What is Van Life Really Like?

03 October 2022

Why would anyone want to live in a van, let alone, in a van with their family?! Well, as it turns out, there could be a lot of reasons: from ease of traveling, exposing one’s kids to more of the outdoors, simplifying one’s life and instilling a sense of adventure in a younger generation. While actually living in a van isn’t for everyone, there are certain aspects to be highlighted that can help some people make the leap and give it a whirl.


Taking the steps necessary to minimize one’s life enough to live in 80 square feet, with a significant other and kids can be very challenging, to say the least. Despite the difficulties of figuring out what to take and what to leave, it can be liberating to suddenly only have a handful of belongings to manage.

Living life on the road brings the horizon that much closer and opens up a world of opportunities for showing the world to your kids. The experiences and lessons that children can learn while traveling on the road can be priceless and won’t be taught or learned in any classroom.


Living on the road with fewer resources at one’s disposal inherently leads to conservation and reassessing what is essential and what isn’t. There is a certain reconnection with our basic needs and the world around us that comes with the simplicity of living out of a van and being that much less connected and plugged in. It seems that as our society becomes more and more screen bound, we tend to lose touch with a lot of our senses and knowing how to listen to our mind, body and soul.

Making the leap to a nomadic life doesn’t necessarily have to be permanent either. Sometimes it’s best to ration it into one year, 6 months, 3 months, whatever… just trying is truly the achievement sometimes.

The moments aren’t always glorious, but with the right attitude, can be quite entertaining. Sometimes there will be a night or two spent in a K-Mart parking lot and few holes dug in the middle of nowhere as a makeshift toilet. While those moments may not be the highlights of life on the road, it really helps keep life, luxury and what is essential in perspective.

The van option is nice for a small family because it tends to be relatively low maintenance, and minimal setup time and effort. Making things as easy and streamlined as possible is key to making a traveling lifestyle with kids feasible for the long-term. There are many different van options available, and many different ways they can be customized to fit your family’s needs and desires. While a van shouldn’t be viewed simply as a house on wheels, some customizations and luxuries can go a long way in making life on the road with a family enjoyable for everyone. What is and isn’t included will be different for everyone, but plenty of time and consideration should be put into everything that a home on wheels has or doesn’t have.

Some items to consider:

Having an electric refrigerator as opposed to a cooler. Coolers always seem like a cheap easy option, but in the long run, having to get ice every 1-3 days (depending on weather and the cooler) can become quite a crutch. The amount of food and containers that actually get spoiled from the water left by the melting ice is actually quite significant, and always sad. Plus, there’s nothing like an ice cold beer for mom and dad and some nice cold fruit juices for the kids after a long day of hiking and playing around in the heat of the great outdoors in the middle of summer.





Some smaller things to consider are things like using a foot pump to control water flow through the sink faucet, as opposed to an electric one. Foot pumps save on electricity, thus battery power, and often times, this leads to more independence while out in the wild. Foot pumps are also a lot more efficient at controlling just the amount of water needed, and minimizing waste.

The consideration for a shower set up and hot water, is important too when considering the sustainability for a whole family on the road for a long period of time. We have found that having hot water come out of the sink faucet is rarely truly essential, but that having hot water come out of a shower attachment is key for the colder months so that everyone gets clean every night. “Shower” set ups can be quite elaborate or very simple. Sometimes just having a sink sprayer hooked up to the outside of the van is plenty, and bathing suits can be used for the showering if other people are nearby.

Depending on the location and time of year one plans to be living on the road, having an interior heater set up while camping can be essential. Having this was key for us while our boys were still in diapers and needed a middle of the night or early morning diaper change in the middle of winter. Being able to fire up the heater and change a baby in a warm environment makes a world of difference and ends up being worth every cent of investment.

Sometimes having a DVD setup is worth considering for some of the long miles on the road. There are many other ways to keep the kids entertained on the road, but sometimes it’s nice to have the break when there is a lot of driving involved.

One more serious consideration to take into account is the use of solar panels. Depending on what luxuries are chosen, having some solar power to keep everything charged up can make a big difference in staying self sustained and in the wild for long periods of time without any troubles.

There are many more small gadgets and customizations to consider when putting together a life on the road, but in the end, a family needs to be able make the decision to go, together, and discover what life has to offer.