Renting an RV through Great Alaskan Holidays was delightful and has instilled a love of RV travel. It wasn’t until I started researching renting an RV to explore my own California backyard that I realized how good we had it with Great Alaskan.
It’s been a while since my Alaskan holiday but let me see if I can put together a review of my experiences with renting from this company. The trip itself can be found under the trip reports but this will detail more of the actual renting and driving experience.
Reservation Details & Cost
To start, I reserved my 25″ Chalet many months in advance with a 50% off rental special. Eight day rental at the end of August with early September return was just under $700 with a pay-per-mile option for two adults. A bargain. Especially as the fleet are newer model vehicles and in great condition. We added insurance to cover misc damage (e.g. cracked windshield due to a rock), rented a premium grill, added some firewood and all total including all mileage charges we paid just over $1,100. Mileage is pre-charged at a rate of 100 miles per day. When you return the RV any differences are settled out of your deposit.
When I reserved the RV, I paid a $500 deposit which was refunded after the trip. The refund check was processed in a very timely manner and was less the additional 5 miles we drove over our pre-calculated allotment.
Since we arrived in Anchorage the day before we had a rental car so no need for transfers. The morning before picking up the RV we did nearly all of our shopping. There are numerous shopping centers near Great Alaskan with a Super Walmart, Costco and other stores easily accessible.
We were extremely detailed on our shopping lists as we were spending most of our time in Denali with limited shopping. In addition to food, we added some key things we needed in the RV including additional toilet tissue, paper towels, cleaning wipes, dish soap, hand soap, rubber gloves and the like.
The RV was extremely well equipped with everything you need for cooking, dishes, glasses and mugs. If you want a wine glass however you’ll need your own, but there was a wine opener. I also brought a pair of tongs and heat proof spatula which I can’t cook without. The only food item they provided was a filled salt & pepper shaker. I also recommend picking up a kitchen sponge and scrubber. We purchased paper plates and bowls since we’d be dry camping for numerous nights and wanted to conserve water.
Linens and towels were also supplied. Bottom and top sheet, blanket, pillow and pillow case. However, we found we could have used another blanket each and the pillows were rather hard. The bed above the cab gets rather cold at night and there are no mattress pads so you may want an additional blanket. Two sets of bath towels each were provided (body, hand and face). I believe two sets each are standard and additional may be rented. You will need all your own blow dryer, soaps, shampoos, etc.
Picking up the RV was extremely well-coordinated. I called a few days before the reservation to confirm all the details. Do not show up extremely early as this place runs on schedule. We arrived right on time and were immediately brought into a small video room.
The video is about 20 minutes long and covers the basics of the RV. Recommend you take a notebook! It goes very fast. If you forget anything though there is a manual inside the motor home for reference. That was basically it. Paperwork was completed, we conducted a basic walk-around inspection of the RV and we were sent on our way. Total time was about 45 minutes!
We spent another 30 minutes or so putting away our supplies. The refrigerator is larger than anticipated and there’s plenty of room for groceries. Lots of cabinets and cubbies to tuck things away. There is also a large storage compartment outside the RV that fits the grill, camp chairs, firewood, ice chests and our unpacked suitcases. One tip is to put your suitcase or the water hose provided with the RV in a garbage bag. You will end up getting things wet if you toss the hose back in the cabinet after use.
Driving & Fuel
Driving the RV took a few miles to become more comfortable. Definitely pay attention to the instructions on entering and leaving driveways – go at an angle! You’ll learn that one as soon as you leave the Great Alaskan parking lot. Initially I was nervous about that left turn out of the lot, but traffic wasn’t bad and it wasn’t a big deal.
Distances take longer in an RV. It was comfortable on the freeway, but we found overall we needed to add about 20-30% to estimated driving times. And, yes, these things are gas guzzlers! We probably managed 8 – 10 mpg and the first time we filled up was a bit of a sticker shock! First time I encountered the credit card $100 shut off, but at least you can begin another transaction.
