Skip Navigation

Traveling to Alaska at 16 years of age on my own

Travel Forums North America Traveling to Alaska at 16 years of age on my own

Page
  • 1
  • 2

Last Post

1. Posted by Discover- (Budding Member 5 posts) 4y

Hello everybody,

My name is Jasper, I'm from Holland and I'm 16 years old. As the topic title states, I am planning to travel to Alaska next summer (or mid-2013, depending on best weather conditions in Alaska) completely on my own. The whole idea started about two years ago when I watched the movie Into The Wild, which really made me think of how awesome it would be to simply be able to reach the top of freedom by just putting in a little effort yourself. Ever since then, I haven't stopped thinking about the whole idea of making a trip to Alaska and have been non-stop searching for information, blogs, movies, etc.

Two days ago I had officially graduated from school, which lead to a dinner with my parents, brother and sister in a restaurant. When we were all done eating and such, just talking and having a good time, I decided to ask my parents straight away what they would say if I told them I wanted to go to Alaska next year during a period of a few weeks or one month approximately. Their answer actually surprised me. They weren't like 'happy' (I think it's the wrong word here, can't come up with anything better) with the idea, but they definitely would support me. They assured me that as long as I'm a hundred percent sure that I want to do this, they would support me all along. I told them the entire reason behind the idea of this trip, is that I want to have at least went on a single adventure before I'm grown up, tied to a job, having a little family put together and not being able to leave the work/house for longer than a few days. Something to look back at.

The money won't be a problem. I have plenty of cash from an online job I've got where I write code for a company and have been doing this for quite some time now. Experience might be a slight problem, thought. I haven't seriously traveled or whatsoever before.

My question in its entirety was simply advice, feedback and ideas on my idea of traveling. Here are some questions I've been wondering about for a while as well, I'd appreciate any type of answer. :)

- Would it be more of a (positive) 'competition' if I'd get to Alaska all by backpacking from spot to spot? Or just take a plane straight into there? (I'd personally prefer backpacking)
- I was thinking of, once I'm in Alaska itself, to simply travel through Alaska for one or two weeks and then stop at a spot I really enjoy and stay there for a longer time. Hike, take photo's, etc. all around the spot. Good or bad idea?
- What would be necessarily to take with me?
- Is it a big risk if I wouldn't take any kind of cellphone or related device with me? I want to be cut off from society for a while.
- Do most people that live in Alaska speak English?
- Are there better countries rather than Alaska I might also like (that you know of)? Alaska was just simply my first choice, I haven't really put a lot of time into looking for other nice places to go.
- Would it be possible to take a tent, find a safe spot and camp in the tents? Just making a fire in-front of my tent to keep the animals away I guess.
- Is it allowed by law for me to travel on my own into another continent at the age of 16 or 17?

Hope to get answers soon!

Thanks in advance,
Jasper/Discover-

2. Posted by CheersT (Travel Guru 2424 posts) 4y

Congrats on your plan, you could have a very interesting time. A few "common sense" issues for you to consider....

1.) Alaska is a great place, but keep in mind that the entire west coast of northern North America offers (literally) countless places to camp in extraordinarily beautiful natural surroundings. The Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, and the entire American Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Northern California) have some great locations.

2.) Some of the locations mentioned above will be much easier and less expensive to fly to from Europe. For example flying into Calgary gives you easy access to the entire eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains; flying into Vancouver gives you access to the western slopes, as well as Vancouver Island.

3.) Your plan of backpacking from spot-to-spot is perhaps more of a logistical issue than you realize... as a young European you have no conception of the distances here. Canada is over 240 times bigger than Holland, the US is over 237 times larger, even Alaska all by itself is over 41 times bigger than your country. So as you can see if you only have a few weeks or maybe a month at maximum it would still take some time for you make your way all across Canada/US then all the way north to Alaska.

4.) Forget about doing anything remotely comparable to "Into The Wild." As a completely inexperienced camper you can't go hiking into some place completely off the grid and set up a camp. There are too many factors to consider and you do not have the tools necessary to do this. Believe me, there are LOTS of places that you will find adequate to "get away" that are still easily accessible to a road and nearby civilization. Lastly... it's the "build a fire a night to keep the animals away" attitude/fantasy that you have to move past... that simply isn't going to happen.

