

[Day 3] Sunday, August 25, 2013 >> 11.30AM - 3hrs+ >> Denali National Park;

6:45AM Shuttle to Wonderlake - Hoping the weather gods play good. Based on info from forum its a good 12 hr day! Hoping to make the most of shuttle ride and photography.

[Day 4] Monday, August 26, 2013 >> Denali National Park;

9:15AM Shuttle to a closer scenic spot - do more landscape photography;

[Day 5] Tuesday, August 27, 2013 >> Denali National Park;

If we have energy do Mt. Healy Overlook Trail near Wilderness center;

Final day at DNP;

Free Shuttle ride optional;

[Day 6] Wednesday, August 28, 2013 >> Denali National Park to ANC;

Planning a late day;

Check out and drive back to ANC;

Overnight at ANC;

[Day 7] Thursday, August 29, 2013 >> 11.30AM - 7hrs+ >>

ANC to Seward [Many Thanks to FTI, AT]

Drive to Seward, enjoy scenic drive and do photography on the way;

Spend night at Seward.

[Day 8] Friday, August 30, 2013 >> 11.30AM Kenei FJords curise.

See glaciers and relax with family on the boat;

Stay at Seward overnight.

[Day 9] Saturday, August 31, 2013 >>

Drive back in morning;

Lunch and local downtown with family;

Bye bye AK!

Our expenses (2 people) so far:

Airfare 1,341.00

Hotel

- Ankorage (2N) 270.00

- DNP (4N) 571.20

- Seward (2N) 410.00

Car Rental 560.00

Nation Park Shuttle 204.00

One Day Cruise 325.86

Flightseeing* 847.00

Gas* + Food* 1,000.00

***********************************

Total 5,529.06

* Estimated cost

fti
MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
15,375 posts
28 reviews
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5. Re: itinerary and sightseeing help - Aug'13 travel from Chicago.

Think about buying a coupon book - see the Top Questions - to save on Kenai Fjords tour and sightseeing.

Dont plan yet which days you will go into the park and how far - decide that once you are there based on weather and other factors.

Edited: 02 July 2013, 05:55
6. Re: itinerary and sightseeing help - Aug'13 travel from Chicago.

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