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Visiting Alaska in May

New York City, New...
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Visiting Alaska in May

Hello,

I know that I ask questions below that are possibly/probably already answered on this forum, but searching and browsing in this vast amount of information to get answers on my specific questions is nearly impossible.

We are a family of 3 (2 adults and a 18 month old infant).

We are planning to rent an RV for 3 weeks.

We are arriving at and leaving from Anchorage, AK

Dates are from May 10 2014 until May 30 2014

We like to see natures in all forms: fauna & flora but the spectacular (and picture perfect) stuff has our preference ;->.

I like to take pictures (semi-pro) from landscapes (and wildlife if I have time because sometime you *need* to have time for this).

I would like to day hike

We would like to take a (or more) day-cruise(s)

We would like to see Aurora Borealis (and take pictures this time).

We don’t mind driving 400+ miles a day (if we would get a “reward” at the end of the day it makes would make it even better).

We don’t like driving on the same route twice.

To summarise: we would like to see a glimpse of Alaska in an organised and structured way

I have a few questions:

Is May feasible with an 18 month old infant?

Any suggestions in regards of clothing needs for the infant?

Are there enough (RV) parks along the way?

Does anybody some reliable links to RV parks (or links to certain forum topics)?

Do we need to reserve spaces in these parks or are will there be places available in May?

Any overall suggestions?

Thank you,

Filip

Healy, Alaska
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1. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

Well, the general tourist season starts mid-May, so you would be arriving just a bit early - I would head south and explore the Kenai Peninsula first before you head towards the Interior.

No aurora in May - too light.

Get a copy of the Milepost - it will be the best help in planning the roads to drive and your campgrounds/stops. I prefer state or national park campgrounds over privately owned ones. For Denali, I would do that on your last week, and I would make some reservations, preferably Teklanika.

clothes - for you and baby, layers are what you need! There is more information about clothes under the Top Questions.

Good luck with all your planning! :)

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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2. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

>>>We don’t like driving on the same route twice.<<<

Generally speaking I'm the same way about driving places on vacation but Alaska is different in that which way you are coming from directionally, makes a big difference in what you will see especially when winding through the mountains with valleys and vistas to see.

Also with the weather, you could be socked in with clouds/fog/rain on one day, and treated to spectacular sunshine and clear skies on another.

The beauty of having an RV is being mobile AND flexible in terms of getting up and moving along should the weather not be to your liking in one place.

Coalminer makes great advice about putting Denali NP at the end, and staying at Tek. If you do that, you will have the RV thing down to a science and able to dry camp for the 3-4 days. Tek requires a minimum three night paid reservation, although you could leave early if you so choose. The benefit to Tek, besides being 30 miles inside the park, beyond where private vehicles are permitted unless they are camping, is the TEK pass which is $34.50pp and is good for the length of your stay at Tek CG.

Generally speaking, I would start in Anchorage and head south down the Kenai Peninsula to either Seward or Homer. You could do both however. Keep in mind there is only one road down and back however, so backtracking will be unavoidable unless you bite the bullet and do the ferry (very costly with an RV).

Once back up to Anchorage, head north towards Palmer/Wasilla . . . then east on the Glenn Hwy. From there you can continue on to the Richardson Hwy. There you could head south to Valdez (will also be one road down and back) or north towards Delta Junction and on to Fairbanks.

After Fairbanks, catch the Parks Hwy south to Denali NP . . . and then continue on south after Denali back to Anchorage.

You can fill in days and attractions based on your interests and schedule. Milepost will be your best friend for that part of the planning.

Good luck! You're in for a real treat.

p.s. We pretty much did a variation of this routing ourselves in 2010. You'll find plenty of RV places along the way; no need to worry about reserving in advance other than at Denali NP. Here is the link to my travel blog from our 2010 RV adventure to give you some ideas . . . bennettsgreatalaskanadventure.blogspot.com/ . We'll be doing something similar again next summer, only skipping the Kenai Peninsula and adding Valdez.

Edited: 06 December 2013, 21:58
fti
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3. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

Welcome to the Alaska forum.

Traveling with an 18-month old will have its challenges. For example, you will need a car seat for the shuttle bus in Denali. I am not sure how car seats work with RV's but it is something you need to check into. Definitely put Denali last - the shuttle buses don't even start operating until May 20 and even then, then only go as far as Toklat through May 31, which is a disadvantage.

Re: driving up to 400 miles in a day. In Alaska that is absolutely crazy. You won't have time in a day to even drive that far, much less to have a "reward" at the end of the day. If you drive 300 miles in a day, that will be a lot. Remember, these are 2-lane roads not interstate highways. The Alaska DOT is already announcing major construction delays along the route from Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks. You will want to stop along the way even without a toddler, but that will be especially important with a toddler.