5.) English is everywhere in the US and Canada, including Alaska of course.

You have a lot of things to consider... I've barely even scratched the surface here... good luck with your research...

Cheers,
Terry

3. Posted by talesbackpack (Full Member 117 posts) 4y

Jasper, I'm going to agree with Terry and strongly suggest that you do your research.

Alaska is a beautiful state, but it is incredibly rugged and the distances are enormous compared to what you're used to. To give you an idea, the distance between Anchorage Alaska and Denali National Park is roughly the same as the distance from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf, Germany.

It would take you at least a week to hike that distance in ideal conditions. Add in unpredictable weather conditions, rugged or no trails, and a backpack weighing at least 40kg and you're looking at closer to two weeks. That's just one way. You would need to carry on your back absolutely everything you would need to survive for those two weeks plus the time spent at your destination. And that's just one relatively small trip.

I'm not trying to discourage you from your plan, but you need to be aware of the realities. Once you leave the cities and towns in Alaska you are 100% on your own with little hope of rescue if something goes wrong.

As for some of your questions:

- You will need a formal letter of consent signed by both of your parents to travel internationally, under the age of 18
- You will not be able to rent a car anywhere in North America
- Alaska is not a country. It's part of the USA, and yes, they speak English.
- Terry gave some excellent alternatives to Alaska for you to look into.

Lastly,

- If you are set on Alaska, I would recommend flying directly there and staying in State or National Parks in official campgrounds. Trust me, they will be wild enough for you at this stage! Until you have some real camping experience, you simply don't know what you don't know.

I suggest you visit your nearest library and pick up three travel guidebooks: one for Alaska, one for Western Canada and one for the American Pacific Northwest. That will give you a good start on places that you may like to visit in the region.

Jen

[ Edit: Edited on 24-Jun-2012, at 13:27 by talesbackpack ]

4. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 4y

Jasper,
I was composing my thoughts when Jen posted hers. The legal age of consent in the US is 18. You cannot rent a room in Vegas under 18. Anywhere else for that matter. I helped James from the UK buy a van last month and only one hotel here would let him stay at 18. Bring that formal letter of consent from your parents.

Now bringing a cellphone. The idea of being cut off from everyone goes right back to Alexander Supertramp. He also wanted to 'find himself' and be out there w/o support. Completely unprepared for life in the wilds of Alaska, he died at 24. I hope he is not your role model.

As stated, Alaska is huge. The distances are too large for backpacking to be practical IMO. I think a better option might be British Columbia. The Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise area is just gorgeous and much more practical for backpacking from camp to camp. Take a look at camping in B.C. and see if that is wild enough for you. Good luck with your planning.

5. Posted by Discover- (Budding Member 5 posts) 4y

Thanks a lot for all the fast replies! I really appreciate any type of help here a lot! :)

Quoting CheersT

Congrats on your plan, you could have a very interesting time. A few "common sense" issues for you to consider....

1.) Alaska is a great place, but keep in mind that the entire west coast of northern North America offers (literally) countless places to camp in extraordinarily beautiful natural surroundings. The Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, and the entire American Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Northern California) have some great locations.

2.) Some of the locations mentioned above will be much easier and less expensive to fly to from Europe. For example flying into Calgary gives you easy access to the entire eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains; flying into Vancouver gives you access to the western slopes, as well as Vancouver Island.

3.) Your plan of backpacking from spot-to-spot is perhaps more of a logistical issue than you realize... as a young European you have no conception of the distances here. Canada is over 240 times bigger than Holland, the US is over 237 times larger, even Alaska all by itself is over 41 times bigger than your country. So as you can see if you only have a few weeks or maybe a month at maximum it would still take some time for you make your way all across Canada/US then all the way north to Alaska.

4.) Forget about doing anything remotely comparable to "Into The Wild." As a completely inexperienced camper you can't go hiking into some place completely off the grid and set up a camp. There are too many factors to consider and you do not have the tools necessary to do this. Believe me, there are LOTS of places that you will find adequate to "get away" that are still easily accessible to a road and nearby civilization. Lastly... it's the "build a fire a night to keep the animals away" attitude/fantasy that you have to move past... that simply isn't going to happen.

