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Old 02-20-2014, 07:19 PM   #1
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Alaska Caravan Tours?

I saw tonight on a FMCA forum the following read that essentially reflected the following:

(Have you considered a caravan tour of Alaska ? We took a 60 day caravan tour last summer of Western Canada and Alaska - 5700 miles - best thing we ever done - no regrets, rv parks and tours are paid for, staff provided many meals and we now have 42 friends that we did not have prior to the tour starting - time and money well spent !!)

My wife and I would very much like to explore Alaska as a retirement gift to ourselves although I hear the roads in certain areas are terrible and almost if not hazardous. Never having been to Alaska I don't want what should be one of our most memorable trips to turn into an expensive nightmare trip. In reading the above comment, I wondered how many readers on either site have first hand knowledge of these tours. I would love to read opinions from others who have first hand or valuable advice regarding these tours. If you have personal experience and would not mind sharing your thoughts and recommendations it would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance! Safe Travels!
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:39 PM   #2
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I will let some one else that has taken the caravan tours comment on that. While the roads in Alaska are not up to the same level as those in the 'lower 48' they are not as bad as some make them out to be. There are areas that have lots of frost heaves, there are also areas that are nice. It will also depend on where you want to go. There are some places that the only way to get there are on 'gravel roads' and they can be a challenge. Also one of the 'jokes' we have here is that there are two seasons, winter and construction season. Chances are real good that no matter where you go, there will be road construction. That is just a 'fact of life' here. One thing to keep in mind is that there is lots to see/do here and it can be overwhelming! Even if you go with a caravan, be sure to get a current copy of 'The Mile Post' as there is lots of information in it.
I hope that you plan well and have a great trip!
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:54 PM   #3
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We did the trip alone in 08 with a brand new coach and toad. Yes, we did encounter some frost heaves, but most were well marked allowing you ample time to slow down. The rest of the road were just fine and even the Top of the World highway (that sure is a misnomer) is mostly gravel, but again, slowing down took care of any problems. Once in Tok, we spent two hours washing the coach and toad... whew! What a job that was.

As for a Caravan, I think you'll find on just about any rv forum that probably 80% (or more) of the repliers will recommend that you don't take a caravan. Reasons being that this state (plus you have to go through three Canadian Provinces) is huge and there are only a few ways you can traverse the entire route. We found after a few stops, we were finding the same people at the next stop and are still friends with two different couples.

Traveling alone, we had no problems finding fuel or rv parks and we could stop and stay at any one place as long as we wanted...or we could wherever we wanted without having to worry about notifying anyone or having to catch up someplace. We even road the Alaskan Ferry system south and saw places you can't get to with a caravan. Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan.....

Mile Post is good, but the Churches (Mike & Terry) book is much better.

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Old 02-20-2014, 08:04 PM   #4
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Then again you might wind up with 42 people you never want to see again and a lot of money wasted.

Some folks enjoy tours with set times and places to be and others don't. We don't.

We like to be on our own schedule and be able to choose where we want to stop and explore or whatever.

Get the Milepost and study it before you spend any money on a tour. The main thing about driving to Alaska is don't be in a hurry and enjoy yourself. We drove to Alaska in 1971 in a 1971 Challenger Convertible pulling a trailer and didn't have any problems. Back then it was a 1,500 mile dirt road.

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Old 02-20-2014, 08:32 PM   #5
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[QUOTE=lanerd;1936669]We did the trip alone in 08 with a brand new coach and toad. Yes, we did encounter some frost heaves, but most were well marked allowing you ample time to slow down. The rest of the road were just fine and even the Top of the World highway (that sure is a misnomer) is mostly gravel, but again, slowing down took care of any problems. Once in Tok, we spent two hours washing the coach and toad... whew! What a job that was.

We did it on our own in 2010, left Iowa mid May. This was exactly what we encountered also. Was a great trip, get a copy of the Milepost and enjoy the trip.
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Old 02-21-2014, 06:32 AM   #6
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Will definitely look for The Mile Post and Churches. I appreciate all the replies. Keep them coming!
Any places you recommend to put on the "must see" list appreciated as well!
I tend to agree that after driving from our home we want to take our time and not have to concern ourselves with being locked into the caravan time schedule. Lots to think about.
Also, I have the option of bringing as our toad the Acura TSX or 2004 SportTrac (4x4). Is this a trip I will want the option of having a 4x4 with me? My parents took us kids on a trip out west in 73 and I remember road signs mark (4x4 vehicles only). How disappointed I was that we could not explore these roads.
My mother did a land and sea tour and the one thing I remember most was the wildlife she saw when she did a float plane tour with landing on a lake. I am hoping to see and experience as much wildlife as possible. Maybe even throw a line while I am there.
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Old 02-21-2014, 06:45 AM   #7
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We've been to Alaska twice by motorhome. Once on a caravan in 2007, and on our own in 2013. Both experiences were excellent. There aren't a lot of roads in Alaska as compared to many other states, but the more traveled ones are paved and in good shape. The caravans don't travel the back roads, but rather stick to the main roads because that's where the majority of campgrounds and attractions are. There are always construction zones and occasional road repairs like in any other state. As mentioned earlier there are some areas that have frost heaves, but they are well marked so you can easily slow down before crossing over them.

