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Old 11-04-2012, 01:49 PM   #16
zweihund
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Sweet, I subbed to the meet thread. Hopefully I didn't scare anyone away. lol

I am working on a packing-planning report based on my experience earlier this month...taking a toddler and a husband north to an ever-changing climate for 10 days was good practice! I should be posting that here this week.
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Old 11-04-2012, 03:30 PM   #17
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Subbing to your awesome trip report! (Yes! She has diagrams and spreadsheets = AWESOME even though she hasn't taken the trip yet!) We're on the last Alaska of the season next year - I'm anxious to learn at your feet oh wise Zweihund!
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:58 PM   #18
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The pre-pre-PRE packing update!

Donít even act like you arenít all dying to hear my packing report from the recent CT trip.

As an aside, we made it out of the state about 24 hours before Sandy started wreaking havoc. All of the family is safe, some even have power again. Some of the areas we visited, however, are still underwater. As a Floridian, I understand the power of a hurricane from firsthand experienceÖ.but every now and then a real doozy comes along and reminds us of the awesome forces Mother Nature can churn up.

*shakes off the serious face*

Commence packing report!

In retrospect, my packing experience from CT will mirror that of future Alaska. How so, you may ask? Both trips span about a week and a half. Both trips involved fluctuating temperatures. And both trips required formalwear. For CT, I packed both a large and medium-sized suitcase, and because we were renting a car (and I am too cheap to pay a $100 to Hertz for their crappy model) we hauled along Isabelleís carseat. The biggest challenges were:
  1. Weight. Itís hard to keep a large suitcase under 50 pounds, even when you put all of the heavy stuff in the medium-sized. This is partially because itís hard not to just fill it up, but also because I opted to use the built-in garment pouch over an extra garment bag, since we only needed one dressy outfit each. So picture a large suitcase at 75% capacity (or 25% empty, depending on how you look at things) and add to it a suit and a formal dress. And shoes. 49.5 pounds, baby. Can I get an amen, sistah? Because I totally deserved one.
  2. Keeping everything straight. We made four stops along the way. FOUR. One hotel and three different family homes. Between the constant packing and repacking and the three loads of laundry I did along the way, I lost track of what was in the bottom of the suitcase. A fact which was reinforced when I discovered our nieceís wedding present as I unpacked. Oops. Thankfully for this trip weíll only be living out of the suitcases for a few days in Vancouver, and can unpack everything once weíre tucked away in our cabin.
  3. Wet shoes. I brought a spare pair of sneakers for Izzy (a lifesaver after an unfortunate encounter with some rogue dog poo mere moments before we had to pile into the car and head to the next stop) but did not do the same for us. Unless you count the wedding shoes. And letís face it, three inch Steve Madden pumps are not the most practical when chasing your daughter around a muddy playground. But they sure are cute! We have waterproof hikers for Alaska, but Iíll likely throw in the Chucks (and Lionelís Sketchers) too just to have an alternative. And also for any warmer weather days.
  4. The carseat. I am grateful that we packed it, because I just didnít trust the Hertz model. Plus Isabelle is comfortable in hers, which increased the likelihood of car naps as we travelled from point A to points B, C, D and E. I think we might have even made it to H. But Britax carseats are not exactly famous for their compact size, nor their ease of stacking atop a rolling suitcase. Fortunately we wonít need one in Vancouver, because weíll do what we did last year and hire a car to bring us to and from the airport. The rest is walking, and public transportation.

Based on the CT trip, I plan to ROCK this packing thing in June. Iím planning to bring the same two suitcases, packed similarly, and the garment bag in place of the carseat. I tried my hand at light (and removable) layers over bulkier clothing, which worked beautifully. I also re-purposed clothing for all three of us, though itís definitely harder to make this happen for your toddler. Luckily her clothing is small and light, so a few extra bottoms donít add up to much. I didnít use everything I packed, but I also did one more laundry load than I had planned for due to another unfortunate incident involving a recently potty-trained child whose name rhymes with Frisabelle. Iíll spare you the details.

Hereís what I brought. The short version. As if there were such a thing with me.

