Alaska offers countless opportunities for adventure-seeking families, making it a perfect place to plan your next itinerary with kids! Given the vastness of this state, however – which includes 1,800 named islands and 14 major mountain ranges – planning a trip there isn’t easy. It is definitely worth it, though! From incredible glacier hikes to thrilling helicopter tours over ice-capped peaks, a vacation here guarantees exposure to diverse landscapes and plenty of opportunities for unforgettable family memories. We just returned from a trip to Alaska with an overnight stop in Seattle. Despite doing a decent amount of research before planning our trip, there are many things I wish I had known beforehand. Hopefully, some of our takeaways can help you plan your visit to this gorgeous, vast state. Keep reading for my fun 7- to 10-day Alaska itinerary for families!
Why Book a Family Trip to Alaska?
Before diving into this Alaska itinerary for families, let’s talk about what makes Alaska so great for families in the first place. Known for its indigenous cultures, pristine wilderness, and variety of outdoor adventures, this unique state offers something for all ages. Our kids finish school in early June, and camp doesn’t start until the end of the month, so we figured this would be a great time to take a trip.
We love outdoorsy trips and wildlife, so Alaska seemed like a great fit. We are not cruise people, so I was hoping to find 2-3 luxury land-based locations to explore from. I found that there were not a lot of luxury land-based options and that most of the higher-end lodges were in extremely remote locations that required taking a lot of float planes to access.
For this reason, we booked an Alaska family cruise on Lindband National Geographic Explorer Cruise aboard the Quest, a new ship built in 2017 with 50 cabins (100 passengers max), to explore Alaska’s inner passage. The cruise route explores the inner passage of Alaska with a route between Juneau and Sitka over a week, with stops at Tracy Ford Arms and Glacier Bay National Park.
Tips for Visiting Alaska with Kids
Visiting Alaska with kids on an Alaska family cruise requires a bit of planning. To help families plan a familiar Alaska itinerary, here are some tips I wish I knew beforehand.
- The iconic salmon fishing that Alaska is famous for starts in mid/late July and stretches to early September.
- If you want to see bears, you have a much higher likelihood of seeing them when the salmon start running – in mid-July through the end of August. Outside of when the salmon are running, the chances of seeing any bears are 50-50 and likely from quite a distance.
- If you need to work while traveling and rely on a VPN, it will be tricky as the Wi-Fi signal in most places we visited was not really strong enough to support a VPN, but it is fine otherwise.
My Fun 7- to 10-Day Alaskan Itinerary for Families
Now that you know a little bit more about visiting Alaska with kids, let’s dig into my fun 7- to 10-day itinerary for families!
Day 1: Juneau Helicopter & Dog Sledding Tour
Juneau is Alaska’s capital city and a popular port of call for many cruise ships, as well as a hub for Alaska Airlines, which is why we chose to fly here for our Alaska itinerary for families.
We arrived a day before our cruise departure and spent the night at a cute bed and breakfast about a 15-minute walk from town called the Jorgenson House. There were also several other great lodging options in town, including Four Points by Sheraton Juneau, Best Western Juneau, and Baranof Downtown, BW Signature Collection.
Since embarkation doesn’t occur until 5 PM, we booked a helicopter & dog sledding tour on Herbert Glacier the morning of our cruise departure, which was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
I wish we had time to visit Admiral Island, which has the largest concentration of bears in Alaska and takes about 6 hours, as we didn’t see a single wild bear on our trip.
In the afternoon, we checked into the Juneau Arts & Cultural Center for our cruise around 3:30/4 PM. We sat around what looked like a cafeteria/conference room for about 40 minutes, after which there was a short presentation by a representative of a local native tribe. Then, we boarded buses to the port terminal around 5 PM, received an orientation about the cruise and the next day’s activities, and then had dinner. We did not leave the port until about 10/11 PM on the first evening.
