The never-ending COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 had our family scrambling to find a safe solution to still enjoy a well-deserved summer getaway. All future flights have been canceled with concerns about crossing state lines to visit family. Local weekend adventures only teased the feeling of vacation but the need to get away for an extended stay was weighing heavily on our mental health.
Brainstorming alternative ideas for trips started to consume our daily conversations. Pandemic travel would be cathartic, but is it selfish during this time? In the past, my wife and I loved to travel internationally and rent campervans as our means of transportation and lodging. Since having our son, I’ve been trying to find a way to experience camping in a camper with kids. The primary issue I’d come across is: Does the van (build-out) fit a car seat? Or is it safe for a car seat? We looked into other options like using a car and pulling a pop-up, renting an RV, smaller vans that wouldn’t fit a family, etc. You name it, I have researched it. But we kept coming back to wanting a true campervan experience. The information out there seemed confusing, the experience not what I envisioned and many rental companies didn’t provide the answers I needed to feel safe.
That is when I came across the Squad by Native Campervan.
The Squad (Ram ProMaster) Van has two back seats with individual type 2 belts (lap and shoulder) in all forward-facing seating positions which meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 for child seats. Type 1 belts (lap only) are not safe for children.
The back seats have a “Lower Anchors And Tethers For Children” (LATCH) Restraint System (Passenger Vehicle).
Directly from the Ram ProMaster Owner Manual –
“The LATCH system has three vehicle anchor points for installing LATCH-equipped child seats. There are two lower anchorages located at the back of the seat cushion where it meets the seatback and one top tether anchorage located behind the seating position. These anchorages are used to install LATCH-equipped child seats without using the vehicle’s seat belts. Some seating positions may have a top tether anchorage but no lower anchorages. In these seating positions, the seat belt must be used with the top tether anchorage to install the child restraint. Please see the following table for more information.”
Feel safe now? I did.
Booked it, got the van and we hit the road
Two adults, one 2-year-old, and a 90-pound Bernese Mountain dog left Denver for 6 days, 5 nights camping and driving in Vanchovy. We went west and headed to the Sawtooth mountains outside Stanley, Idaho. After over 1,600 miles round trip and 24 hours of driving, we survived. The best alternative solution to a family vacation during a COVID-19 pandemic.
What I learned traveling in a campervan with a toddler and a 90-pound mountain dog
My son gets car sick and we found that if the car seat is in the middle of the vehicle he can see out the front window. Remind them to look up once in a while and look out the front. “How many trees can you count?”
Your four-legged neglected child would appreciate some comfort while driving down a dirt road. A full large dog bed can easily fit on the floor next to the back seats. Make it comfortable, you don’t need the space because you have enough storage under the bed for bags.
Or other larger entertainment for the kids. Even in the dirt, we camped on, our son rode his bike all over the site. As I mentioned above in tip #2, you have enough storage below the bed, so pack everything that will keep the little ones entertained around the campfire.
A full pack-n-play can fit inside the van next to the back seats and door. If your little one needs their own bed, this is a great option. What we ended up doing was letting our son sleep with us in bed. We would put him down early and eventually after a couple of adult beverage hours by the fire we would sneak in to join him. Bonus tip, use the window sunshades to help block out the light if it’s still daylight for nighttime.
If your kid is potty trained, bring a full potty, not a seat adapter. I know it sounds gross but we are camping… get over it. This is the easiest option to avoid pit stops during a COVID pandemic. Be respectful of camping and dispose of it correctly.
Most parents can relate that money is the last thing on their minds when traveling with a kid. You would pay any amount to keep a kid from having a meltdown while driving 80 m.p.h in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, 20 miles from the next exit. So if you can relate and understand, renting a campervan is a gift from the Gods for families that want to camp on the road. If it rains you have a solution if it’s 101 degrees you can cool down, if the bugs are out you can hide if you need to get out of your seat and stretch you can without leaving the van (after you pull over of course).
I will leave you with this; a campervan is big enough to comfortably fit a family of 4 camping and small enough to parallel park downtown.