PARENTS OFTEN STRUGGLE to find a happy medium for vacations involving teenagers, but between sullen silence and spurts of uncharacteristic cheerfulness lies an excellent opportunity for the whole family to adjust to this new phase of life.
The concept formerly known as “family travel” takes on an entirely new look once kids who used to jump for joy at the idea of a week together suddenly look stricken at the mere mention of same. Drive ten hours to see grandma? Not. Spend a week at the Grand Canyon, singing cowboy songs around a campfire? Bor-ing.
Vacationing with teens should to be handled with the utmost care and attention. Older kids, caught in that desperate “come-here-but-go-away” chasm between childhood and adulthood, want parents to take care of them, but not too much, and not at all when other teens around. Especially if those other teens are attractive. Ahem.
Alaskan wildlife in its natural habitat - hanging out in the hotel common areas with bears!
A word: these are not your mother or father’s teen years; heck, they’re not even mine. External factors exacerbate situations that might prove difficult, or even unhealthy, and we fully recognize that. But teens still deserve the benefit of a safe, structured, yet somewhat-independent activity with their friends. My parents rocked this concept, so here are a few tips a’la “KTDGrandparentsontheGO”.
1. Set the stage. Does your teen’s group of friends enjoy outdoor recreation? Sit on the couch one night with a map and casually mention you’d like to take a short hiking, rafting, or biking trip and suggest a pack o’ teens accompany you. Solicit your teen’s feedback. Where would he/she like to go? With whom? This sets up a win-win scenario for all parties - teens feel responsible for the trip, and parents know exactly who is going, when, and where.
2. Establish boundaries. Adults are in charge, but kids should be able to voice their perspectives and preferences for such things as destinations, activities, transportation, and the like. Do make clear your family value system well ahead of travel regarding issues like credit card use, sleeping arrangements, entertainment, etc.
3. Encourage independence. Staying in a hotel? Let kids hang out in the common areas, the swimming pool and such (after frank conversations regarding expected behavior, of course). Alyeska Resort is fabulous for their willingness to accommodate packs of skiing, swimming, chillin’ teens, and they are also offering a springtime special just for such activities. Camping? Give teenagers a place to congregate near the lakeshore or fire pit. My folks used to score two campsites; one for us, one for them (we all had to sleep in the gender-segregated tents, just for full disclosure). It was great. The Alaska Marine Highway ferries are also a great teen-pleaser, with a theatre, game room, and plenty of places to be, without parental units. The Alaska Railroad is another gem of independence, featuring a dome car and cafe’ where parents and children can be near each other without any annoying hovering.
4. Take it all in stride. There will be days when all seems wrong with the world, the trip, and you. Allow teens to “take five”, away from the rest of the crowd. It is not the end of the world if your son or daughter suddenly decides he or she would rather skip the guided nature hike and wait for you in the lodge, ear buds firmly in place. Really, it’s not.
For more trip ideas, visit AKontheGO.com.
WHEN THE PRODUCER asked me to talk about spring skiing, the first thing that entered my mind was “Really?? One of the snowiest Alaskan winters on record, and you want me to try and sell parents on skiing - Just when we’re all dreaming about flip flops and shorts??” Couldn’t I talk about something else? Something, perhaps, with a sandy, surf-y, decidedly un-winter-y feeling to it?
March and April are often difficult months to encourage outdoor recreation with kids. Snow is either melting, or, as is case this year, still falling, even as the weather warms up. Most parents are truly weary of snowsuits, soggy boots, and misplaced mittens. Even the name for this season is a downer: Break Up.
But enough whimpering. Let’s go skiing. Snow fell, and now it’s lying all over the ground in record amounts. We might as well go outside and enjoy ourselves.
To be perfectly honest, if ever there was a favorite time to ski with my kids, it would be during the spring season, especially in Alaska, and especially this year.
I love to step outdoors just about now, and feel the difference between winter and spring. Snow is softer, a bit tired-looking, but still gracious enough to welcome my skis upon its grainy surface. The air is fresh with the scent of spruce tips, and the sky, on a bluebird afternoon, looks like it was painted that way, just for me.
