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  1. #1

    Default Phoenix to Alaska this summer!!

    Hi Folks

    First of all, I must say, this is one of the unique and excellent website on roadtrip all around the world. This website definately need an extension of Europe roadtrip and other parts of the world and other people around the world should get benifit of this excellent resource on roadtrip.

    Now, to come to the point, i have seen many thread of going to Alaska and found so many great links and threads.
    So, I am going to buy MILEPOST of march 2012 for sure.
    I am planning a TRIP from Phoenix to Alaska in June'2012. I am planning from 2nd June to 30th June (Roundtrip). Though i have roadtrip experience in past, there are few legitimate questions i have that i would appreciate your opinion and suggestions.

    The very first question i have is the obvious question which you will be also be thinking to ask---why roundtrip? why not oneway roadtrip?
    I wanted to have it 1-way trip (Phx-Anchorage or Anchorage-PHX) but have some issues:-
    ---One way flight ticket would cost approx $2000 (2 Adults, 2 kids) + One way car dropping fees (approx $800)> More important factor (for not feeling it as 1-way trip) is becuase getting one way car for rental from phx to anchorage (ANC to PHX) is getting almost impossibe (have not found a single company). Please let me know if there is any company giving 1-way rental.
    ---I have not thought of ferry as want to keep it road trip and want to drive all the way...
    ---I thought ot getting 1way RV also but again no success.

    I do not want to drive in my car (dont want to add 10k on it) and need a rental car. I have few ideas on car rental :-
    -- What if i rent a car from Phoenix and return it to Phoenix itself after round trip?? I read some terms and conditions of some car rentals and most of them allow only in 48 states + Canada but no one has mentioned that i can drive to AK. what's my best optoins?
    I am thinking of renting a SUV rather full size car just because of long distance.

    I would appreciate if i can get some advice on the above issues.
    I am thinking of this --
    Outbound: -Phoenix -SaltLake city- Glacier Park -Crossing into Canada-Calgary Banff-Jasper-Hinton (avoiding Edmunton)- meeting at Grande Prairie -white horse-Anchorage
    Inbound:- Anchorage -Seattle -coastal highway 101-San diego-Yuma-Phx.

    I have some experience of roadtrip and think it should help.
    Just last year in June, I had done a great roadtrip from Portland-St. Mary, MT-Calgary-Banff-hinton-kamloops-Portland-highway101-SFO-LA-San Diego-Yuma-Phx (see pics below)June'11.jpg

    Had also done Phx-Rocky Mt National Park; Phx-Southlake Tahoe while in US and have also done a European trip. so have some exp and would appreciate all your help and suggestions.

    Lastly, I would like to say that i have 3-4 months to keep the suggestions coming and i will definately update on my trip as i will go along and will also furnish a final travel report in July with pics and experiences.

    If anyone wants to join the trip (within 30 miles of here an there while on the road), they are welcome (with your own privacy and transport of course :-))
    Apology in advance for any typo/grammers :-)
    Last edited by astraclub; 01-29-2012 at 11:04 PM. Reason: TYPO

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Hi, and Welcome to the The Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    No need to apologise for your grammar, you're doing well.

    It is obvious that you have been doing your homework and are aware that The Milepost is going to be your greatest assett.

    Having being to Alaska twice, once in a rental car, and once in a friend's car, I am presently planning my third trip, this summer. The question I have is, why would you not take your own car. It is far better than driving an unfamiliar vehicle. If your vehicle is in good condition, there is no reason why it will not comfortably do the trip. And whereas the speeds are a bit slower, and the roads are not super highways, they are mostly good surfaced roads. There is no need to go on gravel roads, if you don't want to.

    When I went in a rental vehicle, I left from Seattle. I rented from Budget and asked, at the time of making enquiries, if I could take it anywhere in the US. When I booked the car, I asked the question again. And when I picked up the car, I asked the same question. Each time the answer was the same. Yes, anywhere in the America. I asked if I could drive in Canada, and I was assured so long as I stayed north of the Mexican border, I could go where I pleased. At no time at all did I mention Alaska. This was in 2004, so I am sure they would have been able to track the car. In total, I did 6400 miles in 28 days - which was the only limitation on the rental. They would not give me a car for more than 28 days. No one ever mentioned the lower 48.

    So if you are set on renting, it may be worth your while renting from one of the northern States, where they are more likely to give permission to take it into Canada. And why would you mention Alaska? If you have permission to go anywhere in the US, that includes Alaska (and Hawaii).

