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TAKING THE KIDS

Alaska No Longer the Last Frontier for Children

April 08, 2001|EILEEN OGINTZ

As a teenager, Kelly Nerland spent many summers telling tourists about her home state -- she's a fifth-generation Alaskan -- while some of the most fabulous scenery in the world whizzed by the giant windows of Alaska Railroad trains.

Now a University of Alaska student, Kelly supervises high school juniors and seniors working as guides on the train.

This year the student program marks its 20th anniversary. The guides must complete a rigorous 10-week after-school course.

The presence of the students makes the long train trip to Denali National Park more fun, especially for kids curious about what it's like to grow up in Alaska.

A trip to Alaska is expensive, but it can be one of the most memorable your family will take. The number of families vacationing here is growing. More than 20% of trips to and around Alaska now include children, state tourism officials say.

For Alaska information, visit the Web site http://www.travelalaska.com or telephone (800) 862-5275. For southeast Alaska, go to http://www.alaskainfo.org, tel. (800) 423-0568.

More than 10,000 kids sailed on Princess cruises last summer. Royal Caribbean hosted nearly 700 on one July sailing. Part of the appeal may be so many Alaska cruise deals. Even on the premium Holland America ships, rates start at $899 for seven nights, $439 for third and fourth passengers. (Tel. [877] 724-5425, http://www.hollandamerica.com.)

Families seeking more adventure and willing to spend more have never had as many options:

* Wildland Adventures (we loved their trip two years ago) sends families to explore Prince William Sound and Denali National Park.

Cost: $3,595 for adults, $2,995 for kids, plus air fare. A kid-friendly guide leads the group. Tel. (800) 345-4453, http://www.wild land.com.

* Glacier Bay Tours' "soft adventure" cruises in Southeast Alaska are perfect for parents who want the comfort of a ship with active shore excursions. Cost: From $1,690 (the same for kids). Tel. (800) 451-5952, http://www.glacier baytours.com.

* Grandtravel's 12-day trip sends grandparents to fish for salmon or take dog sled rides with grandchildren, among other adventures. Cost: $6,295 for adults, $5,895 for kids, plus airfare. Tel. (800) 247-7651, http://www.grandtrvl.com.

* Alaska Wildland Adventures has led travelers through Alaska's back country for more than 20 years and continues to add family itineraries designed for kids as young as 6.

Cost: $3,795 for adults, $3,495 for kids. A less expensive camping trip offers back-country adventures for older kids. Tel. (800) 334-8730, http://www.alaskawildland.com.

*

Taking the Kids appears twice a month.

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