Break It Down For Peaceful Family Travel in Alaska

Just to remind us what we left behind...The view from our lovely bungalow in Hawaii Kai

I wish you could have been at AK Hacienda this morning to witness post-Hawaii-vacation-angst at its finest, courtesy of AK Kid. If I only knew where the camera was packed….

Kids and travel generally go together like peanut butter and jelly, but even the most affiable child will become tired at some point. It takes a lot of energy to be away from familiar people, sleep in a different place, and try new activities, so for many kids, the insuing meltdown after a full docket of going and doing, no matter how fun, is simply a way of saying “Enough!”

We’ve learned over the years how to structure trips to be full of fun, you betcha, but AK Dad and I also are firm believers in allowing for downtime, especially in Alska, where a big state with big fun can equal exhausted kids in no time. Below are a few ways we’ve found to mitigate crankies while traveling around the 49th state:

1. Balance old with new. For most kids, following a familiar routine is comfortable, no matter how much they might balk. Vacations are the perfect opportunity to follow-up on the mundane little things; brushing teeth, baths, and stories. Factor in these evening activities while on vacation to Alaska, where, remember, darkness falls very, very late (or not at all). The surroundings may be new, but the routines are the same. Good.

Playing "house" after a big hike.

2. Choose one big activity or attraction per day. Hear me now; you will never see everything in Alaska on one vacation. Period. Amen. Sit down together while planning the trip and agree on what sights are the most important to your family, then arrange accordingly, trying to accommodate everyone’s ages and stages. Relax for the remainder of the day by swimming in the hotel pool, coloring, reading, or wandering the hotel/resort grounds. Hey, why not ask us for recommendations in the communities you’ll be visiting? Shoot us an email at and we’ll set you up!

Taking time to wade in the water

3. Research tours carefully. Tours in Alaska are notoriously long for children. Often beginning at 7 a.m. and not returning until late in the evening, many tours whisk visitors from one sight to the next without allowing much time for anything but a brief photo opportunity. Little legs (and many big ones) need time to stretch, and minds need time to read and absorb the wonderous things spread out before them. If you choose a guided tour anywhere in Alaska, ask about time for snack/bathroom breaks, free time, and their policy on children. How many families do they serve each season? How can they help make it worthwhile for your family? We love Salmon Berry Tours, whose approach to kids is ever-evolving to meet the needs of multi-generational travelers.

Stop and smell the dandelions during your family vacation!

3. Create a “down day.” Sleep in, enjoy a lingering breakfast, read the newspaper, then give kids the key to their day. Visit a local park, library (weekly story times are awesome), or free community event (Anchorage Downtown Partnership offers a plethora of fun events during the summer). Immerse yourselves in the local culture and you might be surprised at your kids’ reactions to their day (like, awesome).

Vacatons are hard work for kids

4. Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to adjust your itinerary to reflect kids’ moods and energy levels. Usually toward the end of a trip, AK Kid becomes slightly comatose in the morning, our indicator that he has reached his capacity for fun. We’ll start days later, end them earlier, and avoid making big “finale” commitments, which have in the past have ended in catastrophe.

Alaska is beautiful no matter where you are or what you are doing. Keeping this in mind while planning helps create an equation for family fun in the 49th state.

Posted in General Travel Info, Health and Safety, Logistics With Kids and tagged , , , , .