Living the Vanlife: Family Camping in a Tricked Out Minivan
While I’ve always dreamed of living a nomadic lifestyle, I never thought I’d find myself imagining ways to live out of my minivan for weeks at a time.
You know how some people tent camp? We van camp in a tricked-out Town & Country. It has all the benefits of tent camping, but no bugs, no freezing to death, and no encounters with bears.
Surprisingly, this all started as my husband’s idea. He had only been camping once in his life, but he saw a YouTube video and got excited. Then he showed me the video and I went beyond excited and sailed right into obsessive research mode. Turns out there are tons of people living the #vanlife, many of them full-timers who are happy to share their knowledge. (Some van lifers are even TueNighers!)
Armed with power tools, a few video tutorials, and an ever-growing Amazon wish list, we started turning design sketches into reality. First we removed all but one of the back seats — I’m still a minivan mom and need to drive my kid to school — and built a custom platform bed with hinges for access to storage below. Next I sewed up some curtains, figured out a system for window screens, and we were off on our first trip.
So far we’ve taken the minivan camping in Iowa, Missouri, and our home state of Minnesota. Our next trip is up to the North Shore of Lake Superior, with plans to stay at several private and state park campgrounds along the way. I’m especially excited about staying at a vineyard we booked through Hipcamp (like Airbnb for non-traditional campgrounds). Sipping wine and gazing at the stars is definitely my idea of a good time.
I have to say, sleeping in the woods is great, but sleeping in the woods on a comfy 6″ memory foam mattress is even better. I haven’t totally given up on tent camping, though. Instead of ditching the tent entirely, we got one that connects to the back of the van like an add-on room — plenty of extra space for the kid and dog to sprawl out while my husband and I sleep cuddled up inside the van at night.
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