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Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

Kiama, Australia
Level Contributor
14 posts
21 reviews
Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

Hi there,

We have just booked our 30ft RV from 4Jun - 14Jun 2012, for our first trip to Alaska! We are a couple with 2 young kids (2.5yrs and 6mths by the time we travel), and will be travelling with my husband's parents. So 6 of us piled into a 30ft RV for 10 days... interesting!

We'd really appreciate any itinerary help for these 10 days. We pick up the RV in Anchorage at approx midday on 4Jun, and need to return it approx midday on 14Jun.

Our interests are primarily seeing the amazing mountains of the area, seeing the glaciers, doing short hikes, seeing some wildlife (from a distance!). We are all Australian, so are not too confident about seeing the Alaskan wildlife too close!! We're all pretty fit and active and able/willing to carry the kids in backpacks, though the intention of the trip is not just to hike the whole time. Some relaxation would be good too!

We'd prefer to minimise the number of pricey tours we book into, though we do realise that occasionally to get the most of out of an experience it would be best to do it with the experts. Another huge consideration we have is driving with young kids - we need to break up the driving where we can and try not to do stretches of more than about 3-4hrs at a time.

At this stage, the only ideas we have are:

- Denali for 3/4 nights. Possibly camping at either Savage River or Riley Creek

- Seward for 2 nights. Hike Exit Glacier.

- Homer for 2 nights.

We would really appreciate any suggestions/advice! In particular, the general areas we should aim for (and for what length of time) and any good campsites we should consider booking early. But anything more detailed would be hugely appreciated too!

Thanks so much in advance! Angela

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
8,220 posts
45 reviews
1. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

I think your biggest challenge will be "try(ing) not to do stretches of more than about 3-4hrs at a time."

Also keep in mind if you are doing the shuttle bus inside Denali National Park (the only way to get "inside" the park beyond the first 14 miles and where the majority of wildlife is typically viewed), that will not be something you should expect to take either of your children on. With four adults, however, you can break up into groups to do this, with someone staying behind with the kids.

If you are planning to go inside the park via the shuttle system, the TEK campground with TEK pass may be your best options. That said, there are restrictions (like no leaving the campground with the RV until you are leaving for good and there is a 3 night minimum reservation).

Manitoba, Canada
Level Contributor
6,894 posts
2. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

Here is a sample itinerary to get you started:

June 4 – pick up RV midday, go through orientation. Buy supplies and groceries. Drive to Talkeetna (3 hrs) to overnight. I don’t know if any of the RV campgrounds have a view of McKinley, but that area has some of the best views of The Mountain and also the Alaska Range.

June 5 – explore tiny Talkeetna. Drive to Denali (3 hrs) with stop at mile 147 to see Veteran’s Memorial, maybe hike part-way around Byer’s Lake (if McKinley is out, you have a view of it from there: sginn.com/journals/…Entry-09.html ) At Denali, drive the 14 miles into the park that private vehicles are allowed to look for wildlife and maybe hike at the turnaround point, maybe take turns whitewater rafting. Overnight either Savage River or Riley Creek CG.

June 6 – one couple takes the shuttle to Eielson (8 hrs) or Wonder Lake (11 hrs). Can get off anywhere to hike, then flag down a later shuttle. The other couple takes the kids on hikes near the entrance, sees the free Ranger sled dog demo at 10, 2 or 4, the visitor center displays & film, maybe drive north 15 minutes to Healy for the playground for the toddler, and in general relaxes (at least, as much as is possible with a toddler running around). Overnight Denali.

June 7 – Yesterday's itinerary with the couples switched. Overnight Denali.

June 8 – Morning in Denali? Drive to Wasilla-Palmer area (4 hrs) to overnight. Visit Iditarod HQ for displays & excellent short film, maybe take a very short dog cart ride if you get there before 5 pm (about $10 pp).

June 9 – drive to Seward (3.5 to 4 hrs) with lots of stops, including Potter Marsh, Beluga Pt., Wildlife Conservation Center, etc.: http://alaska.org/driving/seward-drive.htm . If desired, stop at Girdwood to gold pan at Crow Creek Mine and/or do part of Winner Creek Trail hike to the hand-tram over the gorge. Overnight Seward.

June 10 – 6 hr. Kenai Fjords NP cruise to see marine wildlife and spend a bit of time near a calving glacier. Overnight Seward.

June 11 – SeaLife Center, easy hike to Exit Glacier on your way out of town. Drive to Homer (4 hrs) with possible stops: http://alaska.org/driving/homer-drive.htm . Overnight Homer.

June 12 – Pratt Museum, hiking, beachcombing, take turns kayaking, etc. Maybe noon Danny J to Halibut cove, or else Rainbow Tour to Seldovia. Overnight Homer.

June 13 – morning in Homer? Drive to Williwaw CG (along the turn-off to Whittier), about 4 hrs. Begich-Boggs visitor center, maybe the short boat tour to the face of Portage Glacier ( http://www.portageglaciercruises.com/ ), hike the trails near the campground. Overnight Williwaw.

