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  1. #11

    Default

    i forgot to ask what type of activties do you like/want to do? how willing are you to wander on your own? those will affect some of the recomendations.

    the best part of travel to ak. is that it is almost possible to go really wrong. if you see the big famous places it will be a great trip. for all the competing advice it comes down to there are many, many great places to see and this is a beautiful place. it has to be for us to put up with the dumb weather.

    greg

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,094

    Default Yeah, Too Much

    As promised, I took a look at the Tour you linked to in your "Wow - top tips" post, and I really think that's too much to try to do in three weeks. It's got 12 stops spread over Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Yes, you'll see a lot, but I don't think you'll experience any of it in anything like the way the locals, who really love their land, do. We basically did 5 locations between Fairbanks and Seward in just over two weeks. So about three days per stop, and never more than a few hours on the road on our driving days. While I didn't feel terribly rushed, I was aware that there was so much more to see and do than we were going to get to. Some of the best bits of our trip were totally unexpected and occurred when we had time to relax, walk the streets and woods, and talk to Alaskans. Really, and I become more convinced of this with each trip I take, trying to fit too much in is counter-productive.

    AZBuck

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,574

    Default Less is always more

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    I become more convinced of this with each trip I take, trying to fit too much in is counter-productive.
    I agree -- I took about six days recently to travel a net of 150 miles in the Monument Valley area and still wished I had time to spend another week or two... Alaska is EVEN a bigger place....

    Mark

  4. #14

    Default A snag?

    Looks like there could be a potential problem with my plans. Seems the US aren't likely to look favourably on my application for a visa which means I'll have to come in on a 90 day visa waiver and then leave North America entirely. I can then come back after an unspecified period of time and apply for another 90 day waiver. It all sounds like a serious pain!

    I need to check precisely what this means and then make a decision based on that. The advice that I received was that I would have to return to London and then fly back again.

    What I thought I may do is to split the US section into two 'loops' - first fly in to Tampa, pick up a car then head out on the route as previously mentioned up until I reach Indy. After that I would head south back to Tampa. Then I'd take an internal flight to the west coast and do the rest of the trip with the exception of South Western Canada and Alaska. I'd then fly out of the country within the 90 days.

    I still need to look into the details but I'd sooner not do two trips across the Atlantic if I don't have to. If I could maybe head to South America for a week or so instead that'd be mega. I'd then fly to Vancouver and head up to Alaska from there. Finally I'd head to Hawaii before heading off to Singapore. Does anyone have any experience with obtaining a Tourist Visa for the US? There is a helpline that I can call but it costs in the region of $3 a minute so I'd sooner have a rough idea before I call :)

    Ref Alaska, I really do like the look of that Trek America tour and, whilst I fully appreciate what you are saying about squishing a lot in to a short space of time, I would be looking to do some 'on my own' style travelling whilst I'm up there. So, whilst it depends on a whole lot still, I will likely go for that tour.

  5. #15

    Default Alaska...

    Right... we have a plan! I've completely rejigged the previous plans and have ended up doing considerably less time in the US than I had been planning but, well, the goverment set the rules. So the other countries can have my dollar!

    Here's what I will be doing:

    9th May - 8th June Two part tour through Canada
    9th June - 14th July 4,500 miles through Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming & Montana
    15th July - 22nd July Cruise the Inside Passage & visit Glacier Bay NP
    23rd July - 29th July * Explore Alaska *
    30th July - 19th August Footloose Alaska-Yukon Explorer Trek
    20th August Fly Anchorage - Hawaii

    As you'll see I have opted to do both the tours previously mentioned but I will also have an entire week beforehand to explore under my own steam.

    Buck, I wrote the company you mentioned but I think they misunderstood. They wrote back a rather charming and thoroughly helpful message offering lots of help and advice and telling me how I could organise everything myself quite easily! I think I'll write back and see what they can organise for those spare seven days and what price they can offer.

    I'm really excited about Alaska now, it has to be said!!