Alpine skiing families can take advantage of spring specials around the state, making deals on everything from lift tickets to rentals to lessons. Kids are less likely to freeze fingers and toes on the chairlift, too. Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and Eagle Crest in Juneau both offer great lesson/lift packages that often include the gear. We also have spent a fair amount of time at Arctic Valley Ski Area, on an alpine hilltop above Anchorage. Arctic Valley loves spring skiing, too, so much that they throw a big party each year to celebrate, calling it the “Merry Marmot Festival” and offering tons of family fun, this year on Saturday, March 31.
Nordic skiers definitely should find a delicious-looking trail, groomed to cordoury perfection, and head out to become one with the forest and their children. Whether it’s the wide expanse of Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks or the forested loops of the Campbell Tract in Anchorage, an adventure among the dripping, sweet-smelling trees and chattering chickadees is a blessing, indeed. We’re actually packing for an epic day trip aboard the Nordic Ski Association’s Ski Train, departing tomorrow morning for historic Curry near Talkeetna, twelve hours of kid-pleasing exploration and a train ride.
Go outdoors for a change of scenery. Go outside because it’s springtime and snowy.
Go - because this is Alaska.
Follow the Kirkland family’s springtime adventures at AKontheGO.com.
WE LIKE TO visit cemeteries. Is that weird? Perhaps it’s my inexplicable need to connect with those who settled this far northern land, so long ago. Or maybe it’s the sepia-toned images I upload from my camera at the end of the day; visual reminders of who, and why these homesteaders, miners, Native Alaskans or soldiers lie beneath our feet.
When our family lived briefly in South Carolina, I wrote obituaries for a small-town newspaper. Visiting a cemetery in the deep south was visiting history. When we moved to Alaska that history expanded beyond that which I thought I already knew.
Just as southern gravesites were often divided between Black or White, Yankee or Confederate, so too are Alaskan cemeteries, although not necessarily by law. Culture, tradition or simple logistics play a large role, and discovering the backstory can be an exciting adventure while visiting the smaller communities of Alaska.
Do kids enjoy visiting graves, tombstones and the like? Certainly I cannot speak for all Alaska children, but mine seem to appreciate, if not enjoy, the chance to find the oldest grave, or sweep clean the surface of a small child’s headstone while learning more about the difficulties of living to old age 200+ years ago. Morbid? I don’t think so. Children will learn in school about such terms as “epidemic” or “war;” where better to see the direct result in a peaceful, serene, and beautiful setting?
Here are a few ideas for visiting the final resting place of interesting Alaskans:
Sitka National Cemetery: Set on a gentle, rolling hill above Sawmill Road in Sitka, the National Cemetery is a lovely example. At just over four acres, the cemetery features the gravesites of many notable Alaskans, like Territorial Governor, John Green Brady, who sat in the hot seat from 1897-1906. The cemetery was established between 1868 and 1870, changing hands a number of times before the federal government gained management rights and now oversees the maintenance and organization. Truly a soldier’s last, peaceful resting place, it was humbling to see the number of recent plots now filled in with the stark, white stones of the United States’ most recent conflicts, and we stood for a time beneath a fluttering American flag to offer our respects. Free. Open year-round.
Gold Rush Cemetery, Skagway: Not quite as somber a place as the Sitka site, the Gold Rush Cemetery features graves of scalawags like Jefferson Rudolph “Soapy” Smith, and the dude who shot him, Frank Reid. Located on the “other side of the tracks” across the White Pass Yukon Railroad yard, this cemetery is a fascinating terminus to the great Skagway Walking Tour, and fun (yes, fun) for kids. Set beneath old, twisted trees, with equally old grave plots, this little graveyard will be the scene for many a tale of old time Skagway. Find the cemetery by walking (or driving) up Alaska Street to 23rd Avenue, and cross the tracks to the parking lot. A great hike to Reid Falls can accompany your visit, up the 2 miles toward a rushing waterfall, and back again. Open year round, but obviously more accessible during the summer months. Free.
