When I was a teenager, vacations with my parents meant schlepping along the boom box, a huge “portable” stereo that took six batteries to bring it to life. It played the radio and cassettes, and if we were lucky, would make it from Seattle to Montana with a stash of mixtapes and a couple of John Denver’s greatest hits (to appease my mother). Ah yes, traveling with big kids.
I always felt as if my folks were compromising on a long-held principle of actually conversing with each us while road tripping I-90. They allowed music at a reasonable decibel, and we didn’t argue about being bored (this was before Walkmans, even). These days, however, kids and their nano-technology allow them the luxury of plugging in, tuning out, and missing a potentially great vacation with their (ick!) parents. Alaska is one of those places that naturally seems to engage kids despite their age or stage of development, and sometimes parents need to simply pack up and head out to a place where the cell phone won’t work, the iPod won’t charge, and the best sounds come from Mother Nature instead of Justin Bieber.
If wilderness-with-luxury fits your family’s budget and comfort level, try Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge on beautiful Fox Island near Seward. A mere hour’s boat ride aboard one of the Kenai Fjords Tours vessels, passengers receive both a wildlife tour and chance to unwind before settling in one of eight comfy cabins with stellar views. A three-day Fox Island Escape offers time for sea kayaking, exploring the island, visiting with a National Park Service ranger, and eating the incredible food prepared in the Wilderness Lodge’s dining room. Even teens can’t argue with an experience like that. Plus, the absence of anything electronic allows for parent-kid time while paddling around or skipping rocks. A trip to Fox Island and Wilderness Lodge isn’t the cheapest three days one will spend with the fam, but it can be one of the most memorable.
For a more rugged experience, head down the Sterling Highway to Homer, where a short water taxi ride across Kachemak Bay delivers guests to Across the Bay Tent and Breakfast. Nestled in a secluded cove is an adventure waiting to happen, and the owners of ABTB truly have discovered a niche in the “almost camping” genre of eco-tourism.
Not just any tent, ABTB accommodations are solid, safari-style tents with carpeted floors, fluffy mattress-covered beds (guests bring their own sleeping bags), and a platform base from which to ogle the scenery or, as teenagers put it, “hang out”. A lodge hosts meals, and activities range from guided kayak trips where one might visit with sea otters or eat lunch on one of the tiny Herring Islands. Guests can also opt for a day trip to nearby Seldovia and explore the fascinating Native Alaskan history of the Kachemak Bay area. Mountain biking is huge in this area, and rental bikes make it easy to cruise the logging roads and trails near the lodge or for a longer ride into Seldovia. Tide-pooling is also fantastic anywhere in K-Bay, with all sorts of sea creatures making an appearance during low tide.
Ready, set, go! Teenagers, especially, need a nudge to inspire a family vacation, but once on the road can be enthusiastic and welcome travel companions. Take a chance and take a teen.