For us flying to Alaska from Belgium is a long way. It took us 24 hours on the way. None of flight straight to Alaska, we flown with British Airways from Brussels via London Heathrow, London to Seattle and Seattle to Anchorage. We flown with two different carriers in one price of the ticket.
During purchasing the ticket we know we'll fly with Alaska Airlines from Seattle, and we're worried about it, because we only have an hour a half layover, for European with connecting flight in US has to pick-up luggage and re-checked, we're so lucky didn't wait too long for our luggage at the carousel
If flying with two different carrier you'll never get your boarding pass all the way to your final destination, so we have to get them at the departure gate in Seattle
The fly time from Seattle to Anchorage is 3.5 hour, no meal but you can purchase food on board. They give complimentary drinks. The plane is not very big, and such as any other plane, Alaska Air is no difference.
One thing I like the most, when returning back home we have an early morning flight. During our check-in at Anchorage airport, at the check-in counter Alaska air staffs are so very friendly.
I was having this cup coffee in my hand during check-in and it took a while before receiving our boarding pass, she has kind of trouble typing our names and birth of date. In Belgium, dates and months are written differently than in the US, so she was a bit confused about it, but she found everything even though it took her so long
Meanwhile my coffee is empty, and there were a queue behind us already, but she keep asking how's our trip in Alaska? and how do we like here and so on, she was so curious. And she hope we'll come back again, a very enthusiastic lady. So, we left the counter and she saw me with my empty cup, and grab my cup and said, give it to me I'll throw this in trash for you. Alaska Air has full service she said. I said to her yes it isRelated to:
- Theme Park Trips
- Hiking and Walking
- Road Trip
Hire a car is one of the easiest way around
Without any doubts before deciding of taking this trip, a car is a MUST. Exploring in this state without a car it probably a disaster for us. We like to see everything and as much as we can, hiring a car is our only option. It is not the cheapest way to get around but is the EASIEST way. Travelling with our own vehicle it gave us freedom to go anywhere, stop anytime we wanted
If booking a car in advance (we always do) is not only cheaper but it does shortened up paper works during pick-up. We have tried all website of car rentals in Anchorage (where we start our journey) we found ALAMO has the lowest rent. BUT booking to their website itself is expensive. So we tried everything searched on google the cheapest site of renting a car in Anchorage Airport and Expedia was there in between
Clicking the site of Expedia took me to ALAMO website. Through Expedia the rates of Alamo are much lower than book directly to their website. So, here we've book our car through Expedia by Alamo. Pick up the car at Anchorage airport and return in the same place.
Extra insurances are available during our booking, Expedia sold us another extra insurance which is separately from Alamo itself and I thing is a wise thing to do when traveling with a rental car in Alaska to avoid any high cost damage after your trip
There were plenty of car rentals in Anchorage airport, during our research we found Alamo has lower rate by booking through an agency. So, we have the reservation print out from Expedia and give to the counter if your car booked in advance.
Alaska is a vast state and drive is easy, the road is pave as long you stay on the main road. Driving into National Park? think about it first: the road will be gravel, potholes, and bumpy.
You might have all the insurances! but when you are in car trouble in the middle of nowhere...if you call for help inside the national park which has no always phone reception, then what happen? we didn't use our car inside national park even though we all covered with insurance
The distance in Alaska is quiet long sometimes. The scenery during roadtrip is awesome! and there are so many stops on the way, it all designated where the best part to watch the view and to take photos. And having a car we can do all this: stop anytime
Driving in Alaska is the same as any states in America, roads are well signed and speed limits are marked. Respect the board sign! if you don't want to pay a fine. Alaska has public ground transportation as well, but no idea of schedules. Hire a vehicle is one of the easiest way.
No need to hire a luxury car or 4x4. We hire a midsize car which was good enough, we drove to mountainous road such as to "Hatcher Pass" never have any problem. Hire a car in Alaska is much more higher than in US we been to US many times. I think we pay 30% more in Alaska than in America
Do good your homework and be patient when googling for rental cars! there are so many of them, but must be affordable. Booking in advance is always best!
A reminder: in some parts of the area is well signed that " fill your fuel tank " because there is no gas station in so many miles. And best to have some drinks and food with you in the car, sometimes driving around we haven't see any restaurant or snackbar. On road way there were parkings with picnic tables good to stop for a while and have some picnic before continue travellingRelated to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Mountain Climbing
- Road Trip
I took a cruise to Alaska for 7 days and I may say that unless for me it didn`t work.
Too much time inside the ship and almost nothing on land.The lanscape from the ship is ok but you actually cross too far from the islands and coast that it is almost impossible to se anything.
One idea would be to take the one way trip to Anchorage, spend a few days there and then return by plane to Vancouver.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
Alaska's main international gateway is Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), six miles (ten kilometers) southwest of the downtown area. There are numerous connections to many American and Canadian cities, as well as flights to Europe, Siberia, and Asia.