    You could choose to go up one route, and back another. Take the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek through Ft Nelson, Watson Lake, Whitehorse and Tok, and onto Anchorage one way. The other way, look at taking the Cassiar Highway (37) which runs between the Yellowhead Highway (16) and the Alaska Highway. From Jasper to Dawson Creek, go either via Prince George or Grand Prairie. The road from Jasper to Prince George is a very scenic road, and by far my favourite route.

    If you are planning to drive down the coast on the return journey, look at taking the Sea to Sky Highway (99) from Cache Creek, through Lilooet, Whistler, Squamish, to Vancouver. This is a spectacular drive with many attractions along the way. You'll read all about them in The Milepost. Cross the border at one of the crossings east of I-5. Nowhere near as busy.

    Might see you on the road, though I will be leaving from Boston, via St Paul.

    Last edited by Lifemagician; 01-30-2012 at 03:17 AM. Reason: Ooops! correction.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default a challenge

    I have to agree that I would give some serious consideration to driving your own car for this trip, as it looks like you've already found, finding a rental car is going to be a bit tricky.

    I'm not surprised at all that you have not found anyone who will allow a one way rental to Alaska, and I would be rather shocked if you found anyone who did permit it. Basically, if you dropped the vehicle in Alaska, they'd have to find a away to get it back. The only way I'd even possibly see a one way rental working would be to fly to Alaska and drive home. Even there, I'd have my doubts, but I'd say that's at least a little more likely.

    I think you will have to look long and hard to find a company that will allow you to do this as a round trip. I'd certainly agree with lifey that you need to look for someone whose contract will allow anywhere in the US or Canada. However, the problem is that starting as far south as Phoenix, getting Canada included in the rental alone can be a challenge. Simply based on the experience of others who have posted here, getting that kind of permission from a rental location in the southern US can be tricky.

    If the only reason you don't want to take your own car is the miles, personally, that's not something that would have much of an impact for me. A modern car is made to drive 200-300,000 miles easily, so 10000 miles is a drop in the bucket in the scheme of things. Unless you're stuck in a lease with a mileage limit, those extra miles really won't do much anything to your resale value.

    I also wouldn't immediately discount the idea of the ferry. Its actual title is the Alaska Marine Highway, for a good reason. Its the only way - other than by plane - to get to many parts of Alaska. You might not be driving, but you would still get quite an interesting experience that you simply can't get on the road.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    The previous posters have covered the issue of the rental car very well, and mentioned the Ferry (Marine Highway System). But, to me, what stands out is that you want to do a round trip in 28 days.

    It's a full 8 - 10 day trip ONE WAY. That does not leave time for you to see much along the way. You'll need a day in Glacier, another day in Banff, another day in Jasper, and then it is slower travel up the Alaska Highway. It's 2-lane most of the way, not an interstate. Yes, you do have longer periods of daylight in June (longest days ever, especially that far north). There are places on the highway that are under construction, as summer is the ONLY time they can repair/replace sections of highway, and most of them will be gravel-at-15-mph type sections. Some can be very long. From experience, you will be doing great to get in 300-350 miles of travel per day once in Dawson Creek.

    Then you want to come down the coast highway on the way home, which is a 4 day trip in itself.

    Can you get more time?

    We did a similar trip back a number of years ago. We went up I-5 from San Diego (parents came over to CA from Phoenix and met us in the Grapevine north of LA) to Seattle, crossed the border at Sumas (smaller crossing). Then we went through BC to Dawson Creek, up the highway from there to Fairbanks. We came south through Anchorage and Seward, over to Glennallen (daytrip down to Valdez), back up to Tok, south on the highway to Dawson Creek, back to Prince Rupert where we split from my folks. From there, WE went to Jasper, Banff, south on I-15 with a few stops along the way in Idaho and Las Vegas, then home. We were gone EIGHT and a half weeks.


