Maybe you live or travel in a van and are thinking about adding a baby to the mix? Or perhaps you already have a little person and are thinking about getting involved in vanlife with a baby? Either way congratulations, you have a huge but exciting journey ahead of you!
A month after we had completed our van conversion and moved in we found out we were expecting our daughter. It was a little bit of a surprise and we were lucky we’d chosen a van with three seats otherwise our adventure into van life could have been rather short.
However with a few layout minor alterations and some careful planning our little addition has slotted right into life on the road. Of course some people thought we were kind of crazy. A baby living in a van?! But she moved in at one day old and we’ve never looked back.
Vanlife With A Baby
While we were preparing to bring a newborn baby on board, we naturally searched online for people who had done the same. Unfortunately there really wasn’t much useful information out there. So in this blog post we’ll be covering all we know about prepping for vanlife with a baby.
Where Will Baby Sleep?
Okay let’s dive straight into one of the most important practicalities when it comes to vanlife with a baby. Where will your little new addition sleep?
Now this will vary depending on whether you are planning on co-sleeping or not. If you are, you simply need to make sure that you have a bed big enough for all of you. If not, you’ll need to create a safe separate area.
We did this by making one of our seats into a convertible cot so we could dismantle it easily. It’s a pretty simple design. We simply bought a custom size cot mattress and added a slide in/out front to stop her rolling out. It’s not a huge space but it does the job.
Having said that, she only really uses it for naps during the day so we really needn’t have bothered. Basically because she was born in September, when it got to the colder months it became too hard to regulate the temperature over night so we all moved into the same bed.
I’m not going to get into a debate here about the pros and cons of co-sleeping. It works for us. And there’s plenty of info out there about how to do it safely. The main recommendation being not to share covers. Our daughter uses a sleeping bag like this which works really well.
How Will Baby Travel?
The next hugely important thing to consider for vanlife with a baby is where will they be while you are physically driving places? As already mentioned, we have three seats in our cab so we simply got a car seat that fits in the middle.
However if you only have a single passenger seat you may need space to fit a car seat in an extra seat of the living area of the van. Just remember if you are doing this to make sure you’re complying with the seatbelt law for your country. Here it is for the UK.
When we first started thinking about van car seats, we were worried there wouldn’t be many options. However we found most non-isofix car seats were suitable for our sprinter so the difficulty actually came with narrowing down which to get.
In the end we went for this Joie Every Stage 0+/1/2 Child Car Seat and we have been super happy with it. Our daughter finds it really comfortable and it was really easy to fit. Plus with the inserts it’s suitable from newborn through to 12 years old.
Something to also be aware of is that in the UK children legally must be in rear facing seats until they are either 15 months if in a height based car seat, or 13kg if in a weight based one.
There’s also a 2 hour guidance limit for how long babies should be in a car seat before they need a break. Just something to bear in mind depending on where you are planning on heading to on your travels as a family.
Another important aspect of vanlife with a baby is being able to control the temperature inside the van. Whether that be warming your living space up when it’s cold out or keeping it cooler when the sun’s beaming down.
We actually had most of these in place already as part of our original van design. But they just became more crucial with a little person on board.
So first up – very important for van life in the UK or any other cold country – is our diesel heater. It’s super efficient at warming up our living space. The only issue being that we don’t like leaving it on overnight because it can get too hot.
In terms of keeping things cool, our MaxAir ceiling fan is the business. All we need is our roof vent or window cracked at the back and it pulls a breeze all the way through our living space. Also important for keeping humidity from cooking and showering in the van under control.
We also have reflective window blinds that keep the sun out. These are especially good for the cab as it gets super hot in there with all the glass. But we also put them up in the back if we are away from the van for the day.
The only additional things we bought was a small portable 12V clip-on fan we can put directly in our daughter’s immediate space. It’s great for when she’s napping in her cot or in her car seat while we’re driving.
Baby Bath Time
Bath time element of vanlife with a baby may take a bit more thinking about depending on your setup. Although great for us, our shower isn’t much use for bathing our daughter. But what we do have is a large sink with a hose style mixer tap. So we just pop her in there.
We have one of these baby foam bath supports too which we recommend.
We also have one of these collapsible baby bath tubs. We use it for bathing her outside in warmer weather and to save our gray tank getting filled with sand. But it works equally well inside. Especially if you don’t have hot running water as you can fill it up from the kettle.
Pram or Baby Carrier?
In terms of life outside the van you’ll also need to decide whether or not you’ll get a pram or pushchair. While there are plenty of collapsible lightweight options marketing themselves as ‘travel prams’ they ultimately take up a considerable amount of space.
Because we don’t spend a lot of time in places where we’d actually use one, i.e. urban areas, we opted not to bother and have been managing just fine. What we do have though is a BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier that we use pretty much everyday.
Because it’s suitable for use from newborn up to 15kg and you can use it on your front or back it’s super versatile. A top recommendation from us when it comes to vanlife with a baby.
Jumping back inside the van then. Even though you’re living in such a small space you’re still going to want everyday baby care items such as nappies and wipes to hand. And rather than having them stored in two places we simply use our baby changing bag.
We store it in our bathroom, simply take it out when we want to use the toilet/shower and keep it topped up with everything we need. That way it’s easy to grab when we head out and the items don’t take up storage space in two places within our living space.
Surplus nappies and wipes we keep in the garage in one of these handy storage nets which is attached to the underside of our bed. It’s a game changer when it comes to creating more storage space for vanlife with a baby.
On the topic of nappies, ideally we’d have loved to use reusable ones, but it’s just impossible without a washing machine on hand. There are however some more environmentally friendly options around, especially when it comes to biodegradable baby wipes & nappy bags.
Extra Storage Space
We’d already maxed out the amount of storage space in the living area of the van. Anymore and we’d have problems with weight. So our solution was to just have a massive clear out. We went through all our belongings and took out all the non-essentials.
We also made the most of our cupboard space by using these drawer organisers and packing cubes for things like bedding and towels. In our wardrobe we also have these nifty clips that give us twice the hanging space.
Because the amount of baby stuff you accumulate from various sources can get a little bit crazy, our advice is to limit specific areas to baby stuff. That way you don’t just keep adding more stuff and have to keep rotating things.
We know how tempting it can be but baby’s in particular don’t need a lot of things, especially toys. In fact, research shows that kids with fewer toys play with each one for longer. Which in turn allows them to focus more, play more creatively and take better care of their things.
Feeding Your Baby
If you can, breastfeeding is definitely the way to go when it comes to vanlife with a baby. It just cuts down on needing all the bottle feeding paraphernalia. If for whatever reason you can’t or choose not too though, there are van friendly options.
Milton sterilizing tablets are great as no electricity is required and you only have to change the water every 24 hours. You can also get 12V bottle warmers. If you’re pumping, this manual breast pump I have to freeze milk for teething and weaning is really comfortable.
This is a review of our fridge freezer that you might find helpful if you don’t already have one.
If you have any queries or questions about the information in this blog post, or just vanlife with a baby in general, ask away in the comments and we’ll do our best to help!
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Yorkshire born & bred, Sarah is a professional blogger who loves to travel. Pushing her boundaries with new adventures is her jam, so you likely won’t find her in one place for too long. Also a serious Marmite addict.