June 14 – Scenic drive to Anchorage (1 hr) to drop off RV. If time, Native Heritage Center or hike/bike part of Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or take a trolley tour of the city.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Kiama, Australia
Level Contributor
14 posts
21 reviews
3. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

Thanks so much for your comments and that amazing itinerary! I really appreciate the thoughtfulness with kids activities etc, and all the detail with timings etc. I will spend some time researching each of those activities and campgrounds more, so we can pick out which we think will work for us. (Loosely though - I know we'll have to be at least a bit flexible on the trip.)

Quick question: any thoughts on whether Riley Creek or Savage River would be best for our arrangement? Or they're pretty much on par...? I've heard I need to book these in advance so might do that as a priority.

Thanks again, I appreciate it soo much. Ange

Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
16,111 posts
33 reviews
4. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

Savage River CG is smaller and I would say a bit quieter. You can see the Mountain from it if the Mountain happens to be out during your stay. But it is 13 miles further from the entrance than Riley Creek. Riley Creek is accessible to the Mercantile (supplies, food, showers, laundry, etc), WAC, Visitor Center, etc.

Cadiz, Kentucky
Level Contributor
1,473 posts
132 reviews
5. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

MM has given you a great itenerary. I wonder about the kids on the 6 hour Kenai cruise, but may be one of your party will be willing to stay behind with them. If you're in the Seward City Campground, (no reservations/fantastic views) they have a great playground for the little ones.

Level Contributor
9,465 posts
44 reviews
6. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

Great itinerary as always, MM!

At Riley Creek the pair that are staying back with the children have a lot of options:

take turns going to the visitors' center to look at displays or take the kids- lots for them to see & experience

take the kids in backpacks on short walks on the numerous trails around entrance

go for lattes or icecream cones at the Mercantile!

one adult could climb Mt Healy

go out to breakfast or lunch at Marino Grill

At Savage River:

there is a new trail to walk

walk down to the river or to the river overlook to look for wildlife (we've seen bears, caribou, lynx, porcupine, & lots of snowshoe hares down there) & to see the mountain if it is out

Walk around the campground - little ones love the ground squirrels

Take the free Riley Loop shuttle bus with the kids a mile up the road to the Savage River Loop trail- an easy 2 mile+ along the river with a bridge (look for the resident marmots in the rocks by the bridge), look for dall sheep in the cliffs above- keep a look out for bears which can appear anywhere- take the free Riley Loop shuttle bus back to the campground

I highly recommend the Seward City Campground- great place for a stroller & lots of things to do on one's own away from the rest of the group or in pairs:

take the hiker's trail up Mt. Marathon

go to Resurrect Art for the best little coffee/art shop in an old church

walk along the waterfront to watch the sea otters, eagles & other wildlife

walk out onto the piers to watch the fishermen come in with their catch

charter a half-day fishing trip

Edited: 10 December 2011, 01:56
Level Contributor
9,465 posts
44 reviews
7. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

Here are the regulations for safety seats for babies & toddlers on the DNP shuttle buses:


Kiama, Australia
Level Contributor
14 posts
21 reviews
8. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

Hi again,

It has been a while, but our trip to Alaska is fast approaching and I am now looking into more detail in terms of where to camp each night etc. Thanks again SO much for all the valuable advice already given. I am following it to a T!

In terms of overnighting in the RV, do you think it's necessary to always stay in RV parks (or campgrounds), or are there places to just pull up for the night? And if we stay in parks, is it the sort of thing that it's best to book beforehand, or could we just turn up to the area (ie. roll into Palmer) and check ourselves into whichever park looks nicest? I guess it makes sense (esp with kids) to be as organised as possible and make the bookings ahead of time, it just feels like a) it will limit the feeling of spontaneity and adventure (!) and b) there are so many mixed reviews on the different parks so it's hard to make a good decision on which to commit to.

From the fabulous itinerary that was posted above, we are going to try to stick to it as much as possible. If, however, we were to try to reduce the driving somehow and maybe skip one of the destinations, which do you think it missable (and would work best with our aim of trying to reduce the amount of driving time)?

Thanks again, so much! Angela

Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage
Level Contributor
13,124 posts
233 reviews
9. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

If you're following MM's itinerary (& you should) I'd make a reservation for Denali and everywhere else you'd be fine without one.

You do not need to us campgrounds. I'd just try to make sure I wasn't on someone's private property.

If I chose to leave out one stop (to reduce driving/miles); it'd be Homer due to everywhere else being pretty a straight line. Though you'l have a great trip whatever you do.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
8,220 posts
45 reviews
10. Re: Itinerary help for first-time RVers with young kids

You can just pull over so long as it is not posted prohibiting doing so. As for making reservations, for sure you should make them for Denali Nat'l Park. (Hopefully that's already done.)

As for dropping something, I have to say I really like the schedule MM provided you. If you were really needing to drop something, I would say the trip to Homer, although I don't think you "need" another day in Seward and might not want to get back to Anchorage a day earlier.

I hope you'll return after your trip and provide us with a trip report on how things went.

Edited: 10 April 2012, 14:55