Day 2: Tracy Arm-Fords
On the second day of our Alaska itinerary for families, we arrived at Tracy Arm–Fords Terror Wilderness from the cruise ship via a zodiac boat. Located around 50 miles south of Juneau, this incredibly vast wilderness is home to two different fjords. It’s also a popular spot due to its unique landscape of towering cliffs, huge glaciers, and its abundance of interesting wildlife, like harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and arctic terns. Kids will love spotting the floating chunks of ice covering the wilderness (some of them are multiple stories high!) Plus, it’s a good opportunity to connect with nature and teach kids a bit more about climate change and how it’s affecting our planet, and in particular, natural landscapes in places like Alaska.
In total, we had around 75 minutes here. We saw a lot of harbor seals, which was great, and the glacier was beautiful. Unfortunately, we spent the rest of the day cruising towards our next destination.
Day 3: Petersburg
We docked in St. Petersburg on the third day of our cruise, a small Alaskan fishing town on Mitkof Island that I considered completely unspectacular. Our options were either to explore the town – which had nothing much to see – biking, a zodiac tour of the harbor, or some muskeg “hikes”. However, the Muskeg “hikes” were 45-minute walks.
Then, the zodiac tours took us to one of the fishing harbors, where they spoke about the fishing and crabbing industry in Petersburg. We saw a bunch of docked boats. Plus, the bike ride was so painfully slow that I don’t think I peddled on half the ride, and the highlight was stopping at the playground with a beach and trail nearby (albeit there was no time to enjoy the hiking because we had to rush back to board the boat 90 minutes before leaving).
Overall, the best part of the stop in Petersburg was the hour-long run I went on, where I discovered some nice trails (which we were not supposed to go on for liability purposes). If it were up to us, I would’ve skipped this part of our Alaska family cruise.
Day 4: Frederick Sound and Chatham Strait
On days four through seven of our Alaska itinerary for families, we had one morning and one afternoon activity (hike, zodiac, and/or kayak), but the active part of the activities were only around 75 minutes (90 minutes if you include the logistics of getting on the boat).
For the fourth day, we ventured through the Frederick Sound and Chatham Strait, which are both prime areas for humpback and orca whales. Our tour also took us through bear trails and salmon streams. Unfortunately, we didn’t see one bear, seal, dolphin, or whale while kayaking, but we saw a ton of sea kelp and the occasional sea otter at a distance. The kayaking was restricted to a limited space so that no one got lost, which meant that if you utilized the entire activity time, you ended up going in circles and saw virtually no wildlife.
Similar to other bush-whacking hikes during our Alaska family cruise, the walk felt completely haphazard and random. There was nothing remarkable about them.
Day 5: Icy Strait and the Inian Islands
The Inian Islands are part of an archipelago in the middle of the Icy Strait, home to a huge array of wildlife, from humpback whales to Steller sea lions or otters. Black-tailed deer and brown bears also make an appearance along the rocky and rugged shores. The Inian Islands are also set against the tallest coastal mountain range in the world, the Saint Elias Mountains.
We were able to explore by zodiac, which was surely a highlight of our trip as we did see sea lions, an abundance of eagles, sea otters, and even the occasional porpoise. However, there were only 3 or so of these excursions throughout the 8-day cruise, which isn’t enough! I would have preferred more zodiac rides rather than hikes.
Day 6: Glacier Bay National Park
Home to towering glaciers, beautiful fjords, and lots of diverse wildlife, such as mountain goats or puffins, a visit to Glacier Bay National Park is often considered one of the best things to do on an Alaska itinerary for families. However, our visit was deeply disappointing. Due to the cruise’s logistics and timing, we could only see the glaciers from the boat deck and spend about 90 minutes exploring the island from the visitor center dock. This was the longest hike we were allowed to do on our Alaska family cruise, and it was only about 2 miles in total. We would have appreciated more time to roam and explore on our own as well as generally see more of the park, but we felt extremely limited because of timing.
Day 7: Southeast Alaska’s Bays and Fjords
On the seventh day of our Alaska itinerary for families, we explored more wildlife in Southeast Alaska. Depending on the weather conditions, the excursions for this day can change during your Alaska family cruise. Still, usually, it includes seeing more bays and fjords or even stopping at the beach to look at tide pools or beachcombing.
