Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alaska: Solo or Caravan

Dear Joe and Vicki: We intend to take our RV to Alaska this summer. The only question in our mind is whether we should travel solo or join an RV caravan. What do you suggest?

Joe: Thousands of RVers travel to Alaska on their own and do just fine. You will too! Do your homework. Research and plan your trip carefully (two DVDs and an e-book about what to expect and how to prepare for an RV journey to Alaska are available on our website .

Most importantly, allow plenty of time (six to eight weeks) to see and do all that interests you.

Our first RV trip to Alaska was accomplished on our own. We spent more than a year researching, planning and preparing for what we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The trip lasted three months. We took the Alaska Highway one direction and the ferry system the other. Guided by books, maps, brochures, and the advice of folks who had gone before us, we thought we had seen everything Alaska had to offer. We had a great time.

Then we signed on as “tailgunners” with an Alaskan caravan. The typical RV caravan staff consists of a wagonmaster couple and an assistant wagonmaster couple. The wagonmaster team is responsible for keeping the caravan running smoothly. The assistant wagonmaster couple, sometimes known as "tailgunners," travel behind the last RV so they are available to assist any caravan members who experience problems along the way.

The Alaskan caravan followed the same route, went to the same places, and took the same tours we did on our solo trip… plus a whole lot more! And they did it a lot more efficiently. That’s their business.

Vicki: A caravan company selects the route, puts together the itinerary, makes campground reservations and arranges interesting tours. You'll travel with the knowledge that nothing will be missed along the way. You'll also enjoy the camaraderie of fellow caravan participants and the sense of security that comes from traveling with a group.

Keep in mind, though, that group travel involves compromise, group participation and adherence to travel schedules. If you're independent-minded, accustomed to solo travel and prefer to avoid itineraries, you might want to seriously consider whether you'd be happy in a caravan.

A typical caravan day begins with a briefing by the caravan staff. They will tell you about the road conditions, scenic attractions and points of interest you can expect during the coming day's journey. A travel day, by the way, will rarely exceed 200 to 300 miles.

As the caravan progresses, you can expect to experience planned events such as river rafting, fishing trips, tours and barbecues.

When you arrive at each day’s destination you will be guided into your reserved campsite. But the day won’t be over yet. Evening activities will probably include restaurant meals, salmon bakes, pot-lucks and professional entertainment.

Some Alaska caravans either include or will make arrangements for you to load your RV onto a giant ferry, occupy a stateroom and cruise the Inside Passage on your return trip to the US/Canadian border. We happen to think that this should be a part of everyone's Alaska experience.

To learn more about RV caravans, contact the commercial caravan companies. You'll find them advertised in RV publications. Ask what you can expect to receive for your money. Compare what each company offers on similar caravans.

Once you've experienced the benefits of professional preparation, experienced guides and adventurous companions, you may find yourself joining the ranks of those for whom caravanning has become an addictive form of travel.

Either way, solo or caravan, you are in for a great adventure. Go for it!

Joe and Vicki will be presenting their seminar “Alaska, The Ultimate RV Adventure” at the Gypsy Gathering Rally in Yuma, Arizona on March 8, 2011. The rally will have a number of seminars relating to Alaska.

Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

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