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Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

Malmo, Sweden
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Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

Hi there

We are planning a trip to (mainly) Alaska this year, around end of Aug, early Sep. The plan is to stay for around 3-4 weeks. However, we discovered that our usual method of travelling doesn't really work here. Usually we rent a car and just drive, getting off whenever/wherever both with prebooked as well as spontaneous activities. In Alaska, it seems though like we miss out on a big part of the country if we'd do that. Looking at the ferry system, it seems quite complicated to get all the way from e.g. Washington or BC to Whittier or Anchorage without bringing a car along.

The huge cruise vessels and herding people around do not appeal to us. We would like to see the fjords, glaciers, icebergs, mountains and the special nature rather than the indoor pools and shopping. Would like to visit some native villages as well if possible. Want to see the wildlife (especially bears, whales, seals and eagles), experience the nature on horseback, go all the way up north and enjoy the scenery and what is specific for Alaska, Yukon and perhaps the NorthWest Ts, etc. By boat, airplanes, train and car.

We did find a company that seems to arrange some trips for smaller groups (I think, can't really find that info) but they do not run their own vessels, they use the marine highway ferries. A couple of their packages look good, at least what can be read between the lines but the prices seem too high and also it seems to cover just a small portion of what we'd like to do with too much organized transportation, too short time in ports and so on.

So now I wonder how you guys who have been doing this kind of travels for a while would put together something like this? We are 2 adults, do not require regular beds and our own pillow, sleeping in car/tent/boats, etc is OK. Food - not picky, no need for 3-course meals at Michelin star restaurants, the locals' hang-outs are often the most pleasant places. So what do you think? Recommandations? The tours we looked at are the ones arranged by Viking Travel, called "Heart of Gold" - 14 days and "Gems of Alaska" - 15 days. On alaskaferryvacations.com/Ferry_FerryRoutesan…

Greateful for all help.

haines, alaska
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1. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

The Alaska Marine Highway ferry schedule can be daunting at first.......but just keep in mind that the weekly ferry from Bellingham Washington leaves every Friday evening.....and arrives in Skagway 3.5 days later, turning around and returning to Bellingham at that point......

You do not need to have a car with you, in fact, the ferry is much cheaper without a vehicle and gives you more freedom since you do not have to book deck space, you do not need reservations as walk on passengers.....

Just pick which ports you want to spend more time in, depending on what you want to do in each port (there are locals in all of them)......then hop one of the other summer ferries to make your way onto your next port.....most ferry terminals are not near the cruise ship docks, so you would need to book accommodations ahead of time in each port, and having one which will pick you up at the ferry terminal is great, just ask in advance.......most ports also have hostels which are less expensive than hotels, but might require using a taxi or rental car to reach them......

Whichever port you are in, it would be helpful to have a rental car for at least one day......those should be booked ahead of time, too......

Since you do not require a cabin to sleep in while traveling on the ferry, you can either bring a tent and sleep on the protected top deck, or rent a blanket/pillow combo from the purser on the ferry to sleep in one of the deck chairs.....the ferries also have free showers and will rent you a towel combo for the day.......meals are not three course, they are served cafeteria style and you pick what you want to eat......

No need to choose a canned trip from Viking or any other travel agency.....you will not find the true ferry prices on their websites......here is the official website http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/

Start with that and play around with your travel dates.....maybe research each towns official website to see what is available to do at each town to help determine how many days you want to spend in each town......

Do note that the cross sound route from Juneau to Cordova and Whittier will eat up another 3+ days of your schedule just on the boat, and only runs once a week.......it may cost you a little more to fly onto Anchorage from Juneau......maybe not, considering that you would need to either take the train or bus from Whittier to Anchorage, come to think about it......

From Anchorage you could either pick up a rental car to drive to Denali or Seward or Homer, then return the car before flying home......

End of August is a good time to see most of the animals on your list......

So keep all your questions on this post, and return to add any questions as they arise.......there are lots of people who can share their Alaskan travel expertise with you based on their own experiences.....

Malmo, Sweden
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2. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

Great reply, Mombear, thanks, will look at the official ferry site :-) It's a bit confusing with the different routes and ports and schedules.

haines, alaska
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3. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

You can do it !!......Aaand the trip you plan will be customized just for you !......

Anchorage, Alaska
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4. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

"...our usual method of travelling doesn't really work here..." ???

Traveling by car works great up here and I think you could have a magnificent trip by car.

Here's a link to a Google map, http://goo.gl/maps/xhXQL , that shows a driving route that includes a whole lot of Alaska's great places to visit/see and a little of the Yukon. I've based it on starting and finishing in Anchorage. I think the only issue is making sure one has enough time to see all of this in 3 to 4 weeks.

All you do is figure out your dates, get a plane tix, reserve the car, and go. A Milepost (see: themilepost.com ) would be an invaluable tool to help plan and while you are driving.

Good luck,

Scott

Edited: 09 January 2014, 17:03
Malmo, Sweden
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5. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

Thanks Scott, have already ordered the Milepost. It just takes a while to get it all the way here. Interesting route, have followed it on my road atlas, looks good. Couldn't really see though if it's all land or should take a ferry anyway when getting closer to the coast.

Anchorage, Alaska
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6. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

The only ferry is between Skagway & Haines.

Also, the distances are accurate but Google Maps underestimates the actual duration/time for the drives (doesn't account for traffic, accidents, construction, sight-seeing, etc.).

Greater Sydney...
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7. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

You will have a short ferry trip between Skagway and Haines on the route plotted by Scott.

(Edit) Scott replied while I was considering how good that route was. :)

Edited: 09 January 2014, 23:21
Malmo, Sweden
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8. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

OK, you seem to agree ;-)

What about the areas like Glacier Park, Juneau, Petersburg, Ketchikan? I might be wrong but when looking at the map the areas and the coast, cities/villages and islands around here seem to have a very special nature. And Kodiak? What's the best way to visit? Flight + 4wd transport? Other? Purpose - primarily bear watching and photographing.

haines, alaska
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9. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

Nice visual Scott, good job !

13-a, You can reach Glacier bay by a short plane hop over the mountain from Haines.....there are regularly scheduled small planes every day during the summer......The only hitch is that Glacier Bay Lodge and tours closes down for the season during the first week of September each year.......

Also from Haines or Skagway the ferry will continue south to Juneau and Petersburg and Ketchikan.....you might have to change ferries in Juneau depending on the schedule......

Sorry can't help you with Kodiak......haven't been there, yet.....

Malmo, Sweden
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10. Re: Alaska-YT-NWT - late summer - water-land-air combo

Closing already first week of September??? Wow, that was early. Thanks, totally overlooked it, thought the season lasted at least until end Sep.