Planning Your Trip
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Making Trip Plans

Before you start any major planning, you will want to obtain maps of the Alaska, the Yukon, the Northwestern United States, and the western Canadian Provinces. Here are some rough mileages: 2,280 miles from the Canadian border to Fairbanks via the Alaska Highway. If you want to take a trip to Anchorage from Fairbanks, add in another 358 miles.  Or if you are interested in traveling on the Alaska Ferry, it is 1,028 miles from Seattle to Prince Rupert (where you board).

You will want to plan a trip that is not only within your budget, but also within your time limitations.  For example:

To Drive

For this option, you will need to decide how many miles you can handle per day, on either paved roads or unpaved ones. Using your maps, make a few rough calculations of the days required for basic driving time.

Time to Explore: Decide how much time you want to spend exploring on your own for:

bulletpicture taking
bulletfor a bush- or float-plane side trip
bulletand so on

Time to Rest: If you think you want to camp somewhere isolated for the night, or spend the whole day enjoying a particular attractions, be sure to schedule in the time.

List attractions: Now is the time to read up on what there is to see. Explore our website, order a Visitor's Guide for each of the major areas you plan to visit, buy a Milepost magazine. Each town, park and monument, has its own appeal. Start now to decide which ones appeal to you.

Narrow the choices:  With an appreciation of the vastness of the North, with some idea of the driving time needed to get there, and the time you'd like to spend for exploring and/or resting, and with your personal list of special attractions, you're in a position to begin some serious planning.

Non-driving Options:

Alaska Marine Highway. If your budget can take it, you can board a modern ferry ship in Bellingham, Washington or in Prince Rupert, BC., drive your car, camper or motor home aboard, and stop at any of seven colorful towns on Alaska's Inside Passage: Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, Sitka, Haines, or Skagway. The ferries are fast and efficient, featuring economical meals and stateroom accommodations. You'll see mile upon mile of forests, waterfalls, fishing boats and, if the weather's with you, glistening mountain ice along Lynn Canal toward the northern end of the passage. You will find two road connections onto the Alaska Highway, to continue your trip north.

British Columbia Ferries. During the summer season, you can save yourself the 946 mile drive from Vancouver to Prince Rupert by driving the northern end of Vancouver Island and taking a scenic route through mostly sheltered waters to Prince Rupert, B.C., where you can transfer onto the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. There is camping available along the east side of the Island.

Airline approaches. If you want to spend most of your time in Alaska, you may wish to consider going there by air. From many locations within the United States, one can fly to Alaska without even changing planes. Of course, time is the big advantage, but when you compare the costs of air travel vs gas, accommodations, food, and other expenses associated with driving north - you may be surprised!

The Cruise Option. With the so-called "mini-cruise" growing in popularity these days, many travelers have simply decided to head for Vancouver, Los Angeles or San Francisco, board a  cruise ship, unpack their bags, and spend a peaceful, week-long cruise on the Inside Passage. Gourmet foods, onboard educational and entertainment programs, shoreside excursions, and time to unwind, make the cruise option a real consideration. Do remember, however, that you cannot see much of Alaska from a cruise ship, so consider a combination package that takes you further. (See section on package tours.)

Recreational Vehicle Caravans. There are a number of reputable caravan companies that will arrange your trip for you as well as supply a trip leader and support staff. You will find a few on our  Fly/Drive page, and there are many more. Let us know if you find a good one and we will add it.

The Alaska Highway This is the "classic" way to travel to Alaska, a 1520 mile trip at your own pace. A special "extra" is the chance to visit Canada's Yukon territory, the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush where the history of that era still lives in Dawson City and Whitehorse. The drive is very long, but a "feel" for the North and her people is your reward, and a closeness with, and new appreciation of, nature. The Cassiar approach to the Alaska Highway is a fine alternative. The following is from Bell's online highway guide:

"Cassiar  Highway 37 is a 724 km/450 mile long road which provides an excellent alternate route for visitors traveling to or from the Yukon or Alaska.

"The Cassiar Highway knives through mountain-river-lake-glacier country. There  are several communities enroute. Time should be allowed for a visit to the neighboring towns of Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska, reached by a 65 km/40mile highway which opens up some of the North's most spectacular glacier and mountain scenery. Editor's Note: This area of British Columbia and Alaska is one of the most beautiful you will visit on your trip north. Long renowned for its glaciers and waterfalls, one of the top attractions still has to be the friendly people.

"The Cassiar Highway 37 originally was a combination of logging and mine haul roads. The highway has been improved, however, and for the most part has been  realigned.

"Although there are some sections still under construction, the road is fine for campers, motorhomes and vehicles towing trailers.

"Some services listed... are not open all year. Fill your tank at all opportunities and you will have no problems.

"Distances along the Cassiar Highway are marked by KILOMETRE posts. (A kilometre  is 6/10 mile.) "

Package Tours. With so many options to choose from you don't have to restrict yourself to any single way to see Alaska. For example you can cruise north to Skagway, take a bus to Whitehorse, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Mt. McKinley. You can fly to Juneau, Anchorage or Fairbanks and rent a car from there, or you can take a combination air/motorcoach/ cruise ship swing through Alaska, (including the Arctic), the Yukon and the Inside Passage. You may wish to travel one way by surface, using either the all-land and route (the Alaska Highway) or the land-ferry-Alaska Highway route, and ship your vehicle the other way while you fly. Combinations are endless, with prices from super-economy to super-deluxe.

Other links:

Alaska Railroad | Buslines | Car Shipment | Fly / Drive | White Pass & Yukon Railroads

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