RV-ing across Alaska

What better way to spend two weeks of a summer vacation than to visit Alaska. In an RV. While 10 weeks pregnant. The first two parts of that equation were planned great. We managed through the nausea of the third!

This was a trip Justin had been excited to take for so long — rent an RV and drive around Alaska. Despite first trimester pregnancy symptoms, we decided to do it. Here is how we did it and recommendations in case you do it. (tl;dr Do it)

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Where to go

  • You’ll almost certainly fly into Anchorage and rent an RV from there.
  • Decide how much you want to be “on the road” vs hanging out in different cities and exploring locally a bit.
  • Two of the popular routes (if you have two weeks or less) are to head North to Denali National Park and/or South to the Kenai Peninsula. If you’re ambitious with your time, you could do both. We decided just to go South and took 10 days to explore the Kenai Peninsula. I’m so glad we chose just one because it gave us more flexibility to relax and enjoy the experience.

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Our itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage (evening) — sleep in RV
  • Day 2: Stock up on supplies in Anchorage and drive to Portage — sleep in Portage
  • Day 3-4: Explore/hike Portage Glacier, drive to Ninilchik for fishing trip — sleep in Ninilchik
  • Day 5-6: Drive to Homer and explore — sleep in Homer
  • Day 7-9: Drive to Seward and explore; take fishing trip — sleep in Seward
  • Day 10: Drive back to Anchorage

Here is a fast track version of the trip 🙂

To RV, hotel or camp

There is so much to see in Alaska. You can definitely drive and stay in hotels but there are limited options especially as you head out to more remote areas. There are some places with cabins, but options are definitely limited. Most RV parks also have camp sites and facilities so if you like to camp, there are lots of options. We chose not to camp since we didn’t want to fly with camping supplies.

Going in an RV is so fun because you have your home with you at all times. That means you have your change of clothes, games, all supplies and best of all — food! You also have a bathroom with you at all times which is a huge win for a pregnant lady. We got stuck in terrible traffic one day where we were at a stand still on a two lane road and no one was moving for several hours. So, we turned off the engine, made some quesadillas and played cards — it was awesome!

Picking up your RV

We landed in the evening and slept in the RV (in the company’s parking lot) that night which saved us a night’s hotel and helped us get an early start the next day. What kind of RV should you get? I recommend the smallest that serves your needs — especially if you aren’t used to driving massive trucks or cars. We got a 22-footer which is plenty big for two people but still manageable to drive. Our configuration could actually sleep six — but would have been comfortable with four.

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  • TIP: Rent from a large enough company that has a lot of RVs in distribution. Inevitably, RVs will breakdown or malfunction (ours did) and it was so nice to have a phone number where we could reach someone 7-days a week and people could come and meet us even when we were in relatively remote areas.
  • Here’s us trying to fix the RV ourselves…which actually held up for the rest of our trip…and yes, that is the sewage pipe which was falling off. Yup. Ew.

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Stocking up your RV

This is one of our favorite parts of any trip — going grocery and supply shopping! It’s almost like we are planning for doomsday. But without the doom. We love it!

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Check out all that coffee — we don’t even drink coffee but isn’t it fun to look at?!?!IMG_5600 copy

Portage/Girdwood

We started our trip without aiming to conquer too much milage. There were a few good spots we wanted to visit on our way to our first night sleeping in Portage in a darling RV camp surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Note: they are renovating and closed for the 2019 season.

The highlight of this portion was the boat trip we took to see Portage Glacier. We chose a short boat trip (about 90 minutes) which went out along a scenic waterway and culminated in great views of famous Portage Glacier. If you want to see glaciers in general — in Alaska or anywhere — go soon since they are melting quickly and magnificent to see. We saw several ice chunks break off the wall and fall into the water.

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Another highlight was a gorgeous hike we took not far from the glacier cruise dock. It was a must-do hike up Byron Glacier. It is a flat, easy walk along a stream up to the actual glacier that you can walk on. It was a sunny day and absolutely stunning. Don’t miss this walk if you’re in the area.

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Ninilchick

From Portage we drove towards Ninilchick. This is an uneventful town, but we stayed at a wonderful RV park here to break up the trip and because we heard there was good fishing near here.

Kyllonen’s RV Park had plenty of availability and we were able to pull up our RV right to the edge of the cliff and got stunning views. We even saw Bald Eagles flying around!

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It was here that we went sockeye salmon fishing. We were lucky to get on a last minute fishing trip on the river. We had no idea, but sockeyes are caught with a technique called “flossing” or “snagging” where you throw an empty hook into the water, let it drift and then snag it backwards. You hope to catch a fish with this strategy, which sounds totally absurd and impossible. But, Justin “snagged” one almost immediately and before we knew it, we each caught our max of two.

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It was so fun to stand thigh-high in the water, catching these beautiful fish while being surrounded by lush, dark trees and the sound of rushing water.

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Check out Justin “flossing” a sockeye salmon

Homer

After we got that awesome fishing trip under our belt, we were ready to head to one of the iconic Alaskan towns on the peninsula: Homer.

