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Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

Portland, Oregon
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Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

We are planning to visit Alaska next summer (June/July) and need your help planning. We have not purchased anything and we are on a budget. We are family of 4 with 6 & 14 boys (by next summer). Our interests are glaciers, watch marine life, midnight sun, scenic drives. Here is our tentative plan after reading another thread "Alaska in 9-10 days". We are on a budget.

Day 1 – Fly out of Portland, OR, to Anchorage, rent a car and overnight in Anchorage.

Day 2 – Explore Native Heritage Center, 1 hour trolley tour of city, overnight in Anchorage.

Day 3 – Drive to Seaward by 10:30am for Kenali Fjords 6 hours cruise, drive back and overnight in Anchorage.

Day 4 – Drive to Whitter with some stops on the way. Afternoon 26 Glacier Cruise, drive back and overnight in Anchorage.

Day 5 – Drive to Matanuska Glacier and hike on Glacier. Drive towards Denali National Park and overnight in Healy.

Day 6 – Shuttle to Eielson for 8 hours and overnight in Healy.

Day 7 – Drive to Fairbanks and do some activities (Museum/Pipeline Display/El Dorado Goldmine/Riverboat Discovery), overnight in Fairbanks

Day 8 – Drive back and overnight in Anchorage

Day 9 – Return the car and fly from Anchorage to Barrow and tour Point Barrow, swim/dip feet in Arctic Ocean and overnight in Barrow to see midnight sun.

Day 10 – Fly back home from Barrow to Portland, OR

A few questions:

Should we do both Whitter and Seaward Cruise? Or Just one?

How about Glacier Bay cruise in Gustava? If we do just one cruise, Glacier Bay vs. Whitter vs Seaward, which is best?

Should I plan more time in Denali NP? Skip Fairbanks?

Thanks in advance.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

I am not good with itineraries like MMaple, but I would think as budget travelers, Barrow would be an expensive day trip. Up to you. I would fly there from Fairbanks rather than Anchorage if that is important to you. I would also stay in Seward when you head that way rather than come back to Anchorage - waste of your time in my opionion.

Just to let you know, the Matanuska glacier is about 2 1/2 hours out of Anchorage on the Glenn hwy, not on the way to Denali Park, which is on the Parks hwy. You could do that, but it would make for a long day I would think. Just some of my thoughts this evening. :)

Manitoba, Canada
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2. Re: Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

Welcome to the forum.

Your itinerary is really awkward. It is not a good use of your time, going back and forth to Anchorage and doing an early-morning rush to get to the Kenai Fjords cruise and Matanuska, which is the opposite direction from Denali as Coalminer said.

At Matanuska, were you planning to do the 10 a.m. ice hike that lasts 1.5 hrs., or just walk around a bit on the edge yourselves? I would suggest instead stopping at Byron Glacier near Whittier (the trail should be open by mid-June), where an easy 1 hr. roundtrip hike enables you to walk on that glacier for free. (At Matanuska your family would be charged $45 just to enter, maybe more next year, who knows.)

“Should we do both Whitter and Seaward Cruise? Or Just one?”

We recommend both if people can afford it and have the time. If you can do only one, we suggest the Kenai Fjords 6 hr. cruise.

“How about Glacier Bay cruise in Gustava?”

Glacier Bay and Gustavus are nowhere near where you’ll be.

“Should I plan more time in Denali NP? Skip Fairbanks?”

Depends what your interests are. Have you asked the kids what they’d like to do or see? It really helps getting kids involved, so they feel they have some input.

And I agree with Coalminer: if you do the Barrow tour, do it out of Fairbanks. Not only is it less expensive, but if you leave for home out of Barrow, I believe you have to stop in Anchorage anyway….

Wasilla, Alaska
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3. Re: Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

Just my opinion: For seeing glaciers, I prefer the cruises out of Whittier. For seeing marine wildlife I prefer to do the ones our Seward. In a perfect world, I would do both.

A cheaper glacier option is the 1 hour cruise on Portage Lake.

If you go to Seward, include a stop at the Exit Glacier.

If you do the Matanuska Glacier, before turning off of the Highway, go past to about mile 109. There's a turn out there with a great wide view of the glacier.

Portland, Oregon
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4. Re: Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

Thanks for the suggestions. Here are some more detail, probably you can suggest better now.

We are planning to use our Alaska Milage Plan miles for all the plane tickets. I have option to do any one of the following:

PDX-ANC, 9 days, ANC-BRW(Barrow), 1 day, BRW-PDX

Or

PDX - GST(Gustava), 2 days, GST-ANC 7 days, ANC-BRW 1 day, BRW-PDX

Or

PDX-ANC, 9 days, FAI(Fairbanks)-BRW, 1 day, BRW-PDX

All the above I can do with miles at no cost to me. But if I rent a car from Anchorage and drop it at Fairbanks to catch Barrow flight, Avis will charge a hefty fee. One week from Avis, pick from Anchorage and drop in Anchorage is ~$350, but it would be ~$1090 if I drop the car at Fairbank. Also with my Sheraton points I can get up to 5 free nights in Anchorage Sheraton. Everywhere else I have to pay. Any suggestions about car rental and not pay a hefty fee for different drop off location? Trains would also be very expensive as we will rent a car anyway for some travel.

With the above constraints, does it make sense to think about Gustava Glacier Bay cruise? Is Glacier Bay cruise far better than Seaward/Whitter cruise? If not I probably should forget about Glacier bay.

For Matanuska, we want to do 1.5 Hr hike at 10am. Is Byran Glacier similar to Matanuska? Then I can skip Matanuska and walk on Byron glacier and save some money.

Manitoba, Canada
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5. Re: Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

" Is Byran Glacier similar to Matanuska?"

No. Matanuska is huge and has the Ice Falls; however, 6 year olds aren't allowed that far anyway. In your case, I think Byron would do--take along some large plastic garbage bags and you might even be able to slide down, also you can look for iceworms.

"Also with my Sheraton points I can get up to 5 free nights in Anchorage Sheraton. Everywhere else I have to pay."

Y'know, we get the same sort of thing with people determined to use their 2-nights-for-the-price-of-1 coupons: they twist their itineraries into knots and spend way too much time running back and forth and very little time actually enjoying activities. If you don't do the Matanuska trek, you can more than pay for a night in Seward, plus you'd have some time to do the easy hike to the face of Exit Glacier (and that IS impressive), perhaps also do the hike (a little more difficult) to a nice overlook of the glacier. IMO you would have a much better trip, plus more time to drive to and enjoy Denali.

Personally, I suggest you scuttle the Glacier Bay trip. IMO Kenai Fjords plus a Whittier glacier cruise would be far superior, not to mention a lot easier for you to do.

As for rental cars, yes, there are huge drop-off fees. I don't know your exact dates, but I checked the 3rd week of June, and the best rate is once again Hertz 414 K St. Anchorage (closed on weekends, though, so you'd have to work your Anchorage flight around that). A week for a full-size, dropping off at Fairbanks airport, is about $628 with taxes. Your other choice is, of course, to drive the car back to Anchorage, about a 7 hour drive or a couple of hours longer if you take the "long" way around to see new scenery via Richardson & Glenn Hwys.

Manitoba, Canada
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6. Re: Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

This is what I’d suggest:

Day 1 – arrive Anchorage, overnight. Get rental car (Enterprise’s airport outlet currently has full-size cars at $174 per week for next June, return to Anchorage, but that could change at any time).

Day 2 – Native Heritage Center, 1 hr. trolley tour. Early afternoon drive to Seward (2.5 hrs) with scenic stops including Potter Marsh, Beluga Pt., Wildlife Conservation Center. Outside of Seward, do the easy 1 hr. roundtrip hike to the face of Exit Glacier, maybe also hike to the overlook of the glacier. If extra time, walk along the shore looking for sea otters and eagles and skipping stones, see waterfall at south end of town. Overnight Seward.

Day 3 – SeaLife Center. 11:30 to 5:30 Kenai Fjords cruise. After supper, drive to Anchorage (2.5 hrs) to overnight.

Day 4 – drive to Byron Glacier (1 hr) to do the easy 1 hr. roundtrip hike (allow more if you want to walk or play on the glacier a bit). If time, see Begich Boggs visitor center displays and film (Byron Glacier trail starts from near that parking lot). Drive through the Tunnel to Whittier for 26 Glacier cruise. Drive back to Anchorage overnight.

Day 5 –Pick up snacks & supplies, then drive to Denali National Park (5 hrs). See visitor center displays & film, see free Ranger sled dog demo, pick up free Jr. Ranger kits for the kids, drive the 14 miles into the park that private vehicles are allowed, do a short hike. Overnight in Healy.

Day 6 – Shuttle to Eielson for 8 hours. Must reserve in advance at www.reservedenali.com . Be sure to bring binoculars for everyone since most wildlife is seen at a distance, also food & beverages since none are for sale in the park. Early evening drive to Fairbanks (2+ hrs) to overnight.

Day 7 – fly to Barrow and tour Point Barrow, swim/dip feet in Arctic Ocean and overnight in Barrow to see midnight sun. (book this for the first day you’re in Fairbanks in case of weather delays). Overnight Barrow.

Day 8 – return to Fairbanks. Activities as time. (Museum/Pipeline Display/El Dorado Goldmine/Pioneer Park). Overnight Fairbanks

Day 9 – Riverboat Discovery from 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 pm. Scenic drive to Paxson (178 miles), stopping at North Pole to see Santa Claus House, and Rika’s Roadhouse in Delta Junction to see displays and have a meal or snack if they’re open when you get there. If time, drive the first 20 (paved) miles of Denali Hwy, stopping to explore this scenic area. Overnight Denali Highway Cabins (with the money you’re saving on the car rental, you can easily afford this).

Day 10 – Drive to Anchorage (260 miles), stopping at Matanuska Glacier (if you want, you can do the 2 pm ice hike, or just view the glacier from pull-outs along Glenn Hwy). It's about a 2 hr. drive from the glacier to Anchorage. In Anchorage, maybe hike/bike part of Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or watch the floatplanes on Lake Hood. Return rental car, be at airport 2 hrs. prior to late flight home.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

7. Re: Alaska 10 day trip, need your help planing!

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