Airlines serving Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Asiana Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Era Aviation, Frontier Airlines, Frontier Flying Service, Grant Aviation, Hageland Aviation, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Pen Air, United Airlines, US Airways, Vladivostok Air, and Yakutia Airlines.
North Haul Road (Dalton Highway)
I live in Alaska, but further south in Kodiak where we have moderating marine climate. But I have driven the Haul Road (now called the Dalton) as far as the arctic circle during the summer.
I'm assuming you've done some research and have made good preparartion for the winter weather that still prevails in March. I'm an experienced winter driver and I wouldn't attempt going north of Fairbanks in March even in my own four wheel drive SUV with studded tires - let alone a rental. March can be the 'tween time this far north. Mostly likely deep winter still but can get freak upsurges in temps, break up and flash floods.
Here is a good link to find out more if you haven't done the research.
Alaska Marine Highway An Alternative to Cruises
My traveling companion did not want to take a cruise, and I didn't want to drive or fly, so our alternative was taking the ferry. I'm glad that we did!
We caught M/V Columbia's departure of 6pm on Fri Sept 14 at Bellingham, Washington and traveled up to Haines, Alaska. From Friday until early Sunday morning, there were no stops as we cruised through Canadian waters. For us that was perfect, we had a cabin booked - a double outside cabin, with facilities - bunk beds, an ensuite washroom (toilet and shower, with sink in the cabin) and as we didn't have a car with us, all our luggage was in the cabin with us, and it was tight, but doable - and this gave us a chance to catch up on jetlag, sightsee without the stress of driving, and just relaxing. We were impressed with the food services - quality, quantity and price. The Columbia has a full-service (sit-down with wait staff) dining room as well as the cafeteria/snack bar, and a bar/lounge. The dining room was situated near the stern with lovely windows on 3 sides to take in the view as you ate. Since we were past the majority of the summer vacationers, there wasn't a full load on board, and only a few people brave enough to camp out on deck. There were quite a few using the theatre, and forward lounge to sleep. The scenery was spectacular, the pace relaxing. My friend enjoyed the fact that we weren't being organized and group activities, but what a cruise does allow is all inclusive dining/accomodation/travel, with optional tours at the stops. The ferry schedule is dictated much more by tides and weather, so stops are not as regimented as with a cruise. Ketchikan was a nighttime stop (well early morning), and we didn't get out to see it, as was Juneau - too early to get out of bed. So, we didn't see the towns/villages as a cruise would allow - but don't think any or many cruises stop in Petersburg - and that was gorgeous. The other thing is that the ferry docks are not necessarily as handy to town as the cruise docks - at Juneau, the ferry comes into Auk Bay, 13 miles from town. You should arrange for transportation in advance, if possible, to pick you up. Our arrival in Haines, we had been told that there was a courtesy phone for our motel/car rental in the terminal building, which there was and they collected us quite quickly. It would not have been a welcome walk to town from the ferry dock! We did a land trip from Haines, to Haines Junction, to Whitehorse, and then down to Skagway where we caught the M/V Matanuska to return to Haines, and then on to Prince Rupert. We took the car on the ferry for the hour trip, and had time to do a little more sightseeing in Haines, fill up the tank with gas, and return it to Captain's Choice Motel, with their shuttle returning us to the ferry, before its departure. We did get a cabin right from Skagway through to Prince Rupert, which allowed us to store our luggage at Skagway from the car, and not have to transport it into the shuttle and then by foot onto the ferry at Haines. Depends upon how much luggage/baggage you have with you whether you wanted to have that extra expense - a helpful clerk at Skagway saved us some money by changing our reservation when we checked in so that we didnt' have to change cabins or fuss about. Much appreciated!
The M/V Matanuska was a smaller vessel than the Columbia, but funnily enough, our cabin was bigger - much more space for our stuff. There was only a cafeteria on board rather than the diningroom and cafeteria, but the food was still good. We did experience the uncertainty of travel on the ferry with the delays from weather. We were supposed to have left Petersburg at 4:45am, but due to fog and tides, did not get away until almost 10am. That put all our other stops back, and meant that instead of arriving in Prince Rupert at 12:15am, it was about 3:45am (which was 4:45am Pacific time - the ship runs on Alaska time!) That was a disrupted night, and made for tired travelers for the next few days!
The time thing is something to remember - when you get on board at Bellingham the departure time is 6pm, Pacific time. The moment the ferry casts off, you are on Alaska time, so it is only 5pm! The dining room DOES open at 6pm, but its an hour later than you are thinking!!!
