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Old 08-08-2009, 11:38 AM   #1
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Adventuring with Kids

Without going into personal specifics here yet, I've been thinking lately of what life on the road in our van would be like with the addition of kid(s).

I'd love to start a discussion of tips, tricks, and ideas from those who have traveled with kids -- highway and backcountry driving & camping with kids. Topics like:
  • - how to keep them happy (not bored) on the road
    - how to keep them out of the way when cooking
    - how to deal with all the extra stuff you need to bring
    - What's your daily routine like?

If you haven't decided on a layout yet, there's already a thread on Floor Plans and Kids.
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Old 08-08-2009, 11:38 AM   #2
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

It's the stuff problem that is the biggest mystery for me. We normally just pile our clothes & things pretty hodge-podge behind the rear seat in our RB-50, but if the downstairs bed is to become sleeping space, where does all that stuff go? And there would be even more stuff with kids! We could use our sliding cabinets a bit more efficiently, but I imagine we'll still have bins of stuff. Would we have play a nightly musical-stuff dance where all the stuff is moved from the rear of the van onto the driver's seat when camping? Or would one try to uncover only part of the downstairs bed for sleeping (the rest for stuff)?
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Old 08-08-2009, 11:44 AM   #3
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

Where to put the kids to have them playing out of the way when cooking/cleaning, etc.? I know when the weather's good, we'd just send them outside. But what about when it's freezing or raining?

We have friends with a single child that travel in their VW camper-van (with a RB-50-like layout), and they use the bed area behind the rear seat as a (young) kid play area. A bungie mesh net could be used as a barrier in case the kid learns to crawl over the seat.

I've thought of maybe going a step further and using the upstairs (penthouse) half-bed as a (young) kid's play area -- while we're cooking, etc. Again a bungie mesh net could be used to stop the kid from falling.

Up here:


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Old 08-08-2009, 01:31 PM   #4
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

Something I'd never thought I'd tolerate or use in a vehicle; a DVD player. We still don't like to use it too much, but driving for 3-4 hours between stops versus 1-2 hours between changes your perspective.

I'd be cautious relying on a bungee net to contain any kids. I don't think they're sturdy enough to do that, and they could pose a strangulation hazard.

We've traveled with our son in the SMB, but we haven't camped with him in it. We also have a large dog with agression issues to other dogs, so it's hard to take him along and it's hard to leave him at a boarding kennel.


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Old 08-08-2009, 02:57 PM   #5
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

Geoff!

Quit thinking about the temperature of the water and jump in the lake. Just pop a kid or two out Tuck them somewhere in the van (we prefer the swing out cabinet) and they will be fine

On a more serious note, I think it's fair to say that kids vary wildly from child to child and they will also change as they age. We think the easiest age for travel was the first year of a child. Their needs are simple, they eat, sleep and can be entertained by simpler things like stuffed toys and mobiles. They are easy to carry in a front or back pack and will sleep anywhere. You can have LATCH tiedowns added to the bench seat, we did. This allows you to use a car seat or booster in the bench seat. You will probably end up with one parent on the bench seat next to them to put things back in the car seat(toys, bottles, rattles, etc) but otherwise the van configuration should work fine. A playpen would be a nice addition so you can make a little space outside the van when you camp.

The toughest age, in our opinion, is 2 and 3 years. Here they have more energy, want to be mobile so they need to be watched more carefully. They still take naps and the schedule for naps and meals will still set the pace for your travels. They are heavier and start to demand more independence. Van or no van, this is more work and for good reason this is known as the tantrum age. We tent camped at this age and it was workable but hard.

4 and 5 years are better. They can follow directions and "help" a bit. They generally know the family rules, they can talk pretty well. This is the age when we used video players and lots of music tapes and potentially the beginning of audio tapes. Camping was a bit more fun.

Once they start to read(5, 6 or 7), it became a lot easier for us. You can give them a stack of books, coloring, craft activities and they can entertain themselves more each year. We listen to audiotapes quite a bit and this seems to work for the whole family.

