Obviously, a great deal more planning is necessary for a fly/drive trip than if you were taking your RV with everything already packed. It is very different to walk into an empty RV without a garage full of tools and necessities on hand to pack in it. Suddenly you remember all the “perks” in your own unit that you will have to do without.
This list of things to do and items to take covers the time from when you walk out the door until you return to the airport on your way home:
1. Things to get done before leaving:
What you need to do depends on whether you are leaving behind an RV or a house, but this quick list might keep you from worrying that you forgot to disconnect something. Check lights (consider having a timed light go on and off in the evening), heating and air conditioning, water heater, water, locks on doors and windows, and plants. Leave keys for someone to check your home once a week while you are gone.
2. Clothes to take:
No matter the season or month, dress in layers with a windbreaker to go over the top. Vests work very well. Take gloves and a hat or ear coverings for the cooler evenings and mornings. Good tennis shoes worked very well for me even to church and out to dinner. “Slip on” shoes are handy for going in or out of the rig on a quick errand. If you always take your shoes off at the door, it cuts down on the cleaning. Most packing will depend on your anticipated activities.
3. “Stuff” to take:
Camera (and whatever it takes to upload to the computer), tape, scissors, envelopes, letter and post card stamps, notebook, vitamins, and snail mail and e-mail addresses. The addresses were in our computers (optional but handy). I packed some non-slide material for the counter to hold toasters, coffee makers, etc. Don’t go without The Milepost guidebook and its comprehensive map. Pick up all other info and maps at visitor centers after you arrive. Take cash. Almost all businesses take credit or debit cards now, but it can be a real problem if you are out in the boonies where they don’t!
4. Crossing the border:
If your trip will take you into Canada, be sure whatever you have with you or buy will make it through the border. It is easier to cross the border with a passport and shortly that will be a requirement. Go to the Canadian government Web site at www.cbsa.gc.ca for information on what you can or cannot take across the border. Keep prescriptions in their original container. Watch border times. Some of them close overnight. It is illegal to cross closed borders.
5. Necessities and groceries to buy in Anchorage:
Garbage bags, matches or lighter, cleaning supplies, paper towels, optional paper cups and plates, cooking spray, laundry soap and softeners, condiments, spices, creamer and coffee. We came up with top-of-our-head breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drink basics to last for three or four days at a time.
6. What to do with “leftovers” when you are ready to fly back:
By the end of the fourth week, we still had things we didn’t want to toss in a dumpster. We were in Hope, Alaska, our last morning and asked the waitress at Tito’s Restaurant if she knew anyone who would be interested in taking whatever we had left. Within 15 minutes, a local church took everything, including partially used stuff like peanut butter. Somebody would benefit and that’s all we wanted.
With the prior experience of two years of Alaska travel behind me, I created three possible trips with activities I recommended and estimated the mileage between places, listing decision points where we could head back to Anchorage if we decided we did not have enough time or the desire to continue on, or if the weather turned bad. Ron took that info and made a table that included estimated gas prices (based on $3.50/gallon), camping fees, propane, ferry, parking, food per person, attractions and entertainment per person, and sundry expenses for four weeks. Here were the three options and their cost:
North Alaska (Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Delta Junction or Tok) and Canadian Loop—$8,914.
North Alaska and the Kenai (Hope, Seward, Homer)—$8,517.
North Alaska and Canadian Loop (Chicken, Dawson City, Whitehorse, Skagway with ferry to Haines). This added many extra miles, rough gravel ones, and the strain of knowing that once we started over Taylor/Top of the World Highways, we must make it all the way around and still get back in time to see the Kenai, which we didn’t want to miss)—$9,264.
We chose the full trip with the options of turning points at Delta Junction, Tok, or Whitehorse.
We tried to keep track of all expenses on Ron’s spreadsheet, including personal expenses, but excluding plane fares, that showed the final cost around $8,865. We traveled 3,034 miles with a fuel cost of $1,027, averaging out to about $2.96 a gallon.
Keep in mind that beyond Labor Day, nearly everything is closed. I had no need to do again many of the things I had done on previous trips and the Bentons apparently weren’t into special flying or water adventures that were available. These figures would be much different during the season when activities abound.
OK, that’s the scoop on planning.
Over the last two columns, I’ve hopefully made you aware of the necessities and pitfalls of flying to Alaska and renting an RV. The last thing you should do before leaving the rental company parking lot is to go over your rig inside and out and note any scratches, dents, etc., just as you would with a rental car. Turn the engine on; check all the mirrors, door latches, brakes, gauges, etc. Make sure you know how to light the furnace, obtain hot water, empty sewer tanks, operate the refrigerator, etc. These things may be different from those in your own rig.
As we prepared to leave the first morning, we discovered a few minor problems with the motorhome. They were promptly fixed, and we were on our way.
Now for the fun, but I’ll tell you about that next time. God Bless.
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Autographed copies of Revised RVing Alaska and Canada ($16.95); Adventures with the Silver Gypsy ($14.95); Full-Time RVing: How to Make it Happen $14.95); In Pursuit of a Dream ($8), and Freedom Unlimited, The Fun and Facts of Full-timing ($9) are available through author Sharlene Minshall, Box 1040, Congress, AZ 85332-1040, www.full-time-rver.com or Amazon.com. Postage and handling are $4 for one book and $1 for each additional book.
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