Me: two pairs of jeans, a pair of lightweight pants, two camis, a pair of pj shorts, a pair of yoga pants, two short-sleeved shirts, three long-sleeved shirts, a cocktail dress, and a lightweight corded blazer. I left the underwear behind, because it took up too much room. Kidding! That might have led to baby number two, which would have forced the cancellation of this Alaska trip. Which ainít gonna happen, folks! I did also pack three scarves, which were super light. Oh, and I wore a pair of capris, a t-shirt, a lightweight sweater and my pink Chuck Taylors on the plane.

I packed similarly for Lionel (minus the camis and yoga pants). For Isabelle, I packed an even number of shirts to pants because, well, sheís two. What food doesnít end up on her face usually ends up on every garment, including her socks. I did, however, pack fewer outfits. I will admit, this totally stressed me out at first but it actually ended up being the perfect amount. I did still bring 1-2 too many toys, and I put too much stuff in her carry-on backpack. It was such a pain to lug around, and we only used it on the plane. For Alaska I think Iíll get her an Izzy-sized backpack to limit what I can stuff into it.

So there you go. Iíd say this trip saved me the hassle of doing a practice pack come June, but yíall know Iím going to do that anyway so why not drop the faÁade? Honesty. Weíre all crazy here, right?

Up next: I finally start talking about the excursions Iíve had planned pretty much since we booked.
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Old 11-07-2012, 03:55 AM   #19
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So here is the deal
I bring all of our stuff from the UK in garbage bags and you meet us at Vancouver airport and pack it corectly for us
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Old 11-07-2012, 12:38 PM   #20
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So here is the deal
I bring all of our stuff from the UK in garbage bags and you meet us at Vancouver airport and pack it corectly for us
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:57 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by zweihund View Post
[*]The carseat. I am grateful that we packed it, because I just didnít trust the Hertz model. Plus Isabelle is comfortable in hers, which increased the likelihood of car naps as we travelled from point A to points B, C, D and E. I think we might have even made it to H. But Britax carseats are not exactly famous for their compact size, nor their ease of stacking atop a rolling suitcase. Fortunately we wonít need one in Vancouver, because weíll do what we did last year and hire a car to bring us to and from the airport. The rest is walking, and public transportation. [/LIST]
Based on the CT trip, I plan to ROCK this packing thing in June. Iím planning to bring the same two suitcases, packed similarly, and the garment bag in place of the carseat. I tried my hand at light (and removable) layers over bulkier clothing, which worked beautifully. I also re-purposed clothing for all three of us, though itís definitely harder to make this happen for your toddler. Luckily her clothing is small and light, so a few extra bottoms donít add up to much. I didnít use everything I packed, but I also did one more laundry load than I had planned for due to another unfortunate incident involving a recently potty-trained child whose name rhymes with Frisabelle. Iíll spare you the details.

Hereís what I brought. The short version. As if there were such a thing with me.

I did still bring 1-2 too many toys, and I put too much stuff in her carry-on backpack. It was such a pain to lug around, and we only used it on the plane. For Alaska I think Iíll get her an Izzy-sized backpack to limit what I can stuff into it.
.
OK, fIRST of all, I am just OVER THE MOON that you & Lionel have been blessed with your little angel. So, so, so happy for you all!!! I have been a fan of your TR's for years!

SECONDLY, Hooray for another trip report or pre-trip planning report or anything where you share your knowledge & humor with us fellow Disney cruise fanatics!

THIRDLY, may I lay on you some obsessive vacation planner Mommy wisdom? When traveling with a child who needs a car seat, get theeself to Babies R Us and buy a car seat bag for said safety device. A big honking one. It keeps your car seat clean, you carry it to the jet way and gate check it for FREE. And the best part? The BEST PART??? You can put all kinds of extra clothes in that sucker under said car seat, and the airlines don't care! Yes, it has to go through the x-ray machine, but as long as nothing sets it off you're GOLDEN. The TSA people don't care that you have extra clothes in there. The airline gate agents don't care. "Oh, car seat in a bag? OK, here's a gate check tag for you." If you don't want to bring a big car seat, buy a $10 booster seat to throw in the top of the bag, even if you don't use it. Isabelle will use a booster some day.

I plan on using this till my 52 pound 5 year old son is at least 8!

