It happens every year about this time. Holiday preparations complete, school out for a lengthy winter break (which means a less hectic schedule), and I have time to sit unimpeded at my desk and browse photos from the previous year. Seasons tangle together in the photo galleries of family trips <—-I so have to fix that in 2017 – take note, self…But every year there is someplace more interesting than the year before. I didn’t say “more exotic or expensive,” did I? Nope.
What were our favorite family trips? Those that provided…
- A new destination
- A new skill
- A new appreciation for the outdoors
- A new way of viewing the world
Perspective is, of course, everything, so introducing two fifth-grade boys to the flatness of the center section of our United States and witnessing their wide-eyed interest was indeed impressive. So was the gumption of AK Dad as he tackled the septic system of a 31′ RV from Winnebago, Iowa to Anchorage, Alaska. It’s the small things that matter, eh? And we did it. We also gained a new appreciation for Alaska’s outdoor spaces and the courage of families not familiar with camping, hiking, or wood stoves. Perspective.
So, then, the family trips that stand out are not fancy, nor are they without their share of failure. But that’s OK, because the essence of family travel does indeed include some stumbles within the scope of this world.
Here’s what made our year shine.
Great Alaskan Holidays Spring Adventure Package, May: What could kick off a summer in Alaska better than picking up a brand-new RV from the Winnebago factory in Iowa and driving the thing through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Alberta, the Yukon, and up to Alaska? Not much. Three weeks in a 31-foot RV with AK Dad and two boys meant lots of stops for parks, trails, swimming pools and campgrounds and we’d do it again tomorrow if an RV was available.
Alaska Huts Family Fun Camps, June and October: Mix five families of various outdoor recreation experience levels, put them all in the yurts and cabin of Manitoba hut for a weekend, add geocaching, scavenger hunts, cooking, and a National Geographic Kids 100th birthday party for the National Park Service, and stir lightly. Wow. What a time! The next Family Fun Camp is scheduled for April 15 at Manitoba, and we’ll be learning outdoor survival skills, outdoor camp cooking, and perhaps building a snow cave or two. Stay tuned for the green light to sign up.
Kachemak Bay near Homer, June, July, and August: It seemed as if I was determined to explore every section across the bay from lovely little Homer at the end of the Kenai Peninsula’s Sterling Highway. The briny ocean calls to me, and I answer by pulling on my Xtra Tuffs and hopping aboard a water taxi. Bliss. Three destinations caught my attention in 2016; Across the Bay Tent and Breakfast in tiny, cozy Kasitsna Bay near Seldovia; Stillpoint Lodge in Halibut Cove, where I was treated to a bit of pampering and luxury; and Tutka Bay Lodge, where I learned that cooking and food have their own tempo if one is patient (look for a story of this experience in the spring issue of Edible Alaska).
I would also be remiss not to mention my day spent at Peterson Bay with the amazing folks of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. I spent a sunshiny afternoon hiking historic trails and exploring macroinvertebrates. No joke. And I even saw an octopus. Then the caretaker/naturalist let me spend the night in one of the center’s yurts, where I fell asleep to the delightful swoosh of waves and a gentle breeze. Bliss.
Read On the Fly – Books for traveling kids, June: If you’re saying to yourself “This is not a trip, Erin Kirkland,” you’d be absolutely correct. To a point. But have you ever picked up a book and been transported somewhere else? The moon? Ancient Europe? The 1800’s? That’s what books do, and that’s why I started Read On the Fly so kids can go anywhere at all. Big plans for the project in 2017 include Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and Juneau airports thanks to the ongoing generosity of Alaska Airlines.
There were, of course many other amazing family trips in 2016. The famous springtime “pop-up picnic,” day trips to a musk ox farm, a rafting adventure, and other adventures. You can browse the AKontheGO website from HERE and search all kinds of outings. Look for my weekly columns in the Alaska Dispatch News, too, and on the first Tuesday of every month, tune in to KTVA 11 Daybreak for the lineup from Alaska’s only #familyfunexpert.
Thank you for caring enough about kids and travel that you read AKontheGO. Together, we can grow stewards of the world, and wouldn’t that be a great thing?
Merry Christmas. I’ll be back next week.