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Minivan “camper”for 3- the morning after

The minivan worked pretty well for a “camper”last night. We laid on yoga mats, blankets and thermarests, which provided limited comfort. We weren’t  sure how we would feel about sleeping in the van, so we didn’t want to invest in a mattress until we knew if we would like it.  We were warm enough while sleeping and breaking down camp was VERY simple! We told our kiddo to buckle up, the parents climbed in the front seats and we drove off.

We will need to make some changes to be comfortable for more than one night in a row.

  1. Organization/storage: We would like to add some kind of system to the van to store our belongings in an organized manner that does not take up too much floor space. I am considering modifying an over the door shoe organizer and hanging it from the “oh shit” handles. We also need a dirty clothes bag that seals in the smell.
  2. Sleeping pad- We needed something more substantial than our variety of sleeping pads that we used last night. We have gone through a number of air mattresses in our marriage and were not interested in using one in our van. Today we purchased two extra large orthopedic dog beds that fit almost perfectly in the back of the van. I am going to sew a couple of big pillow cases out of old sheets to fit them in to make them easier to keep clean and hold them together.  We tried it out this afternoon and it was much more comfortable than last nights “bed” but continues to be light, affordable and versatile.  Our youngest is sleeping on one tonight inside the house because it is so cozy. We are still trying to figure if there is any way to comfortably sleep 4 people in our van that does not have stow and go seating so we don’t want to take up extra room by building anything at this point.
  3. Because it was cold out the windows in the van were all closed. It became very humid in the van overnight. I saw someone mention filling tube socks with kitty litter to absorb moisture in the air. Has anyone tried this or have another solution? If so, please post your suggestions in the comments.
  4. An outside rug- it would be great to have a rug we can lay down by the door to wipe our shoes off before climbing in the van.  This would not be practical in parking lots, but very necessary in a campground.
  5. Screens- I plan to cut and sew some magnet strips into screen fabric so we can open up the van a bit when needed.

We will be using the van for about a week later this month- we will post a pic once we get it set up.
We have spent $80 so far on this project for the dog beds.

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travel

Minivan “camper” for 3- my view from my bed

We are camping with our eldest son’s Boy Scout troop tonight… in March…in MI. There is a bit of snow on the ground and there has been a drizzle for the last few hours….so very glad to be off the ground and not in a damp tent tonight.    

travel

Where should I travel solo?

I recently started a new job which leaves me with more flexibility and days off. I am thinking about making use of this to plan a solo trip somewhere, something I haven’t done since my eldest son was born almost 12 years ago.

I live in MI and find that Detroit airport has the best mix of affordable flights and location convenience for me, so I plan to fly out of DTW. I have school aged children and don’t want want to leave them too long so this will likely be a short trip ~ 5 days. I am considering Mexico City; I haven’t been there in 18 years and it would be fun to see what I remember.  We also talked about traveling there with the kids and this would help me scope it out first. 

Does anyone have any other good ideas? 
Criteria:

  • <8 hrs travel time
  • <$500 plane ticket
  • Lots to see and do in a centralized area 
  • Good public trans or pedestrian/bike friendly
  • Affordable lodging (condo rental…hostel)

I’d love to hear your suggestions. Leave them in the comments. Thank you!

travel

Camper Van Packing List

I am working on the packing list for our southern minivan-campervan trip.  We will be staying a couple of nights with family and 4-6 nights in our van, should all go well. We will have access to laundry 1/2 through our trip.  We want to pack what it needed, but not too much.  Don’t want the chaos in the van to make the space uncomfortable!

  • Curtain to divide the front bucket seat from the back sleeping compartment.  I shortened an old shower curtain a few inches to fit the floor to ceiling height in the van. We won’t want the curtain up during the day, so it needs to be easy to take up and down. The hook holes along the top will make it easy to tie up and remove as needed.
  • Cooler, small – This first trip will include time with relatives and we will be in a number of cities, at least for the first part of the trip.  We will plan to eat out some, so we will pack minimal food products.
    • Yoplait Go Big -12 (our youngest son’s diet includes A LOT of yogurt)
    • cut vegetables
    • fresh fruit
    • lunch meat/cheese
  • Kitchen supplies
    • napkins
    • wet wipes
    • 3 flat bowls
    • 3 spoon/fork/knife combos
    • matches/lighter
    • 3 travel mugs
    • hot chocolate packets
    • ground coffee
    • pour over coffee maker
    • small dish soap
    • disposable dish rags- old cut up bath towels to wash and try with
    • electric tea kettle
  • Bedding
    • 1 cot (for my 6’4″ husband)
    • 1 foam pad (for my 7 year old and myself to share)
    • 3 pillows
    • 3 quilts/blankets/sleeping bags
  • Creature comforts/personal items
    • battery operated rechargeable fan
    • phones with chargers
    • tablets with chargers (loaded with books/audio books)
    • 3 camp chairs
    • 4 changes of clothes
    • personal toiletries/medicine
    • swimsuits- just in case
    • pajamas
  • Misc
    • extension cord
    • 3 ponchos
    • 3 microfiber bath towels
    • ball
    • tarp
    • rope
    • small first aid kit
    • flashlight
    • blanket for park or beach

If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment. Thank you.