Filling propane couldn’t be easier. Simply pull your RV up to the propane station making sure your propane access is near the tank and go get an attendant. That’s it, as they do the rest.
Tank Capacity & Dumping
The tank capacity on these rentals is very generous and sufficient to handle several days of dry-camping but you’ll likely have to visit a dump station. Which incidentally you don’t have to dump before returning the RV. Campgrounds seem to come in three options: 1) no hook ups, 2) water and electrical, and 3) full hook ups. I’ll start in reverse.
No hook ups (dry camping). This is what you’ll find in Denali and many of the state and national parks throughout Alaska. You’ll rely upon your house water and need to monitor your tank levels.
Electricity will come from your on-board generator and your house batteries. To use the generator you plug the electrical cord into the generator outlet located inside the electrical compartment. The generator is needed to run coffee makers, toasters, microwaves and any electrical device you brought yourself (pc, cell phone, iPad, camera, etc). The house batteries run the lights and that’s about it. House batteries may be recharged by either running the RV engine or the generator. But note that the generator charges the house batteries minimally. During generator hours we typically ran the vehicle motor for some time.
We could easily do 3 days of dry camping by really watching water use. We didn’t have issues with fresh water or the black tank, but kept an eye on the grey tank. This was how we camped most of the time with a few stops at dump stations.
Water and electrical. We had this the first night. Upon pulling into the campsite we plugged our electrical line into an outlet and hooked up our provided water hose to the water source and the intake valve on the RV. This meant we weren’t using our house water for showers. But the grey and black tanks were being filled. We visited the dump station when we left to empty our grey tank so we could enter Denali with empty waste tanks.
Full hook ups mean you’ll connect to provided water; connect your sewage hose from your RV drain and insert it into the dump access opening up your grey line; and plug your electrical line into the provided outlet. Your black tank will not be open but grey water will run right out. If you’re there for several days you can dump your black tank before you leave.
The actual dumping process is pretty simply and this is where the rubber gloves come in. Don’t touch your sewer line without them! And, keep hand wipes close. The dump stations at Denali consisted of two stops, the first being the dump with non-potable water for rinsing and the second stop is for filling up water. The station in Denali was like a gas station with several service lanes and the last one was water only.
You line up your dump access to the ground drain. The sewer drain slinky is in the rear bumper and attached easily to the rv drain. After this is secure you drop several inches into the dump and drop the dump lid on top to help hold it down. We always saw additional rocks nearby to add some weight. I can’t imagine the disaster of having this thing slip out.
Once everything is secure you pull the lever to drain your black tank first. Always do the black first. It can take 5 minutes or more to drain the tank. You can easily feel the side of the slinky to tell if the tank is empty or not. Also have someone inside the RV check the tank gauges.
After the black tank is empty, close the level and open up the grey tank. This helps then “clean out” the slinky. After this is empty, disconnect from the RV and use the provided non-potable water hose to rinse out the slinky, remove from the drain and reinsert into the bumper. Be sure to cap off your RV drain with the dust cover and you’re done. Pretty simple.
Next you pull up to the potable water and using your water hose top off your RV water and you’re good to go.
Returning the RV
This is where Great Alaskan really shines. While you must refuel the RV and be on-time you don’t have to clean the RV. They ask you to place pots/pans in the drain board, put the manual on the dining table and remove all your personal items. But, no cleaning is necessary. We even left a few things in the pantry and refrigerator.
Fuel and propane need to be filled within 5 miles of the facility and to make it easy there’s a station just a block down that has propane.
Biggest thing to note is that the RV isn’t officially returned until they have finished their inspection so it’s best to return to the RV center at least 30 minutes before your return time (after you’ve refueled). The exterior inspection is very detailed. If you dented or damaged the RV they will catch it. I think our rep spent about 15 minutes peering at the sides of the RV from all different angles.
Once we were checked in they provided transportation back to the airport. All-in-all a perfect experience!