If on the off chance you do have some problems most caravan organizers are knowledgeable of the area that they can direct you to the proper people to assist you.

We enjoyed the caravan experience for many reasons. All the reservations like campgrounds, meals and sight seeing tours are made by the caravan organizers. We met a lot of good people who were enjoying the trip as much as we did. There are usually a number of free days that allow you to go exploring on your own or sign up for optional side trips.

The only place we avoided on our second trip was The Top of the World Highway. We did it on our first trip and it was a nightmare. The condition of the road is weather dependent. It's mainly a hard packed gravel road. There's construction equipment stationed along side to regrade things after rain storms. The summer rains do make the road rough and grading it after each storm is a normal procedure. We happened to get there right after a storm, and before the grading had been done. It was the roughest 100 miles I've ever driven. Our average speed was between 10 and 15 mph. To put things in perspective we met people who had driven it before the storm and others who did it a couple days after us, and they all had smooth driving.

I would definitely take the trip. The scenery is spectacular, the people are friendly, and it's an experience you'll never forget. The horror stories are just that, stories. You could have the same experiences, good or bad anywhere. We just got back last September and are already looking forward to going again.
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Old 02-21-2014, 07:50 AM   #8
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We did our Alaska trip two years ago. As previously mentioned, the roads are fine, you just have to be aware. We do not "plan" our trips. We have a general direction in mind and a few "must" sees, but no schedules. You will see something on a map that looks interesting, something in the newspaper that you want to do and as you walk around you will encounter another fun thing to do. You might plan to stay somewhere for only one night and then all of a sudden you have been there for three or more.

For the above reasons, a caravan is not something we are interested in doing, but have met people who really enjoyed the organization.

Above all, enjoy the trip.
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Old 02-21-2014, 08:11 AM   #9
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Wildlife!!!! We constantly saw bears, moose, caribou, buffalo, mountain sheep and goats. Even had a wolf run across the road right in front of us. It was great!!
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Old 02-21-2014, 11:31 AM   #10
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Did Alaska twice------San Diego to Fairbanks with my wife....On a motorcycle..........Once in 04 and once in 08...Never a scratch or scary moment.....

Roads are good...You will run into gravel/dirt areas under repair....Very normal...Nothing to be concerned about......Just watch your speed.....

Taking delivery of a new 2014 Newmar Dutch Star in 2 weeks and will be going back to Ak this summer.....I do not hesitate to take a new MH there...

Just look for the flags indicating frost heaves or similar and slow down..the flags and other indicators are accurate........

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Old 02-21-2014, 11:41 AM   #11
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We have taken two caravan trips but NOT to Alaska. We did the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena and the Calvary Stampede in Calgary. We are planning another Alaska trip but will pass on the caravans. We drove up about six or seven years ago with a couple of other RV's and had a great time. In support of caravans I'll say based on our two caravans they are great in that almost everything is done for you. Tours, tickets, some meals and socials provided. But in opposition: everything is scheduled, yes, you can take off on your own but you'll miss something you paid for in the expensive fees for the caravan. Just my thoughts.
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Old 02-22-2014, 08:06 AM   #12
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We were tailgunner on a 71 day, 6100 mi caravan last summer. We had some folks depart the caravan plan/route off and on to rejoin later, and some just for a drive day. One big plus I have heard folks say about a caravan is that they would have missed/not have been aware of many of the tours/ferry & glacier trips/shows etc or may not have taken them when considering cost of each one individually. Some people will be more comfortable with a caravan while others may prefer more independence. If you are military (active/retired/vet) a great option for caravans is S.M.A.R.T.. As a not-for-profit w/volunteer member leaders they do caravans for their members and guest at significantly lower cost than the commercial companies. Many join the organization primarily for the caravans.
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Old 02-22-2014, 10:05 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1ciderdog View Post
We have taken two caravan trips but NOT to Alaska. We did the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena and the Calvary Stampede in Calgary.
Were those "caravans" or "sampedes"? We also did Calgary with Good Sam, but we didn't caravan as we met up with everybody at the rv park in Calgary and after the event was over, we all went our separate ways.

We also did the Rose Bowl Parade, but with a different group...not Good Sam.

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Old 02-22-2014, 10:50 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lanerd View Post
Were those "caravans" or "sampedes"? We also did Calgary with Good Sam, but we didn't caravan as we met up with everybody at the rv park in Calgary and after the event was over, we all went our separate ways.

We also did the Rose Bowl Parade, but with a different group...not Good Sam.

ron
Oh, my bad, yes, these were not travelling caravans but meet at the location. Travel was separate.
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