Is an Alaskan RV Caravan Right for You?

Considering an Alaskan RV Trip?  Afraid/unwilling to do it on your own?  

You might consider a paid RV Caravan as a solution to your hesitant wanderlust!

denali

We joined a paid Alaskan caravan Summer of 2016.  We are usually independent RVers who enjoy doing our own planning – and we really plan out our trips.  Many folks are happy with more spontaneity, however, with a 45′ Motorhome – towing a vehicle – we like to know we will have a place to park that beast!  In addition we want to ensure that we can get in popular places  such as Summer in Yellowstone (got in!) -and we have been shut out of properties Mono Lake, September!

mono4

We chose a paid caravan for ONE reason.  I did NOT want to take this trip – I was concerned about fuel availability, breaking down in the middle of nowhere and taking such a long trip solo.  We asked other RVing friends if they wanted to make the journey – and we were met with “No Way!”  “You are nuts!” and flat out “NO”!

I then tried the social media route – RVillage Alaska groups, Facebook groups, etc.  I did not find any suitable groups  –  going from “I’d be happy to go with a group if someone else did all of the work” (yep, that is a quote!) to “its just us and our friends, not looking for anyone to join.”  Ok – so that was out!  You might have better luck –  a check on various social media platforms might yield some good results.

One gentleman who wanted to do the trip – and was willing to participate in the planning – decided on a paid caravan.

I discovered the least expensive RV caravan company – which worked well since I am cheap.  A main attraction – besides cost – was a guaranteed small caravan group – max of 17 rigs.

Some  better-known caravan companies have 35 rigs participating.  Sounds like a nightmare to me – could not imagine rolling into a campground or fuel stops with up to 35 rigs.  If everyone travels at a different pace it could work.  I was not comfortable with that situation.

Another factor in our selection was starting from Dawson Creek, British Columbia and ending in Prince George, BC. Other, longer caravans launch from Montana or Washington State and include visits to Alberta, Edmonton, Jasper & Banff.  We did this on the front end of our trip and are glad we did.  These were easy to plan and navigate on four lane roads with reasonable fuel stops.   We then met up at the group start point, Dawson Creek, BC.

In addition to a potential logistical nightmare, larger caravans may increase your chance for Drama!  We crossed paths with other Large caravan groups – folks we spoke with were satisfied, but we received no rave reviews.

We witnessed one caravan member man deck another in a campground, another caravan had two parties that refused to park side-by-side.

Two gentlemen we met while taking a small plane to Barrow, Alaska did not appear to know each other – even though they were part of the same caravan group.  So the big caravan group – at a distance – seemed cold.  I am sure others have great experiences they can share – we just did not witness the larger groups as a big, happy ‘family’

The best part of a paid group is your campground reservations are made & paid.  Routes have been planned out; based on experience and knowledge of roads, appropriate distances of travel and activities planned and paid for.  A guest can take advantage of all or none of the schedules events.  We also left and rejoined the caravan when we wanted to stay additional days at an interesting spot.

The best part of a paid group is your campground reservations are made & paid.  Routes have been planned out; based on experience and knowledge of roads, appropriate distances of travel and activities planned and paid for.  A guest can take advantage of all or none of the schedules events.

This worked especially well in the Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park.  The largest US National Park has few facilities and takes time to explore.  We spent extra days in the town of Glenallen to take advantage of our proximity to this great park.  It was a great decision – as Wrangell was one of our favorite stops.

The caravan company we used allowed for a 23 or 50 day trip.  Guests who were in the 23 day group departed the group in Anchorage.   5 rigs departed the group – we were sorry to see them go but lucky to run into them at other stops – fun!  The now smaller group allowed us to get to know our other caravan members even better.  This was a great unforeseen treat.  You might want to consider this shorter option up front – as the wagon master can add you to the campground reservation should you decide to do the entire 50 days.wl3

The campgrounds selected by our caravan company were mixed.  Some were fine (and many used by all caravan companies) while others should have been skipped as better parks were available nearby.  One offered a rickety scary bridge to cross with big rigs, another’s electricity was not working when we arrived and the problem was not a concern for the owner.  Husband Donald worked two hours to get it fixed.  Please note that campgrounds are not that plentiful in many areas  – but you will find delightful surprised in unexpected places.  We elected to return to a remote property with no sewer (a common occurrence) and only 20 amps because is was beautiful.

Our caravan company also offered side trips (extra charge) to remote spots in Alaska.  We did most of the side trips through the caravan organizer – which was convenient –  the downside was no support provided by the Trek Master for these trips.  Another factor – we could have saved some money planning these trips on our own – possible using the caravan schedule (provided well in advance of the trip) and using the organizer’s suggested excursions as a start point.

While the Trek Masters are paid to organize activities outside of those already scheduled, we did that ourselves.  We organized our own excursions including a Minor League baseball game in Anchorage,  ATVing in Denali, a Denali Ranger-lead hike.  Fishing trips (in Homer for example) can be done on your own.  We were able to get a discount on some of these activities – just ask! And they were lots of fun with our group.teslin6

A great advantage to caravan participation is the presence of a Trek Master (usually a couple) who lead the caravan and employed to check you into campgrounds, lead activities and provide information regarding the road ahead.  In addition to the Trek Master, a Tailgunner (also a party of two) “tails” the group to ensure if any breakdowns occur you will have some help – as long as you are on that day’s route.  And if you look at a map of Northern B.C., the Yukon and most of Alaska – there is only one route for the majority of the trip.

Our Tailgunners were great!  Tailgunners Dale & Gwen are warm, generous people who we enjoyed immensely!  This was their first caravan – and we had a great time with them.  We had two (two!) flat tires on our Jeep – occurring on an empty road.   Once we made a fairly quick drive to the campground, Dale nicely helped us with the spare and the repair kit.  While he did not have to do this, he said he couldn’t miss giving husband Donald a hard time about the flat.  We had fun joking back and forth with Dale.  Gwen was a great Trekmaster (as well as Tail Gunner) ensuring we were informed and shared great information about every spot we visited.   The memory of Gwen coming out of her shell & briefing us while standing on a picnic table in a crowded area will not be forgotten.  The presence of the Tailgunner was a main reason for us to join the caravan – having two great people doing the job was an extra treat!  We knew we would not be stranded.

Other than seeing the beauty and majesty of Alaska (and there is a lot of it!) we throughly enjoyed our fellow Caravaners!  With zero drama, our small, fun-loving group (which got smaller) enjoyed each other’s company and were sorry to see the caravan breakup.  Nightly Happy Hours at the Happy Hour campsite were enjoyed by the group and gave us a chance to share the day and make plans for the evening.  We have seen a few people since last summer – Summer of 2017 will find some of us meeting up at the Albequerque Balloon Fest!

In summary, if you want to travel to Alaska in your RV you may want to consider a caravan.  It worked for us!

A caravan may suit you if:

  • You want to travel with others,
  • Are unsure of where and when to go
  • Want the security of a Tail gunner or Trek Master; and
  • Still want some degree of independence

  Some items to consider (and maybe research):

  • Number of rigs?
  • Who are your Tail gunners & Trek Masters – what is their experience?  and their recent reviews
  • Does the caravan stay at the spots you want to visit?
  • If you can find your own references, do so.  A question on social media might yield useful info. References provided by the Caravan company might not share the bad info, just the good or their cousin’s review….
  • Can you break away from and rejoin the group – can you take a half-trip (23 vs. 50 days)?  Can you do a campground-only caravan – no side trips included?.
  • Organize extra activities (not included with your Caravan base price) on your own (sightseeing flights, fishing trips, etc.).  Use the side trips suggested by the Caravan company as a guide.

I would encourage you to travel to Alaska – no matter how you choose to get there.  Solo, a group of friends, or a paid caravan.   Hopefully you will enjoy it as we did – or maybe more.  Safe travels!

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12 thoughts on “Is an Alaskan RV Caravan Right for You?

  1. How much? We didn’t know caravans existed. We would love to know where we start to educate ourselves about caravan if.

    1. you could start by looking at the two largest caravan companies, Fantasy RV caravans and Adventure caravans. We used RV Adventure treks which was less expensive then the two large companies and promised a smaller caravan group. We paid $7,000.00 for the 50 day trip, which for 2018 is $7,400.00 for the 50 day. you might consider doing the 23 day trip that is $4,300.00 – since you will pretty much travel the same route back through the Yukon Territories at least and will have experience driving the roads, finding fuel – and can make return reservations yourself. I would find out who is leading the trip if you use RV Adventure treks – I would be happy to share details via email at winecoasters@gmail.com regarding good and bad trek masters. We found our trekmasters lacking in customer service. Another company to investigate is Alaska Discovery Tours. I have no experience with the other groups but their websites would provide good info.

    1. thanks for your note. It is priced on a total trip basis, not per day. We used RV Adventure Treks. Fantasy Travel & Adventure Caravans are the large RV caravan companies. you can make your own schedule (leave early or late in the day, and arrive any time before the tail gunner arrives…) and then do you own touring once you get to a destination – or go with the group. You might start reading the caravan sites and see what works for you.

  2. Hi, great post, as usual– concise, informative, and photographically attractive. We are currently heading south and are in Canyonville (7 Feathers) stunningly beautiful Fall colors this year along I-5. On another topic. I’m still having trouble believing this is not Yankees vs Dodgers series. What the hell happened? One game away, and they collapse? I was reliving Campi and Yogi Two of my high school baseball heroes, behind the plate. One of the year’s great disappointments Take care. Hope the wedding went well.

    >

    1. Hi ya Ron! How nice to hear from you. We were disappointed that the Yanks did not make the series – we had tickets for the first New York game! But are excited to see what the 2018 season holds and look forward to watching Judge through the season. We really hope to link up with you next year – just got tickets for the balloon fiesta that we actually hope to attend! Hi to Sharen for us!

  3. Great post! We also used Adventure Treks for a 50-day caravan. In our case the wife was the Trek Master and her husband seemed to be along for the ride and our Tail Gunners were great!
    We are still in touch with friends we made on that trip. We had heard all of the horror stories about ruining your RV on the roads in Canada and Alaska, but had no problems as long as you drove at a reasonable speed.
    We liked the security of the Tail Gunner and having someone else handling all of the arrangements with the campgrounds. Because, as fulltime RVers, we are often on our own, being able to socialize with our fellow caravaners was a treat.
    One more advantage of a caravan is that we did things we might have not done because they were already paid for in our caravan fee.

    1. Thanks so much for your nice note. Believe we had the same Trekmasters! What year did you travel with RV adventure treks? Also agree about the social aspects of the caravan. We gathered many nights for ‘happy hour’ in a communal site. Lots of fun. Where are you currently?

  4. For us, it was travel solo after researching for two years. We feel that we want the flexibiity and freedom going solo. We did it on our first year of full timing and everyone thought we were too brave, crazy and naive for bringing our rig “Betsy” to Alaska. But we were there for a 100 days and not a single dent, crack or anything else happened to us. We drove very slow on the Alaskan Highway. We love it and would do it again!

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