Meet the Wheelers, an adventurous family who spent 5 days road-tripping in a travel van last July. They made the most of their trip together, from crossing a gorge in a hand tram to helicopter glacier hiking to meeting Santa’s reindeer! Follow along on their adventure in the latest How They Got Lost blog installment.
On the blog, we regularly feature interviews and discussions with our guests on how their trips went: where they took their vans, what they saw, what the highlights and challenges were while they were on the road, in our continuing series How They Got Lost. Read about the real trips that different travelers took in their travel vans.
(As usual, the responses have been edited only a little.)
Give us a brief overview of where you went & what you did:
We began in Girdwood, then on to Kenai and Seward. From there we headed back to Anchorage and caught the train into Denali and then on to Fairbanks. A stop in North Pole was a must on our trip. We had to see Santa’s Reindeer before heading home!
Did you have your trip planned before you arrived, or did you choose what to do/where to stay during your trip?
I planned everything before arriving. With two young kids in tow I find it easier to plan ahead—meals, camp sites, activities. I do lots of Google research when planning a trip! I often try to find family travel blogs so that I can read what worked for people who had kids along. I also conversed with a family friend who lives in Palmer to get some details about different Alaskan areas and specific hiking trails that were good for the family. My favorite way to plan a trip is to scour Instagram for photos of the places we travel. I save the photos of places I want to see and will plan our trip around those must see places!
What were the highlights of your trip?
We were lucky enough to be in Alaska for the Bore Tide. We were able to see the Tide on our first day while camped out near Beluga Point. Our kids loved the Roofnest, so we set it up, got out the snacks and watched and waited. We homeschool, so this entire trip provided so many educational opportunities. It was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. Everyone loved the hand tram on the Winner Creek hike. The helicopter ride up to Hawk’s Glacier was indescribable and the Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise was a hit too. We wrapped our trip up with a train ride: Anchorage-Denali-Fairbanks. That was a lovely way to decompress a bit and let everyone else do the work! When I look back the entire trip was amazing. The views in Alaska are indescribable.
Were there any unexpected challenges to deal with? If so, how did you manage to overcome them?
For us, the van was tight. We do not camp, so this was a new experience for all of us. It was a lot of work to get to our things in the van. We definitely overpacked and having less would have made things easier.
What advice or tips do you have for other travelers who might want to do something similar?
Plan, plan, plan. There is so much to see and do. To make the most of your time, plan out your days. With kids in tow I think knowing what and where you will be eating your meals makes things easier as well. I love to read Yelp reviews for restaurants where we will be visiting and add those places to my calendar along with easier-to-make meals when needed.
Wheelers, we’re so glad you decided to try camping in a travel van! Even though it’s not something you regularly do, it sounds like you made the most of it and went home with some amazing experiences to share. Thanks for renting your van last summer, and we wish you much adventure in your future! For more fun with the Wheelers, follow Wheels Up Wheelers on YouTube and Instagram, and check out the cool #vanlife video they made after their trip last summer!
Follow the How They Got Lost series on this blog for more on the places you can go in a travel van. If you’re contemplating taking a trip like the Wheelers, book your van now, or let us know what your questions are. We have answers!
All photos and video in this post © Stevanie Wheeler