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Campervan with kids – Tips For Surviving Van Life

Campervan with kids – Tips For Surviving Van Life

We have always enjoyed camping. Let’s face it, it is an affordable option when you have a growing family….. and the kids love camping. We have discovered so many wonderful campsites in the UK – it is a perfect destination for a road trip. We love pitching up on a campsite near to water with our paddle boards, or discovering campsites with epic sea views.

Guernsey in a campervan

Campervan with kids

We spent many months looking into the best family campervan. We also considered a motorhome with kids as we know a motorhome or RV would grow with our family. It was really quite difficult trying to find a camper for a family of five and this was before we added a dog into our van life too! We knew that we would need to also use our camper as our main vehicle, so we opted to buy the best small camper van that we could afford. We eventually settled on a T5 camper with a view to convert it.

If you are considering buying a campervan for kids (and a dog) you may be wondering how to sleep a family of five in a VW campervan, and also what to pack for your first campervan trip

If you are not sure about life in a campervan with kids, you may find glamping with kids an alternative option. We have also written about glamping during the colder months so don’t be put off by the weather. Camping is great all year round!

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Campervan conversion for a family of five

We slowly converted our VW campervan for a family of five. Our first camper van holiday was with our then toddler and we headed to the Llyn Peninsula. Our campervan bed was a mattress on the floor. We had makeshift curtains and a large plastic story box with a few basics in. Over the years we have slowly converted the van as funds have allowed and it has become our beloved campervan for a family

There are still a couple of things left to do, a wardrobe being one of them.. but we have learned a lot along the way, learning to adapt our packing and choosing our trips wisely – depending on the stage of our camper conversion.

Would we change things if we did it all again? Absolutely. Do we regret anything? No – not a single thing. We love van life with our kids.

Campervan road trips with kids

It sounds idyllic doesn’t it? You have seen all the romantic van life and road trip quotes. The picture perfect instagram photos and reels of people travelling in their campers.

In reality we have also experienced long journeys stuck on the motorway, tired kids, dodgy campsites, and wet belongings, muddy awnings we forgot to dry out, and weekends of torrential rain.

Vanlife is all about expecting the unexpected. Throwing out the expectations that van life is not always perfect. We have experienced the good and the bad, and we are here to share it all. You can follow our van life family adventures over on Instagram.

So without further ado …. Here are our top campervan tips and van life hacks that we have learned along the way to make life on the road a breeze!

1) Be Prepared

Common sense I know. – but make sure you have adequate campervan insurance for a converted van  and don’t forget the roadside assistance. We had trouble driving back from our campsite in Spain, and I have to say it was really stressful. Road side assistance is definitely peace of mind and one thing to add from experience – make sure it covers you for all of your travels wherever you are!

When thinking about your van life gear – don’t forget the essentials for safety and security. Have a fire extinguisher in the van, a torch is useful, first aid kit, and carbon monoxide monitor in your van. A portable key safe is always a good option, – trust me, I have lost our van key on many an occasion and spent hours unpacking the van looking for it!

2) Get Organised!

Okay this is really hard to write for someone that has taken 8 pairs of different flip-flops on a holiday. But when you have a campervan, limited storage, three kids and a dog, planning is key.

Packing cubes are a life saver for van life! Packing pods really help to organise all of the clothes.

You can be really clever with campervan storage. Things like plastic storage containers, hanging clothes organisers, hanging toiletry organisers and hooks and nets are all great storage hacks for living in a small space.

I love the hooks that we place on the back of the front seats, to keep items off the floor and hang anything we need regularly such as bags and coats.

3) Think about what you REALLY need to take with you

What things do you need to consider when thinking about van life with kids?

What will their weather be like? If you are camping in the UK, think of wellies, warm fleeces and raincoats. Good hiking boots are useful. We love items you can layer, tshirts, leggings can be layered under short or skirts etc.

Remember you don’t need to take it all. Pack some washing tablets, a mini washing line, and a collapsible bucket and you can throw a wash in on your travels if you are running out of clothes.

There are some great camping chairs for kids and adults. Check out the camping chairs for toddlers and babies too. Look into your campsite facilities and if you need to pack additional items including a portable toilet or a portable shower.

packing cubes for campervan travels

4) Think about Your campsite and where to pitch!

When choosing a campsite make sure it is family friendly and has good facilities for kids. There are so many incredible family friendly UK campsites.  

We often look for camping sites with swimming pools, campsites near to water or near to the sea. A campsite with a decent play park = happy kids, and if all else fails, campsites near to a pub are a winner!!

It really does make for a pleasant stay if you have good amenities and the sites are safe and well equipped for families.

5) Consider a campsite that has local attractions on foot

There is nothing worse than finally setting up camp, strategically hanging the bunting flags on the awning (yes don’t pretend that you don’t have bunting flags or fairy lights for your awnings!) Carefully placing the vintage tea lights around the van, and then finding you have to pack up and move the campervan every day for trips, days out at the beach, a visit to the shops, or a visit to the local town for a coffee.

We quickly learned to research our campsites beforehand to make sure that we had a few nearby options where we didn’t have to pack everything up and move the campervan on a daily basis. 

We found some great sites with good facilities and activities on site for our Brittany road trip.

You will also find plenty of campsite reviews and campsite options in the UK and beyond in the campsites section at the top of the page.

6) Extend your living space with an Awning or a pop up tent.

As our family has grown we have often opted for an awning to give us a bit more living space.

If we are on a road tip that involves moving on every day or so we opt for a pop up tent for our camper van travels.

We have always taken one and stored items that are bulky and that we don’t need to use everyday. On the trips that we choose not to take the drive away awning, we use a pop up tent that is quick to put up and put down, to keep things out of the way and store items such as the children’s car seats, pushchairs, and the outdoor toys like scooters, bats and balls and outdoor chairs..

campervan with kids tips

7) Think about ways to entertain kids on a road trip

I try to pack a small activity box, or fill a back of the seat hanging organiser with items to keep kids entertained on the road.

There are some great options for travel games, and we add jotters, travel journals, activity books, crayons, reading book etc. Tablets can be a lifesaver. We love Readly and download a few magazines before our travels too.

Don’t forget ALL the snacks.

hacks and tips for life in a campervan with kids

8) Be Flexible

We have come to realise that camping with kids involves leaving any established routine back at home.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t find a new morning and bedtime routine during your trip. Last year we took a wonderful road trip to Scotland which involved many a late night stop off on a secluded shore or beach and the kids loved it.

It didn’t mean that we didn’t develop a different bed time routine of last-minute trips to the shower block to save those night-time toilet visits, and reading our usual bedtime story by lantern cuddled up in our campervan.

Be flexible and relax and embrace the newfound freedom that ban holidays with kids bring.  Binning the usual routines for a week or so isn’t the end of the world, and the late night evenings watching the children run around without a care in the world makes for some very special memories!

Camping with toddlers?

So what are our trips and tricks for trips in the campervan with toddlers?  We have found that our large storage bucket is great for carrying essential items to the beach, storing all the outdoor toys, and it doubles up as a baby or toddler bath – perfect!

On our past campervan holidays with a toddler, we packed a highchair – we found a great foldable camping highchair  that has a useful tray – great for baby led weaning, and it has a really compact fold.

If you have a campervan with a baby, using packing pods to organise all of the baby items, nappies, wipes, and a plentiful supply of toddler clothes is definitely a win win. Packing pods have definitely helped me stay sane with all the things you need to pack.

We also have used great travel stroller with a compact fold, although we favour the carrier for longer trips as we find it takes less room! We love our Mifold folding car seats too, absolutely wonderful for saving space when campervanning with kids!!

Campervan with kids

Campervan with kids- more tips and words of wisdom.

Consider taking bikes, scooters or surf or paddle boards with you. It’s great to be able to enjoy the great outdoors. We love taking the paddle boards to the Lake District and there are some AMAZING Lake District campsites with plenty of hikes, cycle routes and water to keep you entertained!!

Pack a few travel toys to keep kids entertained whatever the weather!

Don’t sweat the small stuff!! When you spend every single hour together in a small space it can be difficult!! Don’t compare your life to what you see online. There can be strops, arguments, and tears. Plans that didn’t work out. We have accepted defeat and ended trips early. It is not all romance and perfection.

That is not the real van life!

van life tips with kids

Do you have any top tips for surviving life on the road in a campervan?

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