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First Trip this summer

New York
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First Trip this summer

I am thinking of making my first trip to Aslaska this summer, flying from NYC. I'd be able to arrive anytime after July 1, and could return anytime by August 20. If I am looking to do about 2 weeks, is there a best time to go in that range weatherwise?

I will also be on a budget. Is Alaska a bad trip to do on a budget?

Thanks. I'm sure there will be many more questions to come.

Stu

haines, alaska
Destination Expert
for Haines
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1. Re: First Trip this summer

Airfare will be your biggest expense......so after you arrive you may want to spend as much time here as possible.......ground transportation is expensive also, as it usually includes a tour guide........renting a car will give you more flexibility and freedom......you can check out the rates on-line......generally renting a car at the airport in Anchorage is more expensive than having one delivered to your hotel.....(extra taxes)........Hotels can be expensive also, but depending on your tastes you could stay at B&B's, hostels or even camp out........

Let's start with your budget, how many of you will be coming and what you want to see and do while you are in Alaska.....lots of help out here on this forum !

Orlando, Florida
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2. Re: First Trip this summer

Have you checked the airfare websites? Some of the major airlines were offering huge discounts to Anchorage, Alaska from NYC for travel through the summer months. This was a couple of months ago. Airfares were as low af $350.00 round trip. If you haven't done so yet, sign up with some of the web travel sites (Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia) to inform you of supersales.

Belleview, Florida
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3. Re: First Trip this summer

Hi Stu,

I know you must be excited about your trip to Alaska. We are in the process of planning our first trip there also and are extremely excited. We are a family of 5 travelling with another family of 5. My suggestions may or may not be helpful depending on if you are traveling alone or with others.

I wanted to mention to you that Alaska Airlines has a credit card (issued by Bank of America) an they are constantly runnning offers for those that open a new card. A few months back they offered a $50 Companion Certificate upon approval so my husband and I each got a card and each of us purchased a ticket and were able to buy a ticket for 2 of the kids for $50.00 each. By making the purchases with the card (and a few other promotions they were running) we were able to use the miles to get the 5th ticket. So basically we paid full price ($658 R/T each) for 2 tickets and $100 for the remaining 3.

I don't know if their promotions would help you or not but if so their website is www.alaskaair.com. I know it was a tremendous savings for me. Good Luck!

Another savings option would be the toursaver book. I haven't decided whether I'm purchasing this one or not but it gives 2-for-1 deals on lots of different tours. Their website is www.toursaver.com.

Hope this helps. Have a great trip!!

Riverhead, New York
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4. Re: First Trip this summer

Us, too! June will be our 20th anniversary and we'd love to splurge, but we have a 17 and 13 year old - college costs loom and it is kind of scary! We would leave from the New York City area.

Any thoughts on "LAST MINUTE" type sites? Are there any bargains to be had?

I was thinking about a cruise with day trips through the cruise line - but that makes the airfare 2 one way trips and that is expensive. How are the cruises that begin and end at the same port?

My other thought is a land package through a tour operator - any recommendations?

Thanks - I know this is a very broad question!

Adirondack, New York
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5. Re: First Trip this summer

StuQ, we visited Alaska in June, July, August, September and as anywhere else you never know. Just go any time you can but go and visit.

RLTF, how about a land tour without a tour operator? Instead hiring someone to decide what would be the best for your family just do it on your own. You can fly in and out of Anchorage.

It is very easy to come up with your own itinerary and make all arrangements without any agency involvement. If you read very recent posts right here on this forum you'll be able to figure out how to proceed. Furthermore, many posters here, especially Alaskans, are very knowledgeable and always ready to suggest and give recommendations.

We never use RV but many people enjoy traveling by RVs in Alaska. I think this would be an ideal option for a family of four.

Another thing, come up with a specific number for your budget. Maybe what is a budget to me is not a budget to you so it is hard to make any specific suggestions. In another post I read someone is on a budget and he/she cannot spend more than $5,000 for two weeks excluding flights. Well, that's not being on a budget, IMO.

We travel to Alaska every year for at least two weeks each time and never ever we spent more than $3,000 excluding flights. We always include bear watching trip and that's around $1,000. We stay in nice cabins or hotels, visit places where we need to fly in, rent a car that is at least a medium size, eat out often, take our friends for dinner once or twice, take the ferry, take a flight around Mount McKinley, fly to Wrangell-St. Elias NP and stay at the Kennecott Lodge, take a water taxi across the bay in Homer for hiking, take a whale watching all day tour, visit Seldovia from Homer, take a cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park. Of course we don't do all the above things every time but many activities we include in our itinerary cost nothing or very little. Hiking is a great way to use energy, appreciate amazing views, see blooming tundra, occasionally see wildlife, take endless photos and feel wilderness of Alaska.

It is your choice how you spend your money but it is possible to not go over your budget, whatever it is. However, want to stay in hotels or lodges and have a room with an amazing view then you have to be prepared to pay more. If you want to eat three meals a day in restaurants then you are going to spend a fortune especially with two kids. If you want to rent a luxurious car then more money is involved. If you want to visit Wrangell-St. Elias park then you need to add more $ but if you want to visit Denali National Park then there is a way to do it with a very limited budget. If you want to go hiking on glacier with crampons then it is not very expensive activity but something you'll remember for a long time.

As you see I can go on and on just to let you know there is a way to visit Alaska and not spend a fortune but you you need to plan your own trip and reserve a RV very soon. Post more questions here and many of us are always willing to make suggestions and share our own experiences.