Eklutna Historical Park, Eklutna/Eagle River area: First created in 1650, this graveyard is dedicated to the Dena’ina-Athabascan people, and features beautifully-apportioned “spirit houses” to help the dead arrive safely in their next world. Tour the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, too, and see the blending of two distinctly different cultures. Bring bug spray. Take the Eklutna Exit off the Glenn Highway, head north to the park. Donations requested, open only during summer season.
Nome Cemetery: Yes, a stretch for most families, but if you ever find yourself in this little city, do stop by the cemetery, located on Cemetery Hill at the outskirts of town. Miners, homesteaders, and Native Alaskans rest comfortably here, which was not always the case during life. Epidemics like the diptheria outbreak of the early 1900’s took many lives, as did violence and the environment. The City of Nome has been working to improve the cemetery, but somehow, to me, I like it this way, with waving grasses and years of history tucked away underneath the crowberry patches.
History is here, and there. We need only to stop and look for it, everywhere.
Follow the Kirkland family’s adventures at AKontheGO.com
ONE OF MY primary reasons for establishing a family travel website was to help parents instill an abiding love of Alaska in their kids. Be they visiting grade schooler or local teenager, we believe all kids should have the opportunity to see, touch, hear and taste the unique textures of our state. Nothing fancy, mind you, just a simple, honest activity or two that helps build an appreciation for the 49th state.
I truly believe there is no such thing as a non-learning environment, especially while visiting a new place (i.e. on vacation), and Alaska, with its enormous expanse of land and extremely diverse ecosystems, is perfect for teachable moments, everywhere you look. But where, exactly, do you look? That can be a bit difficult in Alaska, land of cruise ships and tours, and literature geared toward the older traveler. But worry not, we've put together some great activities around Alaska that hopefully will fuel the fires of learning. Tried and tested on our own kid, hopefully your little adventurers will enjoy them, too.
Junior Ranger: Truly the National Park Service's best idea ever, the Junior Ranger program is present in all the popular Alaska National Parks: Denali, Kenai Fjords, Glacier Bay (if you're cruising), Sitka National Historical Park, Lake Clark, Wrangell St. Elias and Klondike National Historical Park. Preschool kids to teenagers engage in age-appropriate activities, park ranger interactions, conservation efforts and plenty of writing and reading to earn the coveted Junior Ranger Badge. Go ahead, collect them all.
Native Alaskan Culture: No matter where you visit in Alaska, strong ties to Native heritage are a vital link to understanding the relationship among Alaska's First People and those who arrived much, much later. Anchorage features the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Sitka has Sitka Tribal Tours, Ketchikan is home to the Saxman Native Village and Fairbanks offers wonderful insight at their Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center. Each facility centers around a different Alaska Native group, and each provides a valuable lesson in cross-cultural understanding.
Wild Lives: Animals are so important to the history and industry of Alaska, it's almost a shame most people forget to stop and learn more about them. The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage is perfect of all ages, with a wealth of classes and camps for kids; Portage is home to the fabulous Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center; Fairbanks' Creamer's Field takes children and parents on guided hikes through a boreal forest and Interior Alaska meadowland and the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka is the only place where injured or orphaned wild birds are given a new lease on life, including an indoor flight center. Don't forget Denali National Park's working sled dog kennel, either, where you and your kids can learn more about how vital sled dogs were, and are, to the health and safety of Alaskans. Cool, huh?
It's a big, wide, Alaska world out there, and it's not just for grownups. Get out and explore!
For more Alaska adventures, follow the Kirkland family at AKontheGo.com.
I REMEMBER CLEARLY the girl who always got to sit in the front seat when we went on school field trips. "I’ll throw up if I don’t sit in front," she claimed, tossing her brown hair behind her with an air of intestinal superiority. No one believed her until the day we drove to Outdoor School fifty miles from home, up a winding, narrow northwestern Washington highway after stopping for burgers and fries at a local greasy spoon. All I can offer now is gratitude that her mother was driving after the, well, evidence presented itself all over the red vinyl seats of her family’s station wagon.
