Alaska Road Trip Itinerary. On a Budget, With Kids

Wildlife, Denali/Kenai National Parks, 26+ glaciers. Salmon, panning for gold, hostels. Alaska road trip itinerary with/without kids. On a budget. Map

“Alaska on a budget, road trip itinerary” we planned with one goal — to see the most remarkable places in a single visit. During 14 days we saw glaciers, fjords, mountains, abundant wildlife, 50 shades of green, panning for gold, traces of Russian influence, and the heritage of Alaska Natives.

We made a road trip to Alaska with a 2 and 7 y/o and liked it a lot. It is a kid-friendly place. But coming without little ones wouldn’t change our itinerary.

Alaska Road Trip Itinerary

1. Alaska road trip. Anchorage.

Anchorage stroke us right away. First, because it’s felt we were really far from “lower 48”. Second – the city sets in beautiful surroundings — lush green (and full of wildlife right in the middle of the city), between rugged mountains and huge bodies of water:

Alaska On a Budget: Road Trip: Anchorage downtown framed by the Chugach Mountain Range
Alaska On a Budget: Road Trip: Anchorage downtown framed by the Chugach Mountain Range
photo credit: Wikimedia

Don’t think about Anchorage as “Gateway to Alaska”. It is a common mistake and many top spots remained untouched by tourists, as they head out of the city and “Into the wild” as fast as possible.

When I was discussing with my husband how many places of wild nature are in the city, he replied that the city got actually lost among the wild nature. He was 100% right!

Alaska On a Budget: Road Trip. Seaplane base on Lake Hood, Anchorage
photo credit: Wikimedia
Alaska On a Budget: Road Trip. Seaplane base on Lake Hood, Anchorage
photo credit: Wikimedia

How long to stay in Anchorage

Plan on staying in Anchorage at least one night in the beginning or at the end of your trip, and after the trip to Denali NP before heading to the south.

Save time for Alaska Native Heritage Center: it’s like visiting several remote native villages in one afternoon:

Where to stay in Anchorage

We had a great experience with Airbnb/VRBO throughout our entire stay in Alaska, best price/quality ratio and much cheaper than hotels.

We stayed in 3 different areas of Anchorage: downtown on the 13th floor overlooking the Knik Arm; near Campbell Park, with salmon running in the footsteps of an apartment, and south of Anchorage with a policeman as a host 🙂 :

Read more: attractions in Anchorage and nearby:

Places loved by locals North of Anchorage (on the way to Denali NP)

Panning for gold, bore tide, wildlife, and scenery: South of Anchorage.

Alaska Road Trip Itinerary: Denali National Park. Wilderness and wildlife

Denali National Park is a great start to your road trip. I highly recommend making it your first destination. We visited Denali last, after being already spoiled by glaciers, fjords, and marine views.

Denali boasts 6 million acres of endless wilderness, untouched by man for thousands of years. It’s the home for the tallest peak in North America, – Mt. Denali/Mt. McKinley. It is the most popular National Park in Alaska among road trip travelers:

The single road run through the Denali NP, accessible only by transit tour buses
The single road run through the Denali NP, accessible only by transit tour buses

Many visitors come here to see the wildlife (known as “The big 5”): moose, Dall sheep, wolves, grizzly bears, caribou; and Mt. McKinley:

Time to explore Denali National Park

From our experience, you need at least 2 full days in Denali. Allow plenty of time to explore the park. It’s huge and there are a lot of things to do. Keep in mind that you’ll have to spend plenty of time getting to the park (4 hours each way from Anchorage by car).

I wish we had 1 more extra day to spend in Fairbanks, as it’s only 2 hours drive (one way) from the Denali National Park.

Where to Stay at the Denali National Park

We chose Denali Hostel: budget-friendly, located right on the border with National Park, and within 20 minutes from the visitor center. I would not change it for anything else: it was like an adventure of its own. Our cabin at the creek had waterfront and mountain views, tiny, but very cozy:

Read more: attractions in Denali National Park:

Denali: how we explored it with 2 and 7 y/o, the best time to go, and other essentials.

3. Whittier or 26+ glaciers, fjords, and wildlife

The distance between Whittier and Anchorage is 1.5 hours by car, not counting the tunnel and stops along the scenic Seward Highway. It is known as “a town living in a single building” and is the gateway to Prince William Sound. One of the biggest highlights of our road trip in Alaska started in this town, with Phillips Cruises and Tours.

We did both glaciers and fjords day tours, in Seward and in Whittier, but if I had to choose just one, it would be Whittier:

There was an abundance of wildlife (which was pleasantly unexpected, as the internet mentioned lots of wildlife in Seward, but not Whittier), gorgeous fjords, the densest concentration of tidewater glaciers in the world, up close (true!). No seasickness.

