Destination Guides,  Itineraries

10 Days in Alaska: Planning Your Alaska Itinerary in 2021

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If there is one destination about which I receive more questions than any other, it’s Alaska. At the core, everyone wants to know: how do you plan a trip to Alaska? What’s the perfect Alaska itinerary?

Since I started this blog, I’ve become a bit of an expert in Alaska trip planning and at times I publish so many stories that it seems like I’m running an Alaska travel blog! After all, I grew up in Alaska and I go back to explore my ‘home’ state with some frequency (about every 2-3 years). On top of that, I worked for three summers in hospitality. I love answering questions and giving tips about how to plan a trip to Alaska, The Last Frontier!

10 Day Alaska Hero

If you’re planning a trip to Alaska – a destination many people dream of visiting for years – you’ve got to do it right. As a local and one who has worked in hospitality, I’m happy to share all my knowledge and tips so you can have an amazing trip.

“Write what you know,” they say. Okay, friends. Let’s do this!

Note: As of December 2020, this post has been updated to reflect the businesses and accommodation options that are currently open, but things may continue to be affected by the pandemic. Be sure to double-check all hours and openings when you book your trip! If you see an error, please let me know in the comments or email me.

This post was published in September 2017, and was updated in October 2018, March 2019, September 2019, April 2020, and December 2020.

Tips for Planning a Trip to Alaska

Alaska - Fireweed

Alaska is a bucket-list destination for many travelers, so there are some important details to know before you start planning your trip.

The Best Months to Visit Alaska

Though most people don’t, you can visit Alaska year-round. Yes, it’s colder and darker in the winter, but there are several reasons to visit during Alaska’s winter months:

Similar reasons make visiting in the shoulder season (spring and autumn) appealing. If you’re on the fence, I put together a list of reasons to visit Alaska in the spring (these apply to autumn too).

If you’re looking for the best weather, it’s undeniable that the best months to visit Alaska are June through August. These are the months with the best weather – most sun and least rain – and warmest temperatures. Unfortunately, this short peak season means you’ll be visiting at the same time as every other traveler, so consider whether shoulder or off-season travel might be a better option for you.

Almost all of the activities I recommend in this post are only available in the summer months. If you plan a trip to Alaska in the spring, autumn, or winter, be sure to check available dates before you book.

Booking a Guided Tour vs. Doing it On Your Own

Many people visit Alaska as part of a cruise or guided tour, as these tour operators make it easy to see popular cities and sights without worrying about logistics.

While it’s definitely easier to book with a tour operator or guide, it’s not too hard to visit Alaska on your own and book everything independently. Alaska may be ‘The Last Frontier,’ but it has all the modern amenities you need, and with a smartphone or map, you can easily navigate yourself around the large state. That’s why I’ve put together this itinerary and so many others as an Alaska trip planner for you!

(I also offer two other options: a Itinerary Planning Packs, and a custom itinerary planning service. You can handle planning your own Alaska trip.)

The Cost of Travel in this Alaska Itinerary

Alaska is not a cheap destination, especially in summer when prices are higher because of the tourist season. Many “normal” conveniences (like groceries and food) will be more expensive, as they need to be imported from the “Lower 48.” Though a lot of oil comes from Alaska, gas prices are not significantly cheaper; you can expect a gallon of gas to cost roughly the same as one in New England.

What to Pack for Alaska

Pack for Alaska Hero

If you’re planning a trip to Alaska, you need to pack the right gear. It’s not the kind of destination where you’ll enjoy yourself if you’re underdressed or underprepared! I’ve put together a full packing list for Alaska, but here are some quick tips:

  • Pack layers! You can always take them off.
  • Pack rain gear. You don’t want to spend the whole trip feeling damp and cold.
  • A hat, gloves, and scarf can’t go wrong, even in summer.
  • Skip the skimpy shoes and opt for sturdy walking or hiking shoes.
  • Throw sunglasses and an eye mask in your bag. That Midnight Sun is bright!

See the full packing list here. (I also have one for winter and a separate one if you’re taking a cruise too.)

Alaska Itinerary Planning Tip: By Train or By Car?

As you’ll see as you read the rest of this Alaska itinerary for 10 days, there are two main times where you’re traveling a long distance during your 10 days in Alaska:

  1. Anchorage to Denali (Day 3) and back (Day 6)
  2. Anchorage to Seward (Day 6) and back (Day 10)

Let’s break each one down!

Anchorage to Denali and Back

  • Travel distance and time:
    • By car – approximately 4.5 hours
    • By train – approximately 8 hours
  • What I recommend: Train
  • Why I recommend the train: While it’s significantly faster to drive to/from Denali and it makes your Day 6 travel time substantially shorter, the Denali Star route cuts through one of the most beautiful parts of Alaska. Also, when you’re in Denali, you don’t need a car. Most hotels offer a shuttle to/from the train depot, and most of the tour companies will pick up and transfer you for any tours you book.
  • Book the train: directly on the Alaska Railroad website

Anchorage to Seward and Back

  • Travel distance and time:
    • By car – approximately 2.5 hours
    • By train – approximately 4.25 hours
  • What I recommend: Car
  • Why I recommend renting a car: The Coastal Classic train route is beautiful, but the highway to Seward goes along much of the same route. You also need a car to get to/from most hotels and other excursions I recommend in the Seward area (like Exit Glacier).
  • Book a car: I recommend renting from Sixt or Fox Rent-A-Car. They all offer budget rentals and run regular deals and specials. If you’re not sure (or not loyal to any particular car rental company), consider using a tool like Momondo or TripAdvisor to compare a bunch of options (yes, TripAdvisor does rental cars!)

I hope that helps as you plan a trip to Alaska – obviously the final choice is up to you!

The Perfect 10-Day Alaska Itinerary

Here’s the quick version of a 10-day itinerary for Alaska. You can read below for greater detail. Note that this estimated time on the map is based on driving the entire route, not taking the Alaska Railroad.

Activities
Day 1Arrive in Anchorage
Day 2Explore Anchorage
Day 3Travel to Denali
Day 4Denali National Park
Day 5Sightseeing Denali
Day 6Travel to/Explore Seward
Day 7Sightseeing in Kenai Fjords
Day 8Travel to/Explore Girdwood
Day 9Exploring Turnagain Arm
Day 10Return to Anchorage

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage

Depending on your city of origin, it may take almost one full day to fly to Alaska. For example, from Seattle, most flights to Alaska leave in the afternoon or evening, and you arrive in Anchorage late in the day.

If you’re arriving for your 10 days in Alaska via cruise ship, it will take most of the day to disembark and travel from the ship to Anchorage. Cruise companies typically use Anchorage as a base for “land excursions” in the state, so you can expect to catch a bus or train from Seward or Whittier to Anchorage on your day of disembarkation.

Given that you’re arriving in Anchorage during the evening, don’t plan much for your first day between settling in. If, as this Alaska itinerary proposes, you decide to travel Alaska on your own (without a guide), you won’t need a rental car until the morning on Day 3. For now, it’s best to settle into your Anchorage accommodation and enjoy dinner.

Resources for Day 1

Day 2: Explore Anchorage

Since I grew up just outside Anchorage, I could easily give you a week worth of things to do, but let’s try and keep it to just one day – there’s so much to see in Alaska and it’s such a big state that you need the rest of this Alaska itinerary for 10 days to see other amazing sights!

If you’re in Anchorage on a weekend, be sure to add the Anchorage Market & Festival to your list. This downtown market features local gifts and vendors, musicians and performers, and some really delicious food. On a good day, you’ll also have great views of the surrounding mountains and scenery from the edges of the Market.

