This story originally published in the Anchorage Press.
There’s a new form of travel and accommodation in town. Campervans, inspired by the #VanLife movement, have made their way to Alaska. Several Anchorage businesses are cashing in on this trend, which seems to be sticking.
Trickster Trips, Alaska’s only exclusive Volkswagen bus rental company, has been fully booked for July and August since March.
Owner Mandy Morell has always loved VW buses and the idea of traveling with your home.
“When I got older, I still had this love affair with VW’s,” she said.
Campervans offer nearly all of the luxuries that an RV does. While they don’t have their own bathroom, many rentals are set up with bedding, table space, a kitchen set up and of course, the ability to move around.
While living in Europe, Morell went to Portugal and rented a 1979 VW bus named Saffron to travel around in.
“When I came back home (to Alaska) I wondered why there wasn’t a company doing this,” Morell said.
So she took the lack of business into her own hands, starting with one 1986 VW bus. It’s Trickster Trips’ first summer in business. Now she has three busses and is planning on expanding. The demand is there.
Morell and other local campervan companies have seen an uptick in business. Instagrammers like @TheBusandUs, who are from Anchorage, have made the lifestyle trendy and accessible.
“Campervans are very European,” Morell said. “Most Americans would have never Googled campervans even two years ago.”
Another reason for campervan popularity is that it offers an alternative for those looking to steer clear of seemingly big and bulky RVs.
“Our goal was to provide an alternative to the big RVs, so that anyone intimidated by driving a vehicle that big could still have all the amenities while driving something the size of a regular car,” Britta Perry, co-owner of Get Lost Travel Vans in Anchorage, said.
It’s Get Lost Travel Vans first summer in business as well, and Perry said so far, the summer has been a success.
There’s even some businesses like Alaska Camper Van Conversions where owner Charles Reynolds has been converting vans for three years to live up to residents wildest #VanLife dreams.
Morell said she’s been surprised by the demographic she’s attracted. She said she was expecting younger people, couples and friends, but those people have only made up about 15-20 percent of her clientele.
“It’s been mostly families,” Morell said. “I didn’t think that was going to be the demographic, but all of our vans have four seatbelts, and one has seven.”
Morell’s vans feature an all-Alaska setup. The vans, which feature two twin-size beds, also come with sheets, two down blankets, a kitchen full of local spices, Alaska Artisan Coffee, bear-proof Yeti coolers, a copy of the Milepost, Alaska Magazine, a can of bear spray, a locally authored book about travel in Alaska and if they choose, a bottle of Amalga gin to get a taste of Alaska.
In the summer, folks must rent one of Trickster Trips vans for a week minimum. This gives plenty of time for travelers to enjoy the slower lifestyle Morell so fondly associates with her VW busses.
“Van lifestyle is slower,” Morell said. “Our vans do go 65 mph, but the thing we love about VW buses is the nostalgia. You’re always going to get (people waving) on the road. It offers so much freedom. We have so much joy in what we do.”