Going places with kids involves motion, and whether it is via automobile, airplane, train or boat, some children (and many adults) suffer from travel sickness, causing untold misery for everyone. Motion sickness is the brain screaming an "I can't deal with it!" response to mixed messages from the body. During all this travel-fueled movement, fluid from the inner ear sloshes around and tells the brain one thing, while eyes focused on swiftly passing objects outside say something completely different. What’s even worse for some people is that other external cues, like heat, certain smells, frequent head movement and windy roads can exacerbate the already confused brain. So the body, amazing machine that it is, talks back in the only way it knows how; by throwing everything back out into the world--or your back seat, or on the guy in Row 7C.
Adults are lucky; many over-the-counter medications and prescription remedies are available to make the rocking and rolling of grownup stomachs feel better. From tablets to behind-the-ear patches, teens and adults can mitigate motion sickness to a certain degree. For parents of smaller kids, however, finding the right balance between prevention and execution is key to travel success. It is interesting that babies and children under two rarely experience motion sickness; probably because they often drop off to sleep as soon as the key is turned in the ignition. But if a baby is chronically cranky during travel, it might be he or she is prone to travel sickness. Here are a few tips (it might even work for older people, too) that don’t involve a trip to the pharmacy:
Take breaks. Frequent breaks every few hours (or more often) can bring the brain and body back into harmony and cool everybody down. Take kids out of car seats and let them run or crawl around for a bit before hitting the road again. Same theory applies for boats or airplanes; distraction can be a wonderful tool.
Try the sleep trick. With very small children, put them to bed and plop in car seats while still snoozing. Closed eyes mean a restful brain and body, and we like that. Even for big kids, sometimes a nap is just the ticket to feeling better. Discourage reading while on the go; this just sends more mixed signals and brings about headaches, too.
Support the Noggin. Providing adequate head support through a car seat, pillows or a travel neck rest can often prevent sickness, but for goodness sake, make sure babies have ample air to breathe.
Don’t let the sun shine in. Place a sun shade on the window closest to your child; this prevents overheating and encourages the eyes to look forward, instead of sideways at passing scenery.
Keep an emergency kit. A small plastic tub filled with plastic bags, wipes, water, soda crackers, ginger candy and the like can come in very, very handy should tummies refuse to be placated by the above advice.
Above all, don’t let motion sickness deter your family from traveling. Many children grow out of their affliction and turn out to be quite hardy little adventurers, but you must allow them the opportunity to do so. Take it slow and easy, and I’ll cross my fingers for you. Follow the Kirkland family on their (hardly ever sick) adventures at AKontheGO.com.
WHEN I FIRST began writing about family travel, I was surprised at the reticence of many parents to go places with their babies and toddlers. “It’s just so much work to travel that far to do things she won’t remember,” said one. “What will a toddler actually do on vacation?” asked another.
People, people; let’s recall a few basic rules about traveling with small children. One, taking a trip with an infant or toddler is not about said infant or toddler. We vacation with small children for a change of venue from our own busy lives, and the babies who accompany us benefit through relaxed, happy mommies and daddies. Two, even the most basic activities provide stimulation and interest for little ones, even if it’s a trip to a local park or museum to watch other people rather than actively participate. Our youngest saw much of the southeast corner of America snuggled in a front pack, missing every plantation and historical highlight from Charleston to Cape Canaveral, snoozing contentedly while the rest of us did our own thing. He survived, and so can you.
Below are a few ideas to help you successfully travel à la bebe:
1. Gear up. I am absolutely thrilled to celebrate the launch of Alaska Baby Rentals, an Anchorage-based, mom-owned company that provides everything from backpacks to jog strollers, making travel with babies or toddlers so much easier. I also like the ability to “try-before-you-buy”, so both you and your baby will be assured a comfortable fit for all sorts of experiences. As a general rule, backpacks/frontpacks are great for museums and hikes and other places where a stroller might prove cumbersome, or even dangerous. Jog strollers with larger, beefier wheels are great for wide, flat pathways, parks and many larger museums or visitor centers. Experiment before you leave on vacation to make sure you have ample room (or a willing volunteer) to carry extras like diapers, snacks, bottles, etc.
