“And now for the rest of the story!”
RV: Best of two worlds. Having the ability to come and go was wonderful. We could keep warm, cook some meals, have our own preferred “goodies” available which was very nice. Additionally being able to take our Andy dog was great. It saved us some money by not kenneling him or getting a pet sitter.
The big lug did get in the way somewhat, but overall he was a very good boy. (Jamie refers to him as our manatee!) We get very attached to our puppy dogs, so not having to worry about him was nice. It did cause some problems due to not being able to take the ferry. We just did not want to chance him being cooped up for a long period.
FOOD: Eating out is very expensive, especially if you want to go to a nice restaurant. We did pick up a lot of meals and ate them in the RV. A lot of subway sandwiches, taco bell, etc. We also purchased deli meat a few times and Donna prepared some meals ahead of time that she took frozen. So we saved some money on food. In fact, we only ate once in a restaurant for a sit-down meal.
LAUNDRY: Keeping up with laundry was a challenge. We had plenty of clothes, but it was nice to wash every 3 days just so we didn’t have dirty clothes around. Prices for washing clothes varied from $2.50 a load to as much as $4.00 a load. Drying was about the same—sometimes it was based on minutes.
CLOTHING: I wore shorts every day but two--when I went fishing and on our 6 hour bus ride in Denali. Of course, that’s because I like to wear shorts daily. I only saw about 3 other people wearing shorts while we were in Alaska. We only needed our heavy clothing when we were in Denali. Otherwise, a lightweight jacket or sweatshirts kept us warm enough.
SHOWERS: We have a shower in our RV, but it was much easier to use the showers at the parks. The shower facilities varied as to cleanliness and how they worked. Sometimes there was a code to get into the facilities. Sometimes showers were free and sometimes there was a charge. The highest charge for showers was in the national parks ($3.50 to 4.00 for a shower.) When you paid, the showers would usually run for so many minutes with the option of putting in additional money for extra minutes. We learned that we could take a shower comfortably in 3 minutes. Sometimes we were back and forth to the RV…forgot the money, forgot the towel, forgot the soap, forgot the code to get in etc. I came back and forth to the RV at one park 3 times (that was a bad day!!) Donna forgot her towel two different times and didn’t notice until it was too late—she learned to creatively dry off with other items of clothing! Donna liked using a shower caddy which made it easy for her to find what she needed quickly. We both used tote bags to carry our clothing and toiletries. And shower shoes or flip-flops are a must for those shower floors. Foot spray was also very handy to have. And we always carried disinfectant wipes for the toilets.
COMMUNICATION: Walkie talkies were very handy to have also. When the shower house was far away, we liked using them to communicate. Of course, we forgot to take them when we really needed to ask the other one to bring us something we forgot to take to the shower house!
MEDICINE: We carried various medicines with us just in case we needed them—even for Andy. Luckily, we only needed Neosporin for some insect bites. And Donna needed the cold medicine for a few days when she got a cold the 2nd week of travel. Otherwise, we felt very fortunate that we didn’t get sick.
WATER: We had to be careful with water. Some water at the RV camps had drinking water at their sites. But some did not. They would always let you know when it was drinking water vs. potable water (had to be boiled for 15 minutes before using.) We avoided the potable water and filled our tanks with drinking water only and even then we ran that water through a water jug with a filter that we kept in our refrigerator. We also have a filter on our hose when we fill our RV tanks.
SECURING THE CABIN: As we traveled down the road, we learned the importance of securing the cabin. It was like being on an airplane. But sometimes after we secured everything, we would miss something or one of us would open a door, a cabinet or drawer and forget to close it properly. We would soon learn which one we forgot!! We even had to add a bungee cord to the coffee pot as it went flying by one day. Andy jumped at the 1st of the trip when something happened, but even he got used to things flying out of cabinets and doors flying open as time went by. When we forgot to secure the TV, it had an eerie creak and sounded like a ghost was on board when it swung out in the aisle. We also had to make sure we secured the drawers on the outside of the RV too. Several times we had someone letting us know that we had a drawer that was open on the side of the RV. Luckily no one got hit or injured!
HOTELS: I did a lot of checking on hotels prior to our trip. Again they were expensive. It was typically over a $110.00 a day. Most of the RV parks we stayed at were $25 to $40. The state parks even less. Since this was our first trip we wanted to try and stay in contact with family as much as possible. So this led us to parks with full service. On any future trips, we would probably stay more in state and federal parks and probably get our average down to the low $20’s.
GAS: Knowing that the gas would be expensive, we tried to use some cards for discounts. We did save a little money, but very little. When you’re paying upwards to $5 for a gallon 2 or 3 cents does not help much. You just grin and bear it. I started trying to fill up more often so that it would not seem so bad, $50 instead of $100.
