Wandering Trail offers holiday light tours

— Created December 15, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

It is a holiday tradition for many – loading up the car for an evening of light-gazing. While always fun, satisfaction can sometimes be hit-or-miss, depending on the chosen route and whether folks have decided to deck their lawns with the intricate displays.

Well, one Whidbey Island woman has expanded her new tour business to include a tour of the best holiday lights around Oak Harbor, taking the guesswork out of the search for the best displays and giving people an opportunity to relax and let someone else do the driving.

Elizabeth Schroeder started Wandering Trail Tours in June, after 10 years of dreaming and planning. She does regular, year-round tours of Whidbey’s wineries and distilleries, but decided to add a little something different for the holiday season.

“I do tours year-round, but this time of year there’s not much going on weekdays, so I thought a Christmas light tour would be something fun to do,” she explained. “People can just relax, enjoy little treats and hot chocolate; it’s a fun, relaxing way of spending time with family.”

Family light tours for those age 5 and up are offered at 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and an adults-only tour is offered Thursday, through Dec. 30.  Tours are filling quickly – the bus holds 10 passengers – and Schroeder advises checking the website for availability. (wanderingtrailtours.com) Cost is $15 per person plus tax and the price includes hot chocolate and snacks. Groups meet at the PNW Vibes store in The Loft in downtown Oak Harbor and last roughly an hour-and-a-half.

“There’s about 10 houses on the tour and some sporadic other lights along the way,” Schroeder described. “We start at The Loft, then basically do a big circle around Oak Harbor and come back to The Loft. People are very excited about it – there are several days booked up already.”

Schroeder said she drove around scoping out the best and brightest light displays before finalizing her route. Passengers on the tours will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite light display and Schroeder will tally the votes at the end of the month. Whichever wins the most votes will also win a gift basket.

“I think people really like it because it’s a whole, encompassing experience,” said Schroeder. “They enjoy having drinks, snacks and the environment of the bus. Besides, the person driving never gets to enjoy the lights. They miss a lot of things because they’re trying to find the sites. There are several big displays, but there are other cool houses, too. I took the time to find the best route and houses, so it gives the whole family time to enjoy it.”

Creating experiences is what Wandering Trail Tours is all about. A U.S. Navy veteran, Schroeder got the idea for doing wine tours while stationed in Australia, where she said she learned about and developed an appreciation for wine.

“I moved to Whidbey Island in 2009,” she said. “Before I was here, I was in Australia. I would go to southern Australia all the time and go on wine tours. When I got here and saw all the wineries, I got really excited. I thought I’d go on tours. They have them, but they’re all self-driving tours. It is far for people in Oak Harbor to get down to the south end of the island, so I didn’t get to go as much as I wanted.

“A couple of years go by and I retired from the Navy,” she continued. “When I thought about what I wanted to do when I retired, I thought this would be something fun. So I started preparing back then. I saved up for it financially so I could do it more as something fun to do than needing it as my main source of income.”

Schroeder said she joined all the wine clubs, started volunteering at the Chamber of Commerce to meet people and network and she went to college, where she is currently just two classes away from earning her bachelor’s degree. She officially began Wandering Trail Tours in June, and said she feels all the years of patience and preparation will help her succeed.

“When I started, I really noticed a gap between the north end and south end [of the island],” she said. “It’s important to me to bring people together and bring them a way to enjoy all the wineries in a safe manner. I pick people up from their houses or hotels so they don’t have to drive at all. When people step on the bus, all the tasting fees, food and water are covered and they do not have to worry about it. It’s more an experience than just a shuttle bus. It’s really important to me they have a fun, relaxing day.”

Wine tours are offered every weekend and include stops at four different wineries and/or distilleries, depending on the time of year and the tour. Schroeder said she has lots of ideas for different tours in the future. For her, it is all about serving up a unique, enjoyable experience.

“My passion is service,” she said. “I love serving people and making them happy. I love doing these tours. I make friends every time I do a tour. It’s the whole experience. I love helping make people happy. I’m not doing this to become a millionaire, I’m doing this because I love it.”

To learn more about Wandering Trail Tours or to book a spot on a Christmas lights or wine tour, visit wanderingtrailtours.com or find it on Facebook.