I would highly recommend using the Alaska Marine Highway System as an alternative to cruising. You can make it as comfortable as you wish - by booking a cabin, or roughing it. You've the option of having your car along, or renting when you get to your destination - but do book your car in advance as there aren't a lot of rental agencies - or finding other modes of transportation. You should calculate the costs of the car rental plus ferry charges, vs collecting a car and dropping it off along the way. We took the route of renting where we wanted to be driving - the Alaska Circle Tour, and then after Prince Rupert we took the train to Jasper where we picked up another car rental. We didn't want the bother of a car all the time or to pay to move it from place to place on the ferry.
Will also comment about the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff that we encountered all along the way. We had some nice chats with the staff on the ferry, learning about their lives in Alaska. Oh yes, and they are government employees and are forbidden to accept tips for service on the ferries!!!Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
The McCarthy Road
Not as big adventure as the James Dalton Highway but beleive me...can be more than enough for humans:)) Just 60 miles but please notice this is a gravel and dirt road and recommended to keep the speed limits.
Better to use a truck or land rover rather than RVs. A one way journey takes about 2,5 - 3,5 hours and at least 4 or more by RVs. Watch for current weather conditions and slow down because ... (picture 1).
At the end of the road, you will find parking area and possible to leave your car here for 5 dollars.
I am a life long Alaskan, I used ABC for a winter camping trip and was given the motorhome with a full *hitter.... NOT fun. Alaska has a bunch of people that rent out their motorhome on the side to help pay for it or rent it out all of the time. Try chekcing out Craigslist to see if you can get a better deal that the large shops.
I suggest Clippership if you want to use a regular business:
5401 Old Seward Highway
Anchorage, AK 99518-1458
Let me know if you want ideas on camping places! Camp grounds fill up quickly in teh summer so you may want to make reservations for camping during a weekend.
Driving Around Alaska by Car
My sister arrived a day earlier to Alaska than myself and she got a car to rent for 5 days which I booked through Expedia for about $220 (Hertz)- to be picked up from airport (May 2009). She said she paid about $350 though when she arrived because there were some miscellaneous charges and taxes (Alaska is known for high taxes on car rentals at the airport, and we have heard that the tax may be less if you rent at the city of Anchorage itself rather than the airport - we have not confirmed this though).
But having the car was worth it -- we drove over 1000 miles during one of the best springs in Alaska during its 50th year of being a state. Our car was a red humble Ford Focus which was brand new (with only 300 miles on it) and we had no problems whatsoever. The weather was perfect and driving was easy at the time we visited.
When we visited, the snow was already melting and so there were also several waterfalls alone the mountainsides we passed on the road...
Driving times from Anchorage to the following Areas:
to Denali Park.................................5 hours
to Talkeetna...................................2.5 hours
to Fairbanks...................................7 hours
to Seward......................................2.5 hours
to Kenai/Soldotna..........................3 hours
to Homer.......................................4 hours'
to Glenallen..................................3.5 hours
to Valdez.......................................7 hours
to Cantwell....................................4 hoursRelated to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
The first time we saw a bald eagle was when my sister and I were driving on our first day in Alaska and I was talking with my wife on the phone, and this huge bird flew over our car, spreading its 7 foot wingspan for us to enjoy! Unfortunately, we did not have a camera on hand!
But it was funny when I saw an ad saying that the State Bird is Alaska Airlines! Hehehe….true enough this “bird” does fly around 20 cities throughout the state – and I also got the cheapest flights going to Alaska through this airlines. I paid only $10 for my RT ticket from Phoenix (plus $75 processing fee) through my accumulated 25, 0000 mileage with Northwest Airlines (Alaska Airlines is a partner airline!). It was sooooo affordable and my flights were all on-time, owing to good weather.
However, due to natural weather conditions and situations (like a volcanic spewing about 3 weeks before), flights may of course be cancelled.
When you arrive in Alaska, you will see all these jets with an “Eskimo looking” man painted on its tail – and don’t be fooled that Alaska Airlines is a small company --- it does fly over the lower 48 states. You can also earn Bonus Miles --- especially when you book through alaskaair.comRelated to:
- Adventure Travel
- Budget Travel
The best book to have if driving in Alaska
If you are doing any driving in Alaska a fabulous book and wealth of info is the book Milepost.
"The Milepost provides maps, diagrams, photographs, and most of all, an almost mile by miles travelogue of what to expect in driving the major roads of the North Country. The information provided will allow the traveler to locate the next gas station, campground, hotel, or scenic spot. The advertisements allow some advance planning for areas where few hotel beds may be available. Travelers can also plan ahead for fishing charters on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska or the operating hours of visitor centers or the few but sometimes excellent museums that can be found along the roads. In buying the most recent edition of the Milepost, travelers can expect reasonably up-to-date information on major road construction. The Milepost includes some information on major hiking trailheads just off the main roads, but hikers should seek elsewhere for detailed information on off-road routes. The Milepost includes posted schedules for the Alaska Marine Highway System." (from Amazon) I saw this book at BArnes and Noble. I see it is out of stock at the moment on Amazon. It was very helpful. Nothing like knowing which milepost is known to have bears hanging out.
