Starting Our Itinerary from Scratch
Updated: Jan 23
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment.” - Hilaire Belloc
Now that we have booked our flight to Alaska and secured a rental car, it’s time to get down to the itinerary. This will allow us to book hotels and lodging in advance. Knowing where we will be staying keeps my stress levels at a minimum once we get to our destination.
All of the flight and hotel bundles we looked at kept our lodging in Anchorage the entire stay. One of the things we are positive we want to do while in Alaska is visit Denali National Park. We did a quick search to see how far it would be from Anchorage to Denali, and found it would be just over four hours of drive time each way.
Obviously, staying in Anchorage and driving to Denali would allow us very limited time to explore while there. As one may remember from a previous blog post, Denali National Park is about the size of half of Switzerland. We would not get to explore much of the park before having to head right back to the hotel for the night. This realization in itself was one of the main reasons we decided to book hotels separately - to ensure we could move around and spend the time we wanted where we wanted.
For Zac and I, crossing national parks off our bucket lists is a goal. Alaska is full of national parks, so I figured we hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, when I looked into the details, I found that a lot of the Alaskan national parks actually require airplane or helicopter rides to get to them. Although that sounds like an incredible experience, we unfortunately know that a week is just not enough time to do that over and over again.
Source: Kenai Fjords National Park
Basically, we decided on sticking with mostly the Anchorage and Denali areas for our trip. Once we landed on that as our decision, we used an incredibly high-tech way of scoping out other nearby areas and towns: Google Maps. There are some towns sprinkled between Anchorage and Denali - as well as a lot of other towns just south of Anchorage - to explore.
Anchorage to Homer (pictured) is about a three hour trip, which means that all of the little towns on the way there and around that peninsula would be both accessible and close enough to visit if anything from those areas piques our interest.
Of course, the first thing that I decided to really look into was dog sledding. We are going toward the end of their summer months, so part of me was a little worried there would not be any options to witness these incredible dogs in action. Thank goodness I was wrong!
Just a few hours from Anchorage, in Seward, there is an incredible dog sledding racing team. They allow visitors to witness the dogs in action even in the summer (because they, of course, have to stay in shape all seasons of the year). After watching the dogs do what they’re so great at, visitors can play with them (and with some puppies too). Obviously, this is pretty much my own little slice of heaven on earth.
Source: Your Own, Personal Iditarod
Although a lot of the national parks besides Denali are extremely difficult to get to or too far away, Kenai Fjords National Park is actually pretty close to Anchorage. The park has a lot of opportunities for hiking, much like Denali does. It also offers chances to cruise around and whale watch, look for seals, and even the chance to see some puffins. We missed out on puffins in Iceland, so seeing them in Alaska would be an extra-special surprise.
They also have some ATV rental options near Anchorage. Zac and I really enjoy ATV tours, and have gone on a few in the past. Some of those trips were led as a group, but a few just allowed us to go out on our own wherever we pleased. The options near Anchorage are similar - which is very exciting! ATV tours are incredible, and I can only imagine that they’re even more awesome in a place like Alaska.
Kayak and SUP rentals are available near Anchorage, and Alaska Outdoor Gear Rental offers both of those things and more - they offer wetsuits, booties and other things for water sports. They even offer equipment rentals for hiking, backpacking, and biking. We typically bring our hiking bags as our personal items on the plane. However, if we decide that we need to do something differently for this trip, it is nice to know that we have other options.
There are always too many cool things to do when visiting a new place for the first time. It’s a balancing act to decide which things are the most important to us, and which things to nix (or save for next time). What we do know for sure is that we plan to visit Denali, Anchorage, and Kenai Fjords. In addition, I think that we will absolutely have to do some dog sledding while there. I mean, really, what is a trip to Alaska without playing with some Huskies?