On my most recent trip, I also made a visit to the Anchorage Museum, which has undergone massive renovations since my family moved away from Alaska 10+ years ago. From a Smithsonian-sponsored exhibit on the Native cultures of Alaska to the classic Alaskan artwork in the original part of the Museum, the exhibit on Alaska’s unique relationship with Russia to the “Imaginarium” downstairs where kids and alike can experience science first hand… the museum is a surprising delight.

Resources for Day 2

  • Stay in the same accommodation for Day 2.
  • For lunch, eat at the Anchorage Market or at Tia’s Reindeer Sausage on 4th Avenue.
  • For dinner, book a table at the Crow’s Nest. The views are stunning.

Day 3: Travel to Denali

Alaska - Railroad Engine

Today’s plan: head north to Denali! There are two ways to get to Denali:

  • By car, 4 hours via Alaska Highway 1 (the Glenn Highway) and 3 (the Parks Highway)
  • By train aboard the Alaska Railroad, 7.5 hours

While I have most commonly driven between Anchorage and Denali, I highly recommend the Alaska Railroad, since it offers a unique experience of the Alaskan Wilderness as well as great service and the ability to relax the whole way. If you choose to drive, be sure to keep an eye out for the mountain of Denali (here are some of my favorite Denali viewpoints), and be sure to stop at Little Miller’s and get a huge ice cream cone!

Either way you get there, you’ll arrive in Denali in the mid-afternoon, so you can spend the rest of the day relaxing, or get started on this list of the best things to do in Denali.

Resources for Day 3

  • Book 2 nights in Denali.
  • Denali has a limited number of accommodations in the small town; I recommend basically all of them, including the Grande Denali Lodge (from $359/night on Booking.com or Hotels.com), McKinley Chalet Resort (book on Booking.com or Hotels.com), or Cabins at Denali (from $298/night on Hotels.com).
  • There aren’t a ton of vacation rental options near Denali National Park, so you’ll need a car if you choose to stay in a vacation rental instead of a hotel right in town. This house (from $325/night, good for families or small groups) or this house (from $443/night, good for large groups, also on Booking.com) are both good options.
  • For dinner, head to Lynx Creek Pizza. Order the ‘Polychrome Pass’ with artichoke hearts added. You’re welcome!
  • Another dinner option is the Salmon Bake. This Denali-area institution draws a local crowd and they serve a massive blue margarita named after the mountain.

Day 4: Denali National Park

Under normal circumstances, I’d advise you to rise early and board a bus into Denali National Park. Usually, Denali National Park is not accessible by private vehicle, so National Park Service buses are the only way to really get into the park, see wildlife, and potentially, see the mountain of Denali herself.

Speaking of bus tours, there is only one Denali National Park tour option for Summer 2021:

  • The Tundra Wilderness Tour: 7-8 hours in the park to either Mile 53 (Toklat River) or Mile 62 (Stony Overlook).

Normally, the NPS also offers two other tours:

  • Denali Natural History Tour: 4.5-5 hours in the park to Mile 27 (Teklanika River)
  • Kantishna Experience: 11-12 hours in the park to Mile 92 (Kantishna)

But these are unavailable in summer 2021. To be honest, I don’t believe it’s worth it to go for any less than the Tundra Wilderness Tour anyway, so the limited options in 2021 don’t affect my suggestion.

The DNHT (so-called by the National Park Service) is interesting but caters more toward travelers that can’t handle sitting on a school bus for long periods of time. The tour will give you a flavor of the park, but will definitely leave you wanting more. The TWT is much more palatable, and good duration of 7-8 hours long. There’s an optimal chance to see wildlife, and you’ll ride along a significant length of the park road.

Resources for Day 4

  • Stay another night at your booked accommodations.
  • Depending on the length of your tour, you may want to book a seat for Alaska Cabin Nite, a dinner theater show that’s both cheesy and charming. Tickets are $75 per person. (I’m not sure this will be happening in 2021, but I’ll update as soon as I know!)
  • The TWT is $162.50 for adults and $73.75 for kids in the 2021 season.

Day 5: Sightseeing Denali

Because Denali and Denali National Park are almost too big to comprehend, I recommend taking two full days here. It will give you a true sense of the scale of Alaska, and a better chance of seeing the mountain while visiting.

On this day, book the 8:30 am guided flightseeing tour with Fly Denali. They are my preferred provider after trying many of the flightseeing providers in the area when I worked in Denali one summer. Their Denali Glacier Landing tour is expensive at $599 per person, but 100% worth it. You’ll spend almost 2 hours in the air, plus 20 minutes on a glacier on Denali itself. So cool (literally and figuratively – there’s always snow!).

At 12:30 pm, catch the Alaska Railroad south to Anchorage. You can enjoy dinner aboard the train before arriving in Anchorage for the evening.

Resources for Day 5

  • Stay another night in Anchorage. As advised above, I recommend booking this night when you book the earlier nights for your 10 days in Alaska.
  • The Fly Denali Glacier Landing tour is $599 per person. The only time for the flightseeing tour that works in this Alaska itinerary is 8:30 am, so be sure to book in advance. (Again, I’m not 100% sure on the availability of this in 2021, but I’ll update here as soon as I know!)

Day 6: Travel to Seward

Day 6 is another travel day. While the Alaska Railroad is a beautiful route from Anchorage to Seward, I recommend renting a car for this portion of the drive for several reasons:

  1. It is a 2.5-hour drive from Anchorage to Seward.
  2. While the Seward Highway is known as one of the more dangerous highways to drive, it is reasonable to drive as long as you are aware of other drivers and don’t take risks while driving or park on the side of the highway to look at whales or Dall sheep.
  3. The train from Anchorage to Seward leaves at 6:45 am – yuck!
  4. The rest of this Alaska itinerary works much better if you have a car to get around.

After making the 150-minute drive from Anchorage to Seward, you’ll have most of the day to explore the city – here are some of the top things to do in Seward. If you need to narrow it down, I recommend spending a few hours at the Alaska SeaLife Center in downtown Seward; you can see a variety of sea creatures including several in rehabilitation or research studies.

Reasons to Visit Alaska in Spring: Winter Experiences

In the afternoon, head to Exit Glacier, just north of Seward. As I mentioned in my post about hiking in Alaska, Exit Glacier has a bunch of hiking trails and it’s easy to get pretty close to Exit Glacier and learn more about how glaciers have shaped the Alaskan terrain.

Resources for Day 6

Day 7: Sightseeing in Kenai Fjords

Alaska - Whale Watching in Seward

Today, you’ll board a sightseeing tour in Seward that will take you out into Kenai Fjords National Park. As the name suggests, these fjords are massive waterways that are home to some of Alaska’s greatest sealife, including humpback and orca whales, seabirds like puffins, and plenty of otters.

My preferred tour provider in Seward is Major Marine Tours, though there are others to chose from. I’ve taken several tours with Major Marine Tours over the ages and put together a review of two different tours I’ve done recently: the 6-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise and the 8.5 Hour Kenai Fjords Northwestern Fjord Cruise.

As this tour will take up most of your day, the rest of the day can be spent at your leisure.

Resources for Day 7

  • Stay another night at your Seward accommodation.
  • For dinner, try The Cookery. I’ve never been, but it has rave reviews on TripAdvisor.
  • The Major Marine Tours 6-hour tour is $169 per person, and the 8.5-hour tour is $234 per person. Click here to see all full-day tour options and tickets and be sure to book in advance during the busy summer months.

Day 8: Travel to Girdwood

For Days 8 and 9 of your 10 days in Alaska, the pace of travel slows significantly; there’s much less time spent traveling and more spent relaxing and/or looking around at the sights.

