Monday, August 14, 2017

Alaska Review! Day 1--Flight to Anchorage

We've been back from Alaska for almost a month, and it's taken me some time to go through the thousands of photos I took, as well as finish up another photo project.  I would like to write this review before any more time goes by, as I enjoy including as many details as possible.  If you want to read about my planning, you can go back to the posts here in April and May.  If you don't want to read all of them, this one here gives a little bit of background as to how we got here.

If you don't feel like reading all of that, the quick information is that we are a family of five.  DH is Chretien, Trust is our DD and she is 13, DS1 is Earnest (age 11), and  DS2 is Imp (age 9).

I am going to include what we spent, because I have found that the reviews which did that for me helped me to budget and have a realistic idea of what we were going to spend.

We flew to Anchorage on July 2.  I went into my airline ticket musing here.  We wound up spending $478 apiece for four tickets plus 30,000 miles for the fifth ticket--I considered that a pretty good deal to fly roundtrip from the East Coast to Anchorage at what were good times and dates for my family.   We left fairly early in the morning, so Earnest tried to get a little bit of shuteye at the gate.

We flew from the East Coast and were in Alaska by 12:45 PM, so you can get an idea of how early our flights were.  Fortunately, our layover in Chicago wasn't too long, but we were still feeling it.

These were shot from the plane, somewhere over Canada.  Just seeing the mountains made it all seem more real.

We rented a minivan from Avis at the airport.  I rented this in September, so 10 months out.  Two weeks with a Toyota Sienna cost us just shy of $1000 ($988).  Believe it or not, the airport was less expensive (and more convenient), than the downtown location, so I counted that as a win.  It's too bad we needed the minivan as I did have a Toursaver coupon for a free rental day, but it was not valid for a minivan-sized rental.  For kicks, I checked the Avis website last week for July 1-14 next year, just to see what it might have cost me if I had booked the van in August and not September--it's about $300 less now for next July than it was for me in September, so if anyone is reading this for 2018, I will only echo what I early!

En route to pick up the car, I couldn't resist this photo:

I sent it out to my parents, so they knew we had arrived...and we hoped we'd see more of him, but maybe not so close up.

We set out for our hotel.  For this first night, we stayed at the Quality Suites Historic Downtown.  It's not luxurious, but we tend to stay in the Choice Hotel brand because (1) we can often find rooms which accommodate all five of us in one room, (2) they always provide a free hot breakfast, which, when you are five people, cannot be underestimated and (3) their loyalty program is pretty good.  In this case, we had enough points to get our room free, so we weren't going to pass this up.  We had two queen beds and a pull out couch in another area of the room (it was a suite, after all), so we were good.

By now, it was close to 3 PM.  We knew we didn't want to nap, evne though we were tired.  We decided to have a snack (leftover pizza that we had brought from Chicago) and head out to explore.

We decided not to visit any sort of museum as we didn't have a lot of time before some of them closed.  Chretien loves planes and was fascinated by the floatplanes, so we headed back to the airport to check out the area where floatplanes are kept.

It was a bit overcast and drizzly, and we were tired, so we didn't feel like doing a lot of outdoorsy things this first day.

We did head over to Earthquake Park and looked out at Anchorage, but the views weren't so great.

I had also had Kincaid Park on my list, so we headed over there.  We were rewarded by stumbling across a wedding:

 and a bridge, which the kids willingly crossed and posed for this photo:

 By then, it was just about 5, and we figured we had waited long enough to eat.  We did a quick search and decided to try Gwennie's.

This amused me:
although we didn't care to partake.   At this point, all we really wanted was something quick and substantial.

I will say that the kids were entertained while we waited, and had their second encounter with wildlife.

The food here was pretty good.  I think we had a few burgers, some pancakes (Imp LOVES them) and I had chili with bread which lasted me for THREE meals.  (It was a crazy-sized meal!)  We sat and marveled that we were actually in Anchorage, Alaska.  I think this is where it started to really sink in.

Our meal at Gwennie's was around $83.  That included the tip, but we didn't all have beverages and none of us had dessert.  I will say that pretty much only Imp gets kids' meals anymore.

The kids loved the ambiance at Gwennie's.  There was a lot to look at, and it was a nice introduction to Alaska.

Before we headed back to the hotel for the night, we stopped at Fred Meyer to stock up on groceries.  Yes, even though we didn't have an RV, when we travel on a road trip type of vacation, we always try to either bring or buy snacks and lunch fixings.  We also bought cereal, fruit, milk and other items for breakfast, since many of our lodgings didn't include breakfast.  Our reasoning is if we can just have one meal out a day, it'll keep the costs in check a bit and allow us to do more.  We spent around $107 in Fred Meyer on food, and another $12 on water bottles for Chretien and I, since we didn't bring ours with us.  We brought those home, though, so it's not really an Alaska expense.

I will say that while I kept reading how expensive the food is Alaska, to be honest, we didn't really notice a huge difference, overall.  When we go out for dinner at home, it normally runs somewhere between $90 and $100.  I didn't think most of the groceries were that much more expensive than home.  And some sales were even better!  The first week we were in Alaska, the strawberries were 3 pounds for $5.  I normally spend somewhere between $4 and $5 for 2 pounds at home.  

We returned to the hotel and the kids managed to find some energy to utilize the pool.  It didn't last long, but they were happy.

Around 8:30 or so, we called it a day, approximately 22 hours or so after July 2 started for us.

The real fun begins tomorrow!

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