I’ve done my fair share of road trips over the years, but never one quite like this…
The distance we’ll be covering moving from Denver to Anchorage almost doesn’t seem real looking at it. That’s a helluva long way.
Just how long is the drive?
Well, it sure isn’t short.
Here are some numbers for ya:
Total Drive Time: 60 hours
Total Drive Distance: 3,245 miles
To help put it into perspective, our drive will take 20 hours more than driving across the US from Los Angeles to New York City.
Mapping the Route
Online maps have been incredibly helpful. No longer do I have to painstakingly add up all the little mileage markers between every town and guesstimate the average speed limit along each leg to determine the rough driving time and distance. Now all the hard work is done for me (well, I suppose some might consider driving the “hard” work, but naw, it’s an adventure, right? :).
I do still have a stack of paper maps (I can’t help it – I’m a mapophile!) for the states and territories we’ll be driving through because visually it’s easier to see where we’re going, but I used maps.google.com and AAA’s time tables to plan out the drive times.
Drive Days & Finding Accommodations
Because I really had no idea where we’d be staying, how many days we wanted to take to do the drive and how long we’d be comfortable driving, I decided to put together a little hand-drawn map of the bigger towns we’d encounter along the way and the driving distance in between them. That way, I could easily glance at my map and calculate the time it would take to drive between towns.
My little map came in super handy as I tried out all sorts of combinations of towns to stay in. I calculated the hours between this town and that and jotted down a few different scenarios.
Using this map, I then went to TripAdvisor.com (I find the reviews super helpful) & Hotels.com (where we earn free nights, and are actually redeeming a couple for this trip) and went through and read reviews on what felt like every single hotel available along the route.
Because we’re driving through areas that aren’t very populated, the options are quite limited, and what is available seems to be old and dingy. As if that weren’t challenging enough, we knew that we aren’t traveling during peak season so not every place would be open. And we also have a dog, and a lot of the better places don’t allow pets.
After scouring the reviews, plotting how long we’d like to drive and where we’d like to end up each night, we finally (I think) decided on making the trip over 4 nights and driving really long days. Like 12-14 days, long.
Much as we’d like to kick back and enjoy the drive, we will have everything we own in the car, be driving through possibly frigid temps and have our dog cooped up in her crate the whole time, so we decided we’ll probably want to book it most of the way.
The Best Planning Tool Ever
Having grown up in Anchorage, my husband has known quite a few people who’ve driven from Alaska down to the Lower 48, as Alaskans refer to the Contiguous Continental US. So while it sure feels like quite the adventure to us, having never done it, we’re definitely not the only people to ever make this long trek.
Road trippin’ it in the middle of March isn’t quite as common – it’ll still be really cold and snowy – but it’s not unheard of to do this time of year. We’ll at least be avoiding the caravans of motorhomes clogging the roads in the summertime.
If you do ever plan to drive or take the ferry to or from Alaska, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on this:
The amount of information The Milepost contains is ridiculous. As a former magazine copy editor, I can’t imagine having to copy edit this behemoth.
But it lists many of the major roads and ferry routes you can take en route to or from Alaska. We cherry picked our route based on beauty (we’re hitting up Banff & Lake Louise) and accessibility (avoiding some of the more rugged or inaccessible terrain deeper into British Columbia). We hope to see some of the latter on our way back out of Alaska some time next year.
Gas, Pet Info, Hotels & More
As the name says, the Milepost gives you a mile-by-mile description of what you can find along the highways you’ll be traveling. Gas is a big one as you obviously don’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The Milepost also gives helpful advice on preparing for the trip. It talks about road conditions different times of year, recommends you pack an vehicle emergency kit and get a pet health certificate if you’re traveling with a dog, like we are.
I’ve read pretty much every page relating to our route and I’m pretty sure it’ll be indispensable during the actual drive.
8 Days Left…
As of today, we have about 8 days until departure. Depending on weather, we hope to head out next week and begin this epic journey. You’d think I’d feel more ready than I do after all this preparing!