Alaska or Aloha Bound – Part 3 – The Kid Influence

Before I plan any vacation, I ask my kids what they want to do.  And then I book my trip to Disney.

Actually, when offered Alaska or Hawaii as a possible vacation for next year, the girls were pretty split.  They had things they wanted to do in Alaska that we didn’t have time to do on our last cruise, but the thought of two weeks on a beach was very appealing.  They were no help in trying to decide.

But here’s where a kid’s input on the Alaska or Hawaii vacation plans hit hard.  Brighid, at this point in her life, doesn’t have any idea what next summer will be like for her.  Degree in hand, she is hoping to have a full time job, but when she might actually get one is anyone’s guess.  Will she have accumulated any vacation time by next summer?  Does she want to use her vacation from work for a family trip, or is it time for her to want to vacation on her own or with friends – especially when that vacation time is more limited?

So when asked whether she preferred Alaska or Hawaii, Brighid’s answer was, “Don’t plan on me to be able to go – I’m just not sure.”

So here’s where Hawaii has a definite advantage.

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If we book a cruise to Alaska, we won’t book Brighid.  We may find out closer to the trip that she can at least fly out to Vancouver and get on the cruise, if not the whole family vacation, but when we find that out for sure, will it be too late to book her on the trip?  What will the cabin availability be?

Hawaii offers some flexibility.  If we end up being able to book for two weeks, which is our goal, Brighid might be able to join us for at least part of the vacation.  Even if she doesn’t have a whole lot of vacation time accumulated, she might be able to put a long weekend together and join us for at least a little while.  You can’t do that with a cruise.

I hope my girls always want to do family vacations, but I’m a realist.  That weighs pretty heavily on making the Alaska or Aloha decision for next summer.

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Alaska or Aloha Bound? Part 2 – Getting There

The first thing to think about when trying to decide whether we are going to plan our vacation next summer to Alaska or Hawaii is how we are going to get there.  When you consider that we have to transport five people, just getting to our destination could be a big chunk of the travel budget.

Aloha plane

Hawaii is pretty much a no brainer.  Flying is really the only option, and currently, airfare from Philadelphia to Hawaii (with a stop in Phoenix) is $480.  For five people, even for someone who cried at the mere thought of math class, it looks like close to $2500.

Now Alaska.  My husband is a huge fan of the road trip.  We could fly out to Vancouver for about the same price that it would take to fly to Hawaii, but Jim wants to make it “fun” by packing the car with a gaggle of children, their bickering, fidgeting, and body odoring.

Alaska Road trip

A tentative road trip schedule would look something like this:

Day 1 – Bellmawr to Chicago – 12 hours; one night at the Springhill Suites in Rosemont for $100/night (military discount available) with breakfast included

Day 2 – Museum of Science and Industry; Navy Pier; Garrett Popcorn; drive to Milwaukee – 2 hours; one night at the Fairfield Inn, Downtown Milwaukee for $104/night (military discount available) with breakfast included

Day 3 – Morning miniature golf.  Drive to Fargo, ND – 9 hours; one night at the Courtyard in Moorehead, ND for $83/night (military discount available) with no breakfast in the morning

Day 4 – Drive to Glacier National Park – 14 hours; one night at Glacier Park Lodge for $202 (no military discount) with no breakfast

Day 5 – Early morning visit to Glacier National Park, then a drive to Vancouver – 11 hours; one night at Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle for $200/night plus $30 parking fee (no military discount available) with no breakfast

Day 6 – Arrive at the port to depart for the cruise

Fuel cost for the trip (one way) as estimated by AAA – $650 http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com/fuelcostcalculator/

Total before attraction fees:  $1339

Now, assuming approximately the same costs going back the other way, this makes the road trip a little more expensive than the airfare to Hawaii, but there are two ways to look at this option.  It is 48 hours in the car together.  That’s a lot of time.  But we’ve always seen some of the best parts of this country during road trips.  We’ve done the big things, like Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon; and we’ve done the little things like the Corn Museum in South Dakota and the world’s tallest Jolly Green Giant.  It’s always fun, it’s always different, and it reminds me that one of the big reasons I married the man that I did was because we could do a nearly 50 hour car trip and not run out of things to talk about.

For some, there would be no question but to fly to Hawaii.  For others, the adventure of the road is really appealing.

Which team are you on?

 

 

Alaska or Aloha Bound? Let’s Decide!

In September of this year, I turn 50.  In March of 2016, Jim and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We made the decision to do a big summer vacation in the summer of 2015 to celebrate both of these momentous events, and we immediately set about planning our second Alaska cruise.

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But hold on a minute.

There is also a possibility of making a trip to Hawaii.  We’ve never been to Hawaii, and there are certainly things we’d like to see in the Aloha state.  So after completely making our minds up to revisit Alaska, we are now weighing options.

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Over the next couple of months, we’re going to do our research, consider things like activities, relaxation factor, look at the difference in cost overall, and discuss all of the components that go into making this type of decision.  We would absolutely love your feedback every step of the way, and from those of you with more experience in these two locations than we have, your advice will become crucial as we make the final decision.

Keep an eye on the blog for updates in the decision making, or follow along on Twitter – #AlohaAlaskaAnna

Summer 2012 Cross Cruiseapalooza Planning Begins!

