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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How To Pack For An Alaskan Vacation

As you well know now, the hubs and I just returned from our dream vacation to Alaska.  And if you don't know that, then you can read more about it here and here.

But as with many vacations, it is hard to know what to pack.  I have heard from so many people saying "Wow! Now I have to go to Alaska!" or "Alaska has always been on our bucket list for a long time."  So I thought I would post a little bit about what we packed and how that worked out for us...to help you out when you start getting ready for your own Alaskan vacation!

For a girl who wants to look good, and a guy who always wants to be prepared, the task of packing for Alaska was a bit daunting to us.  Luckily, we were pleasantly surprised to find out we had packed pretty well!

So here's a listing of things I'm glad we packed, things I wish we would have packed, and things that we did pack but could have left at home.  

Things to Pack For Your Alaskan Vacation:

  • Rain Jacket - it rains a lot in Alaska (did you know that Alaska has it's own Rain Forest?).  Make sure the coat you bring is windproof and waterproof and has a hood!
  • Scarves/Hats 
  • Fleece - Nice to layer under the rain jacket on chilly days.  Temperatures ranged from 50s-70s while we were there in Mid August so its important to layer. 
  • Puffy Vest -Another good layering piece that also adds a cute factor
  • Hiking pants - If you plan to hike at all, these are nice to have.  Mine were a bit stretchy and were water resistant. 
  • Warm Socks
  • Sturdy Hiking Shoes - If you are doing more than walking around town, tennis shoes won't cut it. Although, up on the glacier? They do provide glacier boots to slip on over your normal shoes.  So you won't need to pack your own glacier boots- which is nice! :-)
  • Binoculars - Nice to have while you are scenic cruising.  But if you have a good enough zoom on your camera, you could probably do without.
  • Camera - I have a DSLR and I brought my 55-200mm lens as well as my 35mm lens which worked out pretty well.  On days we were just going into town I brought my 35mm lens but if we were viewing scenery or whale watching I brought my zoom.  We also had our iphones and the Benders brought their point-and-shoot camera.  These were all nice to have as well, because they are great for wider shots, including panoramas.  Additionally, they are just much more convenient to access and use.  
  • 2nd Camera Battery and Large SD card - Its nice to have a back up battery just in case you need it.  Also, you don't want to get 3/4 your way through vacation and have to start conserving room on your SD card.  Ours was 8gb and was plenty big but if you take video, you would definitely need more! 
  • Backpack and sinch sack - for hiking and walking around town.  Michael would usually bring his day-pack hiking pack which was super nice to have to be able to store various things in while we walked around town or while we hiked.  At the beginning of the day we would packed a sinch sack in his pack which allowed us additional carrying capacity if we needed it. 
  • Water bottle- Super nice to have on travel days.  Just remember to empty it before going through security.  Then you can fill it back up at a water fountain for the plane ride.  We also liked having it in Skagway when we went hiking. 
  • Games- The cruise ship has a fair selection of games but we were glad we brought a few.  We then had the freedom to take them wherever we were on the ship and play them -instead of just in the designated game room.  We brought a deck of cards and BananaGrams.
  • Comfy dresses/dressy pants for dinner - Something I did not enjoy about the cruise was being outside all day and then coming back to the boat and realizing I had to put on fancy clothes to go to dinner.  Comfy dresses or skirts/nice pants and a blouse go a long way over cold uncomfortable cocktail dresses. 
  • Sweatpants - Because sometimes you just need them....ok, you need them a lot.
  • Slippers/Flip Flops/Comfortable Flats - to use while walking around the boat
  • Books/Ipads/Magazines/E-reader - for travel days or leisurely days on the boat. Side bar: The Nesting Place = SO. GOOD. and so inspiring! I highly recommend it!
  • Dramamine/Meclizine - We didn't experience a lot of motion sickness but it was nice to have something there to take the edge off if needed.
  • EmergenC/Zinc/Airborne - A couple of us caught colds half way through so it was good to have some cold medication
  • Probiotics/FiberOne/Colace = for regularity while traveling :-)
  • Good Lotion/Chapstick - It can be a bit cool and a bit windy, its nice to have some moisturizing relief other than what the cruise ship provides.
  • Small Versatile Purse - A cross body bag is a must! Things I carried with me at all times were my cruise card and camera. 
  • Warm Boots - It was nice to have warm boots on the days we were scenic cruising
  • Sunglasses 
  • Sunscreen - Important to have in case there are warm days when your skin is exposed, we only used it in Skagway when it was pretty warm and sunny.  Other than that we were pretty well covered.  Although, its not a bad idea to apply it to your face on most days - or a least make sure you daily moisturizer has at least SPF 15 in it.  Sorry, the oncology nurse in me is just looking out for you! 

 Things we didn't bring but Would Have Been Nice 

  • Alarm Clock - There is literally no clock in the room except for on the phone so it would have been nice to have an alarm clock to set up to be able to see what time it is quickly, especially when you wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Gloves - It would have been nice to have gloves, daily.  Bring them.  You'll thank me later.
  • 2nd pair of sweats - Emily wished she had had this since her sweats got dirty while hiking and then she didn't have any the rest of the week.
  • Short Extension Cord - Cory's dad always brings one whenever they travel and apparently its nice to have in case you need an additional outlet or if the outlet is not exactly where you'd like it to be. It would have been nice to have several times throughout our trip.  Michael tells me that, from now on, we will be bringing a short extension cord on all our trips.  :-)

Things We Brought but Never Used

  • Bathing Suit - Could we have used our swim suits?  Yeah.  There were a few days that it may have been warm enough to lay in the sun.  But we are not the lay-out-and-get-skin-cancer kind of people.  Plus! We went to Alaska to see mountains and go adventuring, not get a tan! But if you are a sun worshiper, I would bring it along because you could very likely use it! Also, there was an indoor pool and hot tub that was available, we just never used it.
  • Tripod - we have a gorillapod tripod that we packed but we kept forgetting to it bring with us on shore excursions, so we never used it.  :-(  Plus, whenever we wanted a group shot, there were plenty of other people around and more than happy to take a picture for us.
  • Rain Pants - this would have been one of those things that if we would have needed them, it would have been awesome to have.  But we had pretty good weather and the only time we may have really needed them, on our Adventure Cart excursion, they provided protective rain and mud gear for us.
  • Umbrella - If you have a good rain jacket with a hood, you shouldn't need an umbrella.
So my overall advice is to pack for temperatures ranging from the 50s to Mid 70s - Sun, rain, and wind.  For me, that is my favorite temperature range! It was glorious!

But then you also have to pack for the ship too.  We had 2 "formal nights" on the boat.  I think the most appropriate dress for formal nights is comparable to what you would wear to a nice evening wedding.  Cocktail dresses and guys in at least a collard shirt and tie.  Can you get away with less? Certainly, but you may feel a little underdressed... at least with Princess.  Now I have heard it is different on cruise ships like Carnival, in the Caribbean where things are a bit more casual and laid back.  

Each of us had our own carry on suitcases as well as one large <50lb suitcase per person.  That's a lot of luggage but when you have to pack the whole spectrum, from adventure clothing to cocktail dresses -and all those shoes!- you need a lot of luggage space!

This concludes the Adventuring Alaska Series.  If you missed part 1 click here.  If you missed part 2 click here

Any other questions?  Feel free to shoot me an email or leave it in the comments!  Hope you enjoyed hearing about our vacation and I hope you can start planning your Alaskan Vacation very soon!

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