Bear! Why having a camera is more important than underwear in Alaska

Phone Photography


Denali Grizzly taken with phone camera

Typically, I would never advocate going on a trip without an adequate supply of underpants. However, if space is an issue and you are left choosing between your phone's extra charger, a favorite camera lens, or a spare battery versus bringing extra tightie whities... guess what I would jettison in a heart beat? On our recent trip to Alaska, my twelve year old daughter took this amazing picture of a young grizzly bear! She used her LG G3 (13 MP) cell phone camera from inside a bus. Earlier in the day, she had been hogging one of the few outlets in our lodge room to charge her phone. I think we were all glad that her phone was primed and ready to go when she got that amazing shot.

Same bear taken with iPhone 7 through rain-streaked window

We were doing the 12-hour Kantishna Experience to the end of the park road in Denali National Park. This is a long school-bus ride that takes you to Mile 91.  Along the way we saw a mother grizzly and her two cubs, the grizzly pictured above, a nursery herd of over 100 caribou, lots and lots of Arctic ground squirrels and a fox. We also saw amazing views of Denali.  The day started with clear mountain views but ended with quite a bit of cloud cover.



I used to travel with an ancient and very heavy Nikon and its equally heavy lenses in their beautiful hard leather cases.  It took gorgeous film photos.  However, I do not currently  Need better photos than what I get with my little mirrorless Sony Alpha or iPhone digital cameras. It is a tradeoff that I can live with in order to pack light. The next post will show more of Denali National Park viewed through the 55-210mm Sony lens. You can be the judge as to the quality of the shots.




Packing for a 14-day Off the Beaten Path Alaskan Cruisetour

Star Princess

We just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Alaska. It was a one week "Voyage of the Glaciers" cruise from Vancouver, B.C., Canada through the inside passage visiting Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, College Fjord and disembarking in Whittier. From there we traveled to the Kenai, Mt. McKinley, and Denali Princess Lodges and then on to Fairbanks.


Rainy day in Ketchikan

Bringing carry-on luggage-only is my preferred way to travel light.  Even for a two week trip to a cold climate and two "formal" nights onboard, we were able to manage very nicely with our small bags. We flew on Alaska Airlines from Phoenix to Seattle to Vancouver and on the return from Fairbanks to Anchorage to Seattle to Phoenix.

The Alaska Airlines website states:
"The maximum dimensions for your carry-on bag are:
Length - 24" (61cm) including wheels and handles
Height - 17" (43cm)
Width - 10" (25cm)" 


This is my husband's luggage for the trip.  His "personal item" is the camera bag and this wheeled bag fits nicely in the overhead compartment of all commercial jets. He wore his jacket but would have been allowed to carry it on as it does not count towards the baggage allowance.
22.5" x 14" x 10.5" Carry On 
If you have bulky formalwear than it will be difficult to pack everything in a carry-on bag. Also, if having a full tux is your preference, then you will want to pack that in a suitable bag or rent one for the formal nights.  Some cruise lines no longer have formal nights. However, dressing up can still be a fun way to celebrate your vacation, so you may want to bring some fancy duds.


Windy days on Whale Watching Expeditions
We experienced very cold, very windy, very rainy, very sunny and very mild days on our trip. From what the various tour guides said about the weather, that is all "very normal!" Our packing list was created knowing that we would do laundry once whilst on the ship.  There are self-service laundry facilities on most cruise ships.  Washing a few things in your stateroom bathroom sink is another alternative.  If we were returning home after the 7-day cruise portion, we would not have needed to do laundry.  It is nice to not have to pack shampoo, conditioner, soap, and hand lotion because they are usually provided onboard. Therefore, they are not included on the list. Remember, you will have your traveling outfit to use for mixing and matching with the packing list items.  In order to save room in the luggage, we try to wear some of our heavier clothing and shoes while traveling.

Packing list for Alaskan Cruise - men:

7 pairs socks and underwear
1 pair dress slacks
1 pair jeans
1 tie
1 packable dinner jacket
3 polo shirts
undershirts/t-shirts
1 or 2 long sleeved shirts
1 buttoned-downed shirt
1 swimsuit (hubby did not bring one because he would not go swimming on an Alaskan cruise)
1 pair dress shoes
1 rain jacket with hood or bring separate rain hat/cap
1 sweatshirt or pullover sweater
1 small umbrella if traveling to area with many rainy days and you do not mind carrying an umbrella
1 set pajamas - if you wear them at home
Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, comb
Vitamins, medications, etc.

Packing list for Alaskan Cruise women:

7 pairs socks/hose and underwear
1 bra
2 pairs slack/pants or 1 pants and 1 shorts or capris or jeans
1 formal or cocktail dress
1 skirt
1 cardigan sweater or lightweight dressy jacket
3 short sleeved shirts
1 or 2 tank tops or shells depending on your style and comfort needs
1 or 2 long sleeved shirts
1 blouse or nice shirt to wear with skirt
1 swimsuit (I did not bring one because I knew that I would not go swimming on an Alaskan cruise)
1 pair nice dress sandals or pumps
1 dressy scarf or other accessory to dress up an outfit
1 rain jacket with hood or bring separate rain hat
1 sweatshirt or pullover sweater
1 small umbrella if traveling to area with many rainy days and you do not mind carrying an umbrella
1 nightgown/pjs
Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, brush, comb
Makeup, personal care items, hair products
Vitamins, medications, etc.

My twelve year old used her backpack from school as her carry-on and did not bring a personal item for the plane. She also packed more than what was on the above lists because she has smaller clothing and it fit in her bag!
We share sunscreen and some other items so that our 3-1-1 TSA bags are fairly evenly distributed amongst ourselves.  Each of us also has a phone or tablet (or possibly both) pre-loaded with reading and audio material.
I would skip the skirt and iPad, if I were to do this trip again.  Aside from that, this was a pretty good list for us. Your mileage may vary.




Bear! Why having a camera is more important than underwear in Alaska

Phone Photography Denali Grizzly taken with phone camera Typically, I would never advocate going on a trip without an adequate ...