2. Allow sensory time. Headed to the beach? Allow your baby the opportunity to feel the squishy, wet sand between his or her tiny fingers and toes. Going hiking in southeast Alaska? Grab hold of a few Douglas Fir cones and let your toddler toss them around. Visiting a museum? Check out the organization’s website ahead of time and see what exhibits they have for smaller children, then plan your time accordingly. More and more facilities in Alaska and beyond are realizing the need to accommodate the entire family, not just the paying ones.
Go slow, allow time for kicking back
3. Take your time. Babies, like the rest of us, get tired after an entire day spent rushing from one activity to another. Make sure you provide time to just “be.” Visit a local playground, spread out a blanket, and allow your baby the chance to watch big kids swinging and sliding. Take time for naps and regular storytime/bedtime routines - everyone will be in a better mood.
4. Communicate with each other. Make sure other family members understand your goal of utter relaxation. Especially in situations of multigenerational travel (cruises are popular ways of gathering an entire clan for vacation), parents of babies and toddlers must be absolutely clear their expectations for a particular activity on a given day. Parents, too, should take time to chat with each other about “dividing and conquering” activities that involve a lot of time, energy and effort, or are appropriate for older kids and adults.
Travel is a testament to family fortitude, and what a wonderful gift to give as kids grow up. It’s never too early, I say.
Follow the Kirkland family’s adventures at AKontheGO.com.
IN MY MOTHER'S kitchen, a small, framed poster still hangs on the wall with the following phrase carefully scripted in old-style calligraphy:
“There are two lasting gifts we leave our children: one is roots, the other, wings.”
How did mom know I’d grow up with a desire to wander the earth, then return to sink my feet deep into the soil of home? I don’t think she did, but both she and my father lived by this proverb, and today, I do, too, although perhaps with a more unorthodox translation of “roots and wings.”
I believe travel is a taproot toward global understanding, with a singular sprout from one child’s essence maturing into a beautiful tree of shade and nourishment to others. Personal family values provide the anchor, but seeds from our experiences float into careless (or not so careless) breezes and offer flight for further explorations, later on. Wings.
Let me clear about one thing; our family travels without an intentional agenda to change the world. Like most moms and dads, my husband and I simply feel the need to walk away from our daily lives once in a while (okay, probably more than that) and visit someplace unique to our cozy, secure little world in Anchorage, Alaska. The world-changing part? That’s a bonus.
We do, however, travel with a desire to strengthen our son’s personal “root system” with us, his family. Our growing offspring sees his mother and father at their very best (or sometimes their very worst), and watches carefully, if unknowingly, to see how we handle complex scenarios. Planting roots takes many hours of intimate attention, you know, and it can be dirty work.
Travel also affords us time to rediscover each other as citizens of our community and world. What is important to each of us may not be perceived the same collectively, so making the effort to know our son as an individual now, before he grows up in the blink of an eye, leaves home, and wanders the earth on his own without returning, is time well spent. It’s easy to forget in the midst of carpools and homework and bedtime battling.
Know your roots, I say, but spread your wings. That’s love. Happy Valentine’s week.
Follow the Kirkland family’s adventures at AKontheGO.com.
IF I HAD a nickel for every time my son forgot to say “thank you,” I’d be one rich woman. I prompt, I remind, I even bribe (when necessary), especially on vacation. We are the guests, after all, and whether we’re across the country or at a campground across town, manners play an important role in travel stewardship.
It’s easy to let the most basic practices slide while vacationing. Moms and dads want relaxation and a time-out from the daily grind, and sometimes manners become the helpless victim. I’m as guilty as the next for occasional lapses in the “Please and Thank You” department, but after a few ugly incidents from our son on a recent trip to Hawaii, we had to engage in a family meeting to re-establish the sense of respect for both our location and the myriad cultures intertwined in tropical paradise, not to mention toward We the Parents.
