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Planning Our Great Alaskan Adventure

We’re officially off on our Alaskan Adventure, having left St. Louis early on Wednesday morning by train. I write this while watching rolling hills in North Dakota and Montana pass us by outside our Roomette window aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder on our way into Seattle.

All aboard!  Leaving St. Louis by train to start our next adventure!

All aboard! Leaving St. Louis by train to start our next adventure!

We’ll be blogging and sharing along the various phases of our trip, but first I thought I’d start off with a little behind the scenes of planning for such an excursion.

In general we try to minimize planning, and leave as much of our adventures up to serendipity as possible.

While RVing, we don’t often make reservations much in advance, if at all. We don’t know our routing until we’ve gotten there. We limit the number of scheduled destinations we commit to in a year.

When we had the crazy idea to leave the bus parked to get re-painted & upgraded – it was quite tempting to just toss a dart at the map and go.

However this adventure started to take form fairly early on.

With so many of our RVing friends heading up to Alaska (the list includes: Gone with Wynns, Snowmads, Island Girl Walk AboutJenEric Ramblings, Tales from the Mutiny, The Learning Banks, Mali Mish, Van Tramp, AdvoDnA, and many more) – it sounded like a fun opportunity to make our way up there too, just differently. It was on our bucket list anyway, so why not?

Especially since we wanted to mix up a variety of travel modalities, a little planning was probably  prudent.

But we didn’t want to overplan, leaving plenty of room for serendipity.

Planning this adventure we’re now on has been like putting the pieces together like a puzzle.

Starting Somewhere

We already had a big task on our plates with planning the bus renovations while driving 1000+ miles to get to Elkhart, IN. Trying to come up with the details of a big travel adventure at the same time was a bit of daunting task.

It was tempting to just pick any spot on the map and go!

It was tempting to just pick any spot on the map and go!

We needed to nail down some sort of goal other than ‘Go to Alaska’.

We first started by contacting a friend who is an independent travel agent for ideas – looking to both support her business, and perhaps tap into some professional experience. We knew that at least one cruise was likely for us, so she started the research for us on our options in our general time frame.

We also posted our original Summer 2015 Plans video to solicit ideas from our readers and followers. We got literally hundreds of responses with lots of amazing and fun sounding ideas (seriously, thank you so much if you took the time to send us your ideas!).

It quickly went from feeling like a 4 week trip was long, to extending to 6 weeks couldn’t possibly even begin to discover Alaska. The opportunities are endless.

But one event was able to be our stake in the ground – a midnight sun baseball game on the longest day of the year, played in natural light in Fairbanks. Our friends Kristin & Jason were aiming for it, and it seemed like as reasonable of a goal as any to join up with them and other RVing friends.

From there, everything else fell into place to create an itinerary.

The Planning Process

Our travel agent started off great. She did lots of research for us, presented us with ideas and got us booked on our initial outbound cruise and train segments.

But then communication lapsed and we became worried both about her and our trip. After no communication for a few weeks, we knew we need to take charge of our own adventure.

It turns out, our friend did take some unexpected time away to deal with a personal matter and her auto-responder had failed. We’re glad she’s on the mend and know it was an isolated incident, but it did make things a bit more complicated for us.

All packed for 6+ weeks of travel ranging from rail, sea and rental RV.

All packed for 6+ weeks of travel ranging from rail, sea and rental RV.

All and all, booking the majority of our adventure was a breeze. Online research and reservations are so easy these days, that in the end – starting off using a travel agent cost us more in time and frustration than if we had just jumped in ourselves.

Besides, we like being in control of our adventure and we’re both rather independent travelers anyway.

We were able to string together a series of train trips, cruises, RV rental and overnight stays quite easily by tapping into knowledge of our readers, online booking and a lot of our own research.

We’ve concentrated on booking the transportation segments between locations to minimize the stress. This way we can follow the plans we laid out to get from point A to point B.

But despite dozens of wonderful sounding ‘must do’ recommendations we received for activities – we have very little booked at each location.