After the second night in Seward, the goal is to reach Girdwood on Day 8, a 1.5-hour drive. En route, I recommend taking a small detour to enjoy lunch and walk around my favorite small Alaska town, Hope. There isn’t a ton to do in Hope, but it gives you a good picture of what life is like outside the “cities” in Alaska. Enjoy lunch at the Sea View Cafe, walk along the river, and try your hand at gold panning.

In Girdwood, spend the afternoon by taking the Alyeska tram up Alyeska mountain. This tram is part of the Alyeska Resort and takes about seven minutes to bring you up the mountain. En route, you’ll see hanging glaciers on nearby mountains, and maybe even some wildlife in the landscape below.

Once you’ve arrived at the top of the tram, you can hike around (this is another easy hike I recommend for first-time travelers to Alaska) or enjoy dinner at Seven Glaciers restaurant. If you want to have dinner, be sure to book a reservation in advance.

Resources for Day 8

  • Book two nights in Alyeska.
  • For hotels, your options are a bit limited I recommend the funky Ski Inn (from $80/night on Hotels.com); I don’t recommend the Hotel Alyeska due to my own poor experiences and those reported to me by other readers too.
  • For vacation rentals, this gorgeous wooden home (from $173/night) is a perfect mountain home base, this guest suite (from $140/night) is nicely modern, or you can stay at this alpine home (from $130/night) with a hot tub.
  • If you want to splurge on dinner in a different style, head to the Double Musky. This was my parent’s favorite restaurant, and they also have rooms.
  • Alyeska tram tickets start from $29 per person.

Day 9: Exploring Turnagain Arm

On the last full day exploring Alaska, you have a bit of flexibility. There are two main experiences I recommend while based out of Girdwood for the day:

  • Portage Glacier Tour – A short boat tour to see Portage Glacier, an easily accessible glacier.
  • Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – A facility where many species of native Alaskan animals live permanently or in rehabilitation. This gives you a good chance to see some animals you may have missed while traveling.

Both of these activities will take a few hours, so you could do one in the morning and another in the afternoon at your leisure.

Resources for Day 9

  • Stay a second night at your Girdwood accommodation.
  • For dinner, head to Jack Sprat in Girdwood. This dinner spot has a delicious, hearty menu.
  • The Portage Glacier Cruise is $39 per person.
  • Admission to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) is $15 per car.

Day 10: Return to Anchorage

Wake up on your final day of this Alaska itinerary. It’s an easy day: all you need to do is get back to Anchorage from Girdwood (~60 minutes driving). Along the way, you could stop and do the following:

  • Go for a short hike at McHugh Creek, a day-use hiking area.
  • Walk along the boardwalk at Potter Marsh, a huge wetland where you can still occasionally spot a moose.
  • Go for a hike up Flattop, one of Anchorage’s popular hiking mountains near the city.
  • Watch airplanes land at Earthquake Park near the Anchorage airport.

At the end, you’ll need to board a plane home at Ted Steven’s International Airport. Many flights are red-eye when heading east toward the contiguous United States, so settle in for the long flight with dreams full of your Alaskan adventures!

Resources for Day 10

  • If you have time before your flight, stop for dinner at the Moose’s Tooth. This is a local favorite pizza shop with great beer (and great root beer!).
  • Nothing else – we’re all done!

And there you have it – a perfect 10-day trip to Alaska. If this doesn’t quite suit what you want to do, don’t forget you can always book a custom itinerary with me and I’ll help you plan a personalized trip!

Have questions about this Alaska itinerary? Let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

184 Comments

        • Valerie

          Great question. As I am not a wheelchair user, I can’t speak from personal experience, but the answer is yes – but not impossible. Basically everything in Alaska that’s on the main “tourist trail” is set up to be ADA compliant, and you can always call to inquire about specifics to ensure you don’t hit any bumps (literal or figurative!).

  • Crystal @ Dreams, etc.

    This post is so, so helpful! Definitely pinning this for later. I’m one of the many who would love to go to Alaska someday. I wouldn’t mind going during winter or spring, either.

  • Patricia Conte

    Wow! Such great and detailed info! I realllllly want to make a trip to Alaska. It’s on my short list! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  • Ruth Barclay

    I need this trip Planning Aug -Sept 2018 Nothing is mentioned about Fairbanks or Talkeetna. If I want to add a few days here would you give me some ideas. Also my first thought when I began planning was to start in Fairbanks Thoughts?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Ruth! So are you planning to try and do all of the spots I mentioned plus Fairbanks and Talkeetna too? That would be pretty ambitious in just 10 days! Happy to give you some tips, if you can please confirm how long your trip will be 🙂

      • Ruth Barclay

        Yes, we would add 2-3 more days. We would follow your itinary going in the opposite direction flying into Fairbanks and fly out of Anchorage. We would plan to go by train and rent a vehicle

        • Valerie

          Ruth, if you’re adding extra days, it should be no problem to add in Fairbanks for sure — you don’t really need more than a day there, and you definitely don’t need more than a day in Talkeetna. If you want to do Talkeetna though, you probably need to rent a car and make the drive from Fairbanks > Denali > Talkeetna > Anchorage.

      • Ruth Barclay

        Well I’ve got my flight. We start in Fairbanks. Because of the flight times we will spend 2 nights in Fairbanks but really only one day. From there to Denali. I would like to go to talkeetna prior to our trip heading south to Anchorage. Do you have any thoughts or excursion ideas to add Following most of your itinerary we will have 2weeks I welcome yours or anyone else input

          • Kaelee

            What are your thoughts one a one way trip, into Fairbanks and down to anchorage vs in/out of anchorage?
            Will it allow you to save driving time but not take the train to Denali? Are there issues with one way rentals?
            I am trying to understand the differences, looking at a trip in July with 9 whole days in Alaska, +1 day flying on the front and back of trip.

          • Valerie

            Thanks for asking, Kaelee. A couple of comments:

            1. Please don’t book a trip to Alaska if you don’t already have one planned. There is no guarantee that Alaska will allow out-of-state visitors this summer, and it costs all of the hotels/tour operators/etc when you book AND when you cancel or change your reservation – even if it’s because of coronavirus. Here are my travel suggestions this year: https://www.valisemag.com/alaska-travel-coronavirus/

            2. You can totally do a 1-way trip – it’s easy to book a single one-way flight from Anchorage back up to Fairbanks and have a round-trip ticket to/from Fairbanks if that’s cheaper. I would definitely take the train though, as one-way car rentals are a lot more expensive (usually 1.5-2x more) in Alaska. You can then rent a car in Anchorage to drive to Seward or anywhere else you want to go.

            I hope that helps!

  • Becky White

    Thanks for sharing this itinerary! We’re planning our first trip to Alaska this year… my partner wants to go for 2 weeks in the summer (July) but after reading your blog I’m wondering about late June/early July! Is 10 days sufficient to fit in a few decent hikes and still see Denali and Seward. I’m also worried Denali may not be open at this time. What’s your thoughts? I’m mainly motivated by the price but your ‘reasons to visit in Spring’ post did make me think maybe money isn’t the only reason!

    • Valerie

      I would highly recommend June over July — there’s a joke among locals that July 4th marks the start of rainy season in July!

      I think 10 days is enough for what you’re suggesting, but it’s worth clarifying: are these “decent hikes” day hikes? Or multi-day hikes?

      Also, Denali will definitely be open! Summer is a great time to visit the park. Be sure to research backcountry camping/hiking through the Park Service if that’s on your itinerary.