How will you do day hikes with the toddler? A backpack for him/her? If not, you won't be hiking very far.

Clothing for pretty much everyone is layers and rain gear. Same all season long from May to September.

With three weeks, I like TimeshareVon's itinerary - south to the Kenai Peninsula (I would go to Homer first since you can easily get from Anchorage to Homer in a day). I would spend at least 2 nights in each place unless you are truly "in transit." You might consider McCarthy/Kennicott in Wrangell/St. Elias NP, but that might not be of great interest with an infant.

Let us know if you need more assistance - just add to this thread with any other questions.

USA
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4. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

The first shuttles go into Denali May 20, another reason to going to Denali towards the end. When the shuttles first run is one of my favorite times into the park as there are animals near the roads & down low elevations. The shuttles will go to Toklat only, which is plenty far with a baby. At Tek campground you reserve for at least 3 days. So you could go once all together & then even switch off with the baby at the campground if need be.

Here is a great link for campgrounds in Denali to help you choose which one:

tripadvisor.com/…47170586

& Tek:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143022-i1271-k369…

May has always been our favorite month.

Bring a warm, hooded coat for the little one, hat & mittens. Warm layers & rain jackets for all.

Edited: 06 December 2013, 22:29
Anchorage, Alaska
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5. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

I'd do south 1st and north last just to reduce the chance of hitting winter conditions. We had plenty of snow in Denali when visited this year (just before Memorial Day).

Las Vegas, Nevada
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6. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

If I remember correctly there was a significant snowfall in Anchorage last May, mid month. Correct?

Besides the fact that some activities, sites, parks, excursions don't open until Memorial Day or even June 1, a heavy winter snow accumulation or spring snowfall may make some locations/sites inaccessible due to snow and slush. Read the May trip reports in 2012 and you'll learn about the problems that travellers encountered when they visited early in the season. If you have specific excursions or sights in mind, you should verify that they will be open during your time period.

Any chance you can adjust your trip by a week to include the first week of June?

Healy, Alaska
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7. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

Oh yescanada - we had snow in late May . . . lets hope that doesn't happen again!

Chugiak, Alaska
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8. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

Yes, it was only about two inches and was gone about a day and a half later (I remember it well because I was outside the entire day it was snowing as well as the days following it). That was the first time it's snowed and stuck in the six years I've lived here in May though (in the Anchorage area!!.

I personally think that anything prior to the last week or so of May is too early, simply because the things many people will want to do (day cruises, walking up to Exit Glacier, etc) aren't the best they could be and many, many hikes that I love are still full of snow.

It's not *bad* per se, but if coming up at that time, please understand that things people will be doing/seeing in June and July are not the same options for you (salmon fishing, seeing things actually green in Denali, etc).

I'm with yescanada on waiting until June if you can (I actually like late June best).

Feasibility with an 18 month old depends both on the 18 month old and on what you want to do. I agree that a long trip into Denali seems like not much of a possibility unless one parent wanted to stay with the kidlet at your lodging while the other went into the park for scenery or picture taking. But again, dependent on the kid. My friend's 15 month old is fine in the car for three hours at a time. If yours can manage four, you could make it to Eielson, get off that bus and let it roam for a while, have lunch and get on the list for a different bus. If you can schedule the bus around a regularly scheduled nap (and assuming your kid sleeps through naps even on bumpy roads) you could manage it.

Check out the Trip Reports (in the right hand column on the main Alaska forum under 'Top Questions about Alaska') from the last couple years and look for the headings that have 'RV' in them. We put effort into categorize Trip Reports so that it isn't impossible to find information. There's also a trip report in there from a lady that went on a family trip to Alaska with her 18 month or 2 year old. But she made plans to just go to the park with the kiddo at times while others did things like day cruises or long bus rides. I'll look some more and see if I can find it.

Here's one with a 2 year old:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k55287…

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k55312…

Edited: 07 December 2013, 07:35
Chugiak, Alaska
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9. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

Great RV trip report with lots of details on what you might want to buy/bring and details on the various RV parks/stops:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k67595…

Another RV trek:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k57279…

And there are several threads under the RV Top Question all about RV options, etc in Alaska. For example, 'Pros and Cons of RVs vs Lodging'; 'Companies to use or avoid', etc.

Chugiak, Alaska
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10. Re: Visiting Alaska in May

Also, highly unlikely that you'll see the Northern Lights in May. I haven't in the six years I've been up here and I track them pretty seriously, but maybe I've just been unlucky.

I've managed it in April, but that's the latest I've seen them until August. Of the seven sets of pics that have been good enough for me to save, five were in March, one in Feb and one in April.