Van Life with Kids – Important Things to Know Before You Start

Thinking of packing and living in a motorhome or camper van with your kids? Or maybe spend an extended time with them- maybe for a 3 month tour of Europe? We spent a year traveling and spending our lives in our van with our daughter – and it was a step learning curve. Here’s what we discovered about van living with kids (without losing your mind!)

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Is it possible to have van life with children?

We never wanted to do ‘van life with kids’. After all, I never wanted to leave my job, move out of the house, sell most of our things, and leave for Europe.

That’s right … sort of … happened.

Yet, despite the lack of planning, despite having no clue or no clue what we were doing, we lived and traveled in a small place with a teenager. It was that wise. In many, many ways.

Was professional. There were difficulties. I’m pretty sure it has changed all our lives (I want to hope for the better.) Along the way, we’ve met many more families who are living in vans with campers and their kids. They come from all walks of life, different budgets, different ages and different things that they wanted to achieve.

So yes, I think it’s perfectly possible to experience it and (I dare say it) even enjoy van life with kids. It just takes a little planning and preparation (something we didn’t do- and saddened).

Van life with kids- our story

We recorded a video with our daughter Z about 2 years after returning from our adventure. Just click on the image to play:

Van Life with kids – Wandering Bird

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Our van lives with children’s stories

Our daughter Jade started traveling full time when she was 15 years old. He has already spent about 5 years on a boat with us, and traveled to Europe in a motorhome for a few months during the school holidays.

We decided to send him to home school for his final year of high school because he is fighting on the way to fail at school and all his GCSEs. We hoped that with her extra time and attention, she would be able to improve her grades and pass enough exams to enter college.

Which one (spoiler warning) he did- he got A *, A, B and two Cs in his mockery from E and F and went to the college of his choice. (She is currently studying law at university)

Our goal for the year was to show him a little more (or at least Europe) of the world, expose him to different cultures and ideas, and help him gain some confidence, which he lacked.

So we kicked him out of school (literally, we just wrote a letter to his school that we were taking responsibility for his education) and that was it. It was terribly easy; I expected the school or local education officer to come and check on her welfare, but no – nothing.

Once we found out exactly what she had to learn and how she sat for her GCSE exam (using the local home schooling test center), we were free to explore. So we left.

Can you legally stay in the van with the child?

Yes, yes. As long as they are responsible for your child / your parents, yes. You can If it is a newborn, you may have difficulty with a health nurse, but as long as the baby (s) are clean, healthy and safe, there is no problem staying with them in a van, RV or motorhome.

How to plan a vanlife with a baby

Before you embark on a long journey, there are many things to organize. Heck, you have a lot to organize before you go on a weekend trip with the kids, but going long is its own special kind of craze.

To help, ask yourself some questions before you go here.

  • How old will your child be on the trip? (Newborns will need less private space than teenagers.)
  • Where will they sleep?
  • Where will they spend time on a rainy day? Where will they go to relax?
  • What are they going to do to have fun?
  • Are they going to do school work? Who is in charge of this?
  • How do they feel about travel? (It’s easier to deal with excited kids than sad teenagers who want to see their friends)

Van Life with the Kids- Z by our motorhome in the winter

Tips from us for surviving van life with kids

  • Find out what they can do while driving. Some of these children’s car games were life saving!
  • Also, do some quiet time activities for the kids so they can concentrate- this can be a stimulus for many trips and may need help to stop them.
  • Allow them to listen to music / audio books – get extra wired headphones that don’t require charging as a backup (uses Z AirPod and survives for fear of running out)
  • Remind them (and you!) To charge each electronic device well while you’re at CampSite / Main Plug-in. Traveling with a child who is upset by the death of his phone is not fun. A backup charger is a really good idea.
  • Let them download podcasts / music before you go so they don’t use all their data.
  • Tell them where you are going next. Show them on a map, get them excited about what to see, get them involved in the ride.
  • Let them fill out a road trip logbook. We designed it with our daughter in mind – she loved it.
Road Trip Journal Logbook

Staying in a motorhome with a baby is one of our biggest problems

  • Water management! He took such a looooooong shower. And yes, he lived on a boat for a few years before that. You think he learned better but apparently not. It caused a lot of friction বিশেষ especially when we were camping at Motorhome Wild and trying to stay away from the camp site for a while.
  • Prohibit the use of any body spray / perfume inside the van. Adolescents / young adults have trouble knowing when to stop!
  • Packing clothes can be a challenge. This requires careful thinking – especially if they are fashion conscious like Z. They feel good about themselves. Also packed for all events. In the summer, we still ended up going up the hill like Mont Blanc (which was totally Jade’s fault in fairness – watch the video to see why) but he didn’t have the right coat and he froze!
  • Encourage them to work outside the comfort zone. Jade insisted that he was scared of heights, but we dragged him to all sorts of places, including Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze.
  • Get extra pairs of glasses / sunglasses / hats for your kids – they’ll leave them somewhere.
  • It was very difficult to eat Piki on the ship. Sometimes he just refused to eat what we wanted খেতে so we tried to compromise and try to find something he could recognize so he would eat it.

Van is the worst thing in life with kids

Lack of privacy. Not at all. Either way. Especially at night when you want ‘adult’ time with your spouse. Even during the day, we weren’t happy that we kicked our daughter by ourselves and told her to walk too long এটি it could be even easier if you had two older kids who could play and play together.

But yes … your sex life is going to be damaged. Badly.

Thinking of our kids living van lives!

  • Space is important for ‘cooling off’ – being able to walk away from your parents
  • So there is seating (he has a cube above the front cab, but it wasn’t long enough for him to sit on, so he struggled to draw or write)
  • Staying together all the time is quite intense
  • Traveling by van is great, but long drives can be tiring. Also, if they get sick in the car, try installing a fan in the back for cold air
  • Dry shampoo for girls ical magic if they are worried about greasy hair
  • Expect a lot of ‘chill’ time. Sometimes when we were working he would sit for about half the time and he would get a little annoyed- which is why cool games are so useful again.
  • Be kind to each other – and be patient. Living continuously in a small space is not easy.

Z’s favorite places in Europe include:

Care to share!

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