Intrepid AKontheGO’ers know how much we talk about preparation, because Alaska travel requires not only thoughtful planning for the trip at hand, but also long before the airplane ever touches down on the runway or one receives keys to the rental car; and that includes the RV. RRRRRRVVVV – the motor home, camper, or otherwise home-on-wheels rented by families visiting the 49th state. Got kids? You’ll want to pay attention to RV Travel Made Simple for Families, Part Deux.
Last week I spent an afternoon at Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage, taking a spin around this facility that manages to keep machines and equipment in such spit-spot condition that Mary Poppins would be proud to rest her bonneted head on their pillows. I talked about timing, about itineraries, RV sizes and a family’s needs. This week, I’ll dig deeper into the stuff you really need to know; stuff like, “How do I dump the waste tank? What’s gray water? What do we bring, and what will we get?”
You’ll be happy to know that concerning the first two questions above, Great Alaskan Holidays has a helpful “how-to” video that ALL customers must watch before they are allowed to lumber out of the parking lot on O’Malley Road. Everything from dumping that (cough) icky water to knowing how one swings the hind end of a 32-foot white and gray monolith around the corner of Costco (Ohhhh, WHO do I know that might have done THAT?), is covered. Easy as pie.
For the other stuff – I’ve got your lists; things to bring from home or purchase at a local store; and a list about things that will be provided, depending upon your ultimate rental decision. Ready?
BRING FROM HOME:
Comfort items for kids. Blankies, stuffed animals, pillow creatures, whatever will keep them cozy at night.
Tunes. Whether of the i-variety, or CD/MP3, you’ll want some traveling music. Add stories for kids, or, try a click-by-click tour of Alaska’s Glenn or Seward highways.
Toys and games. RV trips are perfect for family game night. Don’t forget books, either!
First aid and/or small emergency kit. Every parent should travel with a first aid kit, but add a few extras for Alaska, like duct tape, cash, packable rain ponchos, and hand warmers. Just in case.
Extra blanket or small camping curtains for long daylight hours that turn into endless nights of non-sleeping for kids unaccustomed to the Midnight Sun. Affix curtains using clothespins of clips.
Bikes or scooters. If you didn’t bring wheels with you, rent from one of several Anchorage-based outfits.
Map or Alaska Milepost. The Milepost is a very valuable resource for anyone venturing beyond Anchorage. It’s interesting, precise, and a great way to plan your trip. AK Kid loves to read it while we drive, an added entertainment bonus.
Phone charger. Don’t miss a minute of photo ops or Facebook uploads.
Headlamps. Alaska may be light nearly all the time during our long summers, but you’ll want a light for emergencies, or if you wish to read in the now-dark RV. Kids love ’em, too.
Optional: Sleeping bags. I know, I know, the company will provide bedding. But try making a bed in the cab-over compartment after a wiggling, thrashing kid has slept there; no hospital corners from me. Plus, a sleeping bag is more in keeping with the whole “camping” concept for kids.
PURCHASE AT STORE
Housekeeping items. Trash bags, small travel broom/dustpan (you can donate it before you leave Alaska), wipes, and paper products. We found it easier to simply go paper for the duration of our trip, even though the RV had a nice sink. It WAS my vacation too, after all.
Food. Sounds silly, but if you’ll be cooking most meals in the RV, you’ll want to stock up before you leave the big city. Don’t forget things like hot chocolate mix, coffee, juice, and easy-to-prepare ingredients. Anchorage has fantastic farmers markets too, so take advantage of our locally-grown produce!
Bug spray. Don’t forget it.
Optional: Cooler. Most RV companies forbid the placing of stinky fish in their refrigerators, so think about purchasing a cheap cooler at a local thrift store, then donating it back at the end of your trip.
PROVIDED BY RENTAL COMPANY
Please, be aware that not all companies are the same. Great Alaskan Holidays offers different products than others. But, in general, here’s what you’ll get:
Bedding, pots and pans, cutlery, plates/cups/bowls and such, for TWO. (see why I recommend paper?)
OPTIONAL AT COST
Not everybody wants the toaster taking up counter space, or a fishing pole, but if you do, here are some items of note:
Toaster, coffee maker, GPS, additional bowls, bedding, etc.
Consider the power inverter that will prevent blowouts of data from smart devices. I did not know one could cause an electrical catastrophe by charging up a device in an RV outlet. Oops. $4/week, and worth every penny.
Barbeque. And why not? You’ll want to cook up some camping grub now and again if the open campfire thing doesn’t work out.
Bike rack. Hit local bike trails or the campground loops. Your kids will love meeting new pals and burning off extra road trip energy!
Fishing poles. If you didn’t bring any, or just brought one or two, this is a great deal.
Chairs. If you’d like to cozy up to the campfire or relax in the sunshine, add deck chairs to your RV rental package.
Holiday roads are just around the corner, folks, so start your Alaska family travel lists today. Rentals can be made for 2014 on January 1!
I feel better, how about you?