5.) English is everywhere in the US and Canada, including Alaska of course.

You have a lot of things to consider... I've barely even scratched the surface here... good luck with your research...

Cheers,
Terry

1.) That sounds quite interesting, but wouldn't these camps be full of other people - kids, teenagers, adults? Because that's exactly what I do NOT want - I want to be out there on my own. Apart from that little detail, which I could probably easily oversee, it sounds like something to think about twice indeed.

2.) Money won't be even the slightest problem or thing I will care about honestly. That's all I've got to say about money. :)

3.) Woah! I didn't know the differences in size were so big... Guess I've done a little too much of daydreaming there, hehe. I guess it shouldn't be a problem to backpack every once in a while thought - like when I want to move to a new hotel, spot or whatsoever and backpack to a little city (questioning locals never hurts, right?).

4.) Alright, got it. As I stated at point 3, I'm afraid I did a little too much of daydreaming and didn't properly thought of everything thoroughly enough. Thanks for making up my mind there. :)

5.) Stupid question from me, my bad.

Quoting talesbackpack

Jasper, I'm going to agree with Terry and strongly suggest that you do your research.

Alaska is a beautiful state, but it is incredibly rugged and the distances are enormous compared to what you're used to. To give you an idea, the distance between Anchorage Alaska and Denali National Park is roughly the same as the distance from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf, Germany.

It would take you at least a week to hike that distance in ideal conditions. Add in unpredictable weather conditions, rugged or no trails, and a backpack weighing at least 40kg and you're looking at closer to two weeks. That's just one way. You would need to carry on your back absolutely everything you would need to survive for those two weeks plus the time spent at your destination. And that's just one relatively small trip.

I'm not trying to discourage you from your plan, but you need to be aware of the realities. Once you leave the cities and towns in Alaska you are 100% on your own with little hope of rescue if something goes wrong.

As for some of your questions:

- You will need a formal letter of consent signed by both of your parents to travel internationally, under the age of 18
- You will not be able to rent a car anywhere in North America
- Alaska is not a country. It's part of the USA, and yes, they speak English.
- Terry gave some excellent alternatives to Alaska for you to look into.

Lastly,

- If you are set on Alaska, I would recommend flying directly there and staying in State or National Parks in official campgrounds. Trust me, they will be wild enough for you at this stage! Until you have some real camping experience, you simply don't know what you don't know.

I suggest you visit your nearest library and pick up three travel guidebooks: one for Alaska, one for Western Canada and one for the American Pacific Northwest. That will give you a good start on places that you may like to visit in the region.

Jen

I meant hiking more as if like... While I'm in a specific spot, hike a little in the mountains, take some nice pictures, chill out and just have a good time... Alone, with the nature all around me. That's like a dream for me. I wouldn't want to hike big distances at all (notice how I said 'want', if necessarily I could pull it off, of course).

The reason I made this topic was to get more of a realistic feel and idea added into my entire plan, from people who, unlike me, know what they are talking about and what's possible or not. If you'd even be able to discourage my from a dream at all, I wouldn't be able to call it a dream, could I? ^^

- A letter like that won't be a problem. Good to know, thanks!
- Not even if I'd be older?
- Stupid question - my bad.
- If I'd get on one of these camps, what should I expect exactly? Would I sleep in a tent or a little house? (based on what most camps use out there, tents or houses)
- I will make sure to pick up a few books from my local library as soon as I get the chance - thanks!

Quoting vegasmike6

Jasper,
I was composing my thoughts when Jen posted hers. The legal age of consent in the US is 18. You cannot rent a room in Vegas under 18. Anywhere else for that matter. I helped James from the UK buy a van last month and only one hotel here would let him stay at 18. Bring that formal letter of consent from your parents.

Now bringing a cellphone. The idea of being cut off from everyone goes right back to Alexander Supertramp. He also wanted to 'find himself' and be out there w/o support. Completely unprepared for life in the wilds of Alaska, he died at 24. I hope he is not your role model.

As stated, Alaska is huge. The distances are too large for backpacking to be practical IMO. I think a better option might be British Columbia. The Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise area is just gorgeous and much more practical for backpacking from camp to camp. Take a look at camping in B.C. and see if that is wild enough for you. Good luck with your planning.

