Learnings from vanlife with kids

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

It has been quite a long time ago when my wife and I thought about traveling through Europe with our home on wheels. We wanted to explore the north, see new places and go without planning. But then our first kid was born and our plans of vanlife vanished. Pretty soon we found ourselves more on our neighborhood playground than in the van, and we started to miss it.

But then we got a second chance. Our son was born and this time we wanted to take the opportunity and use the time for traveling with our kids.

And so we did. We started small, with a two-week trip down south, just to get the crew used to the small space. I mean, we are staying in 4qm, and especially when it is rainy outside, this is not a lot of space. Anyway, the test drive went pretty well.

Don’t force it

Our first learning though was that we, the adults, just plan too much that is not predictable. We wanted our 2-year-old to sleep in the roof bed but she told us immediately, right after 1minute up there, that she was afraid and wanted to sleep on the downstairs bed. So our plan of having enough space in our beds did not really work out, but we adapted quickly and it turned out to be a good solution.

After our test drive, we backed the van, rethinking all the stuff we wanted to bring with us since most people tend to pack too much anyway. Another learning, that no matter where you go, always bring warm clothes, always bring a warm cap and something to keep you dry in the rain. That’s all you need because a washing option will always be available at some point. So we packed quite efficiently this time and started to drive up north.

Know where you stay for the night

We had a rough idea of where we wanted to end up, but we did not plan. This turned out to be a mistake especially because traveling by van seems to be a huge trend in Europe right now. So we ended up searching for a spot to stay for the night and with kids on board this is fun one or two times, but when they are hungry or tired or want to get out of their seat, it gets quite frustrating. So for us, knowing where we would sleep the next was a calming feeling that we learned we wanted to have.

Move on when you need change

When we arrived at the sea up north, the weather was perfect. Almost no wind, sunny but not too hot. We enjoyed it a lot but soon we realized that staying at the same spot for longer than 3 nights made the kids annoyed and maybe bored. Especially our 2-year-old was super excited when we arrived at a new place, started to explore, enjoyed the surroundings and then got ready to move again. Interesting to see how she explores the world. For us, it meant packing up the van and move again every other day, which was ok but also a lot of work. But her hunger for exploring more and more was huge and we wanted to feed her with as many great experiences as possible.

Be calm and relaxed

Our baby, on the other hand, was super relaxed no matter where we were located. He was happy to see the ocean, sleep in a small but cozy bed next to his sister and mother, wake up early when the sun started to shine through the van's curtains and finding himself on a different playground every other day. Kids are relaxed when their parents are calm. This is a simple fact that we explored every day on our trip. But quite often we are not calm and relaxed when we are back home! Why is this? This could be another blog post, but in short, I guess it is our job to bring the feeling of freedom and calmness home and preserve it, for our kids.

Moments count

My final learning from our trip appeared back home. Our kids want to be outside all the time. Watching TV bores them and playing indoors is cool for a short time, but then they want to be outdoors. They want to explore, they want to help to do the stuff we do and they want to learn from us. When we travel, a lot of us behave differently because our mind for a short period grants us to feel free and to just let the moment happen. This is my final learning from our trip:

Let the moment happen