  5. #5


    Hi All
    Thank you for the reply.
    I am kind of hesitating to drive my own car for couple of reason 1) it has done 110,000 miles on it 2) i have to sell it this year and putting on 10,000 extra miles ,ay cut the cost down. Moreover,if i get any big dent or stone dent, resale value of the car will go down further, so i am willing to take a rental car rather own car. But since it has been asked, i will reconsider it one more time in case i fail to secure a rental.
    Thanks for the route advice, will take it for sure.
    Midwest Michael, I think the rental car agreement "terms and conditions" mention the 48 state clause but i will recheck it again. I am not sure about the verbal agreement of the car rentals, i think they are valid till nothing happen to the car, once something happened, story changes quickly but i will definately recheck.
    DonnaR57, the trip can be spread for 4~5 more days but not more becuase i have to join the work too :-(

    I think 28 days should be good enough. I remember i have driven from Hinton to portland in 1 day on the way back, it was toyota camry and we had reached non-stop (other than usual short brakes) to portland, so if time is the issue on the way back, it can be covered i think.
    But i want to make it a relaxed journey/
    Also, we are not booking hotels in advance and will only stop on the way. Have camping gear also, so that will also come handy (Have done camping in St. Mary, Drumheller, calgary and spokane so shouldn't be any issue.

    One of my friend (who have been to all over the world) told me today that once reach from Bannf to Jasper--dont take hinton towards Grand Pairairi but take left towards mountains as this is the good scenic trip.

    I still dont know about the GAS station availability beyond jasper.....are they available all the way to Anchorge?

    Lastly, not planing to take ferry now, kind of confirmed due to day it will take..

    thanks to you guys and i may have more questions and will come back, appreciate any new suggestions from all.
    Again, a great website and I would definately be adding my European trip driving experiene sometime in future,


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default My observations.

    Having spent the last nine months in the used car market to purchase a vehicle.... anywhere in the lower 48, I have been amazed with how low the prices are. The most expensive I looked at were in Phoenix.... and now, weeks later, they are still not sold.

    So why am I reflecting on this?

    You may find that the cost of renting, along with its restrictions, could be a lot more than the loss of resale value on your own vehicle. (Research Craigslist and thE bay for similar vehicles, and see how many do not sell for the asking price.)

    A well maintained vehicle with 110000 miles should have no problems with this trip. If you are concerned about stones thrown up, there are relatively inexpensive covers available to protect the front of the vehicle. But, really, unless you are north of Fairbanks, the chances of this are small. Remember, in Canada you will rarely be travelling at more than 62 mph (100kmph) and mostly much slower. When travelling over road construction sites, the speeds are down around 10 - 15 mph. It is only when you get back into the US - i.e. Alaska - that you will see the higher speeds again. But even there you will find through construction zones the speed strictly limited.

    The answers to all your other questions are in The Milepost. Most travellers find the places mentioned above, natural overnight spots. Their spacing makes for a well paced trip, with ample time for sightseeing and admiring wildlife. And each of those has accommodation of all types, fuel and all other supplies. Fill up each morning / evening, which should see you through a full day. I have never booked a campsite along the road. There are the main campgrounds in each town, where all the motor homes pull in. Almost all of them have tent sites.

    But i want to make it a relaxed journey.
    This is going to be challenging in a mere 4 weeks, even with an extra 4 - 5 days. My four week round trip from Seattle was certainly quite rushed, for all I wanted to see. And like Donna's, my second trip was eight weeks, as will be my next.

    You may like to concentrate on your final destination, and leave some of the attractions you plan to see in the lower 48, for another day. I'd be inclined to head straight up I-15 to Calgary, and enjoy the Icefields Parkway, with all its side trips, waterfalls, glaciers and other viewpoints along the way. And from thereon take in all the sites to and through Alaska.

    If there is time on the way back, by all means take the coast road. But it too, being closer to home, could make a great trip for another day.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default danger danger

    After reading your responses, I'm actually afraid that you have only confirmed the timeframe concerns that Lifey and Donna have raised.
    I think 28 days should be good enough. I remember i have driven from Hinton to portland in 1 day on the way back, it was toyota camry and we had reached non-stop (other than usual short brakes) to portland, so if time is the issue on the way back, it can be covered i think.
    But i want to make it a relaxed journey/
    Hinton to Portland is 800 miles, not only is that not relaxed, its is neither reasonable nor safe, especially when you are talking about a trip that covered many miles on non-freeway roads. That had to take you at least 18 hours. If you are using that as any sort of benchmark for what you can do or what you can expect to do, then you are really in for a miserable time ahead.

    Lastly, not planing to take ferry now, kind of confirmed due to day it will take..
    Taking the Ferry should not significantly change your travel time. If you are thinking the ferry will take too long, then I suspect you again are vastly overestimating the distances you will be able to cover in a day via the Alaska Highway.

