There is nothing more precious than bonding with your family, especially the kids. Letting kids grow through the van life experience could bring a lot of advantages, and of course, some disadvantages. However, living the van life experience with kids may become a bit of a challenge because of a lot of factors, such as having the proper floor plan, travel schedules, and schooling issues. Whether you are already living the van life with plans for kids or perhaps you already have your family and plan to experience the van life, being prepared and informed prevents you from messing up!
When living the van life with kids, you must have a floorplan that is best suited to the number and age of your kids. If there is an infant, babyproof your floors by installing soft carpets. You will have to either homeschool your kids inside the van or enroll them in online learning classes.
It is important that you plan ahead before committing to the van life experience with kids, or if you plan to have kids. While nurturing children in an adventurous environment does make them socially and mentally equipped, it comes with a lot of complications. You must be prepared to raise a family in a tight space and on the road, no less! This entails certain levels of risk that your family needs to be aware of. Preparing and planning are already half the process, so let’s get started.
Having The Ideal Floor Plan Your Family
Living the van life with kids around could be fulfilling, momentous, and life-changing. At the same time, having kids running around in that tight van could be challenging, frustrating, and stressful. In fact, that would be the standard scenario in a regular family setup living in a house. It becomes even more challenging and fulfilling when the setup changes into a tight space, which is the case in vans and RVs.
It is important that you have the ideal floor plan or van layout that suits your young family’s needs. The perfect interior layout would give you a lot of comforts because it allows you to maximize the limited space that vans can offer. Even worse, some interior layouts do not match well with certain types of families. For instance, a heavy layout on kitchen items will not be ideal for van lifers who have toddlers running around.
This is why it is important to know which sections of the converted van is most important to you and your family. For van lifers with infants, they would need to invest more in the bed because that would be the safest place for the infant. For van lifers that have adolescent kids, a van layout that is more on the kitchen, workspace or outdoor storage would be more realistic, depending on their preferences and hobbies. Lastly, know your van’s occupancy limits because having too many kids may no longer be feasible.
Ideal Floor Plan For Family Of Three
The ideal family size shall be three for van lifers, which means you, your partner, and a kid. Having more than three can even be more challenging. In a family of three, you can easily opt for two murphy beds. You can easily give the kids, in this setup, a bed of his/her own.
Most van lifers have elevated Murphy beds for their kids, which can easily be accessed by a foldable ladder. Some van lifers, on the other hand, gave their kid a bunker bed. If you only have one kid, you can even choose the standard queen-size platform bed. This is even more ideal if the kid is still a toddler.
If you have an infant, you easily install a crib on the side of the platform bed. This is the most secure setup for an infant because Murphy beds can be dangerous to infants. Convertible beds are also not ideal for van life couples with an infant child.
Ideal Floor Plan For Family Of Four and Above
It would not be ideal to have multiple kids while doing the van life experience because your responsibilities are even more magnified. But that does not mean that it is impossible because some van life families do manage to pull it off. A family of four, which means two kids, would be difficult, but it is still possible. A family of five or more may be a bit too much though unless you move on to an RV.
In a family of three or four, you can manage the situation’s crowdedness by sacrificing parts of the kitchen, shower, or the workspace, in exchange for bed space. Murphy beds and bunk beds are the ideal beds because they are efficient in conserving space. A lot of van lifers have gotten away with this by having the Murphy beds alternate each other. You could also go for a platform bed and instead use the garage area as a sleeping area.
The Kids Will Need Proper Education Sooner Or Later
One of the most challenging aspects of raising kids while living the van life is their education. At some point in the kid’s development, you will need to give them proper education. Due to the nature of living the van life, you cannot choose the traditional schooling option for your kids. Not educating your kid should never be an option; they need proper education for their future credentials.
Some van lifers with kids have tried the option of homeschooling their young kids, or in this case, “van schooling.” This option has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. On the other hand, other van lifers have opted for online school lectures for their kids. Another alternative is hiring tutorial services on a once a week basis.
The goal is to prepare your kids for the accrediting examinations so that they can still pursue their formal education by the time they decide to move out. You cannot just expect them to find a job without being educated.
Homeschooling Your Kids On The Van
Homeschooling your kids inside your van is not a bad idea because it gives a lot of advantages. For one, it gives you maximum flexibility and concentration in teaching your kid because he/she gets no distraction from other kids/students. A lot of students in traditional schooling setups struggle because they do not get the needed attention for them to learn. In homeschooling, you can teach your kids one on one.
You can also take the teaching session as a bonding moment for you and your kids. You can take turns with your partner in teaching the kids with all the lessons they need to learn. Another advantage of this teaching setup is the fact that the learning process becomes more comforting to your kid. Some kids tend to be so nervous in classes that they struggle in their performances.
As for learning materials, you can acquire them by visiting the local school office. You cannot just arbitrarily decide on the lessons or reading materials that your kids will be using. Follow the local school office’s academic syllabus. If you want, you could also supplement it by using books and materials that are available online. The school syllabus will guide you in what lessons or topics your kids will really need to learn and master for their verification exams.