Lastly, not a bad idea to invest in a stroller bag, as well. I hated trying to keep track of bags and a squirmy toddler in the airport, and a stroller (umbrella or otherwise) was a necessity. I learned my lesson the hard way--took my new McClaren umbrella stroller out of the box, put child in it, wheeled child through the airport, put stroller in the magical drop zone for gate checked baby accoutrimand (sp?) , and the luggage handlers immediately shredded the foam handle grips. After that I used a bag. Now he is 5 and has a healthy fear of getting lost, so sticks like glue. AND he is too big for a stroller now.
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Old 01-20-2013, 03:45 PM   #22
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OK, fIRST of all, I am just OVER THE MOON that you & Lionel have been blessed with your little angel. So, so, so happy for you all!!! I have been a fan of your TR's for years!
Aww, thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jennifer_W View Post
THIRDLY, may I lay on you some obsessive vacation planner Mommy wisdom? When traveling with a child who needs a car seat, get theeself to Babies R Us and buy a car seat bag for said safety device. A big honking one. It keeps your car seat clean, you carry it to the jet way and gate check it for FREE. And the best part? The BEST PART??? You can put all kinds of extra clothes in that sucker under said car seat, and the airlines don't care! Yes, it has to go through the x-ray machine, but as long as nothing sets it off you're GOLDEN. The TSA people don't care that you have extra clothes in there. The airline gate agents don't care. "Oh, car seat in a bag? OK, here's a gate check tag for you."
Done and done! On our trip from FL to CT, the only thing in that bag was the carseat. On the trip home, however, it was full of all of the giant stuffed animals our family decided to grace us with....and also one random sippy cup I found during the final sweep of the rental car. lol. I admit, I kind of scoffed at the bag when we bought it but it's actually pretty sweet. We've used it on two different trips and it's been a lifesaver.

I do not, however, have a stroller bag. I'd been considering getting one, so now I'll probably consider it more seriously. Thanks for the great advice!

As for the rest, I hope this post proves I am still alive! We had some crazy holidays, the geeks are still in recovery mode. I do have an update nearly ready for posting which I should be able to roll out this week. But in the meantime, here's the news:
  1. We have lost one couple. Well, I guess it was inevitable that someone would get pregnant, thank goodness it wasn't me. One of the couples had to drop out because they are expecting, which is wonderful, but would put air and cruise travel at the end of her third trimester....while they are thrilled to be adding to their family, they are sad to have to pull out of the trip. So now it's down to us, my parents and Izzy's best friend (and their parents). I'm sure we will still manage to have fun. I'll just have to drink extra for Karissa is all
  2. We are rapidly approaching the final payment deadline, and I am trying not to panic. Don't worry, we're going to make it. But JUST barely. The past several months have been wrought with one financial crisis after another for both us and our close family. Which means we are probably going to end up making our last payment ON THE DAY IT IS DUE. Gah. But you know what? I'd subject my family to nightly ramen noodles before I would cancel this cruise. Once I pay, though, I'll finally be able to relax. Well, relaxed for me. More likely, I'll just find something else to panic over.
  3. I got a promotion! Ok, so it's not super relevant...I'm just excited. Believe it or not, it actually means better work hours and more free time in the evenings. Which means hopefully this trip report will not have such a lapse again....we shall see. It also means that once we make that final payment, we'll also be able to pay for our flights and hotel. You know, actually GET to the cruise. Always a plus.

More to come this week as I re-review excursions, and then review them some more.
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Old 01-20-2013, 06:53 PM   #23
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GOOD JOB on the Promotion!
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Old 01-20-2013, 08:52 PM   #24
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Hello there! Congrats on your upcoming trip!

I hope you don't me subscribing to your trip planning thread, since 1) we head out on the Wonder to Alaska only a few weeks after you (on July 1), and 2) I'm working on some trip planning on my Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy whale t-shirt the day after our monthly board-gaming group meetup. (Geeks of the world unite!)

Would love to here what activities you plan as you get ready to cruise...I'm planning along with you!
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Old 02-03-2013, 02:07 PM   #25
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GOOD JOB on the Promotion!
Thanks!
So far, so good. I like the new job a lot, and believe it or not there is LESS STRESS. Or maybe I'm just not doing it right. lol

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mackie Mouse View Post
Hello there! Congrats on your upcoming trip!