    I am kind of hesitating to drive my own car for couple of reason 1) it has done 110,000 miles on it 2) i have to sell it this year and putting on 10,000 extra miles ,ay cut the cost down. Moreover,if i get any big dent or stone dent, resale value of the car will go down further, so i am willing to take a rental car rather own car. But since it has been asked, i will reconsider it one more time in case i fail to secure a rental.
    Considering the significant difficulty of finding any rental agency that will allow a car to be taken to Alaska, these don't seem like very serious concerns that should make it difficult to use your own vehicle. (You are correct that you need to worry only about what is written in the contract, not about verbal promises. Verbal agreements are only as good as the paper they are written on!)

    First, 110,000 miles is a car that's just being broken in. There is no reason those few miles on a car that's been well maintained should be any concern at all. Again, a modern car is built to go 200-300 thousand miles, easily.

    Second, the difference between 110,000 miles on a car and 120,000 miles will have hardly any impact on the resale value. I'm not sure why exactly you'd have to sell the car in a year, but go to one of the car value websites, like kbb or edmunds, plug in the information about your car and compare the difference of those 10,000 miles, and you'll see exactly how small of a number you are talking about.

    Third, if you get a big dent or a rock chip in a rental car, it will still be your responsibility to pay for that damage - either out of pocket or with your insurance. Basically, you'll pay for it one way or another, so I don't see how that would impact your decision on which way to go.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 01-31-2012 at 07:59 AM. Reason: added a thought

  8. #8


    Hey, thanks for the reply..

    Seems like you have convinced me to drive my own car. The reason I was not thinking of going with my car (out of this context) was that I had to move to Europe next year and did not want to loose resale value, but after reading your thougtful comments, I am starting to think of using my personal van (Odyssey'06-110,00 miles on clock till date).
    I also found out that I can rent a SUV for 28 days for approx $1100~$1300 and can drive it to Alaska via canada and come back, (have been trying with online rental quotation almost every day) but it would limits me to rent only for 28days (std. contract terms). I also have my full insurance which can also be transferred to the rental car if needeed (will be needed if renting :-). Attachment 3152CAR.jpg

    On the SAFETY ISSUE on my June trip from Hinton to Portland. I am not trying to benchmark at all for saying that i did all in 1 day. For us Safety is number 1 priority always!! On the trip, we started from Hinton approx 9:00 am and made it to Portland around midnight or later but it was more kind of a fun we had and no fatigue, but I would not like to quote this any more in-case someone else use these lines and pull me for benchmarking :-), So, in this trip, there won't be any compromise with Safety as in our last trips.

    So, looks iike Top3 points narrowing down my concentration are:-
    1) Rental car or personal car --Was my main concerns and after getting lots of help from forum gurus, using personal car option idea is coming thick and fast and definately coming as hot topic everynight during our trip planing meeting.
    2) Ferry or all road ---I will do some search tonight on this issue. The main issue is not only the days here but finance also, historically ferry services uptick their prices in summer time. I will need to dig more into it tonight to see if that might be an opportunity.
    3) 28 days+/- 5 or more days: This is more or less final as will not have more than 28days in my work, so will have to plan accordingly. I may miss some early US spots for future journey and can drive to atleast Banff without spending extra times (other than night stay and recommended brakes)

    So these are the running thoughts at the moment and will share more as our family get more prepared as we go along. Apology again for any typo :-)
    Last edited by astraclub; 01-31-2012 at 03:03 PM. Reason: Adding more in original

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I personally would rather drive an Odyssey than any of those vehicles available for rental in your attachment.

  10. #10


    Hi Friends

    Long time since i came back to the site, i was busy preparing for the trip.
    Here is the latest update.
    I have finally decided to take a pop up camper and will pull this from a VAN (Honda Odyssey), from Phoenix to Alaska.

    Based on the feed back i have received from my fellow travelers, I have extended this to 2 more weeks, so, its not six weeks trip from Phoenix to Alaska and back.
    Overall, I am only planing to stop for overnight stay in lower 48 and couple of days in Yellow stone and Glacier national park.
    I just wanted to say that i will keep you guys posted for the updates and will also send you daily updates as soon as i can.

    Just fyi is that i have found "WAGE" FREE GPS on Iphone very handy, However i am also carrying my own CAR GPS and will buy milepost in next coule of day

    7 days to go and can't wait to start this trip of a life time

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