Mollie Krengel’s life is all about balance. She’s a businesswoman and a mom. Full of energy and full of calm. She’s always engaged in the world around her, whether she’s cozying up at her parents’ home on Lake Minnetonka, or traveling around the globe with her own kids. Krengel, who grew up in Plymouth and Tonka Bay, is the creative mind behind Wildfam, a travel consulting biz that’s filling a gap in the travel industry: super up-to-date guides that focus on hidden gems, nitty-gritty details and—best of all—kid-friendly stuff to do in cities all over the world.
When she was growing up, Mollie Krengel’s family lived year-round in Plymouth and had a cabin near Brainerd. “We were a big boating family and loved to be on the water: fishing, tubing, Jet Skiing, just being out in nature,” she says. “I feel very nostalgic when I’m doing any of those things.” As Krengel and her two brothers got older, it was harder for the family to find time to make the trip to their cabin, but they just couldn’t give up lake life. “My parents said, ‘We love being out on the water,’ and they moved to Lake Minnetonka,” Krengel says. “I went off to college but came home every summer. I met my husband my freshman year of college; he’s from Dallas. They have lakes there, but not to this extent,” she explains with a laugh. “Every summer he wanted to be here on Lake Minnetonka.”
Krengel and her husband Roy both graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in human biology. “Our passion was always working with people and making connections,” says Krengel, 36. Both she and Roy had planned to go to professional school—he’s now a dentist—but Krengel “had a moment where I thought, ‘I don’t know if this is the right path for me.’ ” She spent several years working in pension accounting but decided it was time to make a change when her third child was born in 2010. “I love numbers, but I love to be with people. I like to be exploring, and I like change. For me, the last decade has really been about bringing those things together.”
Before Krengel launched Wildfam, there was Wildhive, which offers pop-up dance parties and other “integrative experiences” that help adults connect with their playful side. “My mission is to explore what it takes to live life with more and meaning and adventure and fulfillment,” says Krengel. With a background in dance, it’s one of her favorite mediums. “I use music and movement, and think of it as an adventure.” For Wildhive, Krengel rents different event spaces around the Twin Cities and hosts gatherings (guests learn about them on social media and pay a small admission fee at the door) that are simply for fun: show up, dance, laugh, chat, and connect with yourself and with others. “I like to help everybody reawaken their wild,” Krengel says. “ ‘Wild’ is our innate ability to live life fully, and with more fun and play. The emphasis is really on self-expression.”
The travel branch of her business, Wildfam, grew naturally from Wildhive. “First and foremost, I want to encourage people to take the trip. Near or far,” Krengel says. “Travel is eye-opening. It always puts things in perspective, and makes you feel like you’re living with more meaning.” Krengel and her husband Roy make it a priority to travel several times a year—sometimes with their kids and sometimes as a couple, making time to reconnect. “Our friends were always asking, ‘Where are you off to next?’ ” Krengel says. “They started coming to me for travel advice. I immersed myself in research, and I get really excited about it.” She realized that she loved the nitty-gritty details of planning a vacation, something a lot of travelers balk at. “You want to make the most of your time, especially if you’re traveling with children, and set yourself up for an enjoyable experience.” Starting with her family’s own destinations, Krengel decided to gather all her research in one place and publish a travel guide for each location. They’re easily accessible on her website, and visitors can download a PDF travel journal for around $10.
The best part? Krengel is constantly updating her travel journals, combing through online reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor and investigating new restaurants, museums and other attractions. The old travel guide model—paying $30 for a stuffy book that’s updated once a year, at best—just doesn’t work for young families in the 21st century, she says. “I want our guides to be really current. Not everyone likes the research—either they don’t have the time or the desire to do it. I don’t want that to hold travelers back.” Krengel digs deep. She writes about each city’s different neighborhoods, including the best eateries, organized by breakfast, lunch and dinner, and lists of current events. The PDF journals are interactive and include clickable links to local websites for fast reference.
And you don’t have to be jetting off to a different time zone for a meaningful trip, either. “It’s amazing how you can go 15 minutes or even five minutes away from home, and explore an area, and feel like you’re in a new city,” says Krengel. Case in point: She’s published a travel journal about our very own Minneapolis. Other journals cover destinations stateside (West Coast wine country, Utah, a Texas road trip, and beachy Naples, among others) and global (North Caicos, Belize, Isla Mujeres and more).
If clients don’t spot a journal for their upcoming destination, they can consult with Krengel for a customized trip plan. “I love the research so much—I love helping clients with that part,” says Krengel. Old-school travel agents focus on the logistics of travel (like booking plane tickets and hotel rooms), but these days, travelers can do those tasks themselves with the tap of a smartphone or the click of a mouse. “Anyone can book their own airfare,” says Krengel. “It’s the detailed planning of experiences that makes our travel guidance different.” The bottom line? Just get out there. “There are major health benefits to travel,” says Krengel. “Not only your mental health and your brain function, but your relationships—just having that time together. You always come home with a different outlook.”
Wildfam focuses on kid-friendly adventures around the world, including a travel journal from California wine country. Wait—wine country with kids? Yep, says Mollie Krengel. “I loved Healdsburg, California. It has a small-town feel and is very family-friendly. A lot of the wineries are very kid-friendly—they have coloring books and yard games. I was surprised by how many welcomed families and small children,” she says. “In addition, the area has so much outdoor adventure to explore. We did a lot of hiking, went to the farmers market, and it was just such a lovely experience for everyone.”
But you don’t have to take the grown-ups’ word for it. Here are reviews from the Krengel kids:
Healdsburg was such a cool trip! I loved picking fresh fruit off trees at wineries and our Airbnb, making our own wood-fired pizza, boating and swimming in Lake Sonoma, and hiking a lot. It brings my family closer. I am so grateful for these adventures together!
—Liam, age 11
When I travel with my family, I feel very excited and adventurous. We create so many memories together. I love sitting by a campfire and roasting marshmallows under the stars. We saw so many seals at Goat Rock State Park [in California]! But my favorite trip is in a tropical destination. —Ella, age 11
I loved the huge redwood trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve. They made me feel so small. Our house had a super cool tree-house! We always have so much fun exploring together. —Rafi, age 7
Travel with the Hive
In March, Mollie Krengel will lead a retreat in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. The trip will combine elements of Wildhive and Wildfam “in a week of adventure, play, dance, philanthropy and culture.” To learn more, visit wildfam.com and browse under Guatemala.
Mollie Krengel wants Wildfam to contribute to a better world. She donates 5 percent of the sale of each travel journal to Charity: Water, a nonprofit organization that provides clean and safe drinking water to people in need all over the world.
You can find the snazzy luggage from our photo shoot at Excelsior’s Brightwater Clothing & Gear.