Good questions, considering the effort involved to get up here in the first place and given the current state of our economy. With spring break in progress down the Lower 48 way and summer whispering sweet nothings behind the ears, many families are trying to figure out a way to keep the ritual of vacations alive while not breaking the bank. People ask me all the time if it is worth the hassle (and cash) to schlep the kids up to Alaska for a week. My answer: it depends on you and your kids, and, to some extent, the size of your credit limit.
I will be the first to tell you that merely getting the whole kit and kaboodle up to the next-to-last state is not cheap, any time of year. What I wouldn’t give for Alaska Airlines
to cough up a little break for folks who dream of coming up here. That said, there are certainly ways around spending $10 Grand on airline tickets by using the famous Companion Fare offer, or coming up on the Off or Shoulder seasons, when flights are a bit more reasonable. If you are truly interested in getting an airline break, sign up for Alaska’s weekly, sometimes daily, updates on good deals. They can save a bunch of green stuff. Plus, they have a trip planner!
As far as the issue of whether or not to bring the little ones to a state that has nothing in the way of princesses with which to dine or malls to shop (at least to the magnitude most teenagers expect), this is a personal issue best addressed in a family meeting, or the therapist’s office.
Some families strive to step out of the box when it comes to summer vacation, preferring to expose their kids to every adventurous place on the planet, or at least, where the frequent flier miles will take them. Some do not like to venture too far from the comfort zone of hotels, tour buses, or pre-planned days. My own personal thought on visiting Alaska with children is based on experience: I know my youngest will not be able to do everything we do (and we are okay with that), and I know the oldest will not want to do everything we do (and we have been okay with that, too).
Bottom line? Plan, plan, plan. Match your interests with that of the area you want to see, and go from there. I will say that families have become more adventure-oriented over the last few years, and this can act to a family’s advantage when considering a day-long kayak adventure in Seward, or hiking up Hatcher Pass in the Mat-Su Valley. But, that said, taking a two-year old along on either of these outings will require extra vigilance, extra patience, and extra money for gear and possibly bribes (for you and the kid).
I love taking my children on trips. My kids love going on trips. But I have to ask myself carefully before making big plans; Is this going to be appropriate for everyone? What are the alternatives? Want to do that kayak trip, but little ones can’t manage the day? Try an hour tour w/ one parent, then switch off. Like hiking? Go up to Hatcher Pass in the car then stop along the road and frolic in the berry bushes for a while. Kids like berries, and they are an effective and sometimes tricky way to get them to hike further (don’t tell them that, however).
If you think you will only be able to manage one trip to Alaska in your lifetime, my sage (HA) advice is to bring the kids. Life is too short to leave them out of this one. Just plan it well enough so it doesn’t turn into a Griswold sort of week.
The Anchorage Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is probably the best Web site to visit for the initial planning. They have trip planning tips, kids’ activities, and even a weekly special you can sign up to receive via email. Find the link to ACVB here.