Hello! I’m back from an incredible 2 week adventure exploring some of the most incredible national parks in Alaska. I travelled with Grand American Adventures which is a part of TrekAmerica on the Alaska, Wildlife and Wilderness tour.
I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska but I always thought I would have to do a cruise to do it “properly“. Doing a camping tour never crossed my mind until I took a trip with TrekAmerica last year, travelling cross country through the northern states of America.
“I couldn’t imagine doing Alaska any other way than camping out in the Wilderness”
We were properly in the wilderness and saw wildlife consistently throughout the trip. You can’t get that from the sun deck on a cruise liner. Yes, maybe you would increase the amount of sea life spottings but we saw so many bears and we still got to see whales too.
Obviously, I had my reservations about camping in Alaska and I was having increasing anxiety issues as the trip grew closer and closer. I was stressed out about camping, bears encounters but mostly worrying if I had packed the right amount of clothes and items of clothing?
As I get more confident travelling alone my anxiety has been decreasing, but this trip had me in a tizz.
It’s completely thrown me off my pace. I feel like Alaska was the next step in my difficulty levels. The next step up. The next challenge. I just want to get stronger and prove to myself I can travel anywhere, but I still need to take things one step at a time.
READ MORE: AN ANXIOUS TRAVELLER’S GUIDES TO…
There were quite a few things I was worried about prior to this trip and came to my mind during the trip, but I overcame all these obstacles. This is going to be one of those trips where I’ll remember pushing myself to the max and achieve something I never thought I could do.
Longest Flight Ever
Alaska isn’t exactly as easy to get to like other destinations. I try to avoid connecting flights where ever possible to avoid increasing my anxiety from worrying I might potentially miss my next flight. You can’t really do this with Alaska unless you’re already in the US but there’s still limited locations which connect to this isolated state.
I took 2 flights and connected in Vancouver which was a lot better than connecting in the US. Why? Because customs was an absolute breeze!
In America, you have to pass customs before connecting to your next flight and this can take hours if you go through the states. However, Canada have their own US customs team so you don’t have to do this when you land. It took 30 seconds!? Seriously.
I wish I bought lounge passes for this journey, as it really calms me before taking a long flight. My flight anxiety is triggered by the noise of takeoff and landing but feeling more relaxed before getting on the plane really helps.
Not sitting in economy does too but I’m not exactly made of money. Back to back films, taking advantage of the free wine and and trying to get as much sleep as possible during the flight helps too.
Money Money Money!
As a remote state, there’s going to be increased costs. Hawaii is like this too. Why? Everything is imported from the mainland. Travel expenses. You’ll need a little extra money than your normal states.
I found some of the more remote places were A LOT more expensive than others. MacCarthy in particular has very expensive bar costs. Like $9 for a vodka coke. That’s more expensive than London?!
Alaska is also known for it’s seafood which is expensive enough anywhere else, but this was fresh fish which was delicious. Worth the money when we did eat out.
We did save a lot of money on this trip purely through camping out, which totally took the pressure off my anxiety and my purse. The last thing I wanted to worry about was if I had enough money left to buy food.
The best part about Alaska is that they have no sales tax. Yes! No additional tax added on at the end like other mainland states. There are some small towns which have their own tax added on but the majority didn’t have tax which was great.
I was warned before hand that mosquitoes in Alaska were pretty bad and I’ve always been that one person on the trip who gets bitten the most. This trip was like no other. I was horrendously bitten and I actually found out I was allergic to them. Well, that’s news to me.
I was prepared for them before going on the trip and bought the best bug spray I could find. However, even though I sprayed myself from head to toe every day those pesky mosquitoes bites still kept on appearing.
I even tried other peoples bug spay in the group but nothing was working and I counted over 30 bug bites at the end of the trip.
On my return back to the UK, I was given some interesting facts about mosquito sprays.
“Apparently, it’s better to buy Mosquito spray in the country that your visiting.”
Apparently, there’s something in the UK deet which might attract foreign mosquitoes to you which could be my issue. Next time, I’m buying it when I land. Honestly, it’s been weeks since I got back and I’ve still got spotty scarred arms.
Sleeping in the light
I never knew till my first night in Alaska that it was light pretty much all day. I had to close the blinds at 11pm in my hotel room on the first night and when I woke up in the middle of the night, I could still see the light through the cracks in the blinds.
Usually I take an eye mask from the plane but Air Canada didn’t hand any out on my flight. An eye mask would have been really useful for this trip.
By the first camping night, I really struggled to sleep and it wasn’t till the cabins on day 4 that I got some proper shut eye in darkness.