      Feel free to ask any other questions you have and I’ll get back to you as I can 🙂

      • Becky White

        Okay great – we’re thinking of going Memorial weekend to early July. When I mean decent hikes I mean day hikes (but longer than 5 miles). I am an experienced hiker but backpacker not so much… and I love the outdoors but love sleeping indoors (!) I would be open to camping but am worried about temperatures at this time of year. I read your blog last night and it really got me inspired (thanks for reply on kayaking trip too) – here’s what I am thinking for an itinerary:
        Day 1: Fly to Anchorage
        Day 2: Pick-up hire car, food shop, drive to Seaward (Portage Pass hike en-route)
        Day 3: Harding Icefield hike
        Day 4: Kenai cruise
        Day 5: Kayaking/ shorter hike
        Day 6: Lost Lake/other hike
        Day 7: Driving day – Seward > Denali (lunch-stop in Anchorage)
        Day 8: Denali (entrance and hike)
        Day 9: Denali (coach trip)
        Day 10: Drive back to Anchorage (hike at Hatcher Pass en-route)

        • Valerie

          Becky, Memorial Day to July is the sweet spot — I was there Memorial Day weekend 2017 and it was great weather!

          Everything on your itinerary sounds pretty good with two notes:
          – Day 7 – that’s a long day in the car (1.5 Seward > Anchorage, 4 Anchorage > Denali); just be prepared! 🙂
          – Day 10 – Are you planning to enter Hatcher Pass on the west side and exit on the east side? Google’s mapping it at 5 hours but NOT by traversing Hatcher Pass (not a well maintained road). Be sure to try and figure out if the Hatcher Pass road is even open before trying to cross it (link: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/hatcherpass/hatcherpass.htm)… looks like it only opens on July 1st typically.

          Good luck!

          • Becky White

            We’re pretty used to long drives (last year we drove from California to Montana) so am happy to do it. We plan to leave very early and take our time. Thanks for pointing out about Hatcher Pass – I’d given it no further thought than “oh that’s on the way” (must do some more research). You’ve sold me on a May trip!

  • Avijit Sen

    Hello Valerie,

    Many thanks for sharing this itinerary, as we (a family of three, including our 7 year old daughter) are planning the same trip from 30th of April to 9th of May 2018. We are from India (wrong side driving) and will be carrying our IDP, and wanted to know the rules & tips while renting out a car in Anchorage. Finally will the rules allow us to drive with our Indian license & International Driving Permit (IDP)?

    Finally is it a good time of the year to do the same itinerary?

    Cheers & Thanx

    Avijit

  • Teena

    Hi , thanks so much for itinerary, sounds like fun. I am planning a trip for my son 21 and myself. We want to do kayaking, water rafting, salmon fishing and dog sledding. Can you suggest where would I go to do that in your itinerary ?

  • Sarah Smith

    My husband and I would love to visit Alaska for our next vacation. Your advice on how to plan our trip is very helpful. I think it would be best to find a vacation package, though.

  • Vipinder

    Hi Valerie,
    Thank you for suggesting an awsome 10 day iternary. I have been searching for this and your’s definately tops among few others! We are family of 4 ,kids are 19 and 21 years old, we are outdoorsy and love to do outdoor activities. We are planning to visit in early august this year for 10 days on ground and 2 days for airline travel from California, we were thinking of driving to fairbanks on day 1 via delta juction and stay a night at fairbanks and then go to denali the next day from Fairbanks and that way we can see the little city of North Pole ….but we dropped that idea as we thinking it might be too much but we do want to add Homer to this iternary, what do you suggest?
    Thanks
    Vipinder

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Vipinder. I think you’re trying to squeeze too much in, to be honest. I’m also not as familiar with Fairbanks and interior Alaska. Good luck planning your trip!

  • Bill

    I’ve looked a dozens of suggested itineraries and I think yours is the best I’ve read. We’re planning on using almost this exact itinerary when we go in mid August this year however I had looked at and really wanted to add in Wrangell St. Elias National Park for a few days of hiking and wondered if you had any thoughts on that. Thanks Valerie!

  • Mark & Leita Biden

    Valerie
    Thanks for putting this up for people to use. We are from Brisbane Australia.
    We have spent time in Canada a few years ago but missed Alaska. We are coming back for a second visit to Alaska this time in August 2019.
    We are starting with a 7 day cruise from Vancouver to Seward (16th-23rd August)
    We will then travel from Seward to Anchorage on the 23rd by train and stay in Anchorage over night.
    We have already arranged the hire of a car in Anchorage from the 24th August until the 2nd September.
    From there I am up for suggestions from yourself or locals on what to see and do. We love the outdoors and wildlife but aren’t big hikers. The thing that I have gathered so far is that I need to stay 3 nights at Denali. The rest is up for grabs.
    I have ready your itinerary for 10 days. How would you suggest adjusting it to suit the stuff that we have already booked?
    Thanks in advance.
    Regards
    Mark & Leita

    • Valerie

      Mark, thanks for reaching out! I’d recommend maybe 3d/2n in Anchorage (maybe 1 night at the beginning and one at the end), 4d/3n in Denali, and 3d/2n in Fairbanks (I don’t know Fairbanks too well, so Google is your friend here!). That makes the most sense given the time you have! You won’t be moving at a fast pace like my original itinerary, but you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy what each place has to offer. I hope that helps give you some ideas!

  • Susette Hallmark

    Do you have suggestions for landing in Fairbanks to Denali? Itinerary suggestions with tips for Arctic Circle tour and town of North Pole, worth visit? We Riverboat?

    • Valerie

      Susette, sorry, I’m not familiar with Fairbanks. Alaska’s a pretty big place so it wasn’t close enough to visit often, and I was only there a few times.

  • Ivan

    Hello Valerie,

    Your tips are amazing.

    I’m planning my trip, but right now i’m only able to spend 5 days in Alaska. I’m trying to get one more day but not sure if will be possible.

    What do you recommend that should be a must? I know that this is difficult but this is my only opportunity to go to Alaska and I want to go there, even for 5 days only.

    Thanks,
    Ivan

    • Valerie

      Ivan, thanks for reading! I’d do Anchorage and Denali in a five day trip:

      Day 1 – Arrive
      Day 2 – Anchorage
      Day 3 – Train to Denali
      Day 4 – Day in Denali
      Day 5 – Train to Anchorage, fly home

      I hope that helps!

  • Vinod Nair

    Thanks for your detailed itenary.I am planning a 7 day drip to Anchorage, Denali and Seward.For Denali I am planning to take a RV from Anchorage to Denali and Back. I have not travelled on a RV before but thought it may be interesting . And for Seward I am planning to take the train and back.

  • Luke

    Hi Valerie –

    I am looking to check Alaska off my bucket list. I will be travelling solo. I often pay for guided tours because it can be fun to meet new people, travel with a group. As you know these can be stupidly expensive so I am thinking on doing it differently this trip.

    I love the cold weather and my vacation time is around October- January. When I vacation I vacation for months at a time. So I’m thinking maybe two weeks in Alaska. I am all about adventure and the outdoors when I travel (rafting , kayaking, backpacking, camping etc..). I want to see and experience the landscapes. I don’t need fancy accommodations.

    Any thoughts and local adventure company’s that could help me put together an amazing trip.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    • Valerie

      Luke, thanks for reading! Unfortunately I don’t know any companies who are good at winter adventure travel… that’s not my area of expertise. I hope you have a great trip!

    • Valerie

      Teena, I think I responded about this in my email. Please check that out.

      You can go rafting in Denali. Unfortunately, this itinerary doesn’t work for fishing, and I don’t think you can fit this in with all the other activities I have recommended.

  • Sandra Patterson

    Wow, I had no idea that you can visit Alaska year-round! My husband and I have always wanted to visit Alaska. We will be sure to check that the things that we want to do are operational during the winter months.