We also had the chance to hike through the forest some more and look out for old bear tracks, though we didn’t see any bears. Like the rest of our trip, we saw some bald eagles. If the weather permits, you may also go kayaking again on this day and search for more marine life (as I mentioned earlier in the article, kayaking is limited to one area to prevent getting lost, which makes it a bit repetitive.)
Alaska is also among 23 Exciting Cool-Weather Summer Destinations in the U.S. for Families!
Day 8: Raptor Rehabilitation Center, Fortress of the Bear, and Sitka National Historic Park
Since day 8 marked the last day of our cruise, we deboarded the ship at 8 AM and hired a driver to visit Sitka, a city south of Juneau with Russian heritage. If your kids are animal lovers, don’t miss the chance to visit the Raptor Rehabilitation Center. Located off the Indian River, it was an easy car ride from downtown Sitka. This rehabilitation center takes in birds from all over Alaska that require care, and it also permanently houses those with serious injuries. It’s a great educational opportunity to learn more about the wildlife conservation efforts in Alaska, and a nice way to spot birds such as bald eagles, hawks, falcons, and others up close.
Fortress of the Bear
Another stop was the Fortress of the Bear, an educational bear rescue and rehabilitation center. This non-profit sanctuary provides a haven for Alaskan cubs who are orphaned and lets visitors see them interacting with each other, playing in their natural habitats, etc. It’s a wonderful place to learn more about Alaskan black and brown bears and how the center helps to prevent them from euthanization. Albeit a bit small, we had a nice visit here. However, keep in mind that this is a popular spot for cruise ships, and it can become very crowded if you arrive at the same time as other tourists.
Sitka National Historic Park
Families planning an Alaska itinerary also shouldn’t miss Sitka National Historic Park, Alaska’s oldest national park. There are informative displays at the visitors center and a selection of hikes/paths to stroll through the wooded park. Since the paths are all flat, they’re not too strenuous for kids. Explore the park’s many totem poles and read the signage to learn more about the poles’ meanings. You may spot some eagles, salmon, and more wildlife depending on when you visit.
Additional 2 Days/3 Nights: Salmon Falls in Ketchikan
After Sitka, we headed to the airport to catch a flight to Ketchikan, Alaska. Famous for its salmon fishing, we spent three nights at Salmon Falls. While the accommodations here were rustic, the food and fishing were incredible. We enjoyed 2 full days of fishing, and despite coming early in the season (before the pink salmon run), we caught about 150 lbs of King Salmon, Halibut, Rockfish, and Pink Salmon, which we shipped home.
In addition to fishing, Ketchikan has great hiking, kayaking, Misty Fjords trip via float plane, and bear viewing in season (mid-July- Labor Day). Our Alaska family cruise concluded with an evening and morning in Seattle before flying back home.
Would I Recommend a Trip to Alaska with Kids?
Now that I’ve gone over my Alaska itinerary for families, you may be wondering: would I recommend a trip to Alaska with kids? Here are my final reflections on our Alaska family cruise!
- Alaska was beautiful and worth visiting, though next time, I’d do it by land. Unless you’re traveling with someone elderly or with limited mobility, or simply enjoy observing sites via boat, I would not recommend the Lindband National Geographic Explorer Cruise along Alaska’s inner passage.
- If you do a cruise, research the port activities so you are not bound to the boat’s offering. We found we had a lot of lagging time that could have been maximized had the cruise ship organized our activities better or provided us with more free time to explore on our own.
- If you want to do a land-based trip instead of an Alaska family cruise, splurge on some premium activities at each port and mix in hiking and other less expensive activities to balance things out.
- Go during the salmon running season so that you can maximize wildlife viewing.
We hope you liked this Unforgettable 7 to 10-day Alaska Cruise Itinerary for Families by our contributor Anna Massion! From wildlife viewing to incredible glaciers and more family fun, there’s so much to experience in Alaska. Enjoy your Alaska vacation with your kids!
*Unless otherwise noted, all images within this article belong to and are courtesy of Anna Massion.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled those of the attributed author, Anna Massion.
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