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In less than a week, reservation floodgates will open and eager will-be Alaska vacationers shall begin a frenzy of planning. From Alaska’s national parks to her hotel rooms, the 49th state begins to bustle come January 1 – not with people, but rather, their internet and telephone presence. With a short summer travel season that generally begins in May and ends the first week in September, Alaska’s accommodations, RV parks, campgrounds, and visitor experiences are in high demand, so knowing when, and how, to plan an epic family vacation is critical to an affordable and meaningful adventure in the Last Frontier.

Heading north with kids in 2014? Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve gleaned from years of back-and-forth Alaska family travel:

When will you come to Alaska? Here, a day cruise vessel chugs along in early June.

1. Set a date. Alaska travel calendars fill up fast with thousands of cruise, tour, and individual travelers planning a trip to this bucket-list destination.  Thus, if summer is your preferred time frame (as it is with many Alaska visitors), set the dates soon. Many tourism lodges, hotels, attractions, and the like open their 2014 season on January 1 for reservations, so clicking that website promptly, or making that phone call directly can save angst later on. Our tip? Try visiting early in May or waiting until September; special rates mean discounts on everything from lodging to fun.

2. Find the resources. Besides the obvious choice of AKontheGO (ahem), family travelers should try out the State of Alaska’s Tourism website, a catch-all place to help narrow down the options. Of course, you could also be the first to own a copy of my BOOK – Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th state with children, available for advance purchase in February. Hey, if you pre-order, I’ll even sign it (see top of our home page).

3. Narrow the focus. Family meeting time! Who wants to do what, and where? Drill down to the true essence of this Alaska vacation, and find activities to meet everyone’s sense of adventure. Each Alaska community has a visitor’s bureau, so consult them and ask for help planning your trip. Be sure to mention you’ll be traveling with kids; some cities have dedicated pages for younger visitors, and we sure do appreciate that!

4. Arrange transportation! Whether passage on a ferry or tickets to fly, getting to Alaska is often the most expensive aspect of a family vacation, and double that during the busy summer months. Follow my Alaska travel guru Scott McMurren and his Alaska Travelgram wisdom for all things flying, and pay attention to seasonal service by airlines like JetBlue and Frontier. You’ll save, save, save with a bit of research. Traveling via the scenic Alaska Marine Highway? Oh my, get those reservations today, especially if bringing a vehicle, and even more so if you’d like to recline comfortably in a stateroom during the voyage. Need help? Find the courteous reservations agents at AMHS here.

5. Know the hot spots. Certain Alaska destinations merit extra special care when making reservations. Places like Denali National Park, for instance. It’s remote, expensive, and terribly difficult to navigate without pre-meditated planning, so if you’d like to spend time in this lovely part of Alaska, do some homework now. The National Park Service has an excellent website for DNP, explaining all the details, services, and options for in-park activities. Other activities that merit advance reservations in Alaska include day cruises, Alaska Railroad tickets, and bear-viewing/flightseeing adventures.

Wonderful surprises around every corner in Alaska!

Still not sure? Read a few of our previous posts below for more ideas. And don’t forget, we’re always happy to help – email us at togoak@gmail.com!

Alaska-Bound? Find options for air travel 

Alaska’s Big-Ticket Attractions 

Denali National Park 

Happy traveling!

~EK

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