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Help with itinerary and questions

San Francisco, CA
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Help with itinerary and questions

Hello,

We (2 couples with a 3-year old each) booked our tickets to Alaska for late August. We reach Anchorage on 26th August at midnight and will be staying that night in a hotel in Anchorage. Here is the itinerary that we came up with so far. Can you please help us figure out the questions below (inline with itinerary)?

Day 1 (Aug 27th)

- Drive to Seward

>> Ques: do you suggest any specific sight-seeing stops on the way?

- Stop at Girdwood for the Alyeska resort tram ride

>> Ques: do you think we can also visit the wildlife conservation center or will that be too many things for the day?

- Drive to Exit glacier

- Stay the night at Seward.

Day 2 (Aug 28th)

- Take the day cruise in Seward to watch whales and glaciers (thinking of taking the 6-hour tour with Kenai Fjords at 8am or 11:30am.

>> Ques: Any suggestions/tips for going on this boat tour with 2 little kids?

>> Ques: Is motion sickness really bad (for people who usually have it or for little kids)?

>> Ques: If weather is rainy that day (since it is late August), do you think we will still be able to see any wildlife?

- Stay the night in Seward

Day 3 (Aug 29th)

- Drive up to Denali.

>> Ques: Any specific stops that you can suggest? We are going to do a leisure drive and stop to admire the scenery (and also to let the preschoolers run around a bit)

>> Ques: how long does the drive usually take (maps says 4 hours, but wondering what the average is in real world, with scenic stops)?

- In the evening, maybe check out the sleddog tour at Huskey Homestead

- Stay in Denali

Day 4 (Aug 30th)

- Park shuttle tour in Denali that covers Mt. Mckinley.

>> Ques: Based on our research, it looks like shuttle bus might work better for us than tour bus as we can have a picnic with the kids (versus sitting in bus continuously). Do you think that's true?

>> Ques: We would like to see some wild life and admire the beauty of Denali and Mt Mckinley but we also understand the restrictions with kids. What are your suggestions for us at Denali?

- Stay back in Denali

Day 5 (Aug 31st):

- Head back from Denali

- Stop at Talkateena, maybe do a flight-seeing tour

>> Ques: Not all of us might do this, or maybe each couple will go separately as we can watch kids on the ground that way - we are not sure the kids would enjoy this tour. does that make sense?

>> Ques: Is there anything else we must do/see while in Talkateena?

- Stay in Anchorage

Day 6 (Sept 1st)

- Matunska Glacier

- Weekend market

- board the flight at midnight

>> Ques: Anything else that we are missing?

>> Ques: Can you please let me know your overall feedback on our itinerary as well?

Thanks in advance! These forums have been of invaluable help while planning the trip and coming up with this itinerary. I am hoping to use your feedback and making this trip really memorable for our families.

San Francisco, CA
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1. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

Also, we can swap Seward and Denali and do Denali first as well. For the last week of August, what would you suggest (if a couple of days earlier matters for Denali/Seward for any reason)?

Thanks,

Madhuri

fti
MN
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2. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

I absolutely would not suggest driving from Seward to Denali in one way with two 3-year olds. You are just asking for trouble from the start. I have no idea where you saw information that said this drive is four hours. It is 375 miles. If someone does it in four hours, that means they are traveling over 90mph! If everything falls into place, you are looking at a minimum of 8 hours with little or no stops, but it can easily take 12-14 hours depending on traffic, road construction, even an accident. I drove from Seward to Talkeetna one year with no significant delays and just a stop in Anchorage for lunch and a quick grocery stop and that stretch alone took me 8-1/2 hours. It is another 3 hours from there to Denali.

Personally I think you are being quite overambitious with two 3-year olds, but only you know the kids. With tours such as Kenai Fjords, there is no "way out" on those tours if a kid acts up, gets seasick, etc. It could end up being a miserable day both for the parents as well as for everyone else on board.

For Denali, it is not a zoo and scenery usually holds little interest for kids. So I can see the 3 year olds getting pretty bored pretty quickly.. I would absolutely not even consider the tour bus with the kids. The shuttle bus will give you the flexibility as you said. Also, if anyone (kids or not) is not quiet at wildlife stops, the driver will just leave. So if your kids act up, it might be best to get off the bus, have your picnic, a short walk, etc. and get on another bus. Do realize however that you will need car seats for the kids, so it is not as easy as it might initially sound.

Perhaps with multiple days in the park one of the parents can stay behind with both kids while the other three go into the park, then switch off the next day. You can find a park, the sleddog demo or other more "kid-friendly" activities than the long shuttle bus trip into the park.

If it were me, I would switch Denali and Seward mainly because the fall colors will probably peak in late August. But if you go to Seward first, I would make Talkeetna the overnight stop on the way from Seward to Denali. If you go to Denali first, I would make Girdwood the overnight stop on the way from Denali to Seward.

