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Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

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Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

Hi,

We ( I and my wife) are planning to travel to Alaska in June end ( around our anniversary). We have around 6 to 8 days. Based on what i read on this forum, 6-8 days are enough for two places and a first timer should definitely visit Seward and Denali :) So i am planning to shortlist to these two cities (spend 2-3 days at each of the places)

We are interested in seeing wildlife, nature, rafting, not that much into camping or hiking for that matter. Short hikes are OK.

Want to keep the trip as economical as possible (Isn't that the idea always :) . Using my miles for air travel and would be looking to book hotel too using points.

So here comes my list of questions:

1) Should i fly into Anchorage or Juneau? Since we are planning to see Seward/Denali which wud be a better choice? From the map both these places seem far off from Juneau.

2) What all is there to see at Juneau?

3) In Denali, based on what i understood, we should go all the way to Wonder Lake. Do we need to keep a car there?

4) I guess, the national park is 1 day affair or does it take more than that. What else is there to do there besides the park?

5) In Seward, one day would be spent taking the cruise to Kenai Fjords. What else would you recommend?

6) What are the best spots for rafting? This would be my 2nd time only so don't want to go to a level4 or 5? Level 3 is the max we can go on.

7) Can we sneak in another city? If yes, which would be you recommend?

8) I read that the road trip from Anchorage to Seward is really great. From the pictures i have seen the railroad seems to be pretty exciting too? Which one is recommended? Is the rail travel expensive?

Thanks in advance. All the help is greatly appreciated.

fti
MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
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1. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

Welcome to TA.

>>1) Should i fly into Anchorage or Juneau? Since we are planning to see Seward/Denali which wud be a better choice? From the map both these places seem far off from Juneau.

Correct that Seward/Denali are a long way from Juneau - kind of like asking if you should fly into Charlotte or Newark when wanting to visit NYC. Actually worse, since at least you can drive from Charlotte to NYC. You can't drive from Juneau to anywhere except on their local roads - no other roads out, just boat or airplane.

>>2) What all is there to see at Juneau?

Since you won't fly into there, no need for an answer here. But suffice it to say I am spending 4 nights in Juneau in July and can hardly find the time to do all I want to do (whale watch, Tracy Arm cruise, hike, July 4th celebrations and more). Plan Juneau and maybe Haines or other SE Alaska cities for your next visit.

>>3) In Denali, based on what i understood, we should go all the way to Wonder Lake. Do we need to keep a car there?

You leave your car at the Wilderness Access Center where you board the bus. No private cars are allowed past mile 15 of the Denali Park road. Wonder Lake is at mile 85. Bring mosquito repellent and even headnets for Wonder Lake but you won't regret the inconvenience - just beautiful out there.

>>4) I guess, the national park is 1 day affair or does it take more than that. What else is there to do there besides the park?

One full day to Wonder Lake. Most people arrive day 1 in the afternoon or evening. Shuttle bus day 2 and depart on Day 3. On Day 1 or Day 3 you can see the exhibits and film in the visitor center, the film in the Wilderness Access Center, sleddog demo, short hikes near the entrance, some with a ranger. Others do things outside the park - rafting, mountain biking, etc.

>>5) In Seward, one day would be spent taking the cruise to Kenai Fjords. What else would you recommend?

Exit Glacier is excellent - short walks with a ranger are excellent. Sealife Center is excellent. I think it was glacierlady who put together this list:

--Ididaride or Godwin Glacier sled dog tours & rides

--watch the fishermen come in with their catches

kayaking

--stroll along the beach or browse the shops for souvenirs

--museum on the earthquake and the Iditarod trail.

--Library - Movie each day Mon to Sat (Memorial Day to Labor Day) at 2pm $3/person.

>>6) What are the best spots for rafting? This would be my 2nd time only so don't want to go to a level4 or 5? Level 3 is the max we can go on.

I think Denali might be best for rafting, Seward best for kayaking. But I have not done either so others will know better.

>>7) Can we sneak in another city? If yes, which would be you recommend?

I would recommend a stop in Talkeetna on the way to or from Denali - 14 miles off the main road. Flightseeing is a highlight from here, or just walk around the cute town and have a meal.

Perhaps on the way to/from Seward go to Whittier so you can take a Prince William Sound cruise.