Talking to kids away from others
reduces the embarrassment factor
Below are a few of our discussion points, and some tips to prevent (hopefully) your own “manner-meltdowns":
1. Set expectations early. Going out to eat? Discuss appropriate behavior and role-play potential scenarios at your own dinner table. Flying across the country? Talk about airplane manners of keeping feet and hands quiet, and how to talk with seatmates. Headed to stay in someone’s home? Refresh manners of picking up after oneself and conversing with hosts. Do have a “last minute” chat just before arrival. Will they shake hands, or say “Nice to meet you”? Be clear and consistent.
2. Take time to learn about your destination. Especially important when traveling overseas, knowing a bit about culture and mannerisms can be valuable, and interesting, to kids. Hand gestures, eye contact, and other traditions are important, and show your commitment to visiting that particular country or community. Also remind kids that a smile goes a long, long way almost anywhere.
3. Eat out with confidence. Well, maybe not confidence, but at least with the appearance of such. Play “restaurant” at home, and teach kids to order their own menu items (with your approval, of course), how to ask for salt and pepper, and what do to with that “square of cloth on the table.” Be sure children know what items are forbidden, and which are special treats after they finish a meal. Remind of the “please” and “thank you” rule, of course. If visiting a different country, have kids practice ordering in the native language, most wait staff love it!
Ordering their own drinks is one way kids can learn to exert their independence when eating out
4. Correct quietly, yet quickly. Kids will be kids, and sometimes they just can’t remember all the rules. Take your little offender aside and remind about the rule, and lay out expectations for behavior one more time, preventing embarrassment. If an all-out tantrum ensues, remove the child completely from the situation. Avoid making empty threats of “I’ll take you out of here if you.....” Kids are not dumb; they’ll figure out you don’t mean it and keep right on a’ misbehavin’. Who’s relaxing then? That’s right, nobody in the place, especially you.
5. Appreciate the effort. Smile, they’ll get it, eventually. Show good manners yourself and they’ll follow along.
Follow the Kirkland family’s adventures at AKontheGO.com.
FOR MOST AMERICANS of a younger generation, the rousing cry of “Remember Pearl Harbor!” does not stir the soul much. December 7, 1941 is still a date to be recognized and memorialized, but now, in the wake of our own generation’s tragedy, and through the passings of Pearl Harbor survivors, events surrounding WWII are slowly fading into mere words upon a textbook’s page. I worry about that. So this week, our family visited Pearl Harbor and the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument so that our son could experience, firsthand, that day, at that place, so far from Alaska.
Still one of the most-visited sites in all Hawai’i, the collection of Pearl Harbor historical sites requires a full day to truly understand circumstances leading up to the destruction of the harbor, airfields, and surrounding residential neighborhoods of Pearl City and Honolulu. It’s an immersion into the emotional peaks and valleys for Americans, as well; confused and frightened by events that took place far from the shores of the mainland. Americans were called to duty both at home and abroad - to “Fight the Good Fight” and do whatever it took to support the United States military in the name of Pearl Harbor.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, during his famous fireside chat of December 9, 1941, said “We are now in this war. We are all in it - every single man, woman, and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history.” We found that quote, my son and I, while wandering the new visitor center and grounds of the National Monument.
Waiting for our launch to the USS Arizona Memorial on Ford Island, the grounds’ many interpretive signs and structures provide ample opportunity for reflection, even with smaller children. The most striking moment came in the “Contemplative Circle” just west of the theatre, in full view of the Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri. Talking is discouraged as visitors read quotes from sailors, civilians, and American leaders whose lives would never be the same after December 7. Some guests were relatives of survivors who had recently passed away, some were survivors themselves, taking their turn volunteering at the site, answering questions but mostly shaking hands with grateful visitors.