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It was a beautiful drive descending down the hill into the quaint town of Homer. We had reserved a beachfront RV spot at Homer Spot Campground which was gorgeous. We even took the fresh sockeye we caught the night before and grilled it up — that is as fresh as it gets!

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The town of Homer is very small but quite adorable and worth walking around. There are little shops, tour operators, some restaurants (lots of fish and chips) and we even found $.50 mini ice cream cones!

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Seward

Our last stop of the trip was in Seward. We booked a RV spot at Miller’s Landing RV park but the it was at the end of a very long, difficult road and the sites themselves were so rocky and uneven we dreaded pulling in each day. It was also very cramped so it didn’t offer a very relaxing experience for us. We stayed there the first night but then found a gorgeous spot on the water closer to town at a public RV park. Can’t beat that view!

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Two highlights in Seward: the Kenai Fjords cruise and halibut fishing.

We went out on a Kenai Fjords cruise and saw orcas, glaciers and tons of other animals. It was a wonderful trip to see gorgeous sights, but beware of swells and what that might do to your tummy. There were many poor guests lying on the ground floor feeling sick. But we survived it (and pregnant — woo hoo)!

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We also got lucky and confirmed a spot on a halibut fishing trip. Every boat and charter company we called was booked out for months. So we felt so fortunate to get on a boat with 4 other guests who were serious about halibut fishing. After a full day, Justin was was one only two people on our boat to catch a halibut — and he caught two! His second halibut was about 50 lbs, so he certainly put the experienced fishermen to shame.

When halibut fishing, you drop the lines down about 200 ft, so reeling in a big halibut — and one that is fighting you, like Justin’s was — is no small feat, especially when it takes over 15 minutes of continual reeling. I was a proud partner watching him! The combination of fish guts, morning sickness and sea swells were not treating me too well so thank goodness we had something to show for it.

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So we were on could nine after getting our halibut and barely noticed that the captain couldn’t get the boat to start. Turns out the boat that was available to us recently opened up because it was under repair. And we found that out why. We were hours from the harbor and couldn’t start the motor. We had to attach a small little motor and putter back for 4 hours in what should have taken an hour and a half. Needless to say, I was miserable. At least we ended up with a box of 45 lbs of filleted halibut!

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If you go fishing

  • Book early, esp during high season (summer)
    • We called around to tons of charters only to find out they were all full. We got lucky and got on two different charters with last minute cancellations.
  • Take sea sickness tablets
    • If you get seasick, bring medicine! We went on a few boat trips that made both of us more than a bit nauseas (me more so). Be prepared since you’ll want to be out on the water during your visit.
  • Waterproof pants (and jacket) were great to have for fishing
    • We stopped at the store and bought super cheap waterproof pants. These were vital for our deep sea fishing trip. We didn’t need them for sockeye fishing since they gave us waders to wear, but if you’re going out for halibut fishing, you’ll definitely want waterproof pants (and a rain jacket).
  • Dress in layers
    • The weather in Alaska in the summer is wonderful but a bit variable. While on land, we wore shorts and t-shirts on sunny days and more layers on cold days by the coast. When going out on the water, everything is cooler, so bring layers, especially a rain jacket!
  • Ship back your fish
    • It was easy to find companies in each city that will fillet, vacuum seal, freeze and box up your fish. We did this for our sockeye and halibut and then sent it back as one of our checked bags (it as perfectly under 50 lbs). Too bad we actually don’t like to eat halibut or sockeye salmon.
  • TIP: Don’t go deep sea fishing while in your first trimester. Uggh.

When you RV, you don’t have to eat like you’re camping

Just because we were in an RV, doesn’t mean we were roughing it or had to skimp in any way on our food or luxuries. We bought extra pillows at Walmart so we were super cozy at night (key for this pregnant woman) and overall we ate very well. We cooked hot breakfasts almost every day consisting of eggs, oatmeal, toast and fruit. We used our grill to cook fish and steak, made pasta sauces, sausages and quesadillas.

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(I promise Justin ate also, but I was pregnant…)

If you go to Alaska

Overall we had an incredible trip. Summertime in Alaska is stunning and is a great time to go.

  • Rent from an RV company with wide distribution so they can help with repairs wherever you go.
  • The fun of having an RV is also hanging out in and around the RV, so don’t pack in too much mileage where you’re rushing from place to place and can’t enjoy yourselves.
  • Book fishing trips early! They really fill up. They also aren’t cheap, so set your expectations that this will be a special experience you’ll remember — even more memorable if your boat breaks down.
  • Leave room for the unexpected. The benefit of traveling in an RV is you have everything with you at all times. Take detours, go explore, stop and cook food…have unexpected adventures. Leave time in your schedule for these — they are so fun!

 

 

2 thoughts on “RV-ing across Alaska

    1. It is totally breathtaking and so much to see. We only saw a small bit going to the Kenai Peninsula but loved doing it by RV and having the freedom to really explore. Can’t wait to go back!

      Like

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