  • Rajvi

    Hi Valerie,
    We are planning for family trip to Alaska this Aug 2019. We are so confused whether to take land or cruise at the first place…both has their own pros and cons but this is our first trip to Alaska . Please suggest.
    Secondly, If we just do land tour or fly out to Anchorage what’s should be our best places to visit in 7days itinerary?

    Thanks

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Rajvi. I don’t think it matters whether you do land or cruise first, to be honest. Regarding a 7-day itinerary, I recommend looking at what I say for 10 days and adjusting it to the time you have based on your interests.

  • Teri Avery

    Valerie,

    Great post! My husband and I usually travel independently. But, because of the vastness of Alaska I was considering a tour. YOU HAVE CHANGED MY MIND! Thank you!
    One question – What do you suggest regarding bear viewing? I’ve read mid-to late July is best near Homer. Is there a plane service you suggest to fly us for the day from Seward (or other town) to view bear catching salmon? I know. I’m a cheechako. It’s soooo obvious!

    Thank you for your assistance!

    • Valerie

      Teri, glad I inspired you! You can totally do it on your own 🙂

      I’ve never done a flightseeing tour for bears, but I think the greatest variety of option will be available from Anchorage…. A popular company, Rust’s Flightseeing Tours, based in Anchorage, offers a full-day Grizzly Bear viewing tour. I hope that helps!

  • John

    Valerie, my wife and I just returned from our first trip to Alaska. We used your itinerary as a an outline and customized it for the things we desired to do (ie: fly fishing Talkeetna). It was absolutely amazing! Great pace, awesome weather (although really hot) and we really felt like we got a great feel for this wonderful place.
    We were supposed to go to Alaska 25 years ago for a honeymoon. In the time frame between getting married in late September and the delayed honeymoon the next Summer, we got pregnant and thus cancelled the trip.
    With your help we finally made it and it seems to have been worth the wait.
    John and Marna, Williston Vermont

    • Valerie

      John, this is the kind of comment that makes it all worth it. I’m so glad you had a great time and enjoyed your trip to Alaska – even if it was a bit delayed in your life plans. Happy travels, wherever you go next!

  • Sangeeta

    Loved this itinerary-will follow it for our trip.
    How soon can one reserve the train tickets?
    When should one book the hotels/lodges?

    Thanks

    • Valerie

      Sangeeta, thanks for your comment. I recommend booking as soon as you know your dates – you can always call the hotels if you are unable to book online for some reason. Alaska is very popular during the summer and big tour companies tend to fill up the hotels so it’s best to try and arrange everything as early as you can.

  • Randy

    Great site! There appears to be a mistake in this paragraph. I believe you mean Seward instead of Denali.

    “After the second night in Denali, the goal is to reach Girdwood on Day 8, a 1.5-hour drive. En route, I recommend taking a small detour to enjoy lunch and walk around my favorite small Alaska town, Hope.”

  • Joel Lavoie

    Great trip plan Valerie. Do you need to rent a car for the first few days or doe you wait until you return from denali?

    • Valerie

      Great question, Joel. You don’t need a car for the Anchorage days, nope. You will need to use Uber or a taxi or hotel shuttle to get to your hotel though.

  • Anshu

    Excellent post, thanks a lot! Do you know if uber or lyft is available for pickup from Denali hotels to Denali visitor center? Looking at the map it seems to be 2-3 miles away from visitor center. Are there buses available which may drop to the visitor center?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Anshu. No, I don’t believe there is Lyft or Uber in Denali – so you should definitely contact the hotel you’re staying at to confirm their shuttle arrangements. (All of the big hotels have shuttles and buses to help people get to/from the Visitor Center.)

  • Kate Thomas

    We did this itinerary with an extra stay over in Anchorage on day 6 to allow some of our party to return home. The rest of us went on to Seward, Kenai, Girdwood and Turnagain Arm. Can’t thank you enough for the recommendations and tips. We did it all by rental car in late August – early Sept. 2019. This was a great time to see wildlife in Denali as they were feeding to fatten up for winter. Beautiful autumn colors too. Major Marine informed us of high swells on the day of our cruise and gave us the option to reschedule the next day, which we did and the weather was perfect. Glad we had the flexibility in schedule and transport. A super trip — thanks again!

  • Evelyn Rodriguez

    Hi Valerie!! So excited to have found you! I’m planning an Alaska vacation, grad gift for my daughter, May 28th-June 7th,2020. So overwhelmed by this! I’ve booked all hotels & 1 tour (Backcountry Adventure in Denali) not that I’m excited about spending all that time on a bus but wanted the opportunity to fully see Denali. Can I please share my itinerary for your suggestions before booking more tours/activities? I’m also going to guide myself by your 10 day itinerary.

    Kindest regards!
    Evelyn

      • Kate and Wayne Young-LaSell

        Hi Valerie! Great travel tips to see Alaska. My husband and I are planning a summer 2021 RV trip, going leisurely for several weeks. Do you have suggestions for RVing? We will also be towing a car so day trips are important. Also, what’s it like traveling with two small registered service dogs?
        Thanks for any and all assistance and advise you can offer!
        Kate & Wayne
        kateandwayneRVing@gmail.com

        • Valerie

          Thanks for reaching out, Kate & Wayne. I don’t have any experience RVing in Alaska – it’s on my list though (was supposed to do a trip back in 2020!). I recommend double-checking every attraction to see if your service dogs will be allowed, as I’m also not familiar with the policies for that. Have a great trip!

  • Sarang M

    Hi Valerie – A great guide for Alaska. We are planning a trip this summer ? A question for you, if we plan our trip during May end (memorial day weekend), will we be able to cover Denali ? Are all roads open in Denali National park ?

    Thanks,
    Sarang

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Sarang! I recommend checking out the Denali National Park website to be sure they’ll be open on the specific dates you have in mind. They’re the ultimate source for that info!

  • Caleb Oakley

    Val,
    thanks for the amazing itinerary… I am heading to sterling in June for a friends wedding! what would you say the ball park price is for the trip you suggested minus the air fare to and from…?
    Thanks again

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Caleb! Unfortunately, tough to say without knowing which hotels you’re staying at, which days (weekends vs not), and which restaurants you plan to eat at… I’ve never priced it out because there’s too many variables!

  • Cindy

    Valerie, can you provide any information about Valdez, Alaska? We are planning to travel there for a few days and mainly looking for the best place to stay.

  • Nitin Doshi

    Hi Valerie,
    Ok, so i read a lot of the posts above and of course your blog too ( a super pointer towards a 10 day trip ) and i was wondering if there are any Dog sled rides to be had /

    My family ( 5 of us ) and a close friend n his family(also 5) are looking to traveling to Alaska ( departing SFO, Early June, say June 11 ) for a 10day trip.

    We were doing a budgeting plan and i reckon , that possibly the biggest chunk of the expense would be accommodation. So we figured maybe we could do an RV trip – 2 RVs of 5-6 beds each- what would you suggest ? The Route you outlined is pretty much similar to the one we had in mind….

    Awaiting your suggestions / feedback and pointers.
    Thanks in advance.

    Do reply/email me directly(too!) :-)… much appreciated.

    Nitin

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Nitin. There will not be any dog sledding available on snow in June because of the weather. Additionally, I have not done an RV trip so I am not confident to recommend where you could rent RVs or where you should stay with your RVs. Unfortunately Alaska is not a budget destination and I don’t recommend trying to make it so or you’ll miss out on the fun of being there!

  • Damaris

    If you were to add another 2-4 days to this trip, what are some other accessible, must see destinations that might naturally fit into this itinerary?

