Sunday, September 18, 2016

Alaska Recap, Part I – Expenses

Copyrighted image - no use without permission

Before we headed to Alaska, we did as much research as we possibly could to try and prepare ourselves and our vehicles for all that we might encounter. There is no better resource than the experience of those who have gone before us. It takes a lot of time and effort to summarize the many topics of interest for those who follow, but we found these summary blog posts so helpful, we decided early on we would make the time to recap our trip as well. Keep in mind this is OUR experience, yours WILL vary.

This post is organized into two parts, the second is forthcoming and will cover topics such as our travel dates, routes, resources, preparation, etc.

We traveled to Alaska in our 2002 Travel Supreme motorhome, Scoopy. She’s 38’ long with two slides on the driver’s side. Our tow vehicle is a 2013 Chevy Sonic named Toadie Hopper.

For the purposes of accounting, we consider our trip to have begun and ended in Bellingham, WA. Before leaving Bellingham, we filled our fuel tanks and fridge, and those expenses are included in the line item costs listed below. Conversions from Canadian Dollars to USD have been made and actual costs included in these numbers.

Total Days: 108
Days in Canada: 24
Days in Alaska: 84
Total Miles Traveled: 10,400
Miles in Scoopy: 6,192
Miles in Toadie: 4,208
Total Trip Cost: $11,439.14

That's it in a nutshell. Let's break it down.

I know how much money we spent total on diesel, gas and propane, but I can't tell you how many gallons we bought or what the average price was. I do know it was more expensive in Canada, and really expensive if you stopped to refuel at a touristy place. Otherwise, we found gas and diesel in the more populated areas of Alaska to be comparable to prices in Washington state.

Diesel: $2,221.54
Gasoline: $383.57
Propane: $91.98
Total Fuel: $2,701.09

A typical gas station in Alaska (not really, we came across this one in the little town of Hope)

Considering some of the roads we traveled over, it's amazing that we didn't incur more expenses in this category, We ended up in only two repair shops during our trip. Toadie required new front brake pads as well as a spendy new computer, which fortunately was covered under warranty. We had the driver's front windshield replaced on Scoopy, but it had been cracked for months before we even began our trip north. We made it worse with some questionable leveling techniques at Muncho Lake, BC. We probably could have made it back to the Lower 48 without having it replaced, but since we were going over the Top of the World Highway, I didn't want to chance having it fall out. :) Insurance covered the replacement and there was no actual cost to us.

TOTAL REPAIRS:  $ 295.75

The crack in Scoopy’s front windshield steadily got worse while in Alaska.

There are plenty of commercial campgrounds throughout Canada and Alaska, but we rarely stayed in them. First, they are really expensive and second, we did not want to have to adhere to a timetable based on campground reservations. We had only one advanced reservation for the Teklanika Campground at Denali National Park.

When we were traveling and mostly just overnighting, we boondocked (Free, no hook-ups) at Visitors Centers, Walmart, Fred Meyer and pullouts beside the road.

Our campgrounds of choice were city parks (Seward Waterfront!!) Alaska State Parks (Deep Creek!!) Provincial Parks in British Columbia (Muncho Lake!!) and Yukon Government Campgrounds in the Yukon (Dawson City!!). These are categorized as Paid Boondocking, as there were no hookups and few services. Some have pit toilets and a water faucet to pump by hand, which instructs you to boil before use. Prices ranged from $10 to $20 per night. All the ones we stayed in were fantastic.

As Elks members, we visited three lodges, Fairbanks, Kenai and Palmer/Wasilla. All offered electric, Kenai also had water at each site. None had an onsite dump station, but there was usually one nearby. Elks Lodges were a fairly economical choice with prices ranging from $13.57 to $18 per night. In Fairbanks and Palmer/Wasilla we paid the weekly rate. Elks Lodges and Rainey Creek, a city park in Stewart, BC make up the Partial Hookups category.

Our fabulous waterfront campsite at Deep Creek.

Our entire trip was 108 days. Here's the breakdown: 

Free Boondocking - 20 nights: $0.00
Paid Boondocking - 51 nights: $881.20 (Avg. $17.28)
FHU Campgrounds – 14 nights: $482.00 (Avg. $34.43)
Partial Hookups – 23 nights: $364.00 (Avg. $15.83)
Total Campground Expenses: $1,727.20

Our overall average camping cost was $16.00 per night. We were very happy that we were able to keep our camping expenses low by using our solar and, when needed, our generator. Yes, there are costs associated with running the genny, but I didn't keep track of how often we ran it. With the long, long days in Alaska, our batteries were typically at 100 percent very late into the night, so we often went days without using the generator, even with a big residential fridge!

There are unlimited opportunities for entertainment in Alaska, particularly of the outdoor variety. We were somewhat selective, but enjoyed two glacier/wildlife cruises, kayaking, river rafting, museums and so on. We didn't go overboard and mostly stayed away from the big tourist traps. We saved a few of the tours and water activities for the week when our son was visiting, so some of our expenses in this category are for three people, not just the two of us. Also, we purchased a Tour Saver booklet which saved us some money. More on the Tour Saver in Part II.

Total Entertainment:  $1,189.98

We went on a tour of Columbia Glacier while we were staying in Valdez.

