Going RVing to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime journey thousands of RVers tackle each summer. My husband and I followed in their tracks this year, and like many people, we endured a few challenges unique to the North Country. Once we were back on familiar territory in the lower 48, we realized that if we had known these five things about RVing to Alaska, our trip would have gone much smoother.
Stock up on your favorite products before heading north
The vast, unpopulated North Country presented a grocery shopping challenge in small and large stores alike. Certain household products that exist everywhere in the States just don’t make it across the border. Items that make our own RV life easier, such as basic paper plates, single-ply septic-safe toilet paper and smaller sizes of dish washing soap, were nowhere to be found.
Convert cash before crossing the border
We thought we were being financially savvy by waiting until we crossed the border to convert a large chunk of our US dollars into Canadian. With just $200 Canadian dollars in our wallets, we walked into a British Columbia bank hoping for a favorable exchange rate, only to learn that the country’s banking system requires individuals to have an active account at the institution where they want to do the converting. The rest of us must convert cash at a “payday lender” with less than ideal exchange rates. Next time we’ll change our money out before heading over.
Be even more bear aware
More grizzly and black bears exist in British Columbia than anywhere else in North America. That fact slipped my mind when I left a small bag of garbage in the back of our pickup truck. Just a few scraps of double-bagged leafy greens and some fruit peels was aromatic enough to ring the dinner bell for a young black bear who climbed into the back in search of his prize. We scared him off but unfortunately he returned the next day, causing us to flee the area. The deep claw scratches on the side of our truck now serve as a permanent reminder to stay bear aware.
Get a good international cellular broadband plan
While still in the States, we called our cellular phone company to inquire about usage rates in Canada. “Oh you get voice, text and data at no extra charge” they told us. Unfortunately the representative failed to disclose that “free” international usage restricted us to 500 GB per day of data for each of our phones. In today’s world, 500 GB goes quick and each time we wanted more, we had to pay $5 for every extra 500 GB within a 24-hour period.
Pack two (new) spare tires
Many unpaved sections of the Alaska Highway are coated with razor-sharp rock aggregate that can slice open even the best 10-ply tires. Four flat tires into our journey we learned why North Country locals warn travelers to carry at least two spare tires: if you get a flat while traveling one of these stretches, then get another a few miles later (which is common), you’re out of luck. Two spares also makes sense because Alaska Highway tire shops carry a limited selection of brands and sizes. If they don’t have yours, you might be camped out a while.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best
The Alaska Highway is mostly paved, but long stretches of gravel roads still exist. Nearly every RVer who has made the trip has suffered from a cracked windshield, broken towing equipment or worse. Even a well-prepared RVer is at risk of some kind of damage.
Despite all of these challenges, we will make this trip again some day. Because as a wise traveler once said, the real adventure is found in the journey, not the actual destination. Like everyone else whose done it, if you go to Alaska you may have your share of (mis)adventures, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from going. Just drive your rig north with caution and carry a Coach-Net roadside assistance and Hazard Protect plan that will be there for you wherever you roam.
About the Author:
Rene Agredano, a Coach-Net member since 2015, is a self-employed full-time RVer who enjoys writing, jewelry design and animal advocacy. Her adventures with a three-legged dog and husband Jim are chronicled at LiveWorkDream.com
Glenn P. ~ “We have had Coach-Net since 2011 and have used the service for tire , door, lock problems as well 2 tows of our 42 foot coach. Last night was our 2nd tow, our service provider was Cody with Allan Robinson Towing in Raleigh, NC. Our call to Coach-Net was handled professionally and well starting with making sure we were in a safe place, getting our information and arranging for a tech to call me back. This was done with follow up in a very short period of time. My tow provider called and gave me a 30 minute window for arrival and arrived with with four minutes to spare. Cody was professional and reassuring and assured me I could leave and he would call and let me know when he delivered the coach. He did as promised and told me that the coach arrived safely. We have had excellent and caring responses every time we call Coach-Net and have repeatedly recommended them and will continue to do so.”