Don’t Be a Rookie: Five tips for Alaska vacation success

Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

First-time Alaska visitors, listen up. This post is for you. Whether you’re hopping on board a cruise ship or renting an RV, an Alaska vacation requires much forethought, and making reservations is merely the first step. For those embarking on their rookie Alaska adventure, AKontheGO has five valuable tips to help create a truly unforgettable 49th state experience. Much of this information can also be found in my book, Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th state with children, the only family travel guide specifically written for families, by the way.

FIVE TIPS FOR ALASKA VACATION SUCCESS

 

Get to know Alaska's flora and fauna during your vacation research. Each region is unique and offers something different! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Get to know Alaska’s flora and fauna during your vacation research. Each region is unique and offers something different. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

1. Know Alaska. This place is big, and if you want to maximize fun and minimize time on the road, in the air, or on the water getting to places with tired kids, knowing the state is critical to a successful trip. Bonus? Learning more about Alaska’s unique history and culture within the scope of its geographic regions is an excellent way to prep your kids. As I mention in my book, Alaska is unofficially separated into regions, each with a distinct weather pattern, history, industry, and recreational highlight. Note: You cannot see the entire state in a week. Repeat: Do not try to see everything in seven days; you will only exhaust your children and end up only superficially acquainted with Alaska.

 

Everyone, including the littlest travelers, has a preferred activity. Know it. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Everyone, including the littlest traveler, has a preferred activity. Know it. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

2. Know your family. Everyone has different interests, and knowing what, and where, everyone would like to enjoy Alaska provides a framework toward further planning. Are you a family of fishermen and women? Southeast or Southcentral are your destinations. Hiking high alpine ridges? Denali National Park may be a great choice. Hold a conference with all the resources and maps you can find, and plot your course based upon the majority rule of fun. Note: Smaller kids need a voice, too, so be sure to ask even the tiny members of the family, keeping in mind their stamina will be a major factor.

 

Expensive attractions like flight seeing should be planned to coincide with low or no-cost family fun. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Expensive attractions like flight seeing should be planned to coincide with low or no-cost family fun. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

3. Set a budget. An Alaska vacation can be an expensive, but hundreds of people craft wonderful itineraries with modest budgets, and the trick is compromise. Big-ticket items like flight seeing or dogsled trips can be pricey, but coupled with less expensive, self-guided activities like hiking or biking, can round out that bucket list. Refer to numbers one and two, above, and pick the “can’t miss” activities, then supplement with other, free modes of fun. Ask at the local visitor center upon arrival, and hit the trails!

 

Warm and dry is your Alaska wardrobe mantra. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Warm and dry is your Alaska wardrobe mantra. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

4. Pack wisely. Really, folks, if you’re visiting Southeast Alaska and have read the literature about places like Ketchikan, billed as the “rainiest place in the United States,” it would be prudent to bring rain gear. Alaska’s weather is fickle, but I’d rather stuff my suitcase with rubber boots, rain pants, hats, gloves, and a waterproof jacket than sit on the deck of a whale-watching boat, shivering with cold. Even if it is July back home (wherever back home may be). Alaska is not fancy. Alaska is not the place to worry about what you’re wearing. Alaska is the place to dress for rain, snow, wind, and sun (sometimes in the same day). Confused? Check out our packing list on the AKonthGO website.

 

Local parks and playgrounds are great places to meet local families, like this community space in Seward. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Local parks and playgrounds are great places to meet local families, like this community space in Seward. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

5. Get to know the locals. Cruising? Choose a port of call to simply disembark and walk around a community. Hit up a local park, take city-offered transportation, visit a farmers market, or settle in a coffee shop. Your kids will become acquainted with kids from a different state, and you have the opportunity to really and truly learn more about life in the Last Frontier. Ask questions, most Alaskans love to talk about things like bears, mosquitos, darkness, and snow. Really, we do. So ask us. The cruise ship docks won’t give you that kind of opportunity. Great towns for this include Juneau, Haines, Sitka, and in Southcentral; Homer, Anchorage, Seward, and Talkeetna. All have great playgrounds (and good coffee – hey, it’s important).

Embrace Alaska, and Alaskans will embrace you. We really are glad you chose our state for your vacation.

~EK

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2 Comments

    • Hi Barrett; if memory serves me correctly, the term ‘cheechako’ refers to one who has not yet spent a full winter in Alaska. I’ve been here for nearly 11. LOL. Thanks for the comment, and keep exploring!

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