I would not spend the night in Anchorage then trek out to Matanuska Glacier for part of the day. It is a 2-hour drive each way plus time at the glacier. If you are going to go there, go from Denali to Matanuska and spend the night, then the next morning go to the glacier before driving to Anchorage. Your time is too short and too valuable to be backtracking and wasting time driving, especially with two young kids. However, again, with two 3-year olds, I am not sure how much interest that will hold for them.

There is a lot to see/do along Turnagain Arm near Girdwood that would hold the kids' interest (check the Top Questions about Girdwood for ideas). I would definitely be spending time in this area with the kids, which seems to be totally missing in your plan.

New England
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3. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

>> Ques: Is motion sickness really bad (for people who usually have it or for little kids)?<<

Motion sickness is a real possibility, especially as the boat leaves the more protected waters of Ressurection Bay.

>> Ques: If weather is rainy that day (since it is late August), do you think we will still be able to see any wildlife?<<

Seeing wildlife is never guaranteed. We went on the water taxi along the same route on a very wet and rainy day and saw lots of wildlife but that doesn't mean you will.

USA
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4. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

Any lodging already booked?

Here are the child restraint seat laws for AK & DNP shuttle buses:

reservedenali.com/plan/alaska-car-seat-laws.…

San Francisco, CA
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5. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

@fti, Thank you so much for the valuable inputs! Google maps was showing 4 hours from Anchorage - Denali (and another 2.5 hours for Seward - ANC) but we were skeptical too, and your feedback will help us plan a stop mid-way. @coolwaterdive, thank you! We are a bit worried about sea sickness, will look for remedies/prevention - do you have any tips? @denalicat, we booked Denali accommodation for our day2 & 3 at Grande Denali resort but we might cancel it and book River cabins (for day4 and day5) if we go to seward first and Denali next (like in my itinerary posted above) - still trying to finalize the itinerary.

About fall colors, do you mean they are better in Denali or Seward? Our initial itinerary had Denali first and Seward next (and we also have Denali accommodation booked) but we found a better accommodation for later in the trip at a cheaper price too ($199 versus $130), so we were considering doing Seward first.

Also, we were initially worried about Denali for same reasons (kids not being as interested) and wanted to do a 4 night trip in south central Alaska but everyone who went to Alaska suggested we not skip it and so, we extended the trip by 2 days. Do you think we should skip Denali? If we do not go to the tours, will we still be able to enjoy the national park and what it offers?

We will try to work out the details on park shuttles, so we may go separately without the kids...maybe only do part of the trip each time..that way, the kids will have fun at Huskey Homestead or at the various parks in the meanwhile. Thanks for the details on car seats and related issues with the hop-on, hope-off. And will also explore Turnagain Arm.

Edited: 16 July 2013, 15:56
fti
MN
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6. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

Almost all the time, I suggest at least 2 or 3 nights in Denali. But with two 3-year olds, that changes the game a lot. As i mentioned above, maybe the best compromise is for one parent to stay behind one day wtih the kids while the other three adults go into the park to Eielson on the shuttle. Then the next day, one of the other parents stays behind. That way some of you get into the park one day and others two days, while the kids are enjoying a local city park, the visitor center, the sleddog demo, maybe a drive the first 15 miles of the road and the easy Savage River Loop hike, etc. Lots to keep the kids occupied near the entrance, but it involves compromises. Personally I think everyone would enjoy Denali a LOT more if you split up those days.

San Francisco, CA
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7. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

Thank you! I am going to talk to my husband and the other couple so we can all come up with a plan that works for us.

Regarding Fall colors, can you please elaborate? Do you think sooner the better as the leaves might fall by the time we go, if we go later?

Canandaigua
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8. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

Places to visit with 3 year olds in Alaska: the Alaska Zoo, the Sealife center, the Alaska Wildlife Center, the Musk Ox Farm, beaches where they can walk around and throw rocks, and easy trails that you can let them walk some.

If your kids sleep in the car during the day, they will be up all night.

When we travelled with our young children, we chose a base and avoided long periods of restraint/confinement whenever possible.

I can't imagine flight seeing will appeal, or very long bus rides, or days in the car.

Why not stay in Girdwood and do more local activities?

fti
MN
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9. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

>>Regarding Fall colors, can you please elaborate? Do you think sooner the better as the leaves might fall by the time we go, if we go later?

It is hard to pinpoint the peak of fall colors in Denali, but usually it is the last week of August and into the first week of September. I am not going to be there until Sep 4 so I hope the peak is a bit late this year, but it is what it is. I am trying to combine fall colors and Road Lottery, so going any earlier was out of the question for me. If I had my choice, I would be at Denali in late August vs. early September.

San Francisco, CA
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10. Re: Help with itinerary and questions

Thank you all! We took all your suggestions, made a few adjustments to our itinerary so we can go on Denali shuttles in 2 groups w/o kids. Booked our hotels and are very excited :)