5 Things We Always Have For an RV Adventure

5 Things We Always Have For an RV Adventure

Summer is in full swing around Alaska, and our team is gearing up for another weekend of outdoor-themed fun as we motor north to the village of Talkeetna. We’re pretty confident about our Alaska RV packing checklist, thanks in part to the smart people at Great Alaskan Holidays who allowed us their expertise and even some gear during our first trip two years ago. But we’ve also learned a fair bit about what items truly do make a difference when taking an Alaska RV trip since often, we’re far away from stores (or our own garage) if we forget something.

Here are our top 5:

  1. Bike rack and bikes. While it is fabulous to have a “cabin on wheels” and one engine with which to get us here, there, and everywhere, once we park and hook up, we don’t want to undo everything to run over to a local park or restaurant. The bikes have provided us excellent access and a lot of additional fun, and it’s easy to attach a rack to the back of the RV. Great Alaskan Holidays has racks for rent, or attach your own. Bikes can be rented from several places in Anchorage as well.

 

  1. Coffee pot. Dear lord, what sort of person would I be if I didn’t have my coffee? Many Alaska RV renters believe they don’t need a coffee pot because they can merely swing by a shop or stand each morning. While this may be true in some places, most of Alaska’s campgrounds and RV parks don’t offer a latte with your site. And it’s cheaper to brew your own anyway. Don’t forget the filters and coffee, too. We like the beans from Kaladi Brothers Coffee, available in most Alaska communities.

 

  1. Chairs. Don’t spend your entire Alaska RV vacation inside — take advantage of the fresh air and beautiful surroundings and sit outside! Folding lawn chairs are easy to store in an RV and come in a variety of styles and sizes to fit everyone in the family. Rent one for each passenger from Great Alaskan Holidays, or bring your own, and plan on sitting by the fire and swapping stories at night. Psst: I also like hammocks, as you can see from the photo above. We found ours on Amazon, but there are tons of options.

 

  1. Clothespins and a clothesline. No kidding. These little buggars are helpful for so many things — from hanging wet gloves and dish towels to keeping bags of chips, pasta, or cereal closed. We love them and they are easy to pack. Check out more ideas HERE.

 

  1. Pop-up trash can. Really? Yes, really. There is nothing worse than trying to navigate a rapidly-filling bag of trash in an RV, especially if a secure dumpster is at the far end of the campground. We like this can from Coleman; it packs easily and holds a standard kitchen trash bag. Plus, it has a zipper to keep bugs out. Note: This is NOT a bear-proof can, so you will need to keep it indoors (yay zipper!) or store it securely in the RV underside.

 

Learn more about gear and rental packages for Alaska RV travel from Great Alaskan Holidays HERE. 

Alaska By RV: Plan ahead when traveling with kids

Making the choice to see Alaska by RV means your family probably likes an independent style of travel. Miles of open road and scenic overnight destinations lead to myriad options for activities reflecting Alaska’s spirit of adventure. From flightseeing to fishing, hiking to wildlife cruising, the Last Frontier provides families traveling with children plenty of options for every budget. But where does one start?

The biggest mistake first-time Alaska visitors often make is to cram too many activities into one short period of time. The 49th state is too large and too remote to try and explore the entire sweeping range of land in one or two weeks, and visitors who try often leave exhausted and frustrated. A better choice is to pick interests that align with the entire family. Sit down together well before your trip and note the areas of importance: Fishing? Hiking? Bears and moose? Glaciers? Relaxation?

An advantage of RV travel is its obvious mobility, allowing for a (hopefully) fluid transition among activities, with the coach acting as “base camp” for all.

Interested in landing a big salmon while the rest of the family wants to see glaciers and whales? Drive south along the Seward Highway from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula towns of Seward (www.Seward.com) or Homer (www.homeralaska.org). Seward is reached in about three hours from Anchorage and offers salmon or halibut fishing from scenic Resurrection Bay and unparalleled glacier and wildlife-viewing via day cruise companies like Major Marine (www.majormarine.com) or Kenai Fjords Tours (www.kenaifjords.com). An additional bonus is the proximity of beautiful Kenai Fjords National Park (https://www.adn.com/outdoors-adventure/2018/02/06/outdoor-play-for-kids-isnt-a-luxury-its-a-necessity/).

Homer, on the other hand, is approximately six hours from Anchorage and follows the curve of the peninsula to the terminus of the Sterling Highway. Known as the “Halibut Capital of the World,” Homer is a funky fishing town that thrives on the seasonal catch of the large, white flatfish. While glaciers are harder to access from Homer, it is possible, even probable, that your family will see whales in Kachemak Bay, and sea otters regularly bob and weave among the kelp beds. Homer also offers great hiking along the beaches of Homer Spit, a five-mile finger of sand and rock stretching from the mainland. Many camping options are available on the spit, but beware that wind can and does affect summertime temperatures.

Looking for big bears and big mountains? Drive north from Anchorage along the Glenn and Parks Highways to Denali National Park (www.nps.gov/dena) so named “The High One” by the Athabascan Alaska Native groups who inhabited this region for centuries. Denali is one of Alaska’s most accessible and most-visited national parks, and truly caters to families with ranger-led experiences from campgrounds and the visitor centers, with opportunities for low-impact, high-adrenaline fun in and out of the park boundaries. Denali’s campgrounds are examples of wilderness simplicity without sacrificing comfort, and RV campers will enjoy the quiet retreat. We recommend at least three nights to properly explore the park, including a shuttle bus or tour within the six-million-acre park. (https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/index.htm#CP_JUMP_1025045) Make reservations for any park activities, however; Denali’s popularity also means more crowds than you may see in other places around Alaska. It’s worth it, though, for the sense of awe when the mountain towers above the scenic tundra.

 

For more Alaska family travel options, visit AKontheGO.com.

 

Erin Kirkland is Alaska’s only family travel journalist and author of Alaska On the Go guidebook series, dedicated to kid-friendly activities in the Last Frontier.

 

 

 

 

5 Fun Camping Activities for RVing Kids

What do you get when you mix a bunch of kids, a wide-open campground, and a little bit of dirt?

F.U.N. Especially when it’s camping.

Does your family go camping, whether in a tent, RV, or public use cabin?<—-cabins count in Alaska, since most cabins are in pretty remote places and are very similar to camping.

Ours took a shakedown trip to Eagle River Campground last weekend so we could get to know our new RV from Great Alaskan Holidays. It’s a big rig with lots of buttons, doors, and instructions, and we needed to figure out some of that important stuff in “real camping time.” We also just wanted to get out of town for a while (Do your parents ever say that? Mine did, and usually it meant we’d go camping.).

Eagle River Campground is one of those places we drive by often but never stay, mostly because it’s only 15 minutes from Anchorage and near to the Glenn Highway. This can work to a family’s advantage, however, especially on a weekday if you can convince your mom or dad to ditch work and hitch up for a overnighter close to home. In under an hour we were settled in camp, had the sliders out and the soda pop chilled, and got to work at having fun.

 

 

 

Here’s what we did, and you might want to take notes: 

  1. The kids cooked. Nothing fancy, but that’s not the point. Most people your age can handle a knife to cut up carrots, cucumber, pickles, apples, and cheese. We roasted hot dogs and Italian sausages over the fire, too, and marshmallows. The big kids opened a bag of chips and viola! Dinner was done. Cooking in camp is a great way to learn new skills — and it doesn’t seem like work. <—- Got that, mom and dad?
  2. We played games. Not just any games, but a game of Jenga made out of 6 2.4s. It was a super fun twist on an old favorite, and as you can see, the adults took concentration to a new level. You can even paint your Jenga blocks any way you want for your own personal style.
  3. Kids explored nature and read stories. I sent all young people on a scavenger hunt for items to create their own nature-themed mobile (supplies included embroidery hoops for a frame, string/yarn, and the items on the list; leaves, grasses, pine cones, etc.). Then we read books about trees, kids, and forests while warming up by the fire, since the weather got a little chilly.
  4. The whole group relaxed. With Alaska’s daylight pushing 15 hours already, kids were up late. Really late. But a nice feature of an RV is the option of sending everyone inside (and oh, it started raining, too) for a showing of vintage western television shows followed by more reading. Nice and warm, it was the perfect way to wind up a busy outdoor day.
  5. If you have a camping trip in Alaska planned, especially if you don’t live here and will be visiting with your family or friends, here are some other things you might want to bring or purchase when you arrive:
    • Paper bags for collecting sticks, rocks, or leaves that you can use later for crafting. Be sure to leave plenty of things for others, including wildlife, bugs, and birds.
    • Baseball, football, soccer ball, or volleyball. Don’t be afraid to pack sports equipment for an Alaska vacation, especially a camping trip. Taking breaks to toss a football or bump, set, and spike can be a great way to relax, and isn’t that what you’re here for, anyway?
    • Decks of cards and travel games. We like the National Park version of UNO, Yatzee, and the game Rush Hour (there are several versions). Everything is compact and fits well in the RV.
    • Scissors, glue sticks, markers or colored pencils, and a blank notebook. Oh, the fun you’ll have recording your thoughts and impressions with naturally-found items, photos, and drawings. Make it a daily effort by every family member and create amazing memories to share later.
    • Maps. Do you know where you are? Or where you are going? Stop by a local outdoor store and get a map upon which you can trace your route, look up interesting landmarks, and maybe even convince your parents to diverge from the main road!


Above all, bring your best attitude for fun. Camping may feel strange at first, especially in a place like Alaska, but sometimes, feeling a bit out of place is the best way to get to know a place, in the first place. Get it?

For more Alaska family travel options, visit AKontheGO.com.

 

Erin Kirkland is Alaska’s only family travel journalist and author of Alaska On the Go guidebook series, dedicated to kid-friendly activities in the Last Frontier.

 

 

 

 

Camping 101 With AKontheGO and Anchorage Community House

Were you raised to spend summer nights in a canvas tent, cooking meals over a campfire and playing until all hours among the leafy trees and rocky streams? I was, and so were many of my friends. My parents would pack the VW Bus with sleeping bags, coolers, boots, extra clothes, and that smelly canvas tent and away we’d go, sometimes to a real campground but more often to some remote place at the end of a logging road in Washington or Oregon.

What do I remember? Oh my, the smell of bacon in my dad’s old cast iron frying pan, of toast stuck atop a forked stick and held over the fire. The sound of loons on a quiet mountain lake, and squirrels chattering in the tops of Douglas fir trees. And my parents. I remember how relaxed they were in the woods, my father standing near the fire, a can of beer in one hand and a soda cracker with a smoked oyster balanced on top, in the other. “Gee,” he’d always say after a big swig of his beer and a look across the lake, river, or mountain valley, “This is really nice.” It wasn’t the beer, or the oyster, or even the crackling fire. It was simply the place.

Indeed.

The concept of camping has changed

over the years, both in my life and the lives of thousands who take to the public lands of America each summer. Some people go urban with their sleep-outs, preferring the framework of companies like KOA. Others, like my dad, would rather drive to the end of the highway, and then some, looking for the most space in which to be alone with nature and us. Both work. But both do take some planning to pull off.

According to the 2016 North American Camper Report (funded by KOA),about 28% of the United States population went camping last year, up a smidge from the previous year. So, that’s not bad, a quarter of the population hitting the road and camping out, but can’t we do better, America? I mean, 14% of the US is protected federal, state, tribal, or local public lands. That’s a lot of room to roam with your kids, and what better time than this summer?

AKontheGO has entered into a new partnership with Great Alaskan Holidays to expand the knowledge base of families looking to explore the 49th state, and we’re kicking things off Saturday, May 13 at Eagle River Campground, just 12 miles north of Anchorage. AND, we’ve got some friends who want to party with us at the first-ever Outdoor Family Pop-Up Party.

This is for families, large, small, and somewhere in-between. Anchorage Community House is co-hosting with us, and we’ll have a ton of free, fun, and interesting activities to provide essential knowledge for camping 101.

  • Need a tent? We’ll have a few styles to show, and allow for set up and dismantling by kids (they need to know, too).
  • Never cooked over a fire, or don’t have a camp stove? No problem, we’ll be making some simple goodies over the campfire and on our little stoves of varying sizes.
  • Not sure what to take camping? We’ll have a great list and a few tote boxes all set up with the basics for camping 101.
  • Looking for other families to explore along with you? There will be resources, activities, and all kinds of fun people on hand who love the outdoors as much as you do, and want to meet other people to do the same. If you’re new to Alaska, or just hesitant about exploring this wild and wonderful state, this event is for you.

All families attending the Outdoor Family Pop-Up Party need to bring the following:

  • A lunch, snacks, and beverages for your family. This is a great opportunity to learn what foods your kids do and do not like while in the outdoors, as well as what foods pack well (or don’t). Try string cheese, nuts, dried fruit, bars, and the like. Or, bring hot dogs and roast them over the fire we’ll have going all day!
  • Clothing for sun, rain, wind, or…snow. We camp in all kinds of situations, and…there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. Layers of non-cotton, boots or sturdy shoes, rain gear, hats, mittens. Load into a bag or backpack and bring it along.
  • An Alaska State Parks pass, or $5/vehicle for day use (we are waiting on word from the campground contractor on this, but bring just in case.) NOTE: This is a special day, just for us, so please thank the campground hosts if/when you see them!
  • Notebook, pen, or any method of your choice for taking notes on the things you learn.
  • An open mind. Kids will have a great attitude if YOU have a great attitude toward the day and their experiences.

Not sure how to get to Eagle River Campground? Here are directions.

PLEASE – RSVP here so we know how many families to expect. We will limit this event to 25 people, so let us know today!

“Take care of the land, and the land will take care of you.” ~H. Bennett