CarRentals.com was thrilled to partner with Sarah from Tiny Van Big Living for her incredible road trip through Alaska. Thank you to Sarah and Thrifty for making this guide possible!
Alaska is the place to be for ultimate adventure. It’s the largest state in the United States and holds the nickname of “the last frontier.” With the ocean, mountains, rivers, wildlife, and Northern Lights, this place should be on everyone’s bucket list. After living a year in Alaska, I was happy with the opportunity to return this summer, even for just one week! Since I wouldn’t be able to drive the van up this time, I opted for an adventure mobile car rental for our week stay. I was stoked that CarRentals.com was able to help me out with finding the best car for this Alaska adventure!
How to pick the perfect car rental for your next adventure
Sometimes your own van or adventure mobile just can’t take you to all the places you would like to go. Some adventures require a plane ride, and an adventure mobile rental is your best bet.
I recommend spending a little bit more on a larger car, such as an SUV or minivan in order to save money on lodging. If you rent a car with a larger space, it can easily be modified into a bed. This can allow travelers to camp a few nights in order to get more adventure and spend less money on their trip. We rented a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee for our trip!
Alaska in 7 days
Day 1: Anchorage to Girdwood
Anchorage is the largest and most populated city in Alaska. This city is a great location to fly into when visiting Alaska. We arrived in Anchorage around 12 p.m. and picked up our car rental that we reserved with CarRentals.com. Everything went smoothly and we were in and out with keys in our hands in about 10 minutes! We had a few hours to kill before heading off to Girdwood and decided to grab a bite at Middle Way Cafe.
One of my favorite parts about Anchorage is the food! There is seriously so much good locally sourced, super fresh food! It was hard to decide which places I wanted to eat while visiting there with only a short period of time.
After spending a few hours working and enjoying our coffee and food at Middle Way, we picked up some camping gear we were borrowing from a friend. If you don’t have a friend in Anchorage to borrow some gear from, I highly recommend renting camping gear.
Renting can be a lot cheaper than carrying your own stuff on a plane and it’s usually new or lightly used great gear! I recommend Alaska Outdoor Gear Rental and/or REI in Anchorage for REI members. After picking up our gear, we headed about 45 mins south to Girdwood, AK. Girdwood is a quaint mountain town in Alaska along the Seward highway and is where Alyeska, the ski resort, is located. If time permits, I recommend hiking one of the many trails in Girdwood, as well as taking a gondola ride up for a great view and lunch!
Day 2: Girdwood -> Homer, AK
We woke up in our tiny, cozy cabin in Girdwood. We decided to get a delicious breakfast burrito and chai at one of my other favorite Alaska staples, Girdwood Picnic Club. After breakfast, we hit the road headed south towards Homer, AK.
Homer is one of my favorite towns in Alaska! As a girl who grew up on the beach, I always have a love for small beach towns. Homer, AK is a magical place, where the ocean meets the mountains. Homer is famous for its “spit,” which is the second longest spit of land in the world! My favorite thing to do in Homer is camp on the Homer Spit.
We payed $15 and made ourselves a cozy “tent” in the back of the Jeep. It worked out quite well, as the weather in Homer did not cooperate. It was much easier to stay dry and warm vs. sleeping in a tent. If you have time in Homer, I recommend taking a water taxi across Kachemak Bay to the small town of Seldovia or Kachemak Bay State Park.
Day 3-4: Homer -> Kenai, AK
Our third day in Alaska started with waking up in our adventure mobile thanks to CarRentals.com on the beach in Homer, AK. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. We woke up in a torrential downpour, though it was still a beautiful campsite despite the weather. This day, we headed to the Soldotna/Kenai area, which is near and dear to my heart. I lived here for a few months in the summer of 2016. One of the reasons I had returned to Alaska for this trip was to attend the wedding of my friends at the beautiful Cannery Lodge.
Prior to wedding activities, we spent most of the time trying to catch a salmon, but no luck! The Kenai Peninsula is world famous for its salmon run, and people gather from all over the world to fish here. With us only being in town for one day and not much salmon action at this point, our chances were not great, but we still had an amazing time sitting along the glacier blue Kenai River. We stopped for lunch at the best sandwich shop in Alaska: Odies. If you go to Odies, always pick up a homemade cookie. Our time ended in Kenai with a spectacular sunset and an out of this world view of the beautiful Mt. Redoubt volcano across the bay!
Day 5-6: Kenai -> Fairbanks, AK
We left early morning for a very long road trip to Fairbanks, Alaska. This is about a 9-hour road trip without stops! Although it’s a very long trip, it’s a wonderful way to see many different parts of Alaska. Most of this day consisted of lots and lots of driving. We stopped at a lookout to view Denali, but it was very cloudy and we were unable to see it clearly. We were grateful to have such a comfortable car to drive a long way in. It was actually very hot this day in Alaska, and the seats were amazing!
We spent a day in Fairbanks visiting our very good friends who just had a baby! We had breakfast at my favorite spot in Fairbanks, The Cookie Jar. We spent the day driving around the foothills of Fairbanks with some beautiful views of Alaska. We picked up some souvenirs at Pioneer Park and enjoyed a beautiful 80-degree weather day in Alaska. If you find yourself in Alaska in the fall or winter, I highly recommend visiting Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights. The best light show I ever saw was in Fairbanks, October 2016.
Day 7: Fairbanks -> Anchorage
This was our last day in Alaska, and a bittersweet one, in fact. We had an incredibly lucky day, as the sun was out and weather was perfect. We began with an early lunch at Pita Place in Fairbanks. The best part of this day was the incredible view we got of Denali. For some perspective, seeing Denali is incredibly rare. This is the second time we have been able to see it so clearly, we feel incredibly lucky! There were people pulling off the side of the road, cheering, and smiling, and taking pictures. There is something magical about standing around with a bunch of people from all over cheering and applauding nature.
What trips do you have planned this year?! Start your search for your adventure mobile today with CarRentals.com!
This Alaska travel guide was written by Sarah, who is a traveling occupational therapist and has been living out of her converted camper van, named Vanny Devito, for the last year-and-a-half. Her blog is titled Tiny Van Big Living
Heading to Alaska?
We have a car to get you across the Last Frontier