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kansas city, mo
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6. Re: First Trip this summer

Our family visited Alaska last summer and planned the entire trip ourselves with help from the great people on this forum. We flew in and out of Anchorage and rented a car. The airfare was the big expense. We had two teenage girls with us and hooked up with our 25 year old son who is working in Girdwood. Definitely do not rent your car from the airport - we were able to rent through Enterprise on line for about $250, and we asked for a mid-size, but they didn't have one, so we ended up with a Trailblazer; they picked us up at the hotel and took us to the Enterprise office so that we could get the car. We did pay an extra $40 so that we could drop the car off at the airport on our return because we were flying out late at night and didn't want to try to figure anything else out.

We were only there for a week, and our itinerary was pretty brief, but I feel like we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the kids will never forget it. The first night we stayed in Anchorage - hotels are expensive, but we got in late at night and didn't really have much time to do anything else. We spent the first day in Anchorage, visited the Native Heritage Center, and wandered around downtown, but didn't find much else there. The next day we headed to Denali, stopping at Talkeetna for a couple of hours to wander the streets and enjoy the atmosphere. This would be a great stop over to take a flight tour if you wanted to, but we were on a little tighter budget. We drove the rest of the way to Denali that same day, enjoying great views and stopping occasionally to get some photos of wildlife. We stayed in a Carlo Creek Cabins, and had a very adequate cabin that had 2 full size beds and a set of bunks, a kitchen and shower/bathroom (some of the cabins there are sleeping only - not an option for teenage girls!). The prices were very reasonable, and there was plenty of space around the cabin to wander lesiurely (we were not that interested in hard-core hiking) and to the delight of the girls, we even had cell phone service! There are not many places to eat and we didn't find anything except a convenience store for buying groceries, so it would be wise to stock up before leaving Anchorage. We took the bus ride into Denali that same day - remember it is light until about 11:00 p.m. in the summer, so we were able to pack alot into that one day. If you want to get out an hike in Denali, you will want to take an earlier bus so that you can catch another one back. The next day we did a rafting expedition with Denali Outdoor Center - the guide was great and the kids had a blast, and it, too, was reasonably priced. The evening was just spent wandering around "Glitter Gultch" which doesn't really "glitter" - I think there must be a law against neon in Alaska! The pleasant surprise was the lack of commercialism - very little money spent on souvenirs - there just were not many places selling that stuff. The next day we headed back to Anchorage - we stopped at the Musk Ox Farm - a fun diversion and an hour or so out of the car, and the Ididarod Headquarters in Palmer - there was not much there - I wished we would have done the sled dog demo at Denali instead (and it's free). We then headed south of Anchorage and stayed in Girdwood - Alta House Rentals - and had a nice condo with a double bed and pull-out bed for the girls. My son lives there, so we didn't need space for him (but unfortunately he shares an apartment and there wasn't room for us). The tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska is fun and the views are beautiful. The town is fun to wander around in - we were able to turn the teenagers loose, and have a nice dinner at Chair 5 restaurant without them :) You could paraglide from the top of the mountain if you are up for adventure. We panned for gold at Crow Creek Gold Mine - fun, don't forget the bug spray, though, and you probably won't get rich, but it's so pretty there that it's easy just to while away the time and splash around in the water a little.

The next day we drove to Seward and took the Renown Tours cruise to Kenai. We opted for the less expensive one, that didn't include a stop at a private island. We were on the boat for about 6 hours, and had spectacular views of the glaciers and we were fortunate enough to see lots of whales - orcas and humpbacks. After the cruise we were ready for dinner - there aren't a lot of choices in Seward, and there is almost nothing between Seward and Anchorage - just beautiful scenery. Since my son lives in Girdwood, we drove back there for the night, but you may want to head over to Whittier. We had one more day in Girdwood after that and we spent it wandering around the town, stopping at the Kobuk Valley Jade Shop, and mostly just relaxing in the beautiful surroundings. We topped our vacation off with dinner at Seven Glaciers which is located at the top of the mountain and you have to take the tram to get there. Reservations are pretty much a necessity. It is very expensive, but since my son works there we did have a nice discount. You can check out the menu on-line at Aleyska.com. If the meal is out of your budget, you could enjoy the view from the bar and have a drink and/or appetizers. But I must say, the food was incredible and the service made us feel like royalty. We had to make a speedy trip back to Anchorage to catch our flight out (we lingered for 4 hours over dinner) and return the rental car. I know there are lots of things we didn't get to see, but we did see lots of wildlife in Denali, got a nice view of McKinley (on a rare, cloudless day), and enjoyed the wilderness - plus a nice week with our son. Next trip I would do a flight excursion and bear watching, we saw some, but from the bus and too far away, and I would spend some time going south to Whittier, and further down toward Juno. I think there would be more native culture there (and probably more touristy - so it depends on what you want).

Not including airfare, we were able to do this trip for under $3000. Well worth it for the experience.

Now I'm just trying to figure out how to justify the expense to make a winter trip to Alyeska (it would be much cheaper to fly our son home than for us to fly there, but we sure can't offer much of a view here in Missouri - we don't even have any snow yet!)

If you decide to plan your own trip and drive, get a copy of the Milepost - it is a must. You can order it on-line from Amazon or probably order it from your favorite bookstore. It will give you mile-by-mile descriptions of every major road in Alaska so you can decide just where you want to go.

Enjoy - and remember that the planning is half the fun of the trip! All the money you save on the lack of souvenirs would be well spent on a great camera before you go.

7. Re: First Trip this summer

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