  • Helen

    Dear Valerie,

    How would one fit in a day or two exploring Glacier Bay via a cruise and/or kayaking? Where would you get there from on your itinerary, and is there a reason you do not include it? We could expand our trip to 12 -13 days and plan this in August 2020.

    Thanks very much,
    Helen

    • Valerie

      Helen, I don’t think you could fit this into my suggested itinerary. It’s also not something I have ever done, so I’m sorry but I can’t really provide any suggestions on how to do it.

  • Keith Nelson

    Great itenary, will be arriving in June 2020, I also have an RV rented for 10 days. I am retired military so I plan to use as many military base campgrounds as possible. I would appreciate your input. Looking at doing Anchorage- Delani for two days – Steward- Valdez – Homer Spit. Thoughts??

  • Hari

    Hello Valerie,
    Can you give me an itinerary related to driving north from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway? What all places can be seen and what all activities can be done along the way etc? Thanks!

  • Denise Acra

    Great ideas! You’ve given me more budget friendly ideas than I’ve found on my own. I’m a 65 year old female and have slightly limited mobility. My plan is to take a roadtrip in 2021 based in Girdwood. No hiking or long walks so you’ve given me several great ideas for tours and sightseeing. Thank you!

  • Kara R Maceross

    What an amazing state to be born and raised! I had an opportunity to explore Alaska for the first time this December and was just blown away! I wrote about the first part of our trip where we explored Seward and Anchorage a bit before heading more North to try to see the Northern Lights. We were told about Alyeska while we were on our trip and didn’t get the chance to check it out, but it looks beautiful! I can’t wait to return in the Summer or Fall and explore even more!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Kara! I hope you can make it back up there soon – I’ll be headed back in the autumn this year and I’m really excited for it. (I was just there in February and there’s definitely a magic about winter too!)

  • Jo

    Alaska is definitely on our bucket list. I love your itinerary break down, thank you. My husband and I reviewed and he would like to go salmon fishing while in Alaska. Any recommendations where we could fish and fit into this itinerary?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Jo! I’m not a fisher-person so I typically don’t suggest fishing excursions, but I recommend checking for half- or full-day tours you could book from either Anchorage or Seward based on this itinerary. I hope that helps!

  • Rene

    I am planning a trip to Alaska in September, 2020. I hope that they open their doors to tourists and let us fly into the state. My husband and I had booked a cruise for our 50th Anniversary. It was cancelled. 🙁 It’s VERY important to us to go this year. We have promised each other that we would go BACK to Alaska for our 50th! We lived in Anchorage the first 3 years of our marriage. I have planned and booked a very similiar itinerary that you have posted here. I love your suggestions and will be updating mine!! Thank you!! I HOPE ALASKA WILL BE THERE FOR US THIS YEAR!! <3

  • Gabe

    Thank you for this write up. I’m anxious to finish off all 50 US states with Alaska and Hawaii, hope to combine them. Safe travels!

  • Courtney

    Hi! This was a helpful read but I was wondering if you have any advice or tips about a bike tour? For maybe a round trip between Anchorage and Fairbanks? Thanks so much!

    • Valerie

      Courtney, sorry but I don’t have any suggestions here. I’m not a cyclist and I’ve never heard of tours like this. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist on it – but I’m definitely not the person to make a recommendation!

  • Haley

    Hi! We are looking at staying inside Denali at one of the few lodges. Do you have any recommendations? Would any of the lodges include transit and/or to where you would not need to do the Denali tour bus to see things? We would be taking the train in from Anchorage and staying 2-3 nights in Denali.

    • Valerie

      Haley, I’m not sure what you mean by “inside” Denali – there’s only one lodge in Denali but I don’t think it’s open this summer. Try checking out this article: https://www.valisemag.com/denali-summer-2020/ but be aware I don’t think non-residents will be likely to get any of the drive-in permits and you’d need to get a rental car to do that. Also, there is no way to see Denali except to take the tour bus or get one of those permits – so if you want to see the park, you have to take a bus.

  • Ray

    Hi! This is an excellent summary. We are planning to go the first week of September. A couple of questions:

    1. Do you have any recommendations for making this trip a little more active – maybe some half day hikes or some other physical activity?

    2. As far as you know, are all of these places open this summer? Is there anything else that we would have to prepare this summer compared to last year?

    Thanks!

    • Valerie

      Ray, thanks for reaching out. Try checking here for more Alaska tips: https://www.valisemag.com/guides/alaska/ I have written about hiking already!

      And regarding what’s open – no, I can’t verify that all of these places are open. I don’t recommend people book trips to Alaska this year, so you’ll need to check everything you’re interested directly. (I especially recommend calling hotels since I’ve heard that Booking.com/Hotels.com have been listing properties as “open” when they’re actually not.) Have a good trip!

  • Sarah Geyer

    Fantastic post! We are currently scheduled to cruise from Vancouver July 2021 but this post has me replanning! We’re not sure we’ll be comfortable with the current health scare but I still want to come to Alaska. This is perfect.

    • Valerie

      Glad to help, Sarah! I think cruising *might* be okay by 2021, but I would definitely look into a small ship instead of a big one! Have a great trip, whenever you go and whatever you do!

  • Amanda Andrews

    This is a great itinerary — we’re planning on Honeymooning here early Oct 2020 — do you have any tips on AK in October? Also, if we were looking to extend our trip to closer to 14 days instead of 10, would you recommend spending extra time in Anchorage or elsewhere? Add another stop along the way?
    Thanks!!

  • Raymond Boaz

    Great guide. Assuming Covid allows looking at September 2021 or even 2022 for our first trip to Alaska. We are 68 year old couple. For 3 nights in Denali would you recommend staying inside the park if available?

    • Valerie

      Raymond, sounds like you’ll have a great trip! I recommend staying in McKinley Village near the park (as I did in this post), as the only place to stay *in* Denali requires a 12-hour bus trip each way!

  • Dan G.

    Valerie, amazing post–most helpful info I’ve read for my family’s first trip to Alaska (summer 2021)! We are a family of 6 (four kids ages 13, 16, 18, 21). Our kids are especially eager to see wildlife (wolves and bears). Any advice on your suggested itinerary to maximize those opportunities?

    Thanks so much,
    Dan

    • Valerie

      Dan, thanks so much – and thanks for reading! Denali is a must for wildlife; if you’re heading south to Seward too, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center should also be high on your list! Have a great time!

  • Tom

    This is so helpful. We’re planning to visit in the summer…state #50 on my bucket list!!! You mentioned not getting a rental car until returning from Denali…but day 2 is explore Anchorage day. Is it easy to see Anchorage without a car? Thanks

    • Valerie

      Tom, depends on what you want to do in Anchorage, but generally yes, Anchorage has most of its main attractions in a downtown core area. If you want to go hiking, head out to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, or something like that, you would need a car though!

  • Emily Forrest (Edman)

    Valerie! I’m planning a summer 2021 visit for my family and what a surprise to stumble upon the site of a middle school friend! I am so glad I did. We will be visiting all of the places you listed. I have not been back to Alaska since leaving after 9th grade and my kids (14, 12, 5) have been begging to see the state. I can’t explain how excited I am and how big of a help this itinerary is!

  • Meghan Murray

    Hi there! Your blog is amazing!!! I do have a few questions…

    I am thinking I might start the trip going south to Seward first. Is there a reason to head north first? Also, if we wanted to spend a day/sleep in Homer would it be better to drive from Anchorage to Homer (straight through) and stop in Seward for the night and Girdwood for the night? Is it worth it to stay in Girdwood?

    Side note, we were only thinking of staying in Homer because one of the bear tours we wanted to go on leaves from there. Is a bear tour worth it?