We want to leave as much room for serendipity so that we can embrace the way we love to travel and not feel over scheduled. Six weeks is a long time to be in tourist mode, and we know we’ll just need some chill low key days along the way.

The Plans

While we have digital copies of everything too.. we also printed out a custom itinerary with confirmation numbers, contact info and special instructions for each stop.

While we have digital copies of everything too.. we also printed out a custom itinerary with confirmation numbers, contact info and special instructions for each stop.

So for those curious as to what exactly the adventure ahead looks like:

  • Late May : Head back to St. Louis in the Mini to drop Kiki off with her grandparents. (Done!)
  • June 3: Train up to Chicago, have our very first AirBnB.com stay (Done!)
  • June 4-6 : Travel by Amtrak train from Chicago, IL to Vancouver, BC via the Empire Builder and Cascades. (In progress!)
  • June 6-10: Tour Vancouver (a long time blog reader has offered to host us – thank you!)
  • June 10-17: Boarding the Coral Princess to Whittier for an inner passage cruise, and then we’ll stay overnight in Anchorage in our first hostel.
  • June 17-25: Riding the rails around Alaska with multi-night stops in Fairbanks and Denali (stays with hosts & borrowed local transportation – we are so blessed!)
  • June 26-July 2: RV around Kenai Peninsula – we have a deposit down on a small rental unit for this adventure.
  • July 2 – 5: Unplanned time after we drop the rental back off in Anchorage. Ideas??
  • July 5-12: Boarding the Holland America Zandaam for a 7-day southbound cruise back to Vancouver.
  • Once back south, we’ll figure out the best way back to the bus in Elkhart depending on its status. Option include another Amtrak train adventure, perhaps a Canadian train adventure or just hopping a flight back.

While we are in Vancouver and on the first cruise, we are actually considering ourselves ON VACATION! It’s our first real time off in a very very long time.

After several intense months of getting ready for both the bus projects and planning this trip, we’re going to do our best to take some much needed down time.

And we're off.. looking forward to starting the adventure off with our first vacation time in YEARS!

And we’re off.. looking forward to starting the adventure off with our first vacation time in YEARS!

The rest of the time in Alaska, we’ll be working just enough to keep up. We hopefully front loaded enough of our workload to have wonderful balance!

We’ll be sharing about each phase of the adventure along the way, why we choose each stop, how we booked them and how each segment turns out. There’s also been some requests for just how we packed for 6+ weeks into two backpacks, so we may cover that too.

We are super excited about the weeks ahead of us, and so thrilled to have you virtually along for the ride! We invite you to follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more real time reports and photos.

Let the adventure begin..

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23 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. I too second the idea of staying at the Homer Elks..if you are pending just tell them what lodge I think they may still let you stay…I look forward to following your trip…you might look into kayaking among the glaciers…and we also flew over them…both great…Enjoy

  2. Sounds wonderfully exciting with lots of variety! Interesting that your only unbooked time is the 4th of July holiday……bet you find something unique and fabulous to enjoy up there!

  3. I just started full timing one week ago and so far I love it. Many thanks to the two of you for your inspirational blog and videos. I hope you have a fantastic trip!!!

  4. My brother in law and his wife will be on the same ship.We are driving them to the terminal on Wednesday. If I see you at the check in area at Canada place, I hope you don’t mind if I say a quick hello!

  5. We spend 6 weeks in Europe last year with just carry-on luggage, but wheeled–I need wheels on everything, apparently. 🙂 Have so much fun!

  6. As someone who always packs too much, I’d definitely love to learn more about what you chose to bring and leave behind.

  7. Sounds wonderful!! Alaska is amazing, I hope you get to see a lot of wildlife! I just LOVED Vancouver, and I highly recommend taking a plane ride over the Misty Fjords, near Ketchikan, if I’m not mistaken. GORGEOUS.

  8. Centennial beach near tsawwassen will be awesome this weekend. Hope your Vancouver connection shows you where it is!

  9. If you are Elks, we recommend you stay at the lodge in Homer during your exploration of the Kenai Peninsula. It’s a great place from which to explore the ‘spit’. 8^)

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