Winter Driving on the Alcan Highway
First, buy the Milepost. A great mile by mile resource for the Alcan.
The highway is in good shape (paved) the whole way. Winter is actually better as they aren't repaving portions like they do in the summer, but you do have to worry about ice.
Plan it out so you have a warm place to stay each night - hence the real need for the Milepost. Temps can vary between -40 and +20 in the winter. Remember you have to go a lot further north than Anchorage before you reach Tok and head south again.
If it were me, I wouldn't tow anything in the winter. Start sliding a load on ice and you can't do anything to recover it.
I went for 20 years in Alaska without studded tires and when I finally got some 10 years ago I couldn't believe the difference. Much more control on the ice. And I've driven front wheel, back wheel and four wheel drive. Give me four wheel any day. Front wheel is better than nothing but with all the weight in front, the back slides out from you when braking on ice.
The key to safe driving on ice is not do anything suddenly - stop, start, or turn.
Keep a set of chains in case you get heavy snow, but they keep the highway well plowed year round for the trucks.
"Glacier Express" to Mendenhall Glacier
UPDATE: In 2006 the price of the Glacier Express was $6.00 each way for adults.
If you arrive in Juneau by cruise ship, instead of taking an expensive excursion tour, consider taking the "Glacier Express" blue bus to the Mendenhall Glacier and Visitors Center. You can find one of the many which arrive every few minutes at Franklin Street (downtown) near the cruise ship piers. For $5 per person (2003 prices) each way (children were half price) you can have a scenic ride and possibly learn about the area from the driver. Our bus drivers actually gave us quite a lot of information about the Juneau area and wildlife in just the few minutes to and from Mendenhall Glacier. (If you feel that your driver was very informative and helpful, you might want to offer a small tip on disembarking the bus. Our driver was well worth it!) You can then be free to spend as much time as you prefer at the Visitor's Center and Glacier during normal visiting hours. Your bus driver will inform you concerning the time of the last bus departure from the Visitor's Center. "Glacier Express" bus stops are clearly marked.
Cruising to Alaska
Regarding the Alaska portion of your tour, I'm guessing that your cruise ship will probably make landfall at such ports as Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Valdez, Anchorage. It may also visit ports in British Columbia such as Prince Rupert.
At that time of the year, be prepared for cold, wet weather in Alaska, specially in the coastal areas.
One thing to remember is that the daylight hours will get longer, the further north you go. So near the early part of May the length of daylight will be nearly 18 hours or more once you reach Anchorage.
I have been in Alaska in June and it was fabulous but my travels were all by road.Related to:
- Whale Watching
- National/State Park
The southeastern Alaska coast is very rugged, with mountains coming down right to the shoreline. As a result, there are no roads between the towns along the coast, and the only practical way to see the coast is by air or sea. The easiest way to do it is from a cruise ship, and there are a number of cruise lines that offer Alaska cruises.
We used Holland America for our Alaska cruise. Our ship, the Ryndam, held about 1200 passengers, and was very nice, with two restaurants, a bunch of bars, a library, three theaters, a gym and spa, an indoor swimming pool, a casino, and a kids club. The service was good and we were satisfied customers. The crowd was a bit older (average age > 50), but there were enough younger families on board that our daughter Anna was always able to find someone to play with.
When booking your cruise, there are a few key decisions that you need to make:
1. One way or round trip - Most cruises leave from Seattle or Vancouver. The one way cruises end up in Seward or Whittier, Alaska, and then you take a bus or train to Anchorage for the flight home. If you can afford the extra one-way airfare, we recommend the one-way cruise. The round trip cruises typically don't venture as far into Alaska before turning around to head back south. We thought that the best scenery was in the last three days of the trip (Glacier Bay, College Fjord, Kenai Fjords).
2. Size of Ship - Some Alaska cruise ships carry over 2500 passengers. That seemed to be a little overwhelming for us. While our boat was still big (1200 passengers), it still seemed manageable.
3. Itinerary - We thought that Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord, and Seward (Kenai Fjords) were all worth the effort to see. Make sure that your cruise visits those places. Sitka also sounded interesting, but our cruise did not go there.
4. Weather - Alaska gets a lot of rain. When planning your day trips while in port, have a back up plan if your activity gets rained out.
5. Extra days before and after your cruise - If possible, tack a few extra days ont the front and back ends of your cruise. We spent a weekend in Vancouver and enjoyed it. We also spent a day exlploring Kenai Fljords National Park at the end of our cruise. We would have liked to have had some more time to see Alaska's interior, but ran out of time.Related to:
- Family Travel
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