~Liz

travel

Planning

IMG_0929It has been about 5 months since our family last traveled and I have been busy mentally planning our next adventure(s).

Over last couple of months I have been exploring the idea of creating a camper van for our family of 4. We live in the city and we don’t have room on our property to store a pop up and I don’t want to add the extra hassle of storing a camper off location, so a stand alone camper is out. I love the idea of being free to roam the US in a van. I’d like to travel west with our kids in the next couple of years, and the camper van would allow us to travel place to place with minimal set up and tear down—the worst part of camping. I’d like our camper van to also be one of our primary vehicles.

My husband, who is a bit leery of the camper van plan, suggested we try it out first in our minivan before making a new purchase. Sensible.

Our eldest will be traveling to China with his grandparents for two weeks this spring— the remaining 3 of us will be taking a road trip south and we are planning to test out the minivan camper on that trip.

I have been making plans for a temporary van dwelling setup- I made a curtain to separate the front two seats from the back sleeping compartment. We plan to take out one of the 2nd row bucket seats so that my husband (6’4″) can sleep lengthwise in the van on a cot; our youngest and I will sleep horizontally across the back, with our feet under his cot.  This should leave us with 3 seats for traveling and a place for all 3 of us sleep.

We will open the back venting windows and crack the sunroof for ventilation and I plan to purchase a battery operated fan to circulate the air.

For this trip we will keep a limited amount of food in a small cooler and plan to eat some meals out (part of the fun of travel), so we do not need to pack as many supplies in the van.

I’ll post pictures as the project progresses.

travel

Puerto Morelos – November 2016

The weather was perfect.  Sunny and mid 80s daily with minimal rain.  We stayed in a 2 bedroom beachfront condo a few blocks from the town square. The condo was clean, included a washer and dryer, had a lovely pool and a view of the ocean.

We took an airport transfer to our condo which was very convenient and easy. Our boys were initially disappointed upon arrival.  We had previously traveled to Luquillo, Puerto Rico and they loved that trip.  The condo grounds and the waves were not the same as Luquillo and this required a bit of a mental adjustment for them, which they quickly did.

We enjoyed many hours in the pool – it was large enough to rough house and play catch.  The was another family visiting with children, and our youngest enjoyed the playmate.

The beach was clean, sandy and well-groomed.  Puerto Morelos is a fishing town, so there are many small boats tied up to shore, but there was plenty of room at the beach in front of the condo to swim without being bothered by the ropes.  We went snorkeling using the outfitter located next door who had a boat tied up infront of the condo.  Our youngest was nervous, but as an animal lover we knew he would love it.  Our guide was fantastic with him.  Our son held onto a flotation device and put his head in the water- he was quickly comfortable and the guide stuck with him the whole time.

We spent the first few days of our trip swimming, walking to town for meals and enjoying the square at night.  Our eldest had a chance to play soccer a couple of times which he really enjoyed.  We found art in a local restaurant that we all loved and purchased some prints at an evening market in the square.

None of us developed any travel tummy issues.  The restaurants have filtered water and we enjoyed eating at many of them.  After being in town a few days, we took a colectivo to the grocery store that was off the highway.  We purchased some staples and pastries and cooked some of our meals in the condo for the rest of the week.  There was a shop a few blocks from our condo that made fresh tortillas that we used in our condo meals.  My eldest, who had previously shunned corn tortillas, loved them.

We took two day trips during this vacation.  For the first, we rented a car in Puerto Morelos and drove to Tulum to see the ruins and visit the beach.  Neglecting to bring water to the ruins was a rookie mistake.  We made a quick pass through and found water at the exit.  We did not attempt to reenter, but went to the beach, where we found some snack shacks and waves big enough for body surfing.  We then returned to our car, did some souvenir shopping and went to visit Grand Cenote.  Our youngest decided not to swim, but the rest of us enjoyed the cenote and ventured into some of the darker areas.  We saw others snorkeling and scuba-ing, but we were satisfied with our regular swimming goggles. For the second day trip, the boys went to Croco Cun Zoo, using a taxi for transport and I took a cooking class a block from the condo at The Little Mexican Cooking School.  Everyone enjoyed their day.

We all feel a return trip is in order.  We loved the small town feel of Puerto Morelos.  The town is centrally located and there are a number of day trips that we did not take on this trip that we would love to take when we return.  I love being away from home with my family, where I don’t have to compete with friends and activies to enjoy time together. Enjoy the photos.

~Liz