Alaska Road Trip
Every year at the end of the summer, we ask our kids where they would like to go the following summer for vacation. They aren’t guaranteed to get their picks, but it is a good gauge for us to use in planning. Last summer when we asked the question both of my older boys said Alaska. My little kids said what they always say; Disney World.
The Perfect Time to Go
Alaska was somewhere that I had been wanting to take my kids for a long time, but had been putting off. My husband and I had been to Alaska years ago when he graduated from law school. However, we really wanted to go back and take the kids. We were just waiting for the right time, and for our kids to be old enough to appreciate it. Nate’s brother Ben and his family live outside of Wasilla and after thinking it through, we decided that 2017 would be the perfect time to visit.
My husband Nate comes from a large family. There are 10 siblings and for the most part they get along really well. We thought it would be fun to get a group of them to travel up there with us. The logistics of traveling in a large group can be tricky and I have found that good planning, and plenty of time to work out the details creates a much more successful experience. So, first I called my brother and sister in law in Alaska and made sure they were open to visitors (possibly a lot of them.). They have a peony farm called Wildberry Meadows, and were SO excited that we were coming. While I knew we wouldn’t be there the entire time, I still wanted to clear our plans with them first. They were extremely gracious and said, the more the merrier.
Let the Planning Begin
In August of 2016, I sent out an email to all of Nate’s siblings telling them that we would be traveling to Alaska the following summer, staying for about 10 days and if they would be interested in joining us. We had multiple emails back and forth and in the end; there ended up being four families including ours that would go. After we added Ben and Sierra; who were already in Alaska, it would be five families and 28 people traveling together for 10 days.
Once we had a firm head count, the real planning began. We would have 28 people; 10 adults and 18 kids who ranged in age from 3-16. We knew we wanted to start at Ben’s house in Wasilla, since most of us wanted to see the farm and hadn’t been there before. This eliminated the possibility of a cruise. We originally had talked about doing a cruise, but once we knew that we wanted to spend time in interior Alaska, and factoring in time constraints; we ruled it out. *As a side note, I have done an Alaskan cruise before and it is beautiful. It just didn’t work this time based on what we wanted to see and were trying to accomplish.
RV’s are the Way to Go
Alaska is huge and remote. Once you get outside of Anchorage and Wasilla, large towns are few and far between. There are some hotels, motels and VRBO’s but we really wanted to see a lot of different parts of Alaska. So, we decided on RV’s. My brother in law Ben owns an RV and said that it was a great way to travel there. I also heard that both RV’s and campgrounds book up quickly, so as soon as I had a headcount I set out to book RV’s. We decided that each family would have their own except for my brother and sister in law who were leaving their baby at home. They would share with Nate’s sister and her family. So, we needed 3. After checking reviews and calling around, I decided on Great Alaskan Holiday’s in Anchorage.
Great Alaskan Holiday’s really does things right. They are the largest RV company in Alaska and you can tell. The have airport shuttle service, the check in, and check out are efficient and my favorite part; you can reserve a brand new RV. I jumped on that right away. If you book quickly and pay a little extra, they will guarantee an RV that is new that summer. We ended up booking 3; 33 ft 2018 RV’s. They each had between 7K-9K miles on them when we picked them up the 2nd week of July. They were great. Each RV ran well, looked new and worked as well as we could hope. Additionally, we had plenty of room for all of our kids and our stuff. (Ours had a King bed, 2 single bunk beds, a full bed and a couch which turned into another full bed.) If you travel by RV in Alaska; Great Alaskan is the only way to go. We heard horror stories of some of the other RV companies out there.
Planning Our Route
Now that we had our head count set, and RV’s booked, we needed to figure out our route. As many of you know, I love to hike, so Denali was a must for me. I was a backpacking guide in college and Denali has always been such a dream of mine to visit. One of my brother in law’s also really loves hiking, and so the two of us fought really hard to keep Denali as part of our itinerary. Denali is 3 hours north of Wasilla and always cloudy. The mountain itself only shows its face about 60 days a year. We actually got really lucky and saw it on our first full day in Alaska, but once we got to the park itself it stayed covered. So, Denali would be our first stop and we would spend two nights there.
The rest of our time we knew would be spent on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Peninsula is about an hour southwest of Anchorage which would make it 4 hours from Denali. We really wanted to see all of the different aspects of Alaska; glaciers, the tidal beauty, the rivers and the fishing towns. In the end we decided to spend 1 night in Girdwood, 1 night in Seward, 1 night in Cooper Landing and two nights in Homer, in addition to our two nights in Denali. Plus we would stay at Ben’s house in Wasilla for 3 nights at the beginning of the trip. It was about a 90 minute average drive to each new spot on the Kenai and when you factored in that we were working with 18 hours of daylight, we really had plenty of time.
The Final Details
Once the itinerary was set we started to look at what each town had to offer and book our excursions. We had our bucket list items that we wanted to do like Halibut fishing, and a Kenai Fjords cruise and then we left time to discover what each place had to offer as well. In my next post I’ll go over each excursion and what we liked and what I’d do differently.
In the end, it really was such a great experience, one that I’d do over and over again. Our kids have memories with their cousins that will last a lifetime and I get to remember them. It was perfect.
*The rest of this week will be spent on Alaska. I’ll break down our excursions, what we loved and what I’d do differently next time. Plus, the craziest thing that I never expected to find in Alaska.