Mine are 6 and 8 now and they are easy. I just took a month long trip through Utah and Colorado with the kids but without my wife. It was a great trip and the girls were a joy to be have on the trip. They helped set up camp and did dishes every night. It would have been more fun with my wife along but it went just fine solo.

Those very general statements said, some kids are very easy and some are really particular. Unfortunately, regardless of how you request your order to be fulfilled, you need to take delivery of the one that shows up.

Your mileage may vary but I think the SBM is a great platform for younger kids. I'm with Herb that I'd be cautious about using bungee cords as a restraint.

If you get working on it, you could be in the club by March 2010!

Good luck.
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Old 08-08-2009, 03:08 PM   #6
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

Specific response to questions.

For kids, you don't need a huge amount of stuff. Unfortunately, it isn't proportional to their size, it is about the same amount of stuff as another adult. They need diapers, clothes, food and a playpen.

Yes, we need to do a Chinese fire drill every night as we make the bench seat into a bed. We shove everything into the drivers seat.

Personal attention was the best way to entertain our kids. Video players, music, and audio books were our next best ways to entertain the kids. That said, as they got older, we eliminated the video player since we are more of a book /audio tape family.
Now, most nights, we play board or card games on the lower bench/bed.

Our friends with the 50 floor plan also use the space behind the bench as an infant bed/ containment area.
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Old 08-08-2009, 03:12 PM   #7
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronco_hauler
I'd be cautious relying on a bungee net to contain any kids. I don't think they're sturdy enough to do that, and they could pose a strangulation hazard.
That makes sense. Perhaps I could instead build a barrier out of a strong fine mesh fabric (like I think I've seen used in portable playpens), using grommets around the outside.

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Old 08-08-2009, 05:13 PM   #8
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

I've driven my niece around on many full day drive camping trips with my wife, and once for 4 days from Tucson to Indianapolis with just me and her. I only broke out the portable dvd player once, on one of the last days (mostly as a reward, since she'd done so well). Talk about kiddie-crack! Her eyes never left the dvd and all interaction stopped. I was thankful she forgot it the next day, because I wanted our last hours together to be together, instead of with her zombiefied on the couch.

On the other hand, I took my other niece and nephew camping exactly once, and had to stop on the way back from 2.5 hrs away because they could (I could) hardly make the trip back without it... they have a constant dvd in my brother's SMB and are hooked.

Personally I enjoy making the kids see the country (except Kansas, that's just cruel) and don't want them used to a dvd even if it makes ages 2-5 more difficult on us. No offense to any of you pushers out there.
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Old 08-08-2009, 06:05 PM   #9
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

Quote:
Originally Posted by jage
Personally I enjoy making the kids see the country (except Kansas, that's just cruel) and don't want them used to a dvd even if it makes ages 2-5 more difficult on us. No offense to any of you pushers out there.
Does that mean I shouldn't be watching Dust to Glory while I'm driving?


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Old 08-08-2009, 08:47 PM   #10
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Re: Adventuring with Kids

I've done quite a few 2-4 day camping trips with my 3 kids over the past few years. My wife is not a big camper, but she is getting on board and joining more often.

Some amount of chaos is unavoidable. Ours are now 11, 9 and 5 and it becomes easier as they get older. Our layout is a standard EB51 and we usually all sleep in the van. Two or three up top and two below. It is crowded. Packing light is critical and keeping high frequency access items (wipes, toothbrush, water cups, towel, etc...) readily available helps a lot. There is a no shoes in the van rule, otherwise, we'd have a two inch layer of mud/dirt within the first hour of hitting camp.

Each kid carries a two-way radio so I can monitor there whereabouts at all times.

I prefer to have the kids sleep up top. They always sleep late and that enables me to more easily prep coffee in the morning and help with access to the porta-potty during the night if necessary.

With kids I need to do almost all the cooking outdoors. Ditto for showers, where we use a solar bag hung on a tree.

As they get bigger, we'll start using an overflow tent because there won't be enough room to sleep everyone in the van.

I got the SMB to facilitate camping trips and other outings with the kids. So far, it has been great.

And for the long drives, a DVD player is a must.

Rob
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