    Sorry for all the questions!! Thanks for your time:)

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Meghan! You can definitely go south first if you want; the only constraint should be the schedule of things you want to do if they only happen on certain days.

      I haven’t done any bear tours from Homer, but if your choice is between bears in Homer and Girdwood, I’d definitely do Homer!

  • Betty

    Hi Valerie,
    This is Betty – happy I found your blog! We live in Miami and we’re planning a July trip (my hubby, son and me). Your itinerary sounds perfect, definitely needed something like this to plan. Quick question for you – on the last couple of days, after Seward, what are your thoughts about driving into Homer. My son is an avid fisherman and I hear it’s a great fishing area. Is that doable? Wondering about the road between Seward and Homer. If you could let me know, that would be great. Thanks, Betty 🤗 PS – not sure if you’ve been to Miami, but if you haven’t and decide to visit, I can certainly share some tips on where to go. Natives always know the best spots!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Betty! I haven’t been to Homer so I can’t make any recommendations, but I know Seward has great fishing options too! It’s a longer drive just to get to Homer, so I’d check what’s in Seward to see if that fits what he’s interested in doing!

  • Julie Birschbach

    Hi Valerie,

    I am thinking of a mid to late August visit with my BFF to celebrate turning 60 this year!!! One thing on our list is seeing bears in the wild. Could you suggest how to fit that experience into this itinerary, either by adding or subbing out something at the end of your 10 day itinerary?

    Thank you so much.

    Julie

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Julie! The best way to add bears is to cut out at least a half-day in Anchorage for a flightseeing tour from Anchorage (I recommend booking with Rust’s Flying Service). I hope that helps!

  • Cady

    I’ve been dreaming of an Alaskan trip for years. This sounds spectacular. Can you give me a ball park of how much to budget for this 10 day voyage? I’d always thought a cruise would be the better option to see Alaska but my husband and I love the idea of being away from the masses and exploring on our own. Is there really anything we’d be missing out on, such as cruising through the inside passage, that this itinerary doesn’t cover? I’m hoping to take all your advise and take this trip of a lifetime May 2022… I”m thinking that may be the better time to get off season prices and not experience all the July rain.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Cady! Late May is a good time to visit and still take advantage of discounts since it’s not the peak season. I don’t have an estimate (it’s on my to-do list to write just such a post), but I think you should probably estimate $4,000-$5,000 for two people doing this itinerary. I hope that helps!

      In terms of missing the Inside Passage, yes, it’s a different part of the state and worth its own visit at some point in the future!

  • Nancy Evans

    Would a senior woman traveling alone encounter any problems? I went solo to Iceland and it was easy to book local tours out of Reykjavik.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Nancy! You should have no problems with visiting on your own. It’s an easy place to get around, as long as you plan everything out that you need inadvance!

  • Lisa

    We just booked our tickets for Alaska! I’m SOO excited and your blog has been super helpful. I do have a question – I get your “travel to Alaska” email tips and the one today was “spend 2-4 days in Anchorage.” We have a couple days planned in Seward, but my husband is questioning whether we need to spend any time in Anchorage. Any tips? I’d like to work in the Anchorage Market and possibly the Museum but are there things that might be more convincing for him? We’re going in May.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Lisa! It depends on when you’re visiting in May as to how long I suggest in Seward vs Anchorage, but absolutely you need at least 1 full day in Anchorage (that means a night on either side, to clarify for your husband 😉). Tell him that’s my expert advice! 🙂

  • Eric S

    Hey Valerie…. We loved your itinerary so much we booked it for our family this August. My wife and daughter and I are super excited to NOT be going to Aruba this year. Something different is just what the doctor ordered!

  • KAREN

    Valerie, thank you for this resource, but I’m confused by your 10-day itinerary below. The way I read this, you need 3 nights in Denali, days 3-5, and then travel back on day 6 via train and spend the night in ANC. On the day 7, you would drive to Seward. Day 6, you spend the night in ANC. Am I missing something? We are photographers and think we need at least two full days in Denali, right?
    Thank you!

    1Arrive in Anchorage
    2Explore Anchorage
    3Travel to Denali
    4Visit Denali National Park
    5 Sightseeing Denali
    6 Travel to/Explore Seward
    7 Sightseeing in Kenai Fjords
    8Travel to/Explore Girdwood
    9 Exploring Turnagain Arm
    10 Return to Anchorage

    • Valerie

      Karen, thanks for reading. Based on how I wrote this, you would spend Day 3 traveling to Denali (whether by train or car) and nights 3, 4, and 5 in Denali before traveling back to Seward (through Anchorage) on Day 6. If you take the train to/from Denali, you can still drive to Seward (90 minutes) in the evening of Day 6, or wake up early on Day 7 to make the drive instead. I hope that helps.

  • Trudy Barker

    Very nice resource. I have been to Alaska a couple of times and had a 14 day driving trip planned last summer, that I had to cancel 🙁 Now starting again and planning to come for 10 days from June 16th – 26th. I want to move between Denali, Kenai Peninsula and Wrangell-St Elias NP. Would like to have one base in each place, as I would rather spend time driving than packing and unpacking the car. So that’s my task – to decide on the “home base” locations. I am thinking of Soldotna, Cantwell / Healy and Gulkana area? Going Anchorage to Denali to Gulkana to Kenai to Anchorage. Have picked out some of your suggestions to blend into my itinerary 🙂 Especially glad to see you had Girdwood, as I had picked that out, but most bloggers don’t seem to 🙂

  • David

    Valerie,
    Great article. Now maybe a challenge for you?
    I was thinking of renting an RV in Anchorage, how does that work with your itinerary? planning to be in Alaska two weeks, starting in Anchorage. Spend a few days near Anchorage, then get the RV for a week or so? Any ideas?
    Thank you

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading and asking, David. Definitely a challenge – and one that’s above me! I have actually never rented an RV in Alaska (it was on my list in 2020 and I’m trying to reschedule for 2021), so I’m not the right expert on this topic yet. My main advice is to plan your trip using my resources but use Google to find RV campgrounds and be sure to book reservations in advance for the size RV you have. Good luck!

  • Judy

    Hi, Valerie,
    Your article is one of the most comprehensive and straightforward itineraries I’ve seen so far. Thank you so very much for putting this together.

    We are planning to go end of July – the first week of August. Looking at our schedule, I think we have about 1-2 days more that we can spend in Alaska.

    Do you have any recommendations on perhaps how we can spend these extra 1-2 days? Should we spend more time at one of the locations or even venture to other new spots? We have a 3-year-old and a 5 year-old…..Thank you so much!

    • Valerie

      Glad to help, Judy! I’d look at adding Fairbanks to your itinerary; that’s a good option, and you can easily book one-way flights back to Anchorage for your departure – or just fly home from Fairbanks directly!

    • Judy

      @Valerie,
      Thank you so much for your response! I can’t believe I just saw it today. We have went ahead added Fairbanks to our trip. Right now we are planning Anchorage – Seward – Girwood – Anchorage – Denali – Fairbanks – Anchorage.

      I am so glad I came back and saw your response. We were gonna take the 12 hour train back from Fairbanks to Anchorage. I don’t know why I didn’t think of checking the one-way flight. It was actually way cheaper than the train ride, not to mention it gives as extra half-day back to spend in Anchorage!!

      Thank you so much!

      I do have one other question that I can’t seem to find information anywhere. I hope you can help me… I see Denali National Park says car seats are required on the buses….. The problem is, since we are going to Denali by rail, we won’t have car seats with us…. So how strict are they on that rule? Or do you have any other suggestions or maybe even know if there is “car-seat-only” rental in the area??

      Thank you so much again!

