We recently took a wonderful vacation to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – then a cruise and land tour in Alaska. As I was talking to a friend about the preparation for this trip, she suggested I do a blog post with some of our personal travel tips. As you may or may not know, I have spent many years of my career in project management. Therefore, I think in a linear manner and everything I do follows a process. Very annoying for some people around me, but as they say, it is what it is! In this post I have included information and some photos from the trip. Many, many photos were taken so I am only picking a few highlights. We had beautiful weather on the whole trip. We could not have ordered better!
The view out our hotel window, overlooking Burrard Inlet, in Vancouver, BC – Day 1
This trip was going to be a longer vacation that we normally take (over two weeks) and we needed to plan for a variety of climates. I was concerned about over-packing when I started researching and planning for every weather eventuality. Normally for a beach vacation, trip to Vegas, or other shorter trips, not as much planning is needed.
Everything I read about Alaska said “layers, layers, layers”. And all the pictures showed people wearing rain or cold weather gear, even in the summer. Now, I have been on an Alaskan cruise once before, and it was 14 years ago in late April. I remembered some cold and rainy/icy weather, but mostly remembered it was warmer than I expected. And portions of Alaska are very green and lush along the coast, similar to rain forest. However, I didn’t want to assume anything and kept watching the weather forecasts diligently. What I saw in the forecasts was expectations of cool weather and rain.
The beautiful Vancouver Public Library
Here are some general things we do when traveling by air
Tip #1 – Take the flight earliest in the day possible from your home airport – less likely you will have a cancelled or delayed flight.
Tip #2 – Since you would need to get up and go to the airport at “dark-thirty” in the morning to take this flight, do a Park & Fly package at a hotel near the airport if your commute to the airport is more than about 20 minutes.
The Park & Fly has multiple advantages:
- You have to be packed and ready to go the evening before. That means no need to stay up all night – either continuing to add things to the suitcases because you “might” need them or worrying about whether you will oversleep because you have to be up so early to get to the airport.
- You’ll be taking a hotel shuttle to the airport, so no need to leave extra time for parking your car and taking the lot shuttle (as it picks up a bunch more people, while you are nervously looking at your watch).
- For this pre-flight hotel night, you pack a little overnight bag with your PJs, a change of undies, toothbrush (bare necessities for overnight); the morning of your flight you throw the little overnight bag in the car before you take the shuttle to airport from the hotel, and you didn’t have to open your nicely packed suitcase(s) at all.
- You can be less stressed and get a good night’s sleep.
- The hotel shuttle takes you to the airport 5 minutes away and drops you at the door you need.
- It is economical. In our city, parking at the airport would cost almost what the Park & Fly cost, and the no-stress feeling you have is worth the rest of the cost.
The Vancouver sunset (actually the sun barely set – just went behind the mountains. We were there right before summer solstice, so lots of daylight on the trip. That is something to get used to).
We decided to visit Vancouver for a few days before the cruise departure day. Since we are on the East Coast, might as well see as much as we can if we are traveling that far away.
The tip here is this: When taking a cruise, plan to arrive in the departure city at least 1 day before the ship leaves. Things can happen to delay plane trips, particularly when traveling across country. Weather, crew issues and on and on. It doesn’t take much to cause a chain reaction for flight cancellations and delays. This plan gives you at least 24 hours to get to the city. If you miss the cruise departure, you are meeting the boat at the next step, and likely at your own cost. (We don’t normally book air travel with the cruise line, so if you don’t get there on time, it is your problem to get to the ship…).
And if everything goes smoothly, you get a day to see a city you may never see again; or decide it is fabulous and you want to go back for a longer visit.
Vancouver is a city of green spaces coexisting with high rise buildings. And they have some very cool architecture.
On to the “packing” tips for a trip like this. I actually started thinking about and planning the packing 3 months in advance. I love to read about wardrobing concepts, such as SWAP (Sewing with a Plan), 6PAC sewing, Capsule wardrobes, to name a few. I don’t really sew this way, but when packing for a trip the concepts work. The general concept of all the plans are to create a small core set of garments, accessories (jewelry, bags and shoes) that work together. The old Mix and Match idea.
