Alaska and the gear that made it possible

We’re home! We traveled around Alaska for 2 weeks, changing towns every couple days. We vacationed by plane, train, bus, boat, bike, zipline, raft, tram, hike, helicopter, dog sled, truck, van and some of us in a backpack carrier.

It was a dream come true. In part thanks to RB’s brand-new iPad. I understand people traveled with children before there were personal devices, but thanks to the iPad, I never felt compelled to dose her with my stash of drowsy drugs.

It all felt a little miraculous. RB is a notorious screamer, clinger, avoider of dogs. One of my biggest pre-trip fears was that she would ruin our dog-sled ride. I bought all the dog-sled books. I thought about buying the helicopter books too, but she likes her vehicles.

There were smiles on the helicopter. No desire to pet the dogs, but no complaining. Then she sat on the very front of the dog sled, snow slamming into her face and not a peep.

I swear she wasn’t drugged.

Also BB and I were on a different dog sled than her, so either way we were guaranteed a good time.

I planned a bunch of “summer activities.” Hikes that in the summer would not require snow gear. May is considered the shoulder season for summer tourism in Alaska. I knew that, but didn’t understand that that meant a week before we arrived in Denali National Park they still had 7 feet of snow.

Now if you say the word “hike,” RB responds,

“Snow?!”

It didn’t stop us, just slowed Captain down. That and 33 pounds of toddler on his back.

The rafting trip was touted as a ride gentle enough for babies and 100 year olds. It was. There was very little white water and when there was white water, RB shouted,

“Again! Again!” Then both kids went back to general complaining. BB wanted to stand like RB, refusing to admit that her center of gravity was way higher and that falling overboard into the 40 degree water was a surefire way to ruin my trip.

Next time we need class III rapids or an iPad on the raft.

After the iPad, my second most favorite trip purchase was Cosco’s Scenera NEXT 7 pound, $60 carseat. I’m not being paid anything for this post and I paid full price for the car seat. Although if anyone is tempted to pay me, I’d be happy to dedicate a whole post to the Scenera.

It fits on top of a rolling carry-on suitcase. At first we tied it down with a bungee cord, but it actually just stays there with nothing.

You might be thinking, ‘Jess, did you really need a carseat?’

Aside from one week with a rental truck, we didn’t really need one. BUT I cannot say enough good things about having a 5-point harness.

BB is the type of kid who at 18 months wouldn’t get out of her toddler bed until an adult came in the room and told her she could.

RB is the type of kid who will be in a crib until further notice. The 5-point harness was made for her.

We used the car seat EVERYWHERE. She slept in it and I carried her in it into restaurants, hotels, national parks. It probably made her less safe on the train, but it made me more sane, so it’s a delicate balance.

It contained her, but it made her feet reach the airplane seat in front of her during our red-eye flight home. Yes I booked a red-eye. No I’m not totally insane. We saved a lot of money on those tickets. Hopefully enough money to book another red-eye someday.

At 1:00am, RB was happy, awake, watching her iPad and operating the in-seat airplane entertainment screen with her bare feet. Much to the detriment of the man in front of her.

So as far as I can tell, that’s the only downside of a carseat on a plane.

As we slogged through airport security, the suitcase with the girls’ stuff was flagged. TSA demands,

“Is there a machine in here?”

“A what?!”

“A machine!”

“Oh. There’s a baby music player.”

“All machines need to come out. We told you that.”

Maybe there needs to be some fine print about what qualifies as a machine.

Going back through security to return home, the “machine” did not come out and wasn’t flagged for extra screening. Although our to-go salad was. Maybe there was a questionable amount of salad dressing.

Last but not least I need to give a huge shout-out to vanilla ice cream.

iPad, carseat and vanilla ice cream. They saw us through. BB managed a somewhat varied diet of everything you can imagine on a kid’s menu. RB existed on ice cream, some fries, some chips, some crackers, some granola bars, some cookies, a fair amount of juice, but mainly vanilla ice cream.

And we never saw nighttime. The sun set around midnight and rose around 3am. Our rooms were dark enough and we were tired enough it didn’t stop us from sleeping, but any sense of what time it was was lost.

That feeling that it might be dinner time or bedtime didn’t hit us until 9pm. Then it was way too late to care about anything besides getting everyone in bed or their crib. The travel crib is the fourth MVP of the trip.

Last night BB asked me,

“Why didn’t we floss in Alaska?”

“We’re lucky we brushed our teeth.”

At 10pm, on the evening of our return, I sat in Seattle’s airport playroom, entrenched in the smell of old feet. I studied a sign instructing children to remove their shoes. BIG MISTAKE.

On our way TO Alaska we spent 3 hours in Minneapolis’ airport playground. It’s a winner. It’s well-ventilated, has big play structures and everyone is encouraged to keep their shoes on.

As my children ran around like lunatics, crashing into several other Boston bound lunatics, I overheard the parents discussing what drugs to give them on the plane. Foot smell aside, contentment washed over me. What a fabulous trip it was and great to be headed home with like-minded people.

Both kids in the crib for the win.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s