  6. #16

    Default Finally!

    I have booked the flights this afternoon and there are more changes. It's all down in black and white now though so here is where I'm at:

    7th July Fly Seattle - Anchorage
    8th July Have a look round Anchorage
    9th - 29th July Footloose Alaska-Yukon Explorer Trek
    30th July - 8th August * Explore Alaska *
    9th August Fly Anchorage - Seattle - Las Vegas

    I have caned the idea of taking the cruise from Bellingham sadly. It was going to be to expensive, take too long and the dates didn't fit with some other changes that I was forced to make. It's a shame but then I will probably be spending quite some time on boats and ferries whilst exploring Alaska anyway so maybe it's for the best?

  7. Default Ferry Ride

    If you are still considering taking the ferry from Bellingham, WA to Juneau, Alaska it usually leaves Friday and you get to Juneau by Monday. If your destination is Juneau then make sure you bring a raincoat. Locals do not use umbrellas (because of the wind) so you'll be less considered a tourist if you are not carrying one. Also, make sure that you wear bug spray because summer time means mosquito time. Do not feed the bears :)
    The Mendenhall Glacier is a nice place to visit in Juneau as well as Mt. Roberts where you can hike all the way up the mountain and see most of Juneau. There are several trips from Juneau to Glacier Bay and I heard that is a trip worth taking as well.
    Anchorage and Fairbanks have better weather, less rain. I haven't really spent a lot of time in the summer there.
    If you are taking the ferry make sure that you book in advance because it gets booked pretty fast. There are cabins available in the ferry but it can get spendy. There isn't much of entertainment in there, just a movie room that plays not so recent movies. Most of your entertainment will be from the view outside (you get to use most of the deck) and you can see porpoises, whales and such (on a good day) so make sure you always have your camera with you. Also bring a good book.
    I live in Juneau Alaska just in case I didn't mention that before :)
    Good Luck!

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,574

    Default A useful tip

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaidjen View Post
    Locals do not use umbrellas (because of the wind) so you'll be less considered a tourist if you are not carrying one.
    A handy local intel tip! Thanks for the other ideas -- it is always great to obtain local tip information.

    Mark

  9. #19

    Default Local intel - excellent!

    Thanks, Jaidjen, for the info. I really appreciate that - good stuff!

    I said earlier that I'd booked the flights but I actually meant that I'd booked the main flights -- the internal flights to/from Alaska were not part of that package.

    I've been looking into this sector of the trip (Rainbow Mountain Adventures didn't come back to me when I gave them my requirements and asked them to put a package together) and, well, the idea of flying isn't right up there. That ferry idea keeps coming on back!

    What I am considering doing now is

    7th July Fly Seattle - Anchorage
    8th July Have a look round Anchorage
    9th - 29th July Footloose Alaska-Yukon Explorer Trek
    30th July Fly Anchorage - Juneau/Skagway/???
    31st July - 4th August Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay NP
    4th August (pm) - 8th August (am) Juneau - Bellingham on the Alaska Maritime Highway
    9th August Fly Bellingham - Las Vegas

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the whole Anchorage - Bellingham section. I am struggling to come to grips with the best combination of where to fly to from Anchorage and which ferries and tours to take in order to make the most of the time I have. Some local help would be awesome!

  10. Default Anchorage to Bellingham

    Well, as I mentioned I haven't really been much in Anchorage during the summer time because hotels and car rentals are very expensive. I travel to Anchorage more during winter because it is cheaper and most of the tourist places are closed. Not sure how you feel about zoos but the Alaska Zoo is open and it has polar bears and grizzlies and brown bears and other Alaska animals like the moose and reindeer. Maggie, the elephant, moved to California last year and she was quite the celebrity of the zoo especially since she actually has an elephant treadmill!

    This website helped me a lot whenever I plan a trip to Anchorage: www.anchorage.net.