OTHER TRAVELERS: There were many people we saw driving and tenting. At this time of the year (early September) tenting would be very difficult (cold, especially up North). It was pretty interesting seeing how many people were just sleeping in their cars at the RV parks. They would have electricity, water and showers and toilets which turns out cheaper than a hotel. Most hotels are very expensive and charged extra for dogs. We met one couple who had been up there for over six weeks and were driving an RV but staying in hotels. We met another couple who were biking, but the woman got tired so they rented a car and came to the RV park for a few days until she was ready to travel again. We met a lot of foreigners that got good deals on renting RVs at this time of year. We also met up with several convoys of RVers that were traveling together. It was fun when we ended up at the same RV parks with other travelers that we met on previous days.
WHAT TO DO??? When I planned this trip I wanted to see as much as possible. We went into Canada on the East side and came out as far West as you could drive. We made numerous loops off the main Alaska highway to see different things. We got to see a lot. Depending upon the time of the year you need to plan really well for your trip. This also depends upon your mode of transportation. The one guide you will need when you drive is the Milepost. It has all the roads and points of interest in Canada and Alaska. BTW, I purchased a two year old one for 7 bucks. It sells for about 30. The one I have is useless now, worn out. Ha! Ha!
TIME OF TRAVEL: I chose late summer into September to travel. I wanted to avoid the crowds and make sure it was cool enough for Andy if he had to remain in the RV. I made reservations for the 1st 7 days, which were not needed. (In fact, sometimes when we arrived, the park owner would sort of laugh that we bothered to make a reservation!!) So if you come at this time of year, you will avoid the crowds. Some negatives, it did get cold. NOT FREEZING, most nights it was in the 30’s a few 20’s, but we had prepared for this temperature and it made great sleeping weather. However, you have to be careful that you know your destination will have an RV park that is still open. We got worried a few times, that we wouldn’t find an open park. But luckily, we always found an open RV park. But we did see many closed ones too. Some RV parks are seasonal and close after Labor Day or the middle of September.
NEXT TIME: If we come back we want to go to only a couple of places and do an extended stay in a couple so we could really enjoy ourselves and relax more. Because of our hectic schedule we did not get to do any long trail walking. I brought along a large spotting scope that I never had a chance to use. I did use my binoculars and a small scope a lot. If we could camp for a few days, there were hundreds of places to set up and watch for wildlife, just not enough time.
WEATHER: I used the internet to research temperatures for the period we were traveling. We had some friends who traveled to Alaska and had terrible weather. I guess it is just being at the right place at the right time. We have ZERO complaints about the weather. We had rain or cloudy days about 7/8 days. But even on those days it would clear up by the afternoon so we always had some good sunshine. Good planning or dumb luck. We talked to one couple who spent two days at Skagway, said it rained the whole time they were there. We drove down for a day trip and had beautiful weather.
BLOG: We planned the blog to share our trip with our family and friends. We hoped it served that purpose. It was very time consuming, but fun. It made us categorize our pictures each day as we picked out some favorites for the blog and then put the others in folders for future use. We plan on doing some more RV trips in the future and hope to return to Alaska again. These future trips will not include a blog. Spending about two hours a night really cut into some relaxation time, but again we enjoyed doing it. It will be great to use for a record of our trip.
RV REPAIR: I have a roadside assistance plan with my insurance company, but it is only good in the US. I purchased another plan through Good Sams. So when I had a tire problem it was worthless, because we could not call them due to no cell phone service so I had to change a tire myself. This brings up the next issue. If you take a vehicle to Canada or Alaska make absolutely sure you know how to do some minor repairs and change a tire. I had gone over the manual for our RV for changing a tire, and it still took me 2 hours to change one tire. Be prepared.
CELL PHONE: I told Donna to check on using the cell phone in Canada. She believed since her phone could be used internationally we would be okay, it does not seem to be working that way. We have not gotten the bill yet, but she believes we’re going to be charged extra for any calls we made in Canada. So call your carrier. I would recommend buying some pre-paid phone cards and use them while in Canada.
PICTURES: I estimated we took over 12,000 pictures. Donna will get an exact figure later. Since they were digital it’s no big deal. Suggest you put them in folders on a computer each day and also keep a note or log book to keep up with your dates and locations. Will help when you try and figure out where that picture came from. We plan to post more pictures from our trip either on Facebook or Webshots.
Depending upon your mode of travel there are so many ways to go to Alaska. I think the best choice if you are limited…take a week cruise to Anchorage, rent a RV for a week. Do 2/3 days at Denali, loop down to Haines or Skagway, drive over to Kenai Peninsula and Homer then back to Anchorage.
This is the official end of our blog!