Alaska is unique in both environment and attitude; knowing what to bring, when, and where can mean the difference between a splendid or mediocre experience; or, in a worst-case scenario, a dangerous one. I am forever grateful to the cadre of parents, industry professionals, and seasoned travelers who have helped compile the following list (and more) as part of my book’s Parent ProTips. ProTips are short messages from smart people who have learned, occasionally the hard way, how to maneuver through the 49th state. Often funny and always valuable, ProTips will be a key element to Alaska On the Go: Exploring the 49th State With Children. So, as AK Fam prepares for yet another trip at the end of August to Kennicott Glacier Lodge, I had these and other ideas in mind. But here’s five, to start:
1. Always carry food and water to last an entire day. If you are on a road-tripping quest to see as much of Alaska from the blacktop or gravel tread of our frost-heaved roadways, you will undoubtedly encounter delays. Alaska has but two seasons, you know; Winter and Construction, and both mean slow going at times. Additionally, some stretches of roadways are void of another human presence for miles and miles and miles – meaning if you break down, nobody’s gonna stop and offer you McDonald’s. Pack plenty of non-perishables, water, and perhaps a lollipop or two to keep the kiddos quiet while you and your partner figure out what to do. Oh, and those road conditions? Visit Alaska 511 website and hotline for updates.
2. Buy a car charger for the phone. A smartphone’s only as smart as its, er, operator. Between uploading fantastic photos to Facebook and calling your in-laws to neener-neener them about seeing a bear cross the road, that so-called smartphone is going to lose power faster than you can say “Winter Solstice”. What a bummer if your automobile or RV breaks down and you have no battery life with which to call for assistance, not to mention all the photo/video ops you’ll miss. Oops. Forgot one? Try Alaska Communications; with stores statewide, they’ll likely have what you need.
3. Be up-to-date with a Milepost. Not just a map, The Milepost has been the Alaska/Canada traveler’s companion since the 1950’s, and is kept current with lodging, food, fuel, and potential road hazards. Plus, it’s an excellent navigation tool for youngsters who want to learn more about where they’ll be heading, next. A new, online version makes it even easier to refer to geographic-specific areas, but again, don’t rely on cell/wireless service. Buy a hard copy; it’s more fun anyway. Every Costco in Alaska (well, the three we have) stocks Mileposts, just ask for it by name.
4. Cash and carry. Or, carry cash. Believe me when I say some places don’t accept credit cards. Bring at least $50, in small bills ( I sound like a gangster, don’t I?), and stash it away for emergencies, like the morning you wake up after a rainy night of camping with children and the fire won’t start. Who’s ready for a latte?
5. Duct tape. Laugh if you will, but the silver bullet of all fasteners is indespensible in Alaska. Use it to tape rain pants to boots when playing near the water; fasten a tent to the deck of an Alaska ferry; clean sled dog fur off your new fleece jacket….the list goes on and on. AND, friends, you’ll look like one of us, which has merit. Duct tape = real Alaskan. True story.
What’s your favorite, must-have, Alaska travel item? Shout ’em out, this is a forum for discussion, you know.