It’s hard for many Alaska visitors to wrap their heads around summer in the 49th state. While their home state may be sweltering in a heat wave of epic proportions, Alaskans might be wishing for sunshine and temperatures above 55F. Or not.
Alaska weather is both unpredictable and beautiful, and should in no way interfere with experiences in the Last Frontier, but pack your patience. While rain, snow, or wind often means the mere addition of clothing or gear for many Alaska travelers, those utilizing small aircraft for their adventure must often yield to mother nature’s fickle personality.
Called “weathered-in” or a “weather-hold” by the Alaska bush plane community, clouds, fog, rain, wind, or ice can greatly affect when and where a small aircraft can travel. Conservative flying companies will wait rather than push the envelope on Alaska weather, knowing that the weather will always win, so travelers must be aware of potential delays lasting from a few minutes to several hours.
Parents, particularly, should always note weather conditions and be prepared to amuse kids in the event of a delay. Below are a few tips and tricks we’ve found to mitigate the Alaska weather waiting game:
1. Ask any flying service their policy for weather holds. Will they call the day before, if possible, so guests can be prepared for a longer wait? Inquire about waiting locations; do you have to stay at the office, or can you and the kids go play at a park or grab a bite to eat, provided a cell number is handy for a last-minute change of plans?
2. Pack small books and toys to keep kids busy while waiting. AK Dad brings a football so he and AK Kid can play catch just about anywhere. Some places, like K2 Aviation in Talkeetna, have a small playground (Win!) for kids.
3. Don’t forget the snacks. Waiting makes kids hungry, so packing a little extra for everyone, along with drinks, will make the time go faster.
4. Know when to say ‘when’. Depending upon your kids, the flying service, time, and your own level of patience, trying for another departure day can be the best decision you ever made. Ask about refunds for weather, as most companies are well aware of Alaska’s weather systems.
5. Stay loose. Set up expectations for a realistic, not guaranteed, Alaska experience. Just as it is never a sure thing you’ll see wildlife from your rental car, nor is it a sure thing you’ll ever get the wheels of the plane off the tarmac. Stay courteous, stay flexible, and remember that tour companies want you to have the best possible experience, with the highest level of safety!
NOTE: Today’s blog post comes to you from the office of Hallo Bay Wilderness Camp, located in Homer, where I am currently waiting, and hoping, for a break in the weather so I can head across Cook Inlet to the shores or Katmai National Park. I have my coffee, my laptop, and my positive bear camp mojo.
Wish me luck.