Vanlife with children: travel full-time with the whole family on board

Mutter und Sohn spielen mit kleinem Hund im Van

The last vacation with the family was great and you are now thinking about realizing your real dream: a full-time life in the van.

In this way, you can certainly have extraordinary experiences with your very favorite people and who knows, maybe take the trip of a lifetime?

If you are thinking about taking up vanlife with the whole family, then you should definitely read this post.

We'll help you answer the question of whether this lifestyle is really right for you and your kids by giving you practical information and tips.

  • What to do if there is no parking space in the area?

  • How to keep the kids happy when everyday life takes hold and the next adventure isn't just around the corner?

  • How to make the bus or mobile home family-friendly?

We will now get to the bottom of these and many other questions!

Child and van - is that possible?

You've already taken a few road trips and now you want to see more of the world with your kids while they're young.

But does the camping adventure work in the long run? Many parents are unsure when they take a closer look at this way of life. Is that why you should perhaps only go camping in general? After all, the search for a pitch in the countryside can be quite exhausting - especially with whining children in the back seat. But is that a real vanlife at all?

Even if the wishes and ideas of a "real" vanlife are often different at the beginning of the planning, you should always keep one thing in mind:

With your own van or campervan, you always have your purpose in life with you and are therefore also completely independent and flexible when it comes to organizing your time in the van. The trick is to save yourself as much stress as possible from the start.

Maybe you shouldn't start out as a completely self-sufficient vanlife family right away if you've just been on a camping vacation with the kids once before. Take it slow and start with longer stays at campsites before you venture into "freedom" and become self-sufficient only.

We'll give you more important tips on this in the following section, but to answer the question from above:

Child and van definitely works!

The whole family in the van under one blanket, only the feet visible

What is the best way to live with family in a camper?

How do you become a real vanlife family?

Should you go for as much comfort as possible from the start so that everyone (especially the kids) can live comfortably, or is it just part of the adventure to have limited space in the van and therefore save as much as possible on equipment and luggage?

How should the campervan be equipped with a child?

Does it need an extra crib or can the child sleep with the parents?

In our scenario, we are assuming a smaller camper, such as a bus or converted van. Those traveling with a fully equipped camper or caravan probably don't have to worry about this as much.

In the van, there is often the possibility to set up a so-called "emergency bed". This is ideal for children over a certain age and you don't need a pop-up roof. If you have little space in the van, you can, for example, convert the driver's cabin into a crib. However, the optimal solution for the bus is a pop-up roof, so that four people can sleep in it without the need for an additional bed for children.

You should also have running water on board, a relatively large cooler, a gas stove (always use extreme caution here, especially with children) and enough storage space (preferably individual compartments) for the personal belongings of each family member.

💡 Tip: Especially if you are "on tour" with children, a composting toilet can also be worthwhile and is guaranteed to save you one or the other stressful situation.

Is there an optimal van extension with two children?

If you are still at the very beginning of the expansion, you should plan for as much space as possible.

That means it's best to upgrade your bus with a pop-up or high roof if it doesn't already have one. For the bicycles a bicycle carrier should be attached, and if you have the possibility, a roof box can also be useful.

If you equip the campervan especially for a vanlife with (small) children, then you should pay attention to a child-friendly expansion. This means, for example, to install a safety device at the top of the roof bed, to be able to lock away the stove and also to provide the back seat with a not too high-quality fabric cover.

There should also be blackout options, mosquito nets on the windows and possibly a parking heater if you plan to travel in more than just the summer months.

Father with daughter on the beach playing in the waves

Is a bus or an RV better suited to this lifestyle?

Bus, mobile home, caravan or even a car with a roof tent: which is best in practice?

The van with children is intended as a retreat for the whole family, and when looking for the right vehicle, everyone must ultimately agree. For those traveling with one baby, a bus will probably suffice (even without an additional pop-up roof). Those traveling with two or three (small) children should perhaps rather look for a larger motorhome.

💡 Tip: Car and caravan? Of course, that also works! Because even without a classic van, you can discover the world on four or more wheels.

Important topics & tips for van life with kids

In this article, we also want to address a few aspects that mainly relate to everyday life in the van.

