Post Summary: An honest recap of driving and sleeping in a VW Westfalia around Alaska in April.
Personally, we LOVE this kind of travel and think that everyone should experience taking a big Alaska road trip this way! It gives you a sense of freedom and adventure that you can’t obtain any other way!
That’s why when we were planning our two-week trip to Alaska, we knew we wanted to spend our time exploring its huge mountains and diverse landscape by – you guessed it – an epic road trip!
In this post, we’re sharing our experience driving around Alaska in a vintage VW Westfalia!
What It’s Like Camping In A Vintage VW Westfalia In Alaska
After extensive research, we discovered a company called Last Frontier Westys that rents vintage VW vans for awesome trips through the Last Frontier. Berty and I knew immediately that we had to learn more!
We have been thinking really hard about buying a van of our own and outfitting the inside, so this was an awesome way to experience what life would really be like living in a van.
In this post, we’re sharing our experience of the good, not so good, and adventurous things that happen when driving a vintage VW Westfalia bus around Alaska!
A little about Last Frontier Westys:
Last Frontier Westys is the first company to rent out vintage VW vans to explore in Alaska.
They keep their vans in their original form, though they did deck out Poly (the van we drove) with Bluetooth so we could play our music and talk hands-free while driving (#necessary).
The van comes with all the things you’ll need for a trip, including cookware, sheets, pillows, a van broom, and down blankets for cold nights! Poly is also equipped with a propane-powered heater, which means she can be rented earlier and/or later in the season during colder weather. We were so grateful for that heater!
Last Frontier Westys also creates custom itineraries with places to see and things to do, restaurant recommendations, campgrounds, and so much more. They will even make a personalized Google Map with clickable links and easy directions to each place.
It was extremely helpful for us to reference this during our trip! Berty and I believe recommendations made by locals like Last Frontier Westys are always the best way to go when exploring a new place.
So what does a typical day look like in the VW Westfalia van?
*Here’s a general schedule of how things went day-by-day when traveling in Alaska…
*Close the top by rolling the canvas together and clicking the top back in place. Set the seat back into a riding position. Move our gear and load it into the back of the car.
*Berty drove (he was the only one who knew how to drive a stick shift), so our friend Jeffrey was our resident DJ while I sat in the back and wrote blog articles.
*Take pictures from the back of the car. (The views outside our windows were always insane!)
*Stop somewhere to take pictures and cook food for lunch. Usually, it was a quick lunch like Cup of Noodles or PB&J. Find more car camping recipes here!
*Spend the afternoon hiking or photographing a new location.
*Drive to a campground and park for the night. (Find safe places to sleep here!) OR find your own free sites using The Dyrt! We use this campground finding app on nearly all of our road trips. The pro membership unlocks BLM and national forest maps, and assistance in planning your custom road trip route. Try their pro membership free for 30-days when using our code MANDAGIES!
*Pop the top, cook dinner, visit with one another. Take photos around the area.
*Set up for bed. Move our bags from the back into the front seats to make room for sleeping bags. Close the van curtains to make it darker. (The sun doesn’t set until VERY late here!)
*Do it all over again!
Highlights of a VW Westfalia Camper Van:
We loved so many things about driving a VW Westfalia. Here are some of our favorite quirks and features of the van!
*Cabinets for your gear. Most of the items we needed were supplied by Last Frontier Westys, but it was nice to store our extra food and gear in the cabinets. Not only did this make it an easier and more functional space, but it made it feel like our own little home for two weeks!
*Swivel chairs. Having three people in the car, it was nice to cook a meal and be able to eat it together in front of the extended table in the van. Which brings me to my next point…
*Moveable tray table. There is a little tray table that tucks into extra countertop space, and it pulls out so that we could all eat together in the van.
*Sleeps 4. VW vans are unique in the sense that they can take four people (maybe even 5 with an extra seat) on an adventure! This is the perfect option for families or groups of friends if they want to explore Alaska together.
*They just look so dang GOOD! Driving a VW Westfalia van, it was SO easy to pull over and get awesome photos. There’s something about the vintage interior and quirky features that make it so fun to photograph.
Challenges with a Vintage VW Westfalia Camper Van:
There aren’t that many downsides to exploring in a VW van. However, when renting (or borrowing one… or owning one…) you should be aware of the following:
*Gas mileage. Only gets ~16 miles to the gallon, so you’ll be filling up often. But that’s okay – it gives you more time to stop, take it slow, and enjoy what’s around you! It’s actually perfect for using Anchorage as a home-base and taking day trips from Anchorage. Just budget for a lot of gas. (Which you should anyway for long road trips in Alaska. Find out how to budget for gas here!)
*The van fridge. We were told that VW fridges are notorious for not working, so we didn’t set our expectations too high. The owners told us to think of it as a glorified cooler and to buy food every few days or so instead of packing it full for the entire trip.
*Being the old beauty that it is, you must take extra care with some features. The curtains stick, you might have to slam things for them to be fully shut, or carefully pack the cupboards so dishes don’t bang around. It’s not a Tesla, so you’ll have to be okay with dealing with a little inconvenience every once in a while.
We had a fun roller-coaster of a few weeks while here in Alaska. We had to change our plans a lot because winter activities were closed, and summer ones had yet to open.
This resulted in extended hikes (trailheads were closed), last-minute adventures, and dealing with all sorts of weather! Through it all, we were so fortunate to drive this VW Westfalia van and see Alaska during the shoulder season!
Part of the adventure with a van is changing plans on a whim, and we believe we got the true Alaskan road trip experience these few weeks!
Have you ever had the chance to road trip in a vintage VW Westfalia Camper Van? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below!
Thank you Last Frontier Westys for letting up borrow Poly for our 10 days in Alaska! Please visit Last Frontier Westys if you’d like to hear about renting your own van in Alaska. This post also contains some affiliate links, which is of no cost to you and allow this blog to stay up and running – thank you!
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