Would I be able to rent a room if I'd let one of my parents call from home, explaining the case and such? I will make sure to carry several copies of that letter as well, hehe.

I wouldn't call him my role model, but he is someone I tent to look up to. He did pretty much everything I can only dream of, he just went too far for my standards. :)

I'll make sure to look up the Lake Louise area very soon. Thanks a lot!

Thank you all for your quick answers again guys, I truly appreciate them a lot!

Greetings,
Jasper

6. Posted by talesbackpack (Full Member 117 posts) 4y

Quoting Discover-

Thanks a lot for all the fast replies! I really appreciate any type of help here a lot! :)

I meant hiking more as if like... While I'm in a specific spot, hike a little in the mountains, take some nice pictures, chill out and just have a good time... Alone, with the nature all around me. That's like a dream for me. I wouldn't want to hike big distances at all (notice how I said 'want', if necessarily I could pull it off, of course).

The reason I made this topic was to get more of a realistic feel and idea added into my entire plan, from people who, unlike me, know what they are talking about and what's possible or not. If you'd even be able to discourage my from a dream at all, I wouldn't be able to call it a dream, could I? ^^

- A letter like that won't be a problem. Good to know, thanks!
- Not even if I'd be older?
- Stupid question - my bad.
- If I'd get on one of these camps, what should I expect exactly? Would I sleep in a tent or a little house? (based on what most camps use out there, tents or houses)
- I will make sure to pick up a few books from my local library as soon as I get the chance - thanks!

I'm glad to read that you are taking a measured approach to your planning. After reading your first post, I had visions of you disappearing into the wilderness never to be heard from again! That's something that, unfortunately, happens all too often when people go out unprepared.

Most car rental companies prefer not to rent to people under the age of 25. Some will rent to younger people (21-25) but charge more money. It's very difficult to rent at all if you're 18-21 and virtually impossible if you're under 18. Buying a cheap car might be a better option. You'll need to do a bit of research on that one.

The National and State/Provincial Parks have quite a lot of variety in how they are set up. Generally they have smaller sites for tents, bigger serviced sites Recreational Vehicles and occasionally some will have cabins for rent. Some cater more to families, some don't. Some parks will have heated shower facilities, children's parks and pools. Others are very basic with only pit toilets and cold water showers. Again, more research required.

Many of these parks will also have what they call "backcountry" camping sites, where you have to hike or canoe into the site from the main gate. From what you're saying I think something like this would be ideal for you - there's the sense of being removed from everything while still being inside a patrolled nature reserve. Sometimes the hike in will be only a few minutes, sometimes a couple of hours or more. These sites have very limited facilities (maybe an outhouse or a cooking hut) but often they have nothing at all except a platform for your tent.

There are always plenty of hiking trails and opportunities to get out and explore the rest of the park. Your biggest issue I think for these places is going to be transportation. There are not usually many public transport options.

Post 7 was removed by a moderator
8. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 4y

Jasper,
I checked with 2 motel chains and they will not rent to someone under 18. I also called 2 independent motels in Utah and they would not rent to anyone under 18 either. That will be a problem.

Now transport. In NV, a person of any age can own a vehicle. However, a person under 18 will not be able to obtain insure w/o parents or legal guardian co-signing. W/o insurance, you cannot register a vehicle. Renting a vehicle is out and legally driving a vehicle in the US or Canada will be difficult w/o his parents here to co-sign for him. One option that might work is the bus system. Greyhound has a Discovery Pass: 30 days for $461. Or just buy a bus ticket as needed.

Here is my thoughts tonight. Fly into Calgary, then take a bus to Jaspar NP. Camp a few days by the park HQ. Get your back country camping permits, then head out for some back country hiking. And take your mobile phone! Just in case something goes wrong. Good luck.

9. Posted by CheersT (Travel Guru 2424 posts) 4y

Mike is giving some very sound logistical advice.

Calgary has excellent public transport to several National (and Provincial) Parks that offer loads of options as starting points to gain some camping/hiking experience in a safe yet "remote" mountain locations.

