First Time Preparing to Travel to Alaska

We have spent the last couple of weeks preparing for our trip to Alaska and since there are numerous steps to our preparation, I thought I would share them here for those that are planning on going in the future.

  1.  Checked on insurance coverage on all vehicles. We did have coverage, but Allied was kind enough to remind us we needed a proof of insurance certificate that was Canada specific for driving there, and they emailed us copies for both the RV and truck within 5 minutes.  Excellent customer service.
  2. Checked on cellular coverage. First I called Verizon who has a $2 a day plan you can use that expands your existing coverage into Canada.  Unfortunately I have a very basic phone and it is not eligible for international talk or data (it does have unlimited texting for free.)  The customer service was excellent via their Web Chat feature and they even told me they have a loaner phone program I could use to get a phone for the trip.  I am opting to skip that but it was good to know it was an option.  My AT&T experience was the exact opposite.  First I called and could barely hear or understand the person I was talking to.  She also told me that she couldn’t access my account and to call back in 1/2 hour.  I tried the chat feature next and was told (after numerous questions) that their Silver Passport plan is $30 for one month, still charges for some texts, is $1 a minute for phone calls, and only offers 800mb of data.  No thanks.   So we will be going through Canada with my text feature only and whatever Wi-Fi we can get along the way.  I will have to blog offline and then post when we are in coverage. 
  3. Checked on Roadside AssistanceWe have Good Sam and we have coverage in both Canada and Alaska and the phone number to call in case of emergency is the same.  Very helpful customer service person. 
  4. Got a haircut and hair products.  I am fond of Supercuts, but they don’t have any locations in Alaska so I got a really short haircut prior to leaving.  I also bought my mousse and bought Lee’s shampoo which they only sell at Sally’s Beauty Supply.  I could have ordered and shipped the hair product at a later date, but took advantage of the better in-store prices and just took care of it. 
  5. Bought a Food Saver.   We have been wanting a food saver and a digital kitchen scale for a while and we bought one for both food and to shrink wrap tobacco.  We have no idea if we can get loose tobacco in Alaska at reasonable prices and since you cannot order it online, we went ahead and bought 2-1/2 months worth of bulk tobacco in South Carolina.  We needed to package it though, which is where the food saver came in.  Also, after seeing how Pat and Bridget used theirs we definitely decided it was worth it to reduce storage space and lengthen the time food stays good.  So far it is working great.
  6. Bought The Milepost book. Almost everyone who has traveled to Alaska swears by the Milepost book which gives you detailed information on what services are available at every mile of the trip.  Since we will be without data, this becomes especially important during our travel through Canada. 
  7. Put our route into Good Sam Trip Planner.  There are multiple ways to get through Canada to Alaska, but since we didn’t have time to meander we wanted the simplest and most direct route.  As a starting point we used Good Sam Trip Planner which knows that we tow and RV and the height, length, and weight of our vehicle.  We still have work to do here, but it’s a good starting point and at least we know the general route.
  8. Complete Vehicle Maintenance. Lee took the truck to get an oil change.  As a side note, they keep trying to charge us for fuel filters even though they are covered and he spent an extra hour there dealing with that. They wanted to charge us $200, not cool.  We also checked the dually tires at Bill’s suggestion and because they were 3/32 (should be 6/32) we had to get new tires.  Luckily I received an extra check for unused vacation days and that covered the cost, but it had to be done either way.  We used Costco, by the way and they did a great job.  Reasonably priced and good service. 
  9. Stocking up on food. Speaking of Costco, one of the things we are not sure about is how much food to stock up on.  I am sure there is a complex calculation of additional fuel cost for the weight versus higher prices in Alaska, but I am not going to get into all that. We did find there are two Costco’s in Anchorage which is about 120 miles from where we will be staying.  We are still pretty stocked up from being in Louisiana, so I think the only thing I am really going to make sure I buy before going is steak.  Lee likes ribeye and the prices fluctuate wildly as we travel so I have to believe they are going to be crazy high in Alaska. I can easily fit several steaks in our freezer if we use the Food Saver so that seems like the way to go. 
  10. Making Travel Day food. Cooking on long travel days is a pain, and we have discovered it is less tempting to eat out if we have something easy but good to cook on those days.  Since we are going to be faced with at least 9 long travel days in a row as we head north I am making spaghetti sauce and chili and freezing it and buying chicken patties and frozen hamburgers as well.  
  11. Completing some RV mods. Lee has a list of RV mods he has been wanting to get done, but always wanted to make sure we were close to a Home Depot when he started them, just in case.  Rock Hill is close to almost everything, so Lee took a couple of days to complete the repairs.  He removed the stair treads going from the kitchen into the bedroom in the back of the camper and hinged them, so now I have lots of storage underneath.  He also hard wired in the surge protector and voltage regulator, which was a big job, and involved him squeezing into a very small space.  He feels better that they are done prior to the trip and I am thrilled to have more space for my canned goods.

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So that’s our list so far, and we completed it in a week.  I am sure other stuff will arise along the way, but I know we both feel better to have this much done.  Obviously they have stores and goods in Canada and Alaska, but we both prefer to do as many chores as possible in advance of the trip.  

It does feel a little bit like we have gone back to newbie full timers with this trip.  We have become pretty good at navigating the lower 48 over the last year and a half, but Canada and Alaska are very different, so we are back to not taking anything for granted and proceeding with caution and care.  I am sure once we do the trip we will be surprised by how easy it all is, but better safe than sorry.  What’s nice is our friends Kelly and Bill are taking their first trip to Alaska this summer as well and although we are not going to be taking the same route we are sharing our experiences and ideas with each other as we go. 

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