After a few nights restless sleep, I started using a bandana to improvise which sort of worked. After a few days with limited sleep, you can fall asleep anywhere and at any time.
Camping in Bear Country
I’ve camped out in bear country before but never to this standard. We were consistently in bear country and every night was the possibility of having a bear outside our tents.
Typically, bears don’t attack unless threatened. You really need to listen during the bear talk to understand what to do when you encounter a bear.
To be honest, every bear I met on these trips just minds thier own business and carries on with what they’re doing. I’ve never felt threatened, scared or in danger by bears. I’m typically too busy taking photos, keeping at a safe distance and not getting too close.
Obviously we had precautions in place to prevent this, like keeping food out of the tents and any smelly items (e.g shampoos etc). This was pretty hard because I love having some snacks by my bed.
We also have a bear proof trailer to keep all our stuff in so they can’t get in it and the van itself. We kept the campsite clear every night and we never had any issues but I did worry a few nights if I forgot to take something out of my bag by accident.
Hiking in Alaska
I’m not exactly fit and active nowadays. I used to be very fit but I recently cancelled my gym membership because…I wasn’t going. I do like going on walks sometimes but only so I can take photos and enjoy the scenery. Not for the actual exercise.
I’m an average size girl and I did worry that because I was slightly unfit that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the group and slow everyone down.
I did find it hard sometimes but you do walk in a group and no one can walk on their own due to being in “bear country“ and all so that did make me feel a little better. I think it was more the guilt that I just couldn’t walk as fast with my tiny legs and all.
Petite Plane Panic
I have horrendous anxiety when it comes to plane noise and smaller planes are louder than international flights. You can hear everything!
We had 3 opportunities to be in smaller aircraft. The first was the Denali flight, then the Wrangell St Elias scenic flight and the last was the float plane for the Bear viewing excursion in Soldotna.
I went on the Denali flight which was an incredible experience and one of my highlights of the trip, but I didn’t half panic on the way back.
It was a tiny plane which fit 2 pilots and 6 passengers. I was fine on the way there because I was distracted by the views but on the way back I passed out and had a well needed anxiety nap. I was just a bit too much for me.
The Wrangell St Elias flight got cancelled due to the wildfire smoke which I was kind of grateful for because I was still getting over the last one.
The float plane wasn’t too bad but I did just give in and passed out again on the outbound and inbound journeys.
“Anxiety naps” are when I panic for long periods, use up energy mentally and my body needs to recharge
I do find it easier to deal with certain situations if I just sleep through it and give into my natural urges so I feel more relaxed. Obviously I can’t do this all the time, but in situations like plane journeys it’s the perfect spot for a snooze and to calm down.
Battling against it stresses me out and I wasn’t going to miss out on anything. It would have done me more harm than good.
What to pack for this trip stressed me out so much for weeks prior to the trip. Firstly, it’s a camping trip, so I didn’t want to take my best clothes and thought my gym clothes would have been more appropriate for hikes etc.
Secondly, Alaska is known for being cold and snowy but they were currently having record breaking temperatures so I was baffled with what to wear. Do I pack summer clothes? But we’re going on glaciers? We’re hiking so do I bring boots? So many questions.
Looking back, I do feel like I didn’t pack enough clothes but the main thing was my 3 in 1 jacket which I wore most days. A feece, waterproof jacket combination which you can see me wearing in most of my photos.
So it didn’t really matter what I was wearing. Good job I’m not one of those Instagram girls.
How Remote is Remote camping?
Was it proper remote? Well, there were some tiny little towns but we only really had one remote place on the trip which was McCarthy in Wrangell St. Elias.
It’s a small town in the middle of nowhere and the campsite didn’t have any showers or bathrooms. That’s right…no toilet. Instead, they had dunnies which is a wooden hut with a hole in the ground, just like the toilets on I’m a Celeb. Classy.
However, daying all that it was one of my favourite places on the trip. It was really peacful, had a stunning river and the community was so small everyone new each other.
Other than McCarthy, the other campsites had bathroom facilities including showers and toilets which flushed. Some showers you had to pay for (the steepest being $5 for 7 minutes) but after being hiking all day, a shower was a shower.
WiFi? Non existent. Get used to a WiFi detox. Not even the locals have good signal. I had a nightmare trying to use any social media app out there on camp WiFi but now I appreciate the detox.
Want more? Check out my Alaska Travel Vlog series on YouTube channel where I show you my honest highs and lows…mostly highs:
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IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TO ALASKA YET, WHAT ARE YOU THE MOST WORRIED ABOUT? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS.