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Taking a road trip in a van with kids

Mom and son travelling on mini-van reading book

You know those Instagram posts where you see RVs and vans wonderfully adapted to an on-the-road lifestyle? They’re almost always parked by the sea, or near breathtaking views, in the mountains, or in a lush green meadow.

We’re sure you know what we’re talking about, and you’ve probably been itching to experience that lifestyle yourself, maybe even just for a short vacation or trip. Plus, we’re pretty sure you’ve wondered how do-able it is with kids.

In this article, we’re going to share some tips and tricks for traveling with a minivan or RV without leaving the kids at home. In a van, a relaxing, stress-free and fun experience is completely do-able!

Buckle up, we’re off!

Our tips for traveling in a motorhome with kids.

Choose the van that’s right for you

The first step – obviously – is to find a van.

There are so many models, and you can choose between a van, a mini-van or a camper van. You’ll have to make your choice according to your needs, your budget, the size of your household, and the length of the trips you plan to take as a family.

Of course, you don’t need to buy a brand new vehicle. In fact, there are many websites that offer used vans in excellent condition, so you can indulge in restoration, customization and interior decoration. This phase will be part of the fun.

You can make significant renovations, such as removing the seats and furnishing the van as a real mini-home (by adding a counter-top, beds, cabinets, and everything you need to prepare a good breakfast to enjoy while watching beautiful sunrises reflected in the sea). Additionally, you can choose to add small details that will contribute to making the space even more cozy for your family. The latter is a very important aspect, considering that you’ll likely spend a lot of time in your mini-van, especially in the evenings and at night.

Find what’s essential

While you might choose a large RV over a small van, you’ll realize quite quickly that space will always be tight. Traveling and living in a van will require you to make some sacrifices (sometimes difficult, but usually satisfying), and discover what’s really essential and deserves to be on board.

A minimalist style of travel is the basic rule. Plus, it’s also a growth opportunity for children, who will have to choose which clothes, games, and books to bring on the road. Involving them in these choices will make them feel empowered and help them better understand what really matters to them. Such choices also represent a small step toward a more minimalist lifestyle.

Vans and mini-vans are small, but it’s still easy to lose your stuff in there, especially if you don’t keep things nice and tidy. This is another (often difficult) topic to address with kids: everything must have its place on board, and everyone must play their part in putting back objects when they’re no longer in use.

Space is scarce and resources limited (just like on Earth). Traveling in a van can be the perfect time to make children aware of the importance of resources that may seem “infinite”, especially when living in a house. Think of electricity or drinking water, which flow endlessly from sockets or faucets. Living in a van with children lets us explain to them that while there are batteries and water tanks, resources are limited and therefore they should not be wasted. A road trip in a van is the perfect opportunity to explain that these concepts also apply to our planet, which is much larger than an RV, but also hosts many more individuals.

Free not to organize itineraries – and able to improvise

You’ll see how fast your way of life will adapt to travel in your new van as you realize how much freedom can come from not having to book a hotel or guest room, not having a set itinerary, and being able to stop almost anywhere, at any time.

This approach connects in many ways with slow parenting, whereby very few of the children’s activities are planned, so as to leave them room to freely explore the world and play.

Life and travels in a van allow us to be unorganized, making every trip a discovery of the world and its surprises. In a way, this will help you to look at the world and life through the eyes of a child, while also helping you see your children with new eyes, forming a deeper and more intense bond with them.

Be prepared to make compromises

Beware, though. There aren’t just upsides to travelling in a van. As we’re sure you can imagine, a van equipped to transport and sleep (for example) multiple children will never have a shower or bathroom as well. So ask yourself if you’re willing to use the showers and toilets at a campground, or if you’d be better off opting for an RV … or a completely different travel solution, like a good old-fashioned hotel.

Traveling with kids in a van: many positive aspects

If the lack of space forces us to make sacrifices, it’s also true that it makes for greater intimacy and strengthened bonds. We’ll also find ourselves going outdoors more often, to have more freedom.

This will lead us to explore the world with our children, to live in closer contact with nature and discover new flowers and plants, breathing good air in uncontaminated environments, and seeing animals you rarely meet in a city.

Of course, when the weather is bad, van life is not ideal, but you can always spend time indoors, in an intimate environment, sipping tea and playing a board game. Alternatively, you can fire up the engine and start driving towards the sun.

Sleep wherever you want

Speaking of indoor areas, bedtime can be a real adventure. This is because in the eyes of a child, sleeping in a van parked in the middle of nowhere is a fantastic experience. Plus, the fun part is that you can choose to park and spend the night almost anywhere (while always respecting the rules of the road and basic precautions to be sure not to run unnecessary risks). For the little ones, sleeping in a van will add an extra element of adventure to an experience they’ll never forget and will definitely want to repeat as soon as possible.

Disconnect

“Is there phone service here? Is there wifi?” Great questions. The answer could simply be “No”. Or it could be similar to what we’ve already said about “limited resources”. There is service, but the cell phone runs out of juice. There is wifi, but we can’t consume all the data, because we need it for the maps and digital navigator. In short: the internet is there, but there’s less of it than usual.

This is a great opportunity to leave our phones aside and enjoy reality for what it is: beautiful and enchanting, and worthy of all our contemplation.

In addition, reducing screen time will awaken imagination and curiosity, and the desire to be in contact with trees, sand, grass and stones. Plus, by disconnecting from the internet, you’ll ensure a stronger emotional connection between all the members of the family who, without distractions, will be freer to chat, share, get to know each other and play.

Ready to go?

Let us know if you’re ready to go, or even just thinking about it. Contact us on Facebook or Instagram, and don’t forget to follow us for more tips and ideas for eco-friendly living for your family and your kids’ education.


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