Hell, I'll drive you out and drop you off myself... ;-)

Cheers,
Terry from Banff

10. Posted by Discover- (Budding Member 5 posts) 4y

Quoting talesbackpack

I'm glad to read that you are taking a measured approach to your planning. After reading your first post, I had visions of you disappearing into the wilderness never to be heard from again! That's something that, unfortunately, happens all too often when people go out unprepared.

Most car rental companies prefer not to rent to people under the age of 25. Some will rent to younger people (21-25) but charge more money. It's very difficult to rent at all if you're 18-21 and virtually impossible if you're under 18. Buying a cheap car might be a better option. You'll need to do a bit of research on that one.

The National and State/Provincial Parks have quite a lot of variety in how they are set up. Generally they have smaller sites for tents, bigger serviced sites Recreational Vehicles and occasionally some will have cabins for rent. Some cater more to families, some don't. Some parks will have heated shower facilities, children's parks and pools. Others are very basic with only pit toilets and cold water showers. Again, more research required.

Many of these parks will also have what they call "backcountry" camping sites, where you have to hike or canoe into the site from the main gate. From what you're saying I think something like this would be ideal for you - there's the sense of being removed from everything while still being inside a patrolled nature reserve. Sometimes the hike in will be only a few minutes, sometimes a couple of hours or more. These sites have very limited facilities (maybe an outhouse or a cooking hut) but often they have nothing at all except a platform for your tent.

There are always plenty of hiking trails and opportunities to get out and explore the rest of the park. Your biggest issue I think for these places is going to be transportation. There are not usually many public transport options.

Hehe, I can imagine. Wouldn't I need a car license in order to rent and/or drive a car? In Holland, the minimum age of getting a driving license is 18 and it usually takes quite some time. I'll look up some more information on that!

I was wondering about these camps - wouldn't it be much nicer to stay with a family instead? It would probably give less of a 'wild'-ish feeling, but it would sure as hell be nice to stay with people living in a country I'd love to visit, I bet!

I love hiking and canoeing, so that's a great thing indeed. I really like the idea of that as well - having to put in some effort, whilst having fun, to get to a nice spot! Wouldn't nature be all around me if I'd stay on a camp site? Because I'm not sure if hiking on trails is exactly what I want - I'd prefer just walking to a spot, sitting there, having a good time. Just sit there, you know, for the whole day! That feeling of freedom, I can't even imagine how good that must feel...

Quoting vegasmike6

Jasper,
I checked with 2 motel chains and they will not rent to someone under 18. I also called 2 independent motels in Utah and they would not rent to anyone under 18 either. That will be a problem.

Now transport. In NV, a person of any age can own a vehicle. However, a person under 18 will not be able to obtain insure w/o parents or legal guardian co-signing. W/o insurance, you cannot register a vehicle. Renting a vehicle is out and legally driving a vehicle in the US or Canada will be difficult w/o his parents here to co-sign for him. One option that might work is the bus system. Greyhound has a Discovery Pass: 30 days for $461. Or just buy a bus ticket as needed.

Here is my thoughts tonight. Fly into Calgary, then take a bus to Jaspar NP. Camp a few days by the park HQ. Get your back country camping permits, then head out for some back country hiking. And take your mobile phone! Just in case something goes wrong. Good luck.

Woah! Thank you so much for all the effort you (and others) put into helping me! I didn't know there were this many people that were this nice on the internet, I am usually surrounded by people who call themselves 'trolls' and try to piss everyone off. x) Would they rent it to me if I'd let them make a phonecall to my parents, or let my parents call them and reserve a place for me a few weeks/months before I get there?

You're saying even a five-year-old can drive a vehicle if the car is assured?! What's that kind of sorcery?! o.O Would this Discovery Pass let the bus drive me to anywhere I want, or to certain spots decided by someone else?

That sounds wonderful mate, I love the idea. It's probably not too hard, not even too expensive and it will definitely be the trip of my life! Thank you so much. :)

Quoting CheersT

Mike is giving some very sound logistical advice.

Calgary has excellent public transport to several National (and Provincial) Parks that offer loads of options as starting points to gain some camping/hiking experience in a safe yet "remote" mountain locations.

Hell, I'll drive you out and drop you off myself... ;-)

Cheers,
Terry from Banff

How exactly do you mean 'starting points'?

Thanks for the replies yet again everybody, I really appreciate them a lot! =D

Greetings,
Jasper