Online ratings and review sites are now a popular way for people to get real information on what to see and do when traveling. Yet, even with the sea of social networking sites available to consumers, you can never be too careful when it comes to choosing an Alaska tour operator.
Alaska is a vast, mostly undisturbed and sometimes raw destination. Due to its remote qualities, it can become one of your more pricey family vacation spots. Alaska can be viewed by plane, rail, road and air so the vehicle by which you view Alaska is also a decision to be made. With so many variables, it is extremely important that potential Alaska visitors review all possible scenarios before making an educated decision.
So how do you know that you are getting your money’s worth?
Lets shed some light on common areas where guests tend to get stuck during the planning process:
1. DENALI NATIONAL PARK:
(Above pic: See this on Kantishna Wilderness Tour only!)
By far the most visited destination in interior Alaska outside of Anchorage (which really only gets this title because its the arrival point for 75% of visitors to Alaska), Denali National Park is known for its wildlife viewing, Mt. McKinley and Wonder Lake scenery. Many travelers assume that any tour visiting Denali National park will bring them both scenery and wildlife…NOT TRUE!
There are only three tours available in Denali National Park.
The shortest one is the Natural History Tour. This tour covers only 19 miles on the Denali Park road and gives you a chance to see a moose and that’s about it. This 19 mile stretch of road is open to the public so you get much more traffic and as a result, animals will generally avoid this stretch of the road. This also means that cars, motorcoaches, RVs, buses and anyone else can venture this far without paying the Natural History Tour ticket price. We highly doubt you invested your time and money and traveled this far into Alaska to travel 19 miles into Denali National Park. AVOID THIS TOUR!
Your second choice is the Tundra Wilderness Tour, covering about 53 miles of the Denali Park Rd. This offers guests a chance to see Alaska’s big five- Dall sheep, Caribou, Bear, Moose and Wolves. This tour also brings you some stellar views of Mt. McKinley. Everyone traveling past mile 19 of the Denali Park Rd must do so on state mandated park buses that are basically dressed up school buses with better shocks and some pretty awesome animal viewing cameras installed. I will repeat- there is no way to see this part of Denali in your own car or by luxury motorcoach (unless you happen to be the lucky winner of the Road Lottery – and I quote from the park’s website: “The Road lottery takes place each fall. 400 private cars per day are allowed to drive the park road over a four day period. The road is open for travel in Sep.”). THIS IS A QUALITY TOUR.
I saved the best for last with the Kantishna Wilderness Tour. Only the Kantishna tour takes guests 95 miles deep to the very end of the Denali Park road. It is estimated (and confirmed by our past guests’ reported animal sightings) that visitors can see about 40% more wildlife over the Tundra Wilderness Tour. Again, you have the chance to see Alaska’s big five and Mt. McKinley but the biggest highlight is Wonder Lake. Almost everyone who considers Alaska has seen the picture of Wonder lake with Mt. McKinley in the background (see picture at beginning of this section). The only way to see this in real life is to journey on the Kantishna Wilderness Tour! We recommend planning to stay the evening in Kantishna if you do venture this far to get the very best Denali National Park experience available! THE BEST TOUR IN DENALI!
Up your chances of seeing Mt. McKinley and wildlife by planning to spend a minimum of 2 days and 3 nights in Denali National Park.
2. LIMITING TIME ON THE RAIL:
“A great way to see Alaska, but is it the best way to experience Alaska?”
You may be considering a journey from Anchorage to Fairbanks by rail. Please don’t. This 356 mile journey takes 12 hours one way and only stops in Talkeetna and Denali National Park. The train is on a schedule. It can’t stop for momma bear and baby bear along the way. You also miss out of great stops along the highway such as Veterans Memorial, south viewpoints of Mt. McKinley, Wal-Mikes, and other fun Alaskan-style highlights. Why fly all the way to Alaska, just to zip right through the heart of it?
The Alaska Railroad offers a historic journey, but limiting your time will give you more flexibility to explore.
Continued with Part 2: Making Your Money Count in Alaska