I hope you don't me subscribing to your trip planning thread, since 1) we head out on the Wonder to Alaska only a few weeks after you (on July 1), and 2) I'm working on some trip planning on my Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy whale t-shirt the day after our monthly board-gaming group meetup. (Geeks of the world unite!)

Would love to here what activities you plan as you get ready to cruise...I'm planning along with you!
Solidarity!
I say the more geeks, the merrier. Or at the very least, the more 10-sided dice, multicolored "meeples" and ironic t-shirts AMIRIGHT???

Working on an update, I pinky-swear.
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Old 02-03-2013, 02:39 PM   #26
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Congratulations on your promotion
We've now paid in full and it was a wonderful feeling
Just got to sell a kidney to pay for excurions now
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Old 02-03-2013, 02:48 PM   #27
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Excursion Planning, Ahoy!

I would say we managed to do almost everything we wanted to do in Alaska in 2011. Problem was, I only knew *this* much of ďthe everythingĒ way back then. Iíve since discovered something: there is SO MUCH more everything!

Commence panic mode.

We are really, REALLY lucky. We really considered Alaska 2011 the trip of a lifetime. Yes, we talked about going back but I never really thought weíd DO it. After all, I have a few more trips of a lifetime to plan. Like cruising through the Panama Canal. And a transatlantic cruise. Ok, maybe I just have a lot more cruises to planÖ.regardless, while I know many folks who do in fact repeat these dream vacation itineraries, they are the minority. We live comfortably, but we are not exactly rolling in it. And 2011 was REALLY EXPENSIVE. In general, any trip to Alaska it. Totally worth it in every way, but the bottom line is you can only afford to do it so many times. For us, that number tends to be ONE.

And yet, the stars aligned and made this possible. Iíd also like to thank Uncle Sam, who held way too much of our money over the course of 2012 and kindly offered to return it to us right before the final payment is due***. Because, of course, something else broke. Welcome to life as a Jacques.

The moral of the story is this: how many times do you get to repeat the trip of a lifetime? It really makes you consider your excursions even more. Iíve spent the past several months scouring trip reports for excursion reviews, local eateries, etc. After much research, Iíve pretty much got it narrowed down. At least for now. Hereís the plan, port by port. Iíve also included a description of what we did last year.

(***as a disclaimer, about three of our friends have already subjected us to the lecture about how a tax refund is not a bonus or a savings account, so no need to remind me of this. I do actually know that and most years we break pretty evenÖ.but last time around we ended up owing quite a bit due to extra freelance work and too few withholdings at another side job I was doing. Seems I overcompensated after that fiasco so itís back to the drawing board! /end financial jargon)

Skagway: White Pass and Yukon Route.

Big shocker, this is pretty much the main excursion option with a few variations. We have opted for the train, ride plus suspension bridge. We really wanted to do this last year, but Izzy was 20 months old at the time and we thought sheíd be more interested in walking up and down the train aisles than allowing us to take in the scenery. Lately, however, she is very interested in trains, and weíll have a much better adult-to-child ratio on this trip (to be honest, grandparents count as like 1.5 adult each. I donít know how they do it). My parents will join us, and possibly the other family. Though to be fair, they are not as far along in the over-planning stage as we are.

*ahem*
As I am.

We considered the steam train because how many times do you get to ride a steam train? Problem is, thereís really nothing else to the excursion apart from the train. Scenery is lovely and all, but I have to get out and stretch my legs at some point. Plus, when you have a toddler itís best not to be confined in a box on wheels for too long.

I have to admit, while everyone seems to have loved it I just have zero interest in the dog sledding thing. I donít know why. We love dogs, and I do think it would be fascinating to see how they train. And yet, it does not appeal to me in the least. Itís a mystery. Maybe if we get a third shot at this trip of a lifetime, I might change my mind. I donít see it happening though.

A few pics from last time:


Typical Skagway street


Checking out the trains

Last year we just walked around the town, watched the salmon and did some general sightseeing and shopping. Weíll probably do that again too either before or after the excursion, because not only did we enjoy the stroll last time by somehow we missed the Red Onion Saloon (???). How we managed that I will never know. Call it the toddler effect. Plus, I have to go back to a few of the stores we hit last year. There was a great kidsí clothing spot (Izzy loves her ďI moose be dreamingĒ PJís) and a fantastic chocolatier. We brought some chocolates back for our servers last year, and a few for ourselves. I donít remember the names of the shops, but Skagway isnít that big so Iím fairly certain I could find them again. Plus, Iím sure someone who knows will tell me before then.

