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  • khdeutmeyer

Alaska...Bear, Moose, Mountains and Glaciers... There is nothing like the nature and beauty!!!

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

We have traveled to Alaska six times. It is one of my favorite trips, if not my favorite place to travel. No matter when we go, it seems like it is my first time visiting!

Katmai National Park and Preserve - Brooks Falls

Our first trip to Alaska was in 2006. We traveled with three of the five kids for a summer family trip. Two of the kids had conflicts and were not able to join us. We flew into Anchorage and used that as our base for a few nights. We visited during the month of July when the temperatures are warm, 60's and 70's during the day and sweater weather in the evening. We had almost 22 to 24 hours of light and had to adapt to so much light! We had a very difficult time stopping and found ourselves sightseeing at 10:00 p.m. at night. We had our bucket list of attractions we wanted to visit including Denali National Park; taking the Alaskan Railroad; horseback riding and seeing sled dogs; and taking a boat ride in the Prince William Sound. We were fortunate that we did it all!!!

“If there is one excursion I would recommend while in Alaska is a flight trip to Katmai National Park. There is nothing like flying in a float plane over the glaciers and landing on the water and walking through the forest to the viewing platform to see the bears fishing for the salmon."

The trip to Katmai was our first excursion after we arrived in Anchorage. We traveled with Rust's Flying Service. This is a 10 to 12 hour day leaving early morning. Departure times depend on weather so be prepared for a delay. We had fog and had to wait until it burned off before we departed. We flew on a small single engine float plane that seated six. the I will be honest, I was a bit nervous as we boarded the plan and so were the kids but after we were up in the air, all was good! Rust's packed lunches, waters, and snacks for us. The flight trip was incredible and the sites were amazing. Katmai can only be reached by air so a flight plane is the only option. There are other locations you can depart from such as Homer, which is about four hours south of Anchorage but we chose to leave from Anchorage. In 2006 the price was $500 a person for the day long trip. Today, prices are bumping a $1000 per person. But again, it is well worth saving your money and making the trip! We had a beautiful sunny day after the fog burned off. The plane lands on the water and as we were landing, a bear and its cub came out onto the beach and we had to be rushed back to our plane for safety until they passed by. It was thrilling to see a bear and cub within seconds of landing! After you land, they take you to a National Park Service location for "bear training" and for them to explain the safety and rules of the viewing platforms. After that, you are on your own to explore. We stayed with our pilot initially to get us to the platforms. Overall, we saw at least 15-20 bear during our Katmai trip. This was 2006 so digital cameras didn't have the zoom capacity like they have now. I was just getting into photography at that time and had my first digital camera with a 10x zoom! I was fortunate to get the amazing bear photos from the platform and the landscape photos from the plane. I was sad when the day ended. We hated to leave! I look forward to returning to Katmai someday!


While in Anchorage we took the Alaskan Railroad to Seward and booked a boat ride out in the Prince William Sound through the Kenai Fjords National Park. It was a beautiful train ride and boat trip and was a full day excursion. The boat ride took us past many glaciers, mountains, seals, and sea otters. It was a very relaxing day and the kids also enjoyed it.

Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise

We had a bus ride back to Anchorage when the boat ride was finished. Anther trip we did was a drive to Whittier and then a car ferry to Valdez. We stayed in Valdez one night and then drove back to Anchorage. Valdez is a pretty city but not a trip I would do a second time. There was not much to see on the car ferry or around the Valdez area. A must see about an hour outside of Anchorage is the Mantuska Glacier. It is a 27 mile long glacier flowing from the Chugach Mountains. There an entrance fee but you are allowed to walk on the glacier. It was a fun experience and it is definitely worth the fee!


After leaving Anchorage, we headed to the Denali National park area and stayed in a cabin. Denali is the tallest mountain in North America and the Alaskan mountain range. I have been told that due to its vast height, only 45% of it is visible most days and it is visible to only 1 of 3 visitors for a prolonged period of time. We were fortunate, we were able to see Denali on our first trip! We took the day long bus trip into the Denali National Park. You can only drive your car in 12-13 miles so to see the entire park, you have to use their bus system. I am not a day long bus person so it was miserable. There are locations to get on and off the bus but I don't like being dependent on others! I also don't like the feeling of being on a schedule and trapped. I have had friends take the bus into Denali and enjoy it but for me, it is not my recommendation. We didn't see any wildlife up close either. We did see a bear and a moose but it was at a very long distance. I think I would do another type of tour if I were to go back to Denali and want to see more in the park like an ATV or UTV tour.