>>8) I read that the road trip from Anchorage to Seward is really great. From the pictures i have seen the railroad seems to be pretty exciting too? Which one is recommended? Is the rail travel expensive?

Check the AKRR site but I think it is something like $100-$120 round trip per person, with possible discounts using toursaver or Northern Lights coupons.

You don't really need a car in Seward but if you keep a car for 5 or 7 days, it is the same price. If it were me, I would keep the car and just drive to Seward. 75% or more of the scenery is the same. Plus by driving you can stop along the way whenever you want.

John

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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2. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

You should fly into Anchorage . . . Juneau is in the southeast section of the state. Southeast is beautiful, but not the location you want to go if you want to see Denali and Seward. By the way, none of these locations are cities - they are small towns, and will seem very small to you.

You can get to Denali Park via car, bus or train - I would recommend a car, as it offers greater flexibility. You can go on some short hikes in the entrance area that would be easy, you can go to the doggie demo, and for your raft trip I would recommend the Denali Outdoor center.

You can stay in hotels, B&B's or get a cabin - www.denalichamber.com lists most of the accommodations in the area - and the larger hotels are listed on most major travel sites.

Seward - besides the cruise in Kenai Fjords you could go to the Sealife center and see Exit glacier.

You could see lots of places as you drive between Anchorage and Denali and then Anchorage and Seward. Just depends what else you want to see/do. Hatcher Pass, Talkeetna, Girdwood - all those are options for you.

You can explore Anchorage more as well - and it is a city. Check out places "things to do in Anchorage".

Good luck! :)

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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3. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

Gee John - you were quicker on the typing than me - oh well! So glad you are posting. :)

Seward,Alaska
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4. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

You both have me beat! BTW Hello from Sunny Az with a laptop and a very poor connection. I don't recommend AT&T for internet broadband. :(

fti
MN
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5. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

>>Gee John - you were quicker on the typing than me - oh well! So glad you are posting. :)

I would have preferred to be in Fairbanks right now but I canceled that trip (well, postponed until next year?). It is MUCH warmer there now than here in central MN where I woke up to -22F and the high is 15F.

John

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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6. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

Gee - one in cold MN and one in sunny AZ. It's about 45 here today in the interior. Last year at this time is was between -30 and -40. Don't know how long those ice sculptures will hold up with these temps. Have a great weekend! :)

Aberdeen, United...
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7. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

Hi Tripfreak

Well, the Juneau, Denali and Seward questions have been well covered.

I would suggest that you have several options for rafting: Denali, Talkeetna or Six Mile river near Anchorage. There are rafting trips for all levels, some are described as a float trip rather than rafting because they are more gentle than white water. Nova is a good company that we have been with www.novalaska.com

The website for the Alaska Rail is www.akrr.com and has lots of info.

Have a great trip.

New Jersey
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8. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

Thanks so much guys for such prompt replies. I sincerely appreciate it.

So this is the itinerary i have chalked out based on your responses and my initial thoughts:

17th Afternoon -- Reach Anchorage

18th -- Drive/Railroad to Denali

Reach Denali by afternoon/evening

Stay at Denali on the 18th,19th,20th

21st -- Reach Seward.

22nd -- Take the Kenai Fjords tour.

23rd -- Exit glacier

24th -- see around Seward (Whittier etc..)

25th -- Return Flight from anchorage

And as you expected, some more questions :))

1) Should i drive/railroad to Denali from ANC the same day (the 17th) or is it better to stay for a night and then leave the next day? We'll be landing in ANC after a 10 hr flight so that's a concern.

2) I am planning to drive once and take the railroad the other time. Should i drive to Seward and take the rail to denali or the other way? which option do u guys recommend?

3) At Denali, the accomodation is in the town itself right? When you said day1 - day3, there is no staying at the park right or r there accomodations avalaible there? What are the good acco options? We are vegetarians so i am preferably looking for a kitchenette where we have the option to do something of our own.

4) Which operator do you recommend for the Kenai tour? As far as the timing goes, I saw there were 4 types -- 6,8, 10 hrs and one more. Which one is preferred? I was inclining towards the 8 hr one.

5) Is the exit glacier a cruise too?

