Traveling with Children
Long a destination for seniors and couples, Alaska is increasingly popular with families, and even the cruise lines have gotten into the act with all sorts of kid-friendly activities and childcare onboard the larger vessels. Disney Cruise Line began trips to Alaska in 2010, opening another option.
The small adventure cruise ships are primarily the domain of couples, and children can get in the way or become bored. They’re welcome on all state ferries, but parents need to keep a close watch due to the onboard hazards. Fortunately, the leisurely pace, engaging scenery, good food, naturalist talks, and free movies make the traveling easier.
Anyone traveling with kids today should consider bringing a portable DVD player, a laptop computer, or an iPhone with a stock of movies and games for those times when Mom and Dad want the kids just to quiet down. And don’t forget the headphones so you don’t need to hear Finding Nemo again.
Most attractions and activities have lower rates for children, and some also offer one-size-fits-all family rates. Be sure to get your children into the great outdoors since that’s really what Alaska is all about. The long bus ride into Denali National Park can be challenging for little ones, but the chance to see bears, moose, and wolves makes the trip worthwhile for everyone.
Of special interest is the Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program, in which children attend a nature program, hike a trail, or complete other activities. They’re rewarded with an official Junior Ranger patch and are sworn in. It’s always a big hit, but your kids may later try to arrest you if you get too close to a ground squirrel.
Be sure to set aside time for a special kid-friendly place such as the Anchorage Zoo, the kiddie train rides at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, the Mt. Roberts Tram in Juneau, or the one place all children love—H2Oasis Indoor Water Park in Anchorage.
Many tours are open to children, but the more hazardous ones (including helicopter flights, sea kayaking, white-water rafting, and zip-lines) impose age restrictions. Children are accepted in most Alaskan lodging places, but they will not do well in certain wilderness lodges or bed-and-breakfasts.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition