Today we’re posting the third profile in our “Park Chasers Profiles” series. Each Q & A interview features a national park traveler (check out our first two posts with the National Parks Patch Lady, and The National Parks Girl) who also share their stories online like we do. Whether you are visiting your first park or your 400th, we hope the travel tips help inspire your next national park adventure. Today our post features Peter and Amy Brahan from Just Go Travel Studios!
Park Chaser Profile:
Peter and Amy Brahan, owners of Just Go Travel Studios
Total Park Count:
45 of 417 (of those, 29 have been national parks)
Most Recent Park: Grand Canyon National Park
Next Park Planning to Visit: Glacier National Park in July 2018
How did your interest in the national parks get started?
We began actively visiting national parks in 2013 when our kids were 6, 8 and 10. Although we had already visited Acadia National Park (the closest park to our home in NH), our first national park road trip to visit Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake and Olympic National Park was what ignited our dream to see and hike in all the US National Parks.
When did you decide to start sharing your national park interest online?
We started sharing our national park interest online when we began our business, Just Go Travel Studios. The idea of creating custom travel posters began as a gift idea. After receiving requests to create artwork for friends and family using their photos, we knew we had a unique product.
Eventually, we realized we had far more to offer than just custom posters and began writing blogs on our travels and selling national park travel itineraries, as well. Our mission is to help people plan, experience, and remember great vacations!
Where to find @justgotravelstudios online
Our website: https://www.justgotravelstudios.com/ — This is our main page where we sell our standard and custom national park posters, postcards, notecards and national park travel itineraries. Our Just Go Travel blogs can also be found here.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/justgotravelstudios/ — Travel photos, links to posts with relevant travel and national park information, the occasional giveaway and a weekly Trivia Tuesday post.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justgotravelstudios/ — Photos from recent and past trips and information about national parks.
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/justgotravelstu/ — Pins with information for visiting National Parks and traveling in the US
What Peter & Amy Love Most about the National Parks
What are your favorite things to do when you visit a national park?
Our favorite activity when visiting a National Park is hiking. We love to rise early and beat the crowds. There’s nothing like having the trail to ourselves and enjoying the beauty of the parks!
Do you collect anything or have any special traditions you do for each park?
Although we feel silly that we didn’t do this on our first trip, we now take photos of our three kids at each park entrance sign. Guess we’ll have to go back to redo a few! We also gather stickers to add to our Thule. It’s fun to remember where we’ve been and sometimes those stickers spark a fun conversation with other travelers!
Which parks have you liked the most/least and why?
We haven’t been to a park we didn’t like!
Excessive crowds and inconsiderate tourists left our kids underwhelmed with the Grand Canyon after our visit in the summer of 2016. So, we revisited this past February and hiked down South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Ah Point. I think we changed their minds! The dusting of snow, lack of crowds and stunning scenery are what they’ll now remember!
Our favorite parks have been Grand Teton, Zion, Theodore Roosevelt, Big Bend and Rocky Mountain.
Tell us one of your favorite national park stories:
We have several but will share our most recent and memorable national park story which took place in Big Bend. I don’t think our kids could ever forget Omar!
It was dark and, after an afternoon of hiking, we had just arrived back at our cottage overlooking the Chisos Basin. We were preparing to eat dinner with our three kids when I heard the doorknob jiggle and then a man’s voice. He said he had gotten lost while out hiking, had a broken collarbone, was dehydrated and needed help. In our remote location and with lack of phone service, we were unable to call for help. However, we didn’t want to open the door to a stranger with concern for the safety of our three children. In the dark, it was hard to tell who was standing outside our door, and he was starting to sound desperate and a bit crazy (We won’t go into details)!
We told him to travel down the road to the ranger station or store to ask for help. After some time, he moved on to another cottage. About a half hour later, we heard a truck pull up and the voices of our neighbors outside. My husband left the cottage to find out the story since I knew our kids would never be able to sleep! The hiker, Omar, was legit and had happened upon our cottage first, after separating earlier in the day from his group of hiking buddies. He had been out hiking and wandered lost in the Chisos Mountains for over 8 hours without a pack, food or water—which would explain why he sounded disoriented. Thankfully, he got the help he needed and reconnected with his friends.
What did my kids take away from this experience? Never hike unprepared or you could end up like Omar!
Travel Advice from Just Go Travel Studios
How do you decide where to travel to next? How do you plan your itinerary when you pick a park? Do you like to have a set plan for the entire visit or like to decide when you get there?
Our recent trips have been to locations where we can visit multiple national parks on a single trip. Since we live in NH, the majority of the parks are pretty far away and we need to make the most of the time we have. Now that we’ve visited 29 parks, they are getting tougher to visit this way, so we’ll have to come up with a new game plan pretty soon!
We don’t necessarily have a set plan for each day but we do have a list of must-dos and hikes that we plan to hit first thing in the morning to avoid crowds.
What advice do you have for friends and family who ask about the amount of time and money it takes to travel so much?
Yes, it can be costly but there are many different ways to experience the parks. If we didn’t have three kids and had more time, we’d be camping in the parks and driving across country. Maybe someday, we’ll do just that! It certainly takes a lot of time and planning, but these national park trips are so much more than a family vacation. We live for these trips—time to enjoy and experience nature, reconnect as a family, learn about our nation’s history and see our amazing country. We wouldn’t have it any other way!
What are the resources you use when planning national park trips?
We do a lot of research online before our trips to develop our travel itineraries. Pinterest and Trip Advisor are two of our favorite resources. However, we also love the Fodor’s books and The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West has come in very handy! We also still use good, old-fashioned maps since they come in helpful when traveling. I like to see the big picture, not just what’s on the GPS or Google maps screen.
What tips would you give to someone who is just starting their park chasing list? Anything you wish you would have known from the beginning?
So many people are inclined to head straight for the big name parks first—places like Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion. However, we encourage new Park Chasers to visit the lesser known parks because they have so much to offer and far fewer people!
Parks like Channel Islands, Big Bend and Theodore Roosevelt have been among our favorites. When visiting the more popular parks, be sure to find a way to rise early or get off the beaten path and experience the park away from the crowds. You won’t regret it!