Disadvantages of Homeschooling On The Van
The most obvious disadvantage of homeschooling your kids is the risk that they may not be able to absorb the lessons you are teaching. This is expected since you are not really an accredited or licensed teacher. Aside from that, the constant travels and tight space that is normal in van life may be a bit too much for the learning kid. The environment is not really conducive to learning, but you do not have much choice since you are in the van life community.
Another disadvantage of homeschooling is the lack of school socialization that your kid will go through. In school, they get to meet new friends and socialize with kids of their age. This stage used to be a crucial part of the socialization experience that boomers, gen x, and gen z kids had. At some point, your kids will have to go through proper education, and since they never got to learn with kids of their age, they might struggle with making friends.
Online Learning Is Now A Viable Option
This is the most technologically-driven of the three options in this list. Having your kids learn from online teachers can certainly be beneficial because they are technically still taught by licensed or accredited teachers. This option would not even be an option if it were not for the advent of technology and the emergence of the internet.
Besides the fact that your kids get to be taught by real teachers, your kids get to be exposed to the advent of computers and the internet, the right way. Let’s face it, whether you like it or not, your kids will need to learn and master the advent of computers and the internet. Might as well teach them the right way by having them use it as a learning platform.
Online teachers and websites are now easily accessible by just about anyone who can use a computer. These online teachers’ services are not even that expensive, especially the ones that come from third-world countries. Enrolling in online classes can range from a few hundred dollars to a thousand, depending on the online school’s reputation.
The midpoint between online teaching and homeschooling is the option of hiring teachers to tutor their kids. In this option, you get the one on one physical experience of homeschooling while still being taught by accredited or licensed teachers. You can negotiate the scheduling of the tutorial sessions depending on your van life travels and schedules.
This option is perfect for van lifers who seasonally travel. You can easily schedule much of the tutorial sessions in the offseason before you get back on the road. The tutors will not actually mind because they get to be hired by others, too, in between your kid’s tutorial sessions.
Do’s And Don’ts In Van Life With Kids
There are certain do’s and don’ts that come with living the van life experience with kids. These do’s and don’ts are in place to ensure your family’s safety and security. Kids are often too playful, energetic, and loud that they can easily get into trouble.
Do Not Use Overhead Compartments And Cabinets If You Have Little Kids
This one is pretty obvious because kids are known to run around places where they should not. A kid will not easily understand that running around and hitting a cabinet could endanger his or her own life. He/she will probably just cry after hitting the cabinet, but what if the items inside the cabinet fall into the kids. Jars, heavy bags, and kitchenware are often stashed inside overhead cabinets and compartments.
Aside from the possibility of the kids causing his/her own accidents, vans can be very bumpy when on the road. A pothole on the road can easily rock the van where items can fly out and fall into the passengers, including the kids running around. If you can do so, it would be better not to have overhead cabinets and compartments inside the tight van. In the unfortunate event that you do have overhead cabinets and compartments, adjust by using the storage space for safe objects like clothes, towels, and other soft items.
Instead, have the jars and other dangerous heavy objects stashed away on low cabinets or drawers. This way, the kids cannot easily get hurt by such objects. A jar falling into a kid’s head can cause some pretty serious injuries.
Do Not Forget To Properly Store Knives And Other Sharp Objects
This is important because kids may have access to knives and accidentally injure themselves or others. Aside from that, knives may also fall or be flung when the van encounters a bumpy road. If you did not have kids with you, this would not be much of a problem. To avoid kids from getting access to knives or from being accidentally hurt, hide the knives inside cabinets or drawers.
This is one of the scenarios where knives kept on magnetic backsplashes are not a good idea. Kids can easily see the knives and are more tempted to play with it. Of course, as your kids grow up, they would learn how dangerous bladed items are, but for now, it is better to avoid risking it.
Do Baby Proof Corners And Edges
Since you will be having young kids with you in the van life experience, it would be safe to baby proof your van’s interior items and objects, such as the sharp edges of cabinets, tables, and doors. A kid can easily run around and hit his/her head on the edge of these objects. To minimize the injury that they may suffer, attach table guards on the edges of tables to cushion the impact. These table guards are often made up of rubber or foam, materials that are really soft.
You can buy a 3-meter pack of rubberized table guard or baby guard for around $20. Aside from sharp edges, the floor can also hurt your kids because they can easily trip and bang their head on the floor. You can remedy this by setting up cushion floor mats or carpets on your van’s flooring. As for wires, make sure to hide them away because a kid could easily get electrocuted if they mess with it.
If an infant is with you, you should have a crib that could safely secure the baby from harm. The crib should be positioned somewhere in the bed’s corner, where it is stable and free from objects that may fall on it. The crib should also not be placed above the van’s wheel because a bumpy road may harm your baby’s head.
Do Not Travel To Extreme Climate When You Have Young Toddlers
Keep in mind that kids do not fare well in extreme weather conditions. The intense cold of winter weather may be a bit too much for infants and toddlers to tolerate, especially given the fact that you are inside a van. In the same vein, traveling to places with extreme heat may also be a bit too much for kids because it easily gets hot inside the van. While the kids are still young, it would be wise to opt for safe travel destinations.
You need to keep in mind that kids struggle in adjusting to changes in climate. Aside from weather factors, places with dangerous animals should also be avoided. You cannot just stroll around the bear country with an infant or toddler tagging along. In times of emergency, you won’t be able to have the presence of mind to protect yourself and your kid.
Do Not Forget To Bring The Kids’ Medicine And Medical Records
Since you are on the road, the chances of your kids getting sick are exponentially increased. This is because they are exposed to a lot of microbes and bacteria that can easily cause them common cold or other ordinary ailments. You would not want to panic in the middle of interstate roads looking for the nearest pharmacy. Always bring your kids medicines, including their medical records.
Their medical records should ideally be organized and stored somewhere in the van. This is to allow doctors to have an opportunity to properly diagnose any kind of symptom your kid might be experiencing, by virtue of the historical data of your kid’s medical records. The risk of misdiagnosis is greatly reduced in this manner. Also, have the medicines and the medical records stashed in a cabinet or drawer that is easily accessible, to avoid panicking during emergencies.
Having emergency medicine prepared also saves you a lot of money. This is because the frequency of spending money on unnecessary hospital visits are reduced, especially if simple over-the-counter drugs could remedy the symptoms. Being prepared is very important, especially if it involves the lives of your family.
Do Not Forget To Have Emergency Supplies
Since you are living with the van life experience with kids, having emergency supplies becomes even more important. These may include but are not limited to, basic medicine, first aid kit, flashlight, fire extinguisher, and basic tools. Among this list, medicine is the most important because there will be times where you cannot easily access pharmacies. Kids can easily get sick, and so having basic kids medicine can be really helpful.
Do Teach Your Kids How To Be Organized
Since you are raising your kid or kids in the van life experience, it would be a really good idea to teach them the basics of being an organized and responsible person. You can start by teaching them how to arrange their laundry clothes. You can also have them prepare and fix their own beds.
Do Teach Your Kids How To Live A Minimalist Lifestyle
It is important to teach your kids how to appreciate small things because the van life experience is not a vacation. The van life experience is meant to be a lifestyle, a way of living. It would not be good for them to expect a lavish or glamorous lifestyle because that is not a possibility in the van life experience. There would be times when you will have to eat canned goods, not because you cannot afford them but rather due to a food mart’s unavailability.
For Families Of More Than 5, It Would Be Ideal To Have An RV
For medium and large-sized families, the van life experience may not be ideal because the tiny space may not be enough for everyone. This is why couples who have more than three kids should probably consider shifting from the van life community into the RV community. Realistically, no layout or floor plan in the van life community could sustain more than five people on one van.
It would be too cramped up and suffocating to have more than five people in one converted van. Unless the family members agree to share one big bed, there is no way everyone can sleep inside the van comfortably. Privacy will definitely get thrown out of the window in this scenario too.
For this reason, the family should consider upgrading in size by having an RV as their new mobile home. The RV could ideally be a Class A motorhome or a Class C motorhome, and both are larger by far than any converted van. However, trailers and fifth-wheels can also be sustainable for medium-sized families.
Advantages of RVs For Large Families
Class C motorhomes can accommodate around four to eight people, ideally. As long as the Class C motorhome is designed to be efficient with the living space it has, it can sustain twice the number of people a van could ever have. In a Class C motorhome, a family of five will not have to worry much about conserving or maximizing space.
Class A motorhomes are even more spacious as they can easily accommodate eight to ten people. That means that eight people can comfortably sleep inside a Class A motorhome. RVs may not be as flexible or convenient as converted vans are for solo travelers, but with the setup you currently have, converted vans’ small space is just not enough.
Disadvantages Of Having To Choose RVs
RVs are too big when compared to converted vans. It is actually a matter of preference, and some prefer extra space, while some prefer okay space but faster vehicles. A van can easily park in crowded places, while an RV cannot. RVs are also way more expensive than vans, especially the high-end Class A motorhomes.
A high-end Class A RV, like Marchi Mobile EleMMent Palazzo, could easily be priced at around $3,000,000. No high end converted van could reach that price range. Class A’s are basically moving houses.
To summarize things, living the van life with kids can be challenging, difficult, stressful, but at the same time fulfilling, enjoyable, and life-changing. More importantly, the idea of raising kids in the van life experience is not impossible. You just have to prepare for the difficulties of having a kid running around. Now that you have a family, their safety and security are of utmost importance. You cannot just continue your extra risky lifestyle without considering how your kids would be able to keep up. Regardless, if you desire to have kids while living the van life experience, keep in mind that you would become a parent more than a van lifer. It would be irresponsible to risk your kid’s safety just for the thrill of having epic travels. You should never risk or disregard your kid’s education because they would struggle in the future without proper education. There is nothing wrong with being open to options like homeschooling and online learning.