    Now about getting from Anchorage to Juneau, the best way is by plane. I mean you can get there using the ferry but that means driving from Anchorage to Haines and then taking the ferry from there. It takes about 8 hrs from Haines to Juneau via ferry. Or if you are lucky and the fast ferry is available, you can get to Juneau via Haines in about 4 hours.

    By airplane, it takes 3-4 hours to get to Juneau. However, try as much as possible to get a non-stop flight because there are times when Alaska Airlines (the only airlines that fly to Juneau) make several stops in the smaller villages which can add hours to your flight time.

    If you are renting a car, make sure you reserve it in advance because there's only a handful of rental car companies in Juneau and we get a lot of tourist during the days that you mentioned. The big cruise ship companies dock in Juneau and we get 10,000-30,000 visitors a day during the peak times. The normal population of Juneau without the tourists from the cruise ships is 30,000.

    There is a good cruise ship company that caters more to individuals who like to experience nature and outdoors. It is called Cruise West and they do a really good tour of Glacier Bay NP. I think they even have a package that bundles Glacier Bay and Denali NP.

    Here is the link to their website and that tour:
    http://www.cruisewest.com/destinatio...acier_bay.aspx

    If you decide to just stay in Juneau, there is the Mendenhall Glacier. I think it cost $10 roundtrip to go there (or free if you have your own car). You can hike to the waterfalls near the actual glacier but I think that is the closest you can go to the glacier unless you are in a kayak. Then there is the Mt. Roberts tramway where you can ride the tram ($25) up and hike from the tram stop all the way to the top of the mountain or if you really like hiking you can hike all the way from the bottom of the mountain to the tram stop near the top and you can ride the tram down for $5 or if you buy something from the gift shop or the restaurant that costs more than $5 then the ride down is free! Every year I buy a tram pass so that I can ride up and then hike down. It takes an hour to go down but I haven't tried going up (maybe this year :) ) There is a zip lining tour available near the ski resort (Eaglecrest) in Douglas Island which is just right across from Juneau.


    If you are taking the ferry from Juneau to Bellingham make sure that you make the reservation way in advance because the dates you mentioned are considered peak days and the car deck and cabins usually get full pretty fast. A lot of college kids actually go back to the Continental US (or to us Alaskans we call it "Down South") around end of July to August for college (or to move).

    If you are taking a car to the ferry make sure that you are there atleast 1.5-2 hrs before the departure time to make sure that you don't get stuck in the back of the ferry and have to wait for everyone else in front of you to get in their car and leave before you can actually exit the ferry.

    Also keep an eye out for whales that like to show up frequently in the ferry terminal area. We saw 3 whales there last summer and they were hanging out for about an hour in the same area...it was pretty cool to see.


    The ferry ride has stops in Wrangell, Petersburg and Ketchikan before it gets to Bellingham. You can actually get out and explore but make sure you know when the ferry will leave the terminal and that you have your ticket with you prior to getting out of the ferry. Usually, ferry stops last an hour to two hours.

    Usually, the ferry gets to Ketchikan at about 3-5 am so even if you are awake and ready to explore I don't think anything is open.

    It is practical to bring snacks with you prior to boarding because snacks are a little bit spendy in the cafeteria. However, the food is good and are usually Alaskan stuff like salmon, halibut, cod etc.

    I've taken the ferry from Juneau to Bellingham several times and it was a pretty good experience. The cabins are not so big but it has it's own shower, sink and toilet bowl. There are also communal showers and public restrooms all over the ferry. I suggest camera, binoculars and video cam to be handy in case a whale decides to go against the side of the ferry (happened during my 2nd trip) or the porpoises decide to show themselves a few feet away (1st trip). Occassionally, you can spot a bear by the shore as well. Although, here in Juneau there are plenty of bears and the first time I saw one was in the parking lot of Costco!

    The time the ferry arrives in Bellingham varies as well. The most often I experienced was before 10 am and then there is the occassional after 1 pm. So taking your Las Vegas flight the day after is a good thing.

    Hope that I am able to help. Sorry I wasn't able to give more info on Anchorage.

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