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Going Places: Alaska and the Yukon for Families

“Provides a wealth of extras useful to parents. The author marks particularly child-friendly places with smiley-face icons, gives tips about appropriate age levels and reminds readers periodically about safety concerns. For those who want travel to be educational, she includes lists of informative books and Web sites for all ages." —Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Our 9 year old spent more time marveling over giant vegetables at the fair than he'd ever spent eating any.

With family in Anchorage we couldn't wait to show off Alaska to our kids. We anticipated their rapture at the sight of sea otters in Homer's Kachemak Bay. We looked forward to teaching them to spot beluga whales by looking for their white oval shapes below the surface of Turnagain Arm.

The kids enjoyed all of it, but gave their highest marks to sights and experiences not found in travel guides. Visiting reindeer raised by 4-H Clubs at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer was a hit with both our kids (along with reindeer dogs for lunch).Our 5 year old loved the 911 exercise set up by first responders. Participants entered a miniature 2-story house constructed for the purpose. When an alarm sounded, they had to find a safe escape route. Having mapped an escape route from our home a year earlier at age 4, our family worrier aced the test.

Meeting the sled dogs at Denali National Park is a hit with all ages.

This taught me a valuable lesson early in my family-travel writing career: it’s important to build time and create opportunities in a family vacation for kids to make their own discoveries.

I learned different lessons from our family’s magical but occasionally claustrophobic road trip up the Alaska Highway. By then, the kids were 15 and 11. I wished I’d encouraged them to do more research ahead of time on wildlife—bears, eagles, moose—and Alaskan disasters, natural (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions) and unnatural (the Exxon-Valdez oil spill). That way, we could have brought along resources to supplement what we were seeing.

Drawing from my personal family-travel experience and intense but fun research, I turned out included many short essays appropriate for young readers on these and other topics, along with more books and online resources to help kids zero in on what interests them and direct their own exploration.

Parents and children—Alaskans as well as visitors from the lower 48—contributed additional essays. Among these, an Alaskan father and son each look back on a magical trip they took together on the Iditarod trail; a young reviewer describes how kids can spend their time on a cruise ship; and a parenting expert offers tips for preparing kids for a harsher, less-forgiving environment than they’re used to and keep them safe.