Juneau : Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier tour.

We did the whale watching tour last year, minus the glacier (the bus went by and we saw it for about 15 seconds, does that count?), and it was great. The crew were awesome, and we saw tons of humpbacks and orcas (and sea lions too! Thankfully well away from the orcasÖI can only handle so much Wild Kingdom). The boat was big enough for toddler roaming, with TWO sets of stairs to the upper deck Ė handy when your child wants to go up and down, up and down, up and down. My parents are joining us because they really want to see the whales, and we are happy to do it again. I regretted not seeing the glacier in person last year, hence the addition. Not sure yet whether the other family will be with us or not.

A few pics from 2011:


Humback family, lovely and peaceful


Orcas! These suckers are FAST!

The pictures really donít do it justice. There is nothing like being that close to a whale in the wild. This, from a girl who used to sell squeaky puppets in Shamu Stadium. Itís true.

Part of me also really wants to go up the tramway, but I think we may skip it. We didnít get the chance to shop any in Juneau last year, and this is a longer excursion (Iím breaking my four hour rule, JUST THIS ONCE). I may change my mind if the weather is nice and hop on either before or after our excursion. But, I do want to have some strolling time if at all possible. Of course, I think there is some shopping to be done at the top of the tramway. Decisions, decisions.

Ketchikan

(wait for itÖÖ)

NADA.

Yep, nada. I canít find anything I am desperate to do, and I donít want to pick a random excursion just for the sake of going on an excursion. This is the second time Iíve considered and then nixed the Misty Fjords boat tour. The reviews have been very hit or miss, and for the price Iíd rather not take a gamble. My parents are doing one of the MF plane tours, which are hugely popular. My dad loves to fly (his hobbyÖ.heís a teacher by day) so he is treating himself to a plane tour. More power to him. Iíve been in small planes, but they arenít my favorite mode of transportation and the thought of jumping in one with a squirmy 3 year old kind of freaks me out. Plus, youíll never catch Lionel alive in one of those things, so even if I were a brave soul it would not happen.

I like the idea of going to the totem park, but we saw the water side of the park on last yearís excursion so Iím ok if we miss out on that. And I have absolutely no interest in lumberjacks. Firemen, on the other hand, would be a totally different story Ė ladies? AMIRIGHT?

Last year we did the Eagles, Lighthouses and Totems tour which I recommend to anyone. It was family-run, and the captain even let Izzy drive the boat. Which may be a testament to some poor judgment on his part, but hey Ė we all survived. The excursion lived up to its name, Isabelle got a complimentary stuffed wolf (which she promptly named ďwolfĒ) and we even saw seals.


Totems in the background, crazy hair up front


I TOTALLY know how to use these...

We spent a little time exploring Ketchikan last year, but mostly stuck to the touristy area near the boat. We were wiped out from the boat tour and the rain was getting more continuous, so we didnít linger. We never made it to Creek Street, which I regretted. I also wanted to see more of the around-town totems. Like this guy.



Our 2013 Ketchikan goals: see Creek Street, take a picture at the Ketchikan sign (how did we miss it?), find that stone carving shop that we happened upon last year (coolest stone bears ever!) and take the funicular up to the lodge with all of the totems. There may be more on the agenda, thatís just all Iíve got so far. Iím still considering taking a taxi to the totem park, but considering how many totems weíll be seeing around the city (and in Stanley Park), Iím not sure it will be worthwhile.

Thoughts?

We are meeting up with the other couple sometime this week to seriously discuss our vacation plans, so this could all change completely. But for now this is my story, and Iím sticking to it.

