It’s no secret in the travel industry that planning a family vacation takes time, lots and lots of time. Busy parents and grandparents may have more tools available in the form of web-based resources, but all this information can also be confusing.
The Alaska market is strong and growing stronger, particularly within the realm of family travel. How do I know? The emails are flowing thick and fast to my inbox as moms and dads struggle to discern between what they can afford to experience, and what they cannot afford to miss.
Alaska is a place of trending adventure travel, both in the “soft” (think mid-level hikes, kayak excursions, bike rides, and such) and “active/hard core” realms of experiential vacationing. Families are wanting both and companies are responding to the desire of parents to not just show their kids a place, but immerse them in it.
My predictions for 2017 travel lie in a few different areas that should appeal to every demographic of traveler with nearly any budget. Granted, getting to and from Alaska is often a deal-breaker for many families, but even then the seasonal arrival of airlines like JetBlue make the sting of flight costs a little more tolerable.
Trends for families:
- Multigenerational tours. The idea of traveling with grandparents, children, and grandchildren is not necessarily new, but is growing in popularity as grands seek to woo their young people away from technology and into the wilderness for uninterrupted family bonding time. Companies like John Hall’s Alaska are offering trips just for families and young people in 2017, taking the concept of “family” to a new and attractive level.
- Small ship cruising. It’s no secret I am a fan of the smaller cruise ship, mostly for the intimacy these trips afford, but also for the level of individual attention with regard to activities. Companies like UnCruise Adventures and Alaskan Dream Cruises make it easy enough for the entire family to board in one place and disembark a week later with more together time than a larger cruise ship. The reason? Everyone stays together and plays together, with hikes, kayaking, paddleboarding, and exploring as a cohesive group with plenty of free time to relax and take a deep, weeklong breath from the daily busyness of 21st century life. Plus, those little boats can nose into coves and near glaciers the big guys can’t. And that’s something in itself.
- SUP and kayak adventures. Speaking of water, the hot tickets for 2017 are looking squarely at water-based activities. The SUP (stand-up paddle board) trend has reached Alaska and both the freshwater and saltwater locales. For those wanting a serene paddle, a kayak day trip provides up-close opportunity to see wildlife and coastline you only dreamed about. It also accommodates many levels of physical ability. SUPs are a way for bigger kids or the adventurous littles to explore from the deck of a board, giggling away as an otter floats nearby or a bobbing seal sticks its head up to the surface.
- Glaciers. Alaska’s glaciers have seen a lot of attention in the past year, especially since President Obama stood at the toe of Exit Glacier and proclaimed its value to the symbosis of our planet during a 2015 visit. From Southeast Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park to the flanks of Denali, glaciers represent the grandeur of our state, and an Alaska family adventure should include a visit to at least one or two. And, by the way, national parks are still a big draw in Alaska, with the continuation of the #findyourpark hashtag combining with efforts to engage kids through Junior Ranger and other programs.
- Independent exploring. Yes, you can. Alaska is huge, no doubt about that, but with a bit of focus and clear expectations about what you will see during the typical 10-day family adventure, an indie trip is not only possible, but affordable. Tips: Rent an RV and create amazing meals inside your cozy home-on-wheels for tangible savings. Walk on board the Alaska Marine Highway System, or bring bikes, and travel the way so many new arrivals to the 49th state did “way back then.” This is by far the best way to become acquainted with Alaskans, too, as we love our Blue Canoes. Bring your own food, or eat in the cafeteria, but this is a family travel treat your kids will always remember.
- Visit AKontheGO’s Family Approved Business listing for a lineup of companies we trust. Have an idea for others that should be on this list? Shoot us an email and we’ll talk. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Consider the seasons. Try fall for lower prices and stunning scenery. Spring is good for baby animals and the occasional (OK, more than occasional) snowfall. Skiing at Alyeska is usually pretty fine then, too. Summer will be the costliest in terms of admission prices, hotels, vehicle rentals and just about everything else. If you can swing a school breakout, try it.