Sea lions resting on the floating ice in Prince William Sound. Whittier, Alaska
Sea lions resting on the floating ice in Prince William Sound. Whittier, Alaska

Orcas swimming near our boat in Prince William Sound:

Alaska On a Budget: Road Trip
Alaska On a Budget Road Trip, Whittier

Leo made a joke that on this tour, besides seeing the coolest glaciers and lots of wildlife, we watched the contest of “who has the coolest and longest zoom cameras in the world”. We lost :D.

4. Seward. Fjords, coastal community, National Park, hike to the Exit Glacier

The road to Seward is 2.5 hours by car, pure wonder, and deserves its own post! We were lucky to drive it on a clear day, and I can say it’s one of the most scenic roads we have ever seen. In terms of intensity and richness, I would say only Icefields Highway (Alberta, Canada) can match the experience.

Seward is a small, but picturesque seaside town located in the calm waters of Resurrection Bay. Besides beautiful scenery, it’s also a fishing and cruise ship port and a perfect getaway to the Kenai Fjords National Park:

Alaska On a Budget Road Trip: Resurrection Bay, Seward
Alaska On a Budget Road Trip: Resurrection Bay, Seward

Seward is a great place to visit even if you are not planning to take a cruise tour. There are plenty of incredible things to do, as the hike to the Exit Glacier:

How Long to Stay in Seward

Although you can squeeze all main activities in Seward in one day, I wouldn’t rush, especially with the little ones. We stayed 2 full days and would not mind a bit more.

Where to Stay in Seward. Kids welcome

Staying in hostels, private rooms or cabins was one of the highlights of our road trip to Alaska. We have never tried it before, but it turned out to be surprisingly good. We loved the Moby Dick hostel, which is right in the center of the town. It’s clean, has beautiful views and nice hosts.

Read more: attractions in Seward:

Where did we eat at Seward, boat tour to explore Kenai Fjords, National Park.

Exploring Exit Glacier with kids, Kenai Fjords National Park

5. Alaska road trip itinerary: Homer. The southern point you can reach by car from Anchorage

I’m glad we made it all the way down to Homer. It’s a vibrant seaside community, loved by Alaskans, but isn’t widely known by travelers. The two main things Homer is famous for are: outstanding bear-watching tours in Katmai National Park and fishing for halibut:

We were lucky to watch how locals were unloading and processing the daily catch of the halibut. Boy, the fish were huge: some were near as tall as a 7 y/o boy and, who knows, around 100 pounds? Though, in Homer, even that is not the limit.

AK Route 1 running straight to the very end of the Homer Spit:

Panoramic view of Homer and Homer Spit from Skyline Drive

How Much Time to Spend in Homer

We spend 2 full days in Homer, but after arriving at the local farm, I wished we could stay longer. Homer is in 4 hours by car from Anchorage and in 3.5 hours from Seward.

Where we Stayed in Homer

Mossy’s Farm made our trip to Homer special. It’s not fancy accommodation, but if you are looking for something authentic, serene, and homelike, book a cabin at the Seaside Farm. Waterfront cabins have million-dollar views of Kachemak Bay.

If you can’t fit into a waterfront cabin, from the camping meadow you can experience the same views:

At Mossy’s we saw one best sunsets in Alaska! You’ll travel in July, it’s the raspberries time and you can pick tons of delicious berries there.

Read more: attractions in Homer:

Homer, Alaska: Places We Enjoyed Exploring With Kids

4 Things Homer is Famous For

6. Anchorage is where your road trip ends

Whether you are blessed with beautiful, sunny weather or not, a road trip to Alaska is vivid and memorable.

As you drive along AK Route 1 and enjoy those million-dollar views surrounding it, it’s hard to believe that you are not driving through some national park. All that gorgeous beauty is just there, unrestrained, wild, and free:

Cooper Landing cliffs, AK Route 1

Itinerary and all top places on Google Maps

Alaska: With or Without kids?

If you love to explore the outdoors as a family, Alaska is a great place to bring little ones. (Especially during peak season, summer. Some places, like Fairbanks, could be too cold for little children during winter).

Erika was under 2 y/o and we felt a little anxious: there was no mention about the Alaska road tripping with toddlers on the internet. To our surprise, when we arrived, we met plenty of families with kids and infants, as far as Denali NP 8 hours shuttle bus tour. Most of the travelers we met were from faraway places like Australia and Asia.

If you can imagine traveling with a child to the Canadian Rockies, for example, Alaska will be no different. Just be ready for white nights and dress properly. Alaska has great roads, playgrounds, access to hospitals and stores, (at least along this itinerary). And all tour operators we traveled with were very kid-friendly.

Important: Check out all necessary information like hours, fees, trail conditions, and Covid-19 restrictions before you go.

Have a fun time exploring Alaska!

Read next:

Alaska on a budget: plan your trip of a lifetime. Kids welcome!

By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

We are very happy to have YOU here 😻

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