Because even if the decision has already been made and you will already be "on the road" in a few weeks or months, you should definitely think about the following points in advance - so that the trip really becomes a dream and not pure stress.

🚘 Everyday life

What to do when it rains or when nothing new is happening?

Especially if you are on the road for a long time or spend a few weeks in one and the same place (which is probably the rule rather than the exception with a child), a daily routine probably sets in at some point. Vacation becomes the norm, so to speak.

Especially in bad weather, when no picnic in nature is possible or you can only go to the nearest playground, you have to be inventive. The best thing to do is to think of something special to "conjure up" when you're just "stuck" in the van. How about turning the bed into an Indian tent and reading the kids an exciting adventure story?

🏕 Camping

How can you always find good pitches?

Finding good places to spend the night is often difficult, especially in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, but also in Italy, France and Croatia, for example. This is because in many places it is forbidden to stand freely and camping is only allowed on advertised sites.

In order to avoid frustration here, you should pick out suitable camping sites and also pitches on your route in advance and then drive to them specifically. Because especially with children you can often not simply stand in the "Pampa".

📆 Duration

Be sure to consider the expected duration of your vanlife plans.

For a family with soon-to-be not-so-little kids, compulsory schooling can become a big factor, especially if you plan to be away for several months or even years. Parents' jobs are also an issue, of course.

If you'll be on the road for between one and three months, it's a good idea to have some key dates down at the outset. If you know that you want to be there and there at certain dates, it often makes planning much easier. Of course, you should not be upset if things do not go as planned.

Panel van with an open trunk and a view inside the van

🚽 Hygiene

What you should definitely consider in advance is the sanitary situation on board.

Especially with a baby or small child in the van, it can be invaluable to have running water directly or to be able to let the child go to the toilet quickly while driving. It's also an advantage for parents not to always have to go in search of a public toilet when their bladder is squeezing.

💡 Tip: A dry composting toilet is suitable for all and the compact version of BOXIO can also be easily stowed in the car or bus.

Just pack a few bio bags, don't forget hemp litter and of course toilet paper and you're ready to go!

🏞 Destinations

With so many options, you should choose the most suitable area for children.

Often a tour to the south of Europe (such as France or even Spain) is particularly suitable for families, because there it is already pleasantly warm in the spring and remains nice and mild for a long time even in the fall. In addition, the conditions are so similar to us in Germany, which is convenient if you have to go to the doctor, for example.

💡 Tip: If you want to see more of the world, it is advisable to inform yourself comprehensively about life in the intended place or city.

Gray van with a pop-up roof in an open field

With the whole family in a camper - experiences and conclusion

If you want to pursue the dream of van life with the whole family, you should not just let your feelings decide.

Because nothing is more frustrating than having the biggest plans and wishes (or even demands) for the vanlife and then being disappointed. Remember that it's not about setting up a full world tour, but that you just want to create great memories with the people you love.

This can be done at a lake in Austria or another country near you and doesn't necessarily have to last several months. Vanlife also includes changing plans and adjusting dates or modifying the way you travel, for example.

One thing to always keep in mind: Things never go smoothly, whether at home or in the van. Nevertheless, the fun should always be in the foreground and not be pushed aside by the small everyday problems in (van) life.

We wish you and your whole family a great vacation and lots of fun!

💡 Tip: If you want to read more into the topic of vanlife, you should take a closer look at our blog. There we look at, among other things, how best to make a vanlife interior and what the must-haves are in the campervan equipment!

Three children with their mother outside

Vanlife with kids – FAQ

What should you consider when taking parental leave in a camper?

Ideally, your baby should be at least six months old when you plan your parental leave in the van. Also, you may want to take a suitable crib with you.

How does vanlife work with a toddler?

With the right equipment, you can easily adjust even a baby or toddler to life in the van. This includes, for example, a stretcher or even a foldable stroller.

Is there a good campervan specifically for families?

There is no such thing as the non-plus-ultra among campers, but you should simply ask yourself about your own preferences beforehand: Do you prefer to travel quite comfortably in a van or with a roof tent, or do you want more comfort, as offered by a larger motorhome?

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