Now that our son can read, exploring historical sites in general holds more value. On his own, he read, one by one, inscriptions upon the gray, concrete walls of the Contemplative Circle, then walked to the center and stopped. Any doubt that a seven year-old could understand the magnitude of Pearl Harbor melted as I watched him look across the water toward the USS Arizona, hands clasped behind his back.
Children need to see places like Pearl Harbor; they will “get it” if you allow them time to get it. Sometimes, it’s merely the atmosphere. Sometimes, it’s the people. Pearl Harbor offers both.
If you go:
What: The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is the main portal for experiencing the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Oklahoma Memorial, USS Bowfin submarine, USS Missouri, and Pacific Air Museum. All are appropriate for children 5 and up, but there are height restrictions for the submarine. Buy a pass and save significantly. Since the Oklahoma, Missouri, and Air Museum are on an active Naval base, a shuttle bus will transport you.
Where: The site is located in Pearl City, about a 20 minute drive from downtown Honolulu.
When: The site is open from 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; all tours of the USS Arizona are timed and visitors must possess a ticket from National Park Service staff (FREE). Arrive as early as possible; the environment is clearly less crowded, and the views utterly spectacular. Plan to spend at least two hours at each site. Bring a picnic lunch, snacks, water - and take your time.
You can follow the Kirkland family’s Hawaiian and Alaska adventures at AKontheGO.com.
WE'RE OUTTA HERE. Gone. Up, up and away. The destination seems rather obvious now, as snow piles up and temperatures plummet. We’re joining the scores of winter-weary souls who exchange parkas for flowery shirts and fly six hours west toward tropical bliss. Hawaii. Sun, sand, and a decided lack of anything smacking of snow or ice.
This is the first time our family has made the break for warmer shores since our move to Alaska seven years ago. Usually, we are exploring our own state during the winter months, not running away from it. But due to a particularly tough 2011 for our family, and an equally tough year, weather-wise, we decided to take the plunge and bug out.
So THAT'S how you dress to fly to Hawaii from Alaska.
It’s been a bit of a struggle to pack, for all the simplicity of traveling to a group of islands where average January temperatures hover near 75F. The confusion arises in the form of my chronic obsession with overpacking - easy to do in Alaska since wintertime travel requires so much stuff. We're used to bringing along boots, pants coats, mittens, hats, more mittens, socks - the list is endless and still I end up using most everything I jam into our giant, green duffel bag. But Hawaii? I don’t even know where the summer clothes are, much less possess the brain power to comprehend that, in 24 hours, I will not be shoveling my driveway wearing three layers of insulation.
Flip-flops for the kid? Okay, found those, but hmmm, they seem to have shrunk since August. Either that or the boy grew two shoe sizes. Better go to the store, and while I’m at it, better stop by the apparel section and buy a few pairs of shorts for him, too, because those shrunk as well. Sunscreen? Nada, and what store in Alaska is actually going to be stocking Hawaiian Tropic SPF 50 in January? This is going to be harder than I thought.
Is this what Hawaiian kids wear, mom?
My husband, self-proclaimed Chairman of this trip (a nice change), hollered down the hall that he made reservations at a luau, so I’d better pack something “Hawaii-nice - maybe a dress?” A dress? I have a Skhoop, will that work? Back to the store to find something that hopefully won’t show too much of my winter-white, obviously non-Hawaiian flesh. Meanwhile, said husband was busily packing every flowered shirt he had ever worn at college parties back in the 1980’s, along with a tired pair of Birkenstock sandals from those same years. Oh dear.
I was about to give up when a friend stopped by, saw my wild eyes, then rolled her own. “All you need is a few pairs of shorts, swim suits, sandals, and stuff like that,” she said patiently. “Nobody cares what you look like, because they’re all too busy doing Hawaii stuff. Plus, if you forget something, just buy it there.”
What’s that I always preach to my family travel audience? Oh yes, flexibility, going with the flow, taking it easy. Doing rather than worrying (verbs I interchange with regularity). I have a feeling this trip will be valuable in so many ways, starting with that suitcase.
Looks like they made it! Follow more of the Kirkland family’s Hawaiian vacation at AKontheGO.com.