In two weeks, AKontheGO will be entering a new phase of Alaska family travel. A journey that started with a wiggling bundle of toddler energy has now transitioned onto a different path, albeit a very exciting one, with enough twists, peaks, and valleys to both energize and frustrate us. It’s time to travel with a ‘tween.
AK Kid turns 10 on October 23, it has become abundantly clear to AK Dad and me that sometime over the summer, my little boy slipped into the body and habits of an almost-teenager. And what a ride it’s been. Tweens, kids in the 10-12 age range, now have their own development category, monniker, and acceptable means of activity. Within the realm of a family vacation in Alaska, those attributes can be expressed with full-force enthusiasm, making the 49th state a perfect platform to move, groove, and kick up a notch the usual sightseeing methods. But I’m not there, yet. I’m just getting used to the idea of this whole thing.
What have we learned about tweens and Alaska travel thus far?
1) Tweens need space. Thank goodness we purchased a trailer with two bunks in the back. AK Kid can stretch out in his own bed and read, listen to music, and chat up his pal with little parental interference. This is a great age to allow tweens the use of their own tent, if you’re camping. The mere concept of walls to themselves is very valuable to this age group, who are growing up and wanting more privacy.
2) Tweens love to have peer support. Siblings are great, but tweens desire friends to accompany them on vacations, where appropriate. You know, someone with which to roll eyes, giggle, or ride bikes around the campground. We’ve been bringing buddies for our last several trips, and for AK Kid, the only child at home, it’s been a much more pleasant experience. Just be clear about family rules, expectations for helping, and sightseeing together.
3) Tweens are always hungry. Good grief, my kid can eat, especially when we’re outside and on the move. I pack an entire bag of snacks, boxed milk, and other protein-rich foods to keep the guys going. Plus, eating is always fun, especially in a picnic area or rest stop with space to run around.
4) Tweens like to be involved in planning and logistics. Newsflash: Your kids have different interests than anyone else – that’s what makes them so great! Allow tweens to plan an activity just for them, and go along with, smiling the entire way. While tweens may scowl and become embarrassed at some of the things we parents do, they also like to have parents close by for favorite activities, and new ones. Be there.
5) Tweens need to check out, occasionally. Family vacations are full of together-time, but when you’re a tween, all this family bonding can get a little overwhelming, especially when parents are becoming embarrassing and siblings, irratating. Allow them the freedom to check out for an hour or so at an agreed-upon time; listening ot music, reading, or even (gasp) playing a hand-held game might not be so bad if it is structured and limited. We pack a box of stuff just for these times, and have control of the smartphones with games.
6) Tweens have a great perspective, so let them document it. I make a living documenting Alaska through my eyes, but my tween’s? I’ll be perfectly honest and admit that until this year, I didn’t give it a thought. AK Kid pesters me to take videos and photos with my phone camera, so why don’t I let him? Sigh. That’s coming next. I love his voice, his awareness, and his eye for stuff I wouldn’t dream of photographing. It’s time I let him.
Alaska, for its part, begins to open up for the tween set within the realm of activities, too. Where kids before had to sit out things like ziplining or ATV adventures, they now can partake, increasing further the sense of independence and accomplishment.
And really, isn’t that what we want for them, anyway?
Wish us luck.
You might enjoy this post about Denali Zipline Adventures, too!