Next up: Vancouver pre-planning. Or maybe Seattle. We donít know!
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Old 02-03-2013, 04:59 PM   #28
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We are also on the 9/2/13 Alaskan cruise I have planned our shore excursions, then replanned them and then changed my mind entirely. I asked DD did she want to see bears or whales. She voted for bears so we are (probably) taking the Taku Lodge float plane and salmon bake tour. Most everyone says that they have seen bears there. It is a cruise for DH and my 25th anniversary and we are taking the kids. DS 24, DS 22 and DD 11. I will be watching your trip report closely for more tips for our cruise. One thing we have done before is take pirate outfits for pireate night. Well since it is not such a big deal on the Alaskan cruise I got pirate t-shirts from 6dollarshirts.com. They are cute and will do the trick. I also always pack a good boxed wine, yes there is a good boxed wine. I hope I will have luggage room to do the same this time. It makes good space to bring things home that I buy on the trip since the wine will be gone.
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Old 02-03-2013, 05:19 PM   #29
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Your excursion choices look great

Lovely family photos - you little girl is a cutie

I must admit the one thing I haven't really looked into is where to eat and more importantly where to get a good cup of coffee, so any suggestions you have would be great!

Our wish list looks like this at the moment

Skagway - White Pass Railway & Trail Camp
Juneau - Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier
Ketchikan - Rainforest Hike & Totem Park (booked this independently with Tracy at Wild Wolf Tours)

We are trying to keep the excursion lengths pretty short so we have time for a wander around the ports (max length is around 3 hours)

We've been back and forth over these so many times but I'm happy with our choices now and think they give a nice mix

Do you think the excursions will sell out quickly? I have second choices if I can't grab these on my booking date
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:31 PM   #30
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We are also on the 9/2/13 Alaskan cruise I have planned our shore excursions, then replanned them and then changed my mind entirely. I asked DD did she want to see bears or whales. She voted for bears so we are (probably) taking the Taku Lodge float plane and salmon bake tour. Most everyone says that they have seen bears there. It is a cruise for DH and my 25th anniversary and we are taking the kids. DS 24, DS 22 and DD 11. I will be watching your trip report closely for more tips for our cruise. One thing we have done before is take pirate outfits for pireate night. Well since it is not such a big deal on the Alaskan cruise I got pirate t-shirts from 6dollarshirts.com. They are cute and will do the trick. I also always pack a good boxed wine, yes there is a good boxed wine. I hope I will have luggage room to do the same this time. It makes good space to bring things home that I buy on the trip since the wine will be gone.
I do not scoff at the boxed wine! Good thinking with the pirate outfits. We did opt out of the fish extender exchange on our 2011 Alaska trip simply because we didn't want to try to lug all of that stuff back home PLUS whatever we bought. Last year with only ONE kid we ended up with:
  • A Belle dress
  • A giant stuffed Minnie Mouse
  • A stuffed seal from the whale tour
  • "Wolf" from the Eagles and Totems tour
  • Assorted shirts/hats for us
  • A solid stone bear carving
  • An orca puzzle
  • A few coffee mugs....

I know there was more than that, but I've lost track at this point. I'd save all the room possible for bring-backs....we had no intention of getting that much stuff - it just kind of happened. Slowly. Thank you, packing gods, for inventing Space Bags. Sucked the air out of whatever I could and crammed it into the small suitcase. Which I'm pretty sure weighed as much as the large one for the flight back!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda67 View Post
Your excursion choices look great

Lovely family photos - you little girl is a cutie

I must admit the one thing I haven't really looked into is where to eat and more importantly where to get a good cup of coffee, so any suggestions you have would be great!

Our wish list looks like this at the moment

Skagway - White Pass Railway & Trail Camp
Juneau - Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier
Ketchikan - Rainforest Hike & Totem Park (booked this independently with Tracy at Wild Wolf Tours)

We are trying to keep the excursion lengths pretty short so we have time for a wander around the ports (max length is around 3 hours)

We've been back and forth over these so many times but I'm happy with our choices now and think they give a nice mix

Do you think the excursions will sell out quickly? I have second choices if I can't grab these on my booking date
Thanks!
Last year I booked in the 90 day window and we got everything we wanted. In fact, we originally booked the Misty Fjords boat tour and changed our minds at the 75 day mark. We were able to change to the Eagle tour without any problems. Granted, I don't think we chose the most "popular" excursions, but from what I read and heard from others there was plenty to go around.

I am starting to get excited now. But then I priced Vancouver flights and started to panic again.
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