Ship pool deck
My basic summer neutrals for bottoms are navy and khaki. I also have tops and cardigans in those colors, and I add in some teal, salmon and yellow for color. Keeping in mind the layering advice (and I am generally cold anyway), I pulled together navy and khaki pants, summer weight jeans, navy and khaki crop pants, cardigans in each color and a variety of tops I thought would layer well. No, I did not take all of this with me! I have a good spring jacket which is also water resistant, so that went into the staging pile. Of course, going on a cruise required a few ‘dress-up’ pieces. I took two Ponte knit dresses, and made them dressy with sparkly cardigans and statement jewelry. (Formal isn’t really that formal anymore it seems on cruise ships). Then shoes were planned. I am one of those people who could (and has) take several pairs of shoes on a vacation of this length (I did not do that).
America’s Test Kitchen demonstrations on board ship (we recently became aficionados, so really enjoyed them)
It was time to sit down and really plan (remember I am a project manager, and everything is a project). I downloaded the Weekly Wardrobe Planner from Imogene Lamport’s inside out style blog. I filled it out with every day and where we would be on each day. I then indicated when I needed casual, dressy, etc. I roughly made notes about what clothes I might need for each day. It was a big help.
Arriving in Ketchikan
The result? My needs fell into a few categories – travel days; sightseeing/outdoor days and ship days. The cruise line had advised (in the fine print of the documents – you really need to read that stuff), that we would need a “journey bag” for the Land Journey Days. What this meant was that you needed a smaller suitcase for very casual clothes and minimal needs for 3 days. Cruise wear could be packed in a separate suitcase and the cruise line would store it after the cruise until you went to the airport for your final trip home. Aha! Lightbulb – the clothes & stuff we need for Vancouver (3 days) could be in the journey bag – and the 3 days post-cruise would also fit in there. That realization helped me cull what we would take!
The (not so misty) Misty Fjords – it was a beautiful day so no fog.
Misty Fjords – Seals sunning themselves, then oozing into the water
So, in the end I took two pairs of jeans, two pair of pants (non-jeans), 2 pairs crop pants, 4 cardigans, about 8 knit tops, 3 pairs of shoes (2 walking and 1 ‘dinner’ shoe), work-out clothes, 2 pr knit (casual time on the ship) pants & t-shirts; along with the 2 dress outfits I mentioned earlier. I packed 3 pairs of shorts for DH, along with jeans and assorted golf shirts, workout clothes and dinner clothes (dress pants & shirt + sportcoat). Of course undies, jammies and necessary toiletries. For us, this was pretty light packing.
Looking down over Juneau while taking a tram up the mountain.
What did I pack that we never wore? Rain coats, gloves, warm hats, ear muffs. Several of the men came up to DH and said they were jealous that he had packed shorts – apparently many did not. He graciously gave me credit for packing shorts for him. He was very happy. So in the end – everyone was right. Layers, layers, layers. You may not wear most of them, but would sure want them if you needed them!
Beautiful Bald Eagle – being cared for at a refuge on Mt. Roberts – she had been shot in the eye and rescued. She has no depth perception, so cannot go back into the wild.
My last tip about this trip particularly – if you go, do the Land portion first, then the cruise. The cruise is relaxing and the land portion can be hectic with traveling from place to place. Also, add an extra day or two (take a 12 or 13-day Cruise/Land trip). The cruise is still 7 days, but a couple of more days within the interior of Alaska would have been even better.
Hope you find at least 1 helpful tip in this post. I’ll finish with a few more pictures.
I was amazed at the flowers that grew wild in the rock of the mountains, particularly in Denali. They get some quite severe winter temperatures.
DH is a train nut – both model and real trains. So we rode two of them. The narrow gauge White Pass and Yukon Railroad from Skagway into Canada. We learned all about the Gold Rush and the hardships the Rushers faced before the railroad went in. This ride took the same path as the Gold Rushers…many men and horses died on that trip.
We also rode the McKinley Explorer from Denali to Anchorage. The scenery was beautiful on this day-long ride. We saw rushing rivers; waterfalls created by snow melting on the mountains, moose bathing and running away from the train.
We had a day in Anchorage before coming home, so we visited the Anchorage Museum. It is a very interesting and unique museum. A few photos of some of the fiber exhibits.
One exhibit was called Needle & Myth. The picture below explains the exhibit.
View of 1 side of the exhibit. The linens were hung back to back so there were two sides.
And one of the individual linens, answering the “She is…” or “She was…” question
And…last picture is of an interesting quilt. Unfortunately we didn’t get a picture of the description. I loved the unique ways they hung textiles and other items in the exhibits.
I hope you enjoyed the pictures of my trip. Go to Vancouver and Alaska if you can…it is well worth seeing all of it.
A sewing project will be next, I promise!