6) My flight to AnC departs at 9 AM ( this is what you get w/ miles :)) so can i start in the morning itself from Seward ( I understand that i would have to start arnd 4-5 AM), actually i was avoiding the hassle of booking a hotel in ANC for a single night or wud it be better to reach ANC the night earlier?

7) Any specific romantic restaurant in Seward where we can go on our anniversary day?

8) Any other changes to itinerary you would recommend?

fti
MN
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for Alaska
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9. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

It is shaping up nicely.

I would not drive on 21st all the way from Denali to Seward - leave Denali on 20th, overnight in Anchorage. Perhaps drive south to Girdwood, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Portage Glacier Visitor Center this afternoon/evening. Return rental car that evening. Take early morning train on 21st to Seward.

Much easier to get around Seward without a car than around Denali. Plus a nicer train ride from Anchorage to Seward than from Anchorage to Denali.

I would not drive on 7th from Anchorage to Denali. Perhaps you could drive to Wasilla or maybe Talkeetna. Depends on what time you arrive. You will need to stop at a supermarket in Anchorage or Wasilla for some food for Denali - no real grocery stores north of Wasilla and you need to bring your own food on the shuttle buses at Denali.

>>1) Should i drive/railroad to Denali from ANC the same day (the 17th) or is it better to stay for a night and then leave the next day? We'll be landing in ANC after a 10 hr flight so that's a concern.

See above - maybe drive a little ways but not all the way to Denali.

>>2) I am planning to drive once and take the railroad the other time. Should i drive to Seward and take the rail to denali or the other way? which option do u guys recommend?

Answered above - easier (and prettier train ride) to take train to Seward. Check out 2-for-1 coupons in toursaver or Northern Lights (not sure if both have them but one of the two does). Might have blackout dates but you can check the conditions online.

>>3) At Denali, the accomodation is in the town itself right? When you said day1 - day3, there is no staying at the park right or r there accomodations avalaible there? What are the good acco options? We are vegetarians so i am preferably looking for a kitchenette where we have the option to do something of our own.

Coalminer is great for accommodations near Denali. I suggest staying either in Healy or south of the park entrance. "Glitter Gulch" is right outside the park entrance and is very busy and touristy.

>>4) Which operator do you recommend for the Kenai tour? As far as the timing goes, I saw there were 4 types -- 6,8, 10 hrs and one more. Which one is preferred? I was inclining towards the 8 hr one.

6 or 9 hour ones are ideal. If you take the train that arrives at 11am you can take the 11.30am tour - they will meet you at the train depot and store your luggage for you. All three major operators are similar.

>>5) Is the exit glacier a cruise too?

Hike or easy walk, no cruise. Prince William Sound (Whittier) is a glacier cruise. Exit Glacier is a "walk up" glacier. If you take a train to Seward, figure $9/person round trip to Exit Glacier with Exit Glacier Guides or $50 round trip/car with a taxi.

>>6) My flight to AnC departs at 9 AM ( this is what you get w/ miles :)) so can i start in the morning itself from Seward ( I understand that i would have to start arnd 4-5 AM), actually i was avoiding the hassle of booking a hotel in ANC for a single night or wud it be better to reach ANC the night earlier?

Bad idea - 2-3 hours from Seward to Anchorage, check in 2 hours ahead so you have to depart Seward at 4am or so. Take the evening train at 6pm or so, arrives Anchorage 10pm, taxi to an airport hotel and stay near the ariport.

>>7) Any specific romantic restaurant in Seward where we can go on our anniversary day?

Ray's is a nice place to eat. Others like glacierlady will give more options - she lives there.

John

Ward, AR
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10. Re: Drafted an itinerary! Pleas help finalize it!!!!

if you were to stay south of Denali Nat Park in Carlo Creek area (cheaper than staying in 'Glitter Gulch' area anyway), you could eat at Mckinley Creekside Cafe (they have cabins to stay in as well). I found quite a few things there for vegetarians to eat (I'm one myself). They also have very reasonable prices. Next door to them is denaliperchresort.com where we stayed. They have two eateries and breakfast is included if you overnight with them.

Took my first whitewater raft trip at Denali with Denalioutdoorcenter.com. Great trip. You can paddle or they have oar rafts. The whitewater trip was mostly 3's with one 4.

We took 2 shuttle bus trips since wildlife is unpredictible. broke up the trips with the rafting in between our 2 shuttle days.