I think some folks put fishing in their entertainment category and if we did that, well, our entertainment costs would be a lot higher. Thing is, Steven would NEVER consider fishing to be entertainment. He wanted to put it in the "Food" category, but that didn't seem to work either. So I finally created a whole new category for fishing! The total includes our fishing licenses, the day trip out of Deep Creek, tips for the crew and processing & freezing our halibut catch (which we actually got for free due to Steven's lack of enjoyment of our trip...) as well as the salmon we purchased. We came home with 23 lbs. of halibut. and 9 lbs. of salmon. The Tour Saver has several coupons for fishing trips, but we just couldn't make it work for us.

Halibut Fishing: $479.10
Salmon Purchasing: $138.80

Our halibut catch of the day out of Deep Creek.

This category is a complete budget-killer, our number one expense! Without question food in Alaska is more expensive than in the Lower 48, as is dining out. But one thing I didn't do is separate out expenditures that had nothing to do with food. For example, I went on a mini-shopping spree at Fred Meyer, buying new jammies and a few cute bowls, but I didn't subtract those from the receipts. In other words, almost anything purchased at Walmart or Fred Meyer went into the grocery category. So our expenses here are probably not as high as it seems at first glance, but trust me, they were high enough!

Dining out in restaurants and booze, well, I can't give any excuses for those expenditures, they are what they are! Except, I will say that alcohol is prohibitively expensive in Canada. Like, double or more what we pay in the US. So there's that. :)

Groceries: $2,128.52
Dining Out: $1,290.60
Alcohol: $561.93
TOTAL SPENT: $3,981.05

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset
The vodka we picked up at Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines.

We're not the best bookkeepers when it comes to tracking our expenses, so a few things went into this category just because we didn't know where else to put them. Probably half or more of these expenses have nothing to do with Alaska directly, for example, haircuts, a visit to a Chiropractor, etc. Just life stuff. But the other half pertains to our trip. Bear spray, gifts and souvenirs, yoga mats for Toadie's windshield, etc.

TOTAL MISC.:  $ 908.17

So there you have it. We did have purchases not included here, for example, we both got new computers. Yeah, that wasn't planned at all, but both our laptops were old, so it was time, no matter where we were traveling. Steven bought his at Costco and I got mine at Best Buy. The purchase price was the same in Alaska as in these stores in the Lower 48, but we made sure to buy them in Anchorage, where we paid zero sales tax. That means we actually saved about $170 over buying them in Seattle or even from Amazon. (More money for the booze category!)


FUEL: $2,701.09
REPAIRS: $295.75
CAMPING: $1,727.20
FISHING: $635.90
FOOD/BOOZE: $3,981.05
GRAND TOTAL: $11,439.14

For two completely different perspectives on expenses, take a look at the blogs of our friends Rambling RV Rat and Jim and Barb’s Adventures. The Rat gang went full tilt staying in commercial campgrounds and kicked it up a notch in the entertainment category with their awesome trip to Dick Proenneke’s “Alone in the Wilderness” cabin. Jim & Barb left their big rig 5th wheel in Salt Lake City and purchased a camper for their truck. They were super nimble and their camping fees show it!

NEXT UP:  Alaska Recap, Part II – The Details


  1. Replies
    1. Enjoyed reading your recap, too. Canada was a real bear, eh? :)

  2. Awesome recap! The Rat Thanks you for the plug!

    We cannot wait to go back!

    Safe travels,

    Les, Sue and Popo

    1. I so appreciated your recaps, Popo! Very honest and straight forward! The next trip will be just as you want it.

  3. We also went to Alaska in 2012 from Ottawa Canada to Yellowstone back to Canada. Out blog is at the stats are the second post from the top.

    1. We sure lucked out on relatively low fuel prices, not to mention a favorable exchange rate! Looks like you had a good time!

  4. It is interesting to compare experiences and expenses. So many ways to explore Alaska! Thanks for the shout out and hope to see you down the road somewhere!

    1. We enjoyed following your adventures in Alaska. Can't wait to hear how you're getting along with all that space in your 5th wheel. Safe travels!

  5. My recap will be LAST! Oh well!
    Great job for not being into the details! Ha!
    So glad we got to be along for a part of your journey!

    1. Last is always the best! :) Loved, loved, loved traveling with you and sharing such a wonderful and epic adventure with you! Safe travels on your way home and try not to get snowed in along the way!

  6. Thanks for sharing...always good to compare experiences. We went to Alaska in 2013 and would love to go again.

    1. Like us, your starting point is so much closer than most. All the stars aligned for a great journey, and we hope to do it again someday, too!

  7. Saving this for prepping our trip in the future. No matter where we are, food and booze always seem to be our highest expense as well. You did great on camping fees - we're still sans solar :-( I still can't believe your trip is over, didn't you just leave for Alaska???

    1. My gosh, it FLEW by, didn't it? You've had an epic summer on the east coast, and while our temps in Alaska were great, I sweated just reading about your humidity! Yuck, I hate that stuff.

  8. Thanks for sharing. On our bucket list.

    1. Our pleasure! It's a great trip I hope you're able to go!

  9. So helpful, thanks so much for sharing the details. Honestly, your food and booze expenses don't seem high to us at all. We spend an inordinate amount on food, no matter where we are! :-)) I hope we do as well as you did when we make the big trip....