Traveling the country in a campervan is perhaps the quintessential picture of the freedom found on the Great American Road Trip. Add a couple of kids (or three or four) into the mix and that perfect picture of freedom comes to a screeching halt-or does it?
Our family is well seasoned in camping and RVing of all varieties, but I have long wanted to experience the unique flavor of traveling by campervan. More mobile than a RV and less rustic than a tent, campervanning is an ideal way to take off on an open-ended trip of the country. But is a mode of transportation that seems to be designed for couples and college students really a good ride for a family of six?
First of all what is Campervanning?
Think of the campervan as the happy place between rustic tent camping and the mammoth recreational vehicles that are available. Built on a passenger van or mini-van body, campervans have everything that you need to stay in a campsite retrofitted to the vehicle, with the same maneuverability that you would expect from a standard van. This makes it an ideal choice for travelers who want the budget friendly experience of camping, without the hassle of pitching a tent or driving a big rig.
~The Kitchen of the Campervan includes a sink, refrigerator, and camping stove. ~
Most families are looking for budget friendly ways to see the country with their kids, so the van fits, in this case. However, most vans are outfitted for two comfortably with a tight squeeze for three, so families of four or more might wonder how to make it work.
Packed in Like Sardines…Or will we all fit?
There are two things to consider when considering whether a campervan will fit your family-riding room and sleeping room. Ensuring that everyone has a comfortable place to sleep at night was a concern with our family. Campervans are typically outfitted with an oversized queen bed, which would fit two comfortably, or three if you like being super-cozy or one of the three is child-sized. Fortunately, Escape Campervans has a delightful solution to add berths in the form of a roof-top sleeper that pops up to house a double-bed and another two sleepers. For young kids, sleeping on the roof of a van is the thrill of a lifetime.
~This is heaven for a couple of pre-teen boys~
To accommodate the need for an additional two sleepers (because we don’t like sleeping on top of one another) we brought along a tent to pitch next to our campsite. Escape also offers tents to rent with the package for those with extra sleeping needs, but since we were already driving our own vehicle, we brought our own. For the first couple of nights, we slept with two people in the van, two people in the roof-top sleeper, and two people in the tent. When we drove further north, however, the colder nights drove the kids to cram into the van for warmth. After some kicking and complaints, we realized that they all fit four in a row if they slept width-wise on the mattress. That allowed us to abandon the tent, and sleep happily with the sleeping berths provided by the van.
~There are four in the bed and the little one said, "I'm cozy."~
When it comes to a place to ride in the vehicle, the Maverick model was advertised with seating for four, but actually had seatbelts available for five passengers. A family of five could easily ride with mom and dad in the captain’s chairs, and three kids safely buckled in the bench seat, although it would be best to call ahead to be sure that there are seatbelts for five in you preferred vehicle.
For our supersized family of six, cramming into the campervan for driving was out of the question. To solve that problem, we brought our own mini-van to ensure that everyone had a safe, seatbelted place to ride as we crossed the country.
Bringing an additional vehicle solved the only space problem with a family using a campervan-the space for all the stuff. Storage is very limited in the campervan, and even if we had been able to all ride in one vehicle, there is no way our luggage would have fit, as well. With the extra vehicle, we had much more storage and that made traveling with the campervan fit perfectly.
How Campervanning Fit This Family Like a Glove
As we had hoped, campervanning was the ideal mix of what we love about RVing and tent camping. We could easily set off across the country to enjoy whatever might be over the next hill, but we completely eliminated the hassle of setting up and tearing down a tent and campsite. With everything-including the kitchen sink- neatly tucked into the van, we were set up and ready to enjoy nature within minutes of putting the van in park.
What’s more, we had all those amenities at our fingertips where ever might want to wander or stop. At one point in our trip, an amazing vista overlooking a lake caught our attention, and we knew we had to stop. When a morning of exploring turned into the hungry call of lunch, it was easy to pop into the back of the van, fire up the campstove, and have a hot lunch ready to eat by the lake. When the little kids got sleepy, they could even lay down in the van out of the sun and rest. With everything contained into a neat little package, we not only got a great camping experience, but an unforgettable sense of ease and freedom.
~Escape Campervans provided us with a van during our trip. They did not require that I express a particular viewpoint and all opinions are my own.~