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Van life has enormous appeal, especially as everyone is getting out for summer vacations! The gorgeous Instagram photos make it seem like a minimalist, tidy dream. But, is it possible to have a van life with kids?
Is Van Life With Kids Even Possible?
Most of the “Instagram Vanlifers” I have seen are single or couples. Though their vans have beautiful layouts, it always leaves me with more questions than answers!
As a mother of four children, my gut instincts wonders the following:
- Where would we put car seats?
- Could we fit the school books?
- Where would we all sleep?
They have great layouts in their vans. Also, they have great solutions for keeping safe seats for the kids, creative arrangements to incorporate sleeping space for all, and plenty of books.
They prove that van life with kids is doable; People just need to be creative! With multiple kids, you can make the most of a platform bed or find a way to create travel trailer bunk beds.
Van vs. Camper
The great debate! Which is better for kids: a van or an RV? Below are a couple of things to consider when making a van purchase.
If you are the kind of family that likes to “fly by the seat of your pants,” then a van offers much more parking flexibility. You can drive right into a city and explore by day and find a safe spot to sleep with an app like iOverlander.
On the other hand, with an RV, you will have to plan stays in RV parks or campsites. These campsites can fill up fast, especially in the peak summer months.
You can save money buying an RV over a pre-built camper van. The RV industry has manufactured them since 1910. You read correctly; That is over 100 years! For this reason, there is an abundance of options when shopping for an RV due amount of used inventory.
Suppose you have a large family (three children or more); the biggest issue with an RV is safety. RVs or Motorhomes are not a safe way to transport children.
They are not crash-tested for car seats, and seat belts are often not connected to the vehicle’s frame. If you have kids, you will need a second vehicle to transport them, bringing us back to cost.
Driving a second vehicle will DOUBLE your gas costs. In my survey, most families were planning to take a trip out of state. Long road trips will take careful planning if you are on a tight budget and driving two gas hogs!
Below is the average miles per gallon (MPG) for each vehicle:
- Truck hauling a Fifth Wheel: 10 MPG
- Class A Motorhome: 10 MPG
- Camper Van: 16 MPG
- Passenger Van: 16 MPG
Imagine combining gas for a passenger van to haul the family and a truck to transport the fifth wheel! Here is just a quick chart comparing a few things your family will want to consider when considering full-time van life:
|Car Seat Safety||No||Yes|
|Planning||Plan Ahead||On the Fly|
How Can We Decide?
With everyone working a side hustle these days, there is no shortage of a rented camper van. People are renting them out when they are not using them. I have surveyed 30 moms about their full-time travel plans:
So, if you have a week or more and want an out-of-state trip, a van life with kids sounds like an excellent opportunity.
You can find unique stays on sites like Airbnb or VRBO, but there are dedicated van rental companies too!
Escape Camper Vans has 12 locations in North America and several van floor plans. This van offers 19 MPG and 24-hour roadside assistance, which might be an excellent way for you to get your feet wet with van life!
You can also rent RVs through sites like “RV Share.” Be sure to choose a rig you are comfortable driving and that can safely transport kids.
A Simple DIY Option
My family and I chose to buy a larger van than we needed, take out the back seat, and frequently experiment with van camping (an alternative to having a Mercedes sprinter van conversion).
I call it Part-Time Van Life.
We bought air mattresses, a camp stove, a small folding table, and a car vacuum! These things allow us to park and camp when my husband is stargazing easily (he is an amateur astronomer).
We recently made some grilled cheese in a vacant gravel lot while we observed the Orion Nebula. Magical and low budget. That is a win.
We have not spent the night in the van yet, but it has come in so handy to have a living room with us wherever we go!
You could try van life with kids by renting a large van, taking out some seats, and sleeping in that thing. It is more than enough to spend less than 100 dollars worth of gear, making everything more than affordable. You can easily pack a busy bag for your kids to keep them entertained.
Income on the Road
Many people have tasted the work from home life for the first time in recent months. If you have fallen in love with remote work, it is time to have that conversation with your boss. You may be able to continue at your current job and live nomadically.
If you are considering family van life, I suggest you start small. Take all your vacation at once. Take one two-week vacation instead of two shorter trips. Planning longer trips will be great practice for a life of travel.
If you are looking for a job, you can work on the road freelance writing is a popular choice, as is transcription work. There are many ways to fund extended travel.
You will be working on the road, which doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a vacation. Instead, it’s a staycation!
Most families that I know who do van life with kids took five years to get the financial structure set up to support their new lifestyle.
So plan to plan for a while!
School on the Road
After safety, education is the next hot topic in family travel circles. There are a lot of options, which are available for secular and religious families.
Here are a few alternatives for kids to learn:
- Virtual Public School
- Online Private School
- Private Tutor
- Correspondence Course
- Road Schooling
- Robinson Curriculum
- Read Yourself and Education
- Education Pod
Talk to your kids about their choice. I recommend focusing on the things you will do and see rather than the places you will go.
“We’re going driving to DC or a National Park” sounds less exciting than “We are going to the Spy Museum.”
If your kids do not want to leave, I suggest tabling the discussion for a few weeks. Take a three-day weekend or an hour drive to camp or travel, and just enjoy time together. Tell them they can bring stuffed animals or any other important things that will make them feel comfortable.
Focus on building relationships and getting to know each other more and more; this will help guide family plans.
The allure of road travel has been with us as a nation for a long time. You may be reading “Little House on the Prairie” and romanticizing covered-wagon travel. Or, you may long to visit friends and family states away, or you might just be feeling stuck!
These are all great reasons to try out nomadic life.
Studies have shown that family travel has improved family communication, strengthen relationships, and decrease divorce rates in families that travel together.
Once you have tasted the freedom of van life with kids, you may never go back to “bricks and sticks,” as we call it. Buying a van can become an excellent investment.
Having kids does not disqualify you from a life on the road. Soon enough, you can start doing this full time and have a junior ranger by your side!