Family travel: essential items for van life with kids

Family travel: essential items for van life with kids

What are the essential items for van life? Those items  that make travelling and camping with kids easier!

I have lost count of the times that people have asked how all five of us fit in our T5 camper van. The truth is, space is tight and I have to think about what we take with us and how we store everything. Last year we spent a lot of time in the camper van, so I thought I would put together a post packed with essential items for van life with kids

*This post contains affiliate links.

From clothing, camping equipment, hacks, books, kids activities to our seasonal must have items….  Here are my essential items for van life with kids.

Sleeping bags/ bedding

Our earlier camper van trips involved packing an abundance of pillows, duvet and blankets but when our third member of the Otis and Us tribe was born, we knew we needed to think of items that took up a lot less space in the camper and to make room for our third mini me.

We decided to use sleeping bags for the children, as they could be packed into small bags and we also found that the sleeping bags were thin enough to stay in the pop top roof even when it is closed. 

The girls love the Mountain Warehouse patterned sleeping bags –  pink flamingos. They are gorgeous, and perfect for Spring and Summer use. 

Cutlery and crockery

Even if you decide to eat out quite a lot during your travels, you will still need to pack cutlery and crockery for meals and snacks. Ask my husband what is an essential item for our camper van trips he would say a mug…he is a serious coffee addict. We love the enamel mugs from Mountain warehouse  with the phrase “not all who wander are lost” They are lightweight, easy to clean and perfect for camping adventures. 

Drive way awning

We purchased an awning when we first had our camper van and unfortunately it quickly succumbed to the Scottish weather during an Easter camping trip a couple of years ago. We finally replaced it with the Vango Cruz  II drive away awning this year, and I have forgotten how much living space it adds to your camper. It provides storage for the big items that we need to store such as a stroller, carriers and car seats and it provides an additional living space during our stop overs. I love that this awning can provide an additional bedroom as it gives us an extra option for sleeping arrangements.  

Vango AirBeam®  means that it is quick to pitch and it also creates a strong and rigid structure. The awning comes with a double action pump that allows us to rapidly inflate the awning and we love the front canopy that provides a little added shade when the sun or rain comes out.

 

Camping chairs for van life 

Folding chairs are great for outdoor life and we take our chairs everywhere. We also purchased this baby folding camping chair only last year, and I wish I had found it sooner. It is a small, compact camping chair that is easy to put up and down. It has a three-point harness and comes with a compact carry bag. The camping chair is recommended for up to 3 years.

van life with kids

Books and activity books

Whenever we head off on a road trip I always ensure that the kids each have a small bag packed with a few travel toys and activity and stickers books. Recently we purchased the Lonely Planet travel journal and found that it’s a lovely journal for my 7 year old to record all of our adventures. Currently we are also loving the Lisa Stickley books.

I try to remember to pack a couple of tablets and have recently been navigating my way around the Readly magazine app online. Readly has a huge range of titles including OK!, Women’s Health, Vogue, Heat, Red, Ideal Home, Autocar, Men’s Health and Time magazine. There are also a few kids’ titles including National Geographic Kids, Horrible Histories and Beano. We really don’t take many toys, – I love that kids enjoy the simple things on our travels such as collecting sticks, making daisy chains and running wild.

Finally, I try to take a good book. I’m currently reading Paula Hawkins ‘Into the Water’ and what a fab book. I am about half way through and so far I am loving it. Have you read this one yet ?

Camping stove and gas

We actually decided not to have a hob in the camper whilst the children were young (although we are looking to add one this year!), so over the last few years we have always cooked on the camping stove whilst we are on our travels. We have a saucepan set and utensils (and we do try to cook most days to save money).

Thermal blinds

We have tried both internal blinds, and wrap around blinds for the camper. We find the wrap around blinds really quick when setting up the van for the evening, although the internal ones are great for the bad weather. They are definitely necessary for hiding the sun at 5am!

Storage solutions 

I am a huge fan of packing pods. Storage is tight in the van and I pack a pod for each of us. I also pack a pod with all the swimwear in and a pod for all the night wear – easy to find if we arrive at a campsite late, or if the kids are bursting to hit the swimming pool! I also take a flexi bucket that we store outdoor toys in  (we have also used this as a baby bath!) and we use stacking boxes to store shoes and other items. We have also recently purchased a back seat organiser to store tablets, books and toys that come on our travels.

Outdoor toys

We don’t have a bike rack although we are really hoping to purchase one this year as we would love to take the bikes with us. We often take the micro scooters for the kids as they don’t take up a lot of room and they keep the little ones entertained in the fresh air for hours!

Medical kit

An essential item for travel. We have a small medical kit that we adapt as needed and keep it in the door of the camper so it is easy to find. We include things like plasters, mosquito spray, antiseptic cream, children’s paracetamol, small scissors etc.

Blankets

We take two or three blankets that we always keep in the camper van.  Perfect for the cooler evenings and they double up as picnic blanket

Swimwear

We never go anywhere without swimwear. There are so many campsites with wonderful indoor and outdoor pools, not forgetting nearby beaches. We are huge fans of Zoggs swimwear, in particular the sun suits and float suits…practical, fun and safe.

Outdoor clothing 

Coats, fleeces, hiking boots or wellies are always packed in the camper van,  particularly if we are camping in the UK. What is the old saying…there is no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of clothing?!

Camping torch

We keep a torch in our toiletry bag as it is always useful for the midnight trek to the toilet block or trying to set up camp in the dark if we arrive later than planned.

Toiletries

We purchased a small hanging toiletry bag that hooks on the back of the driver seat. It holds all of our shower gels, tooth brushes, shampoo and suncream. Baby wipes are also an essential item for van life with kids!

Baby carrier

The baby carrier is wonderful for van life as it doesn’t take up as much space as a stroller and allows us to walk, explore and visit places off the beaten track with the kids in tow.

 

 

 

So …. Is living in a camper van possible with three kids?

The answer is yes. With a little planning, clever packing  and the idea that van life is all about simplicity.. don’t over pack, the less clutter the better!

 

 

This post will be updated regularly to add more of our essential items for van life with kids

Please do let me know if you have any items to add!

Happy camping!

Pin for later

Travel with kid: essential items for van life

 

 

 Images copyright – Otis and Us

 

I love to hear what you think of my blog, do leave a comment. You can find us over on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Follow:

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. All this means is that any purchases you may make are unaffected but I may get a few pennies in return. Some products included have been sent for review.  All  thoughts and opinions are my own.

19 Comments

  1. January 27, 2019 / 8:01 pm

    This is such a great and helpful list so thanks for sharing! We don’t have a camper van but do have a tent and a very small car to take everything in so this list will be really helpful for us too!

  2. January 27, 2019 / 8:42 pm

    I would love to do something like this! I’ve done plenty of tent camping holidays but a camper van would be so cool. I think I might opt for a classic VW camper (orange of course) rather than one like Otis, as nice as he is.

  3. January 27, 2019 / 11:25 pm

    We have a touring caravan and I have to be honest, it’s a home-from-home with TV, microwave, flushing loo and coffee maker … but I would LOVE to downsize to a campervan. My kids are growing up now and I think we’d love it … shame they cost so much 😞

  4. January 28, 2019 / 1:45 pm

    We are planning a camper van type holiday in the 6 weeks school summer break so this will definitely come in handy 🙂

  5. January 29, 2019 / 10:16 am

    Great list of items to get for a camper van holiday. We have never tried that before. Sounds like fun.

  6. January 29, 2019 / 9:46 pm

    I keep hearing such good things about packing pods. I’m gonna have to get myself some x

  7. Lydia C. Lee
    February 11, 2019 / 6:47 am

    I don;t know if we could do camper (especially me! ha!) but I’m amazed that you and three kids fit with ease. Well done! #MondayEscapes

  8. February 11, 2019 / 7:12 am

    A fantastic list! And you’re right, big overpack get is key. Nothing like having to play Jenga in the boot of your car when it’s time to pack up and come home 😂 #MondayEscapes

  9. February 11, 2019 / 12:09 pm

    A torch in the wash bag is such a good idea, I’m going to implement that on my next camping trip! #Mondayescapes

  10. February 11, 2019 / 5:35 pm

    I have dreamed of a camper for as long as I can remember but my hubby is less keep – although he loves camping (go figure). Think I may have to hire one for a week and see if that persuades him. Some fab tips here. #MondayEscapes

  11. February 11, 2019 / 6:44 pm

    I’m with you on packing pods, and having nightwear handy for late arrivals. We also stock up on activity books for trips. The Lonely Planet Spot the Lot was a big hit one year, and we like activity books which encourage doodling too. We don’t have a camper van, and haven’t done a trip in one but next year we hope to hire an RV in the States. Good tips, which I’ll try to remember for then! #mondayescapes

  12. February 11, 2019 / 9:15 pm

    Some good tips here! We’re quite new to the camping scene although did it plenty as a child. We’d love a camper one day, my husband is really keen but as we’re both over six foot. I’m a little skeptical we’d fit! #mondayescapes

  13. February 11, 2019 / 9:53 pm

    Wow, I have so much to say about this post! Firstly, campervanning is my dream – I have ALWAYS wanted to own one so am living vicariously through your van experiences! Secondly, those sleeping bags are ace! Going to check those out. Also, who knew you could get a baby camping chair – amazing. Do you tend to stay in one place and venture off on foot if you have the awning on? Interested to hear how that works. #MondayEscapes

  14. February 11, 2019 / 10:55 pm

    Some great tips! We don’t tend to do much camping but my in laws often take the kids away in their caravan and they love it. Jemma #MondayEscapes

  15. February 12, 2019 / 11:45 am

    What a brilliant and comprehensive list! There are some fab tips in there. We’ve never been camping with our kiddos, though I do harbour a secret little dream of buying a VW van sometime in the future and going on a road trip. Love those mugs too – I have a similar-but-different one and it goes everywhere on holiday with us even if we’re flying and staying in a villa somewhere!

  16. February 12, 2019 / 7:39 pm

    I’d love a campervan one day…… although the children will have left home by the time we can afford one! In the meantime we camp a lot and have perfected the art of packing our tent and gear into a small car boot. #mondayescapes

  17. February 12, 2019 / 10:40 pm

    I LOVE the flamingo sleeping bags (obviously!!) and really want one of the mugs!!! I still haven’t invested in any packing pods…even though you keep telling me too! Thanks for the book recommendation…I’ll check it out!! Although how you have time to read a book at the moment I’ll never know!! x #MondayEscapes

  18. February 13, 2019 / 8:03 pm

    Great tips! We did a month in New Zealand in a camper van and had the best time. Totally agree with the packing pods. Am a little bit in awe the you get all five of you in your camper. Fun times #MondayEscapes

  19. February 17, 2019 / 10:52 pm

    We will be camping in Yosemite in the summer …. it’s been a long time since head torches were on my packing list! #MondayEscapes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.