      • Valerie

        Judy, thanks so much! I’m not sure about the car seat policy – that’s something you’d need to contact the park tour bus operator to confirm. Have a great trip!!

  • Liam

    Hi Valerie,

    This itinerary is great. Thank you! We are planning our first trip to Alaska this July. We were wondering if the following variation would work:
    Day 1- Day 4: exactly the same as you suggest but we decide to drive to Denali instead of taking the train. By doing this, we are planning to do the following:
    Day 5: Explore Denali a little more and drive to Girdwood directly. Stop by Anchorage for dinner. Stay at Girdwood for one night.
    Day 6: Explore Girdwood or drive directly to Seward and explore Seward. Stay at Seward.
    Day 7: 6-hour fjord cruise. Stay at Seward.
    Day 8: Explore Seward more (kayaking, hiking). Stay at Seward.
    Day 9: Drive to Homer or something else (suggestions?). Drive back to Seward after dinner. This saves time of hotel check-in and check-out and uses the night time for driving.
    Day 10: Drive back to Anchorage and stop by places that were missed earlier.

    What do you think of this plan? Any suggestions for things to do around Seward since we stay there for four nights? Thank you very much!

    BTW, we are going with our friends. One family has a small child (age 5).

  • Diane

    Hi Valerie,

    Another one here saying this is a great site, thanks so much for your wonderful suggestions! We plan follow this itinerary the first week in September, but would like to skip the day in Anchorage (love being outdoors!) and add a night in Talkeetna. With the train schedule as it is, that would give us 3 nights in Denali and 1 night in Talkeetna. Then follow the rest of the trip as you have planned. What are your thoughts on that?

  • Alekhya

    This helped me a lot to make my itinerary. I made a 7 day itinerary out of this and then found out your ‘https://www.valisemag.com/7-days-alaska/’ and so glad it almost similar. The problem we are facing is to have a three day trip to Denali, due to the train schedule, we have to leave anchorage on Saturday to reach back on Monday. Any other day of the week, Denali trip is going to be 4 days. I really want it to be 3 days.
    But the problem is we will miss Anchorage market on weekend(If we leave for Denali on Saturday) and I want only 7 day itinerary and there will not be one more Saturday. Do you have suggestions? Any suggestion will be greatly appreciated.

  • Wilma

    What type of car is needed to travel from Anchorage and around the Kenai peninsula area in August? Is a compact car sufficient or is larger the way to go?

    • Valerie

      It’s impossible to say, Antonia. Costs vary so much based on when you visit and how much hotels cost – plus which hotels you choose, whether you rent a car or take the train (or both), and which tours you choose!

  • Anuja Verma Mehta

    Hi Valerie, went through your post. This was some amazing information on Alaska. We are planning to be there from 5th July for around 10 days. However we havent been able to find any cars for rental. Everything seems to be sold out. Would you be able to recommend any car rental companies who would still have availability ? We would need a 6 seater with space for 5/6 bags. Thanks in advance.

    • Valerie

      Anuja, sorry but I do not know of any car rental companies that have cars available anymore. This is one of the biggest difficulties visiting this year but I have no special advice.

  • Anuja Verma Mehta

    Hi Valerie, I have another question. Is it possible to drive from Seward to Denali directly. You have recommended a halt in Anchorage. We were preferring to drive directly. Whats your view on it ?

    • Valerie

      It’s possible, but I recommend stopping in Anchorage so you can take the train instead; most people prefer to take the train. It just depends on your itinerary as to whether that makes sense to drive straight through.

  • Ray

    Hi Valerie. What a wonderful post! Thank you so much. I’m curious do you have any thoughts/recommendations regarding Kodiak island? We were thinking of going there on the last few days after Seward.

  • Kristin

    Hey Valerie this itinerary is awesome! I really want to take the train to Denali but don’t want to waste half a day taking it back to Anchorage. Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

  • Joshua Thomas

    Valerie,
    I want to thank you so much for your detailed itineraries for 7-10 day trips to Alaska. My mom has always dreamed of visiting Alaska, and I just coordinated a 7-day trip for 12 people total. We had an INCREDIBLE time and totally followed your recommendations! We did the first two nights in Anchorage, three nights in Denali, and two nights in Seward. Just want to thank you so much – don’t know what I would’ve done without you!

    • Valerie

      So glad to help, Joshua, and thanks for coming back to share how your experience was. It’s awesome to hear back after people have an epic time using my articles!!

    • Valerie

      Thanks so much! You have a few options, but within this itinerary the best and easiest choice is Seward. This is where my dad and grandfather always used to go out and had great luck!

  • Justin Schaper

    Valerie,

    Thank you SO much for all of the great information and insights here. My wife and I just got back from 12 days in Alaska and planned much of our itinerary based on your recommendations. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. We spent a few days in Anchorage first, visiting the Anchorage Museum, the Anchorage Market, and doing a trolley tour. Those gave us such great historical and cultural context for the rest of the trip. We also highly recommend Snow City Cafe for breakfast or brunch. And Moose’s Tooth was simply phenomenal pizza.

    We then flipped things around a bit and took the train south to Seward. The scenery and wildlife along the way were so memorable and the ARR staff made it very special. We were blown away by the fjord Major Marines cruise out of Seward as well as a fishing charter by Miller’s Landing. Staff shortages meant some restaurants were closed but there were plenty of great spots. And we are now BIG fans of the The Cookery (recommend booking WAY in advance). We also went to the SeaLife Center and again found that helped to tie everything together for us (including great close up encounters with puffins and sea lions).

    We wrapped it up by renting an RV and driving to Denali, camping at Riley Creek. The Tundra Wilderness bus tour was a spot on recommendation with sightings of bears (one actually on the road), moose, Dall sheep, and caribou. And finally we cannot say enough good things about Fly Denali. We booked for the glacier landing but due to weather that particular outing was cancelled. However, the staff gave us several options and we ended up with a “Pilot’s Choice” flight that was once in a lifetime. Our pilot, Eric, used one of their park access passes and flew us over the park itself, landing at a remote strip in the park (as permitted). The scenery was just incredible including a life lasting memory of clouds parting for a view of the Denali north and south peaks. Eric was a wealth of information about the park, took great care of us, and delivered an unforgettable experience.

    So Valerie, our sincerest gratitude! We would never have put all this together without your information and guidance. Even the packing list was a huge help (although you need to post a warning about leaving room for souvenirs – we had to buy an extra bag for the trip back).

  • Mary

    Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to take a look.
    I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
    Great blog and superb design.

  • Beth

    We are planning a road trip to Alaska in 2022 by rental car. Do you know if the major car rentals will allow you to take vehicles on gravel roads in Alaska?
    We would like to return for a cruise on the inside strait at another time. What cruise lines do you recommend other than the large cruise ships? I don’t want anything too small because I am afraid I will get seasick.

  • Beth

    I wish you would do a travel guide for older people who cannot walk great distances. The hikes sound great, but my husband is not able to do those due to back problems. We need tours and boat trips!

  • ALEX

    Nice information it really helps me a lot.
    Due to the coronavirus, travel restrictions were imposed and it was a difficult time to travel. However, I was lucky to have my reservations done with Alaska airlines. The Alaska airlines cancellation policy allowed me to cancel my travel ticket without any cancellation cost.

  • Sam

    We are travelling from US. We are following your 10 day itenary. Any suggestions for Car rental companies that will allow to pick from Seward and leave at Anchorage? Have checked and seems National can rental does not have option for pickup in Seward.

    Sam

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Sam! The only rental agency in Seward is Hertz, and I don’t know if they allow one-way rentals from Seward. That’s not a common thing people try to do, so they may not allow it.

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