PCS season is an interesting time full of both fear and excitement. You might as well throw in all the anxiety and panic that comes as well. In 2023 we spent about 8 months without a home, and by the end of the year we had lived in a combined 5 states and driven from Idaho to Alaska. So here is the story! Hopefully you find some tips and find this helpful if you are also planning a move to the Last Frontier.
From California to Idaho, Texas, and Georgia...
Our first duty station which wasn't technically our first duty station, was in Monterey, California at the Defense Language institute (see my blog post about Monterey). In March of 2023 Jeremiah (my husband, Army) left for further training. I was left to deal with the movers and I decided to take our son and live with my parents in Idaho. Though it was only supposed to be a 3-4 month training.... this is the Army and it ended up being 6-7 months. Finally, October came and he finished his trainings in Texas and Georgia.
The Road Trip
Near the end of October we had a plan and schedule to move to Alaska. Jeremiah was able to take a few weeks of leave to help with the move. We ended up using a U-BOX through Uhaul to move all the belongings I had in Idaho. Jeremiah, our dog, and I would take just over a week to drive to Alaska. My mom would fly our son up to meet us. Fortunately, we had family living near the base, so we had a place to go when we got there.
Day 1 Idaho to Northern Montana
On the first day we drove to Shelby, Montana. It was fairly uneventful and we stayed at a Comfort Inn (Pet friendly).
Day 2 Glacier National Park
On day 2 we woke up early and headed to Glacier. We enjoyed the park for most of the day, but left in time to cross the Canadian border and stay the night in Calgary at a Hampton Inn (small pet fee). Crossing the border was fairly easy. My pepper spray was taken though (haha). We each had a passport and vet records for Runi.
Day 3 Banff National Park
Again, we got an early start to see Banff. We easily could have spent more time here as well. We had to watch the weather through here, but luckily it ended up being good just long enough for us to get through. It was so beautiful, and we are so glad we made these stops. That night we stayed the night in Red Deer, AB. Once again we chose to stay at a Hilton with a small pet fee.
Day 4 Red Deer, AB to Grande Prairie, AB
On day 4 we traveled from Red Deer to Grande Prairie - about 6 hours of driving. Since we were traveling in October we planned our days pretty short to be safe. This was the only day we hit a snow storm and luckily we got out of it pretty quick. At this time of year, some parts of Canada require you to have snow tires, and we were grateful we had them! We saw several vehicles off the road and stranded. We stayed at a pet friendly Airbnb in Grande Prairie and wow, the weather was starting to get very cold!
(Pictures with the giant sundial in Grande Prairie)
Day 5 Grande Prairie, AB to Fort Nelson, BC
The drive to Fort Nelson was a little bit longer - about 6.5 hours of driving. This also puts you on the famous Alcan highway. We stopped in Beaverlodge to see the giant beaver and of course at the start of the Alcan. In Fort Nelson, we stayed at Lakeview Inn and Suites (they had a jacuzzi suite that we couldn't pass up!)
Day 6 Fort Nelson, BC to Watson Lake, YT
This was a beautiful drive with lots of caribou and bison encounters. The caribou were attracted to all the salt on the roads. We stopped in Toad River for gas and souvenirs. We also stopped at Liard hot springs to check them out. We decided against getting in since it was about 0 degrees, but there were others who enjoyed the springs! We got to Watson Lake with enough time to see the famous sign forest in daylight. We stayed in a little cabin at Cedar Lodge Motel that night.
Day 7 Watson Lake, YT to Haines Junction, YT
Another beautiful drive with a little bit of wildlife. We stopped in Whitehorse, where most travelers will stay, but we decided to go a bit further and stay in Haines Junction. We stayed at the Alcan Motor Inn (pet friendly, of course), which was very nice and had a little restaurant attached to it. (Pictured right: The wildlife cupcake in Haines Junction).
Day 8 Haines Junction, YT to Tok, AK
Crossing the border back into the states was easy. It was a pleasant drive with some more amazing views. We stopped in Destruction Bay to see the sunrise. In Tok, we stayed at the Burnt Paw Motel cabins. We also ate a highly recommended restaurant called Fast Eddy's.
Day 9 Tok, AK to Anchorage, AK (JBER)
Finally, we finished our trip! The roads from Tok to Anchorage were not the best. You can expect a lot of bumps and frost heaves, but it wasn't too bad at the time we went.
The road-trip was long, but breaking it up and finding places to stop and enjoy made it better. In the summer, you'll definitely have a different experience and could do it quicker if you wanted. I hope this helps anyone who might be planning their move or PCS to Alaska!