Where were we?  Oh yes!  The family has decided to drive cross country to Seattle to board the Disney Wonder for that Alaska cruise.  So obviously, we were just this side short of sanity.

Skamarakas family cross country trips have been incredibly interesting.  The last one we took was dubbed the DNA Tour.  It was a lesson in making sure everyone went to the bathroom BEFORE we hit a mountain or desert, AND it was a lesson in watching what you feed people before you get to the Grand Canyon so no one has to puke, right at sunset, on the Grand Canyon.  Had there been a nation-wide crime spree, perpetrated by a crazed family in a minivan, we left enough DNA evidence between here and the west coast that we’d all be in Sing-Sing solitary as I speak.

The first piece of the puzzle is what car are we taking.  Our family has two – our minivan and Brighid’s Mini Cooper.  I for one am always up for a challenge, but I’m reasonably certain that I won’t fit the shoes I need for the cruise in the back of the Mini.  So it seems like a no-brainer, right?  The minivan.  That’s where Jim steps in and says, “We can rent a car that gets better gas mileage and save the wear and tear on the minivan.”  On our last cross country trip, we ended up in a Jeep Grand Cherokee that POSSIBLY got one mile more per gallon than our minivan; was painfully uncomfortable; had way less storage space; and had a driver’s side window that wouldn’t roll down.  I know what you’re thinking – how did Anna get her Starbucks with no drive through availability?  Thank you for thinking of me.  I managed.  This time around, we’ll check the windows before we get to Ohio; and if possible, we’ll check out the comfort level well in advance so we know we won’t have hineys hurting in the back seat.

I’m thinking the best plan of action will have us hitting Chicago our first day – maybe as far as Milwaukee.  If there’s a festival, Milwaukee may be the way to go; and if it’s Milwaukee, there’s probably a festival!  We could wake up early, do a little sightseeing, then hit the road for somewhere in North Dakota.  I spent much of my teen years denying the existence of North Dakota – it was my version of teen rebellion (I belonged to the Flat Earth Society, too) – but I digress.  After another night of sleep, a quick tour around some points of North Dakotan interest (that should be a quick tour, no?), we’ll hit the road again head for parts in west Montana.  That will be our last stay before arriving in Seattle, which should give us a full day to play with – so if we end up stuck in traffic behind a herd of buffalo (buffali??), we should still make the ship in plenty of time.

So send me your suggestions – where to go, what to see, who to visit!

North to Alaska – and Whatever Else We Can See In Between!

I always have these grand intentions of building fabulous trip reports, and every time we take an awesome vacation, I go into it saying “I think I can; I think I can; I think I can” – and then I don’t.

Let’s approach this from a different angle – let’s start talking about it now, and maybe by June, when I actually take the trip, I’ll be more motivated to finish the conversation!  So let’s get started – come plan this trip with me!

Here are the basics:

We have to be onboard the Disney Wonder on June 25, 2012 – that’s only 252 days away!  Thank God we’re going to Alaska – I’ll never get into a bikini by then!!  We board in Seattle, WA.

We’ve chosen second seating because it gives us time to eat breakfast, second breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, second lunch, afternoon tea, and an evening snack before dinner.  We’d miss at least the evening snack if we did main seating dining!  Actually, we prefer second seating for a number of reasons.  We never feel we have to rush to get ready after a day of excursions, and if a kid comes back needing a nap, there’s time before dinner to do that.  We’re also more inclined to get to the shows if we go to them before dinner, as after dinner, you are so full and tired from a big day of adventure, you might decide just to turn in.  I also like that on some of our Disney cruises, the kids will get picked up by the kids’ club staff at second seating, and they will be escorted to their club for evening activities.  This gives Mom and Dad a chance to eat dinner with the kids, but also have some time to themselves to linger over a cup of tea and dessert.

Our itinerary:

Day One: Seattle, Washington

Day Two: At Sea

Day Three: Tracy Arm, Alaska

Day Four: Skagway, Alaska

Day Five: Juneau, Alaska

Day Six: Ketchikan, Alaska

Day Seven: Victoria, British Columbia

Day Eight: Seattle, Washington

Now to get there.  The plan at the moment is to drive.  From Jersey.  With three kids.  In one car.  Oh, and did I mention that at least one kid is in school until June 20th?  Unless we get no snow days, and then she might be done a couple of days sooner.  Should I start taking Valium NOW?

If Google Maps is accurate, we eliminate all pee breaks, we don’t eat anything not already in the car (I’m thinking by hour four, Granuaile is gonna look mighty tasty with some honey mustard), we don’t stop for gas, and we skip any side trips to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine and the World’s Biggest Rocking Chair, we can be there in just under two days (1 day, 22 hours).  My fear is, just adding in pee breaks is going to cause us to miss the boat.  Somehow, I have to balance potty stops, eating, and a tiny bit of sightseeing with getting there in four days – which puts us at a Seattle hotel the day before the cruise.  Oh, and did I mention that I wish to arrive somewhat sane?

And we’re off, faithful readers!  Watch over the next few posts how I try to lay out the trip TO Seattle.  Then we’ll talk shore excursion possibilities.  And finally, we’ll talk about how we get back in time to make my sister’s wedding on July 21st.  Dressed.  In North Carolina.

Oh – and who wants to watch my dogs for three weeks?  They’re great fun to have around!