After leaving Denali area, we traveled to Fairbanks and stayed outside the City in cabins. While I loved it, the kids had a fit. Cell phone coverage was very limited in 2006 and internet was spotty. Top it off with no cable television and I had a few complainers! We were forced to play board games and cards. But we did a trail ride on horses; the cabins had real sled dogs; and we got to play at the northern most golf course in Alaska. We also visited North Pole, Alaska and said 'Hi" to Mr. and Mrs. Santa! We also saw the Alaskan pipeline.


The trip left me wanting to return to Alaska to see more! Once you spend time in Alaska, you will long to return! I guarantee it!



Since I am reflecting back on my experience and writing this years later, I unfortunately do not have the a written itinerary or a list of places I stayed back in 2006. Back in 2006, I did many Google searches and did alot of phone calls to Alaska talking to various tour operators to find out the information I needed to plan the trip. It sure wasn't as easy as it is now, 15 years later! I planned the trip on my own and we enjoyed every minute. However, future trips and posts will have the itineraries with lodging information for reference.



TIPS TO TRAVEL ECONOMICALLY AND GET THE MOST FOR YOUR TIME AND MONEY


I also get asked many times, "How do you travel so often and keep it affordable?" A few tips are below:

  • For me, planning and researching is part of the excitement of the trip! Visioning is so much fun!!!

  • I plan all of my own trips and research, research, research on the internet. I utilize TripAdvisor, Frommer's, and blogs from other travelers to find the information I need for my trip. I do ALOT of reading and researching. It takes patience to plan a good affordable trip!

  • I have a budget in mind for each trip and challenge myself to stay in the budget. Depending on the location, I typically start planning and booking hotels, cars, etc., approximately 9 months out. Hotel prices usually get more expensive the closer to the trip unless you are willing to do a last minute internet deal. Car rental and airline prices also go up the closer it is to your trip. Occasionally you can get a last minute deal but something else may be more expensive and you are really not saving. I like to plan!

  • For hotels, I use Booking.com, or Priceline.com. I look for hotels with good reviews, pay when you stay, and free cancellation in advance.

  • We have done all-inclusive in a couple of tropical locations years and years ago but found that we do not eat and drink enough to make it worth the extra expense. We like to go off site from the hotel and experience the local cuisine and traditions. We have not done all-inclusive in the last 15 years. However, all-inclusive is wonderful if you want to stay at the resort for all meals, not rent a car, and have the hotel shuttle you to your destinations. That has worked for us in Jamaica and it was very relaxing! But I would not drive in Jamaica so all-inclusive was the smartest option! If you enjoy all-inclusive, the earlier you book the trip the lower the price. Unless you are game and are not a planner, and are willing to travel where the last minute deal is advertised. Then you could get a great all-inclusive deal!

  • If we are flying, I use the Skyscanner app to check airfare prices and I try not to buy until about 60 to 75 days out. There are times where I will by earlier if the price is super reasonable. I usually do not book on Skyscanner. It will tell me the site that is the most affordable to purchase the tickets and if it is a more well known trust site, I go directly to the site to purchase the tickets. Many times Skyscanner will take you right to the airline website. Skyscanner will search all airlines and will sort by price, times, shortest trip, etc.

  • Have a credit card that gives you miles or hotel points. We will use points for many of our trips. We are American Advantage members and have an Advantage credit card. We try to fly American as often as we can to earn points and then use those points for future airline tickets. Our credit card is tied to our Advantage numbers and awards points as well.

  • We drive if the location is in the United States and we can drive and sightsee along the way. If we need to rent a car, we reserve online using Booking.com, Orbitz.com, or Priceline.com. They are usually the most reasonable. I watch for specials and never book a luxury vehicle! We also have a credit card with a low limit that we use for vehicle rentals that provides insurance as a credit card benefit. We always decline the insurance when we are in the United States. If we are traveling out of the United States, we check with the credit card if the insurance is valid internationally. We have found it is valid in Europe, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, but in other locations, we are forced to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company.

  • While there are free maps online for most destinations, I always go onto Amazon and buy a map of my destination, especially if it is international. I do not buy maps for tropical Caribbean islands. I just get one when we arrive. But for countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, England, Canada, Germany, France, etc., I always purchase a good map. As you do you research, you can use the map to highlight the places you want to visit and the sites you want to see. I have it as a reference later for putting my memories and photos into a photobook!

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