Shop first or do it on the trip? We had no idea what to expect in Alaska. How much is a gallon of milk in Alaska? How much is gas in Alaska? What happens if you run out of film or loose your jacket? We weren't sure what was available in Alaska (and at what price)and we simply could not find out! Happily, most chain stores can be found in Anchorage, (Walmart, Fred Meyers, Penneys, Sears, etc.) and the prices aren't noticeably higher. It used to be a good idea to include a cooler in your luggage filled with food for your trip and to fill with fish for the return trip but it is no longer necessary. Prices are virtually the same as in Southern California for just about everything you buy at a store. But everything else....hotels, restaurants and services are SKY HIGH. The season is 100 days and every tourist dollar needs to be made during that short season!
It is wet and cold - you must wear layers. The first layer must 'wick away' moisture (we found everything we needed at Target and our local sporting goods stores), then thin cotton layer(s) before the heavier insulating layers. Do not plan on warm summer weather but have an outfit (or two) along in case the weather cooperates.
Packing Musts -
Waterproof jacket or slicker - lightweight with hood
Long and short sleeved shirts
Long underwear - tops and bottoms
Comfortable shoes - water proof a huge advantage and an extra pair a must
Socks - wicking synthetics and wool for river rafting
Shorts and bathing suit - (we never used ours but the week before it had been 90° one day)
Nicer outfit for travel if you have any chance of airline upgrade - we saw people refused
Hat (cloth and brimmed)
Mosquito repellant - spray and wipes
Flashlight and a headlamp is useful (with extra batteries)
Movies, games and cards for motor home and hotel rooms
Pack in collapsible duffle bag type suitcases if at all possible. They store easily in the motor home. If you take roll along luggage do not store it under the motor coach as the compartments leak and your bags will be ruined. The motor home company will store them for you for about $2.00 per bag per day and it is worth it not to have them underfoot!
What I wish I had known:
Food and paper goods are the same price at Fred Meyers, Wal-Mart and Safeway in Anchorage and the Kanai Peninsula as they are at home! I would still plan a menu and have a really detailed shopping list with you when you arrive so that you can spend a minimum of time at the grocery store and maximize your vacation experience. You can find stores in Anchorage, Seward and Kanai but not everywhere you stop for the night so do plan ahead. In Anchorage - go first to Fred Meyers, then to Wal-Mart if you can't find something.
I would pack one bag of small size items you will use to prepare meals in the motor home because storage is very limited - such as:
Salt and pepper
Zip locks of flour/sugar/cinnamon/cornmeal - whatever you use a lot in meal prep
The motor home comes with everything you need to eat and cook simple meals.
The tape and foil is to cover the sky lights so you can avoid the midnight sun and get some SLEEP!
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