One of the biggest things we had to think about when we decided to change the way we travel, was whether taking a baby in a campervan is practical. We bought our campervan when our second little adventurer was nine months old and we definitely learnt a few tips and tricks along the way.
I often tell new parents that the easiest time to travel with a baby is actually before they are on the move. That way you know they’re at least going to stay where you put them! We definitely found this with our daughter’s first holiday to Bulgaria – so easy now we look back on it! Sadly, due to lockdown we missed this window with my son. So by the time we were able to start travelling with him he was at the age where he was into everything. He had just started to crawl and his favourite pastime was bum-shuffling at speed towards anything which looked even remotely dangerous to check it out.
However there was no way we were going to let this put us off future adventures.
Before investing in a campervan we spent a lot of time researching different models and also van conversions. One of the reasons we opted for a VW California was because we felt it would work best for us as a family with young children.
There’s a lot to consider if you’re thinking about buying or renting a campervan when you have a baby. Hopefully this will help to answer some of the questions you may have.
Can you put a baby seat in a campervan?
In short, yes. Some campervans and conversions come with Isofix points, which carseats can be easily attached to. However if they don’t, like ours, you can secure them in with seatbelts in the normal way. We used a backwards facing carseat for the baby and a forward-facing booster seat for our toddler.
Something to consider if you are thinking about buying or renting a campervan with children is whether there is a rail which allows the back seats to be moved forwards while driving (many van conversions do not have this feature). This was something we decided we wanted as the children are still quite small.
It’s slightly harder to find these vans, especially if you’re buying a previously owned one. However we’re so pleased we waited to find a van with the rail. It means that during journeys the children sit directly behind us, so it’s easy to pass things back and chat. If we didn’t have this feature I can see that I would have ended up having to travel in the back quite a lot with the baby, as he would have been too far away from us otherwise.
This may not be something you need to worry about with older children, but is definitely something worth thinking about if you’re taking a baby in a campervan.
Where does a baby sleep in a campervan?
In the future both little adventurers will spend the night in sleeping bags in the pop-up roof of the campervan. (Ours came with a safety net that fastens over the entrance which provides extra reassurance). But while the baby is still small he sleeps down on the foldout bed with me. Because he is so mobile one of the things we were worried about was him rolling off the end of the bed, so we researched a few options.
If your baby is still small there is plenty of room for a Moses basket in a campervan. (We used this option the first time we took our little adventurer to stay in a shepherd’s hut.) However our baby is too big for that now, so we decided to get him a pop-up travel cot, which is like a mini tent. This seemed like the best option, as it gives him plenty of space to wriggle around in his growbag, but also zips up so I can sleep with the comfort that he’s not going to be launching himself off the bed!
We opted for the Koo-di Pop-Up Travel Bubble Cot which fits the space really well.
Where does a baby eat in a campervan?
We use baby-led weaning to feed our little adventurer and while it’s great for independence, it is also very messy! So we knew straight away that we would need some kind of seat for him to sit in. After some research we discovered the Chicco Pocket Snack Highchair, a foldable chair for parents to use on the move. We found this was the perfect solution, as it’s nice and small to transport and can be used both inside the van on the seats (secured with the seatbelt) and outdoors on a foldable chair. The removable tray is also really easy to clean.
We purchased our Chicco Pocket Snack Highchair from John Lewis.
Is a campervan safe for a baby?
Basically, a campervan is no more dangerous than a house and you just have to remember to keep eyes on your baby at all times. One of the things we found is that it’s easy to get distracted, especially when everything is new and you’re trying to work out how things work/where you packed something. Mr A and I therefore tend to take it in turns to get jobs done, while the other entertains the children. “Divide and conquer” is our motto!
The most important thing to watch out for is the gas hob which is next to the pull out table. We mostly tried to make sure the baby was outside when we were cooking and when this wasn’t possible (at breakfast, for example) we made sure he was secured in his chair as far away as possible from the hob. At home we also have a strict “no touching the oven” rule and we have extended this to the campervan.
As I mentioned, there is a drop from the bed and a big step down onto the ground outside when the door is open. So it’s important not to leave babies who are on the move unattended on these.
Something else to be aware of is the sliding door of the campervan. Ours is actually electric, which is good as it stops automatically if something (or someone!) is in the way. But if yours has a manual sliding door make sure little fingers are out of the way before closing it.
As at home, think carefully about what you keep in low drawers and cupboards which are easily accessible. Place things which could be dangerous up high in the overhead locker.
Is there space for children to play in a campervan?
For a relatively small van I think the VW California actually has a decent amount of indoor space. When the seats are pushed back there is a good amount of floor space for children to sit and play. You can also lay out a blanket or rug to make it more comfortable.
My biggest challenge was keeping the baby entertained in the morning when he woke up earlier than his sister. This is something we definitely need to think more about, but some of the things that helped to keep him busy were a bag of small toys and some board books. He was also very interested in our metal plates and bowls, which I gave him as a last resort!
What to pack when taking a baby in a campervan
There is a good amount of storage in the boot of the VW California for a pram and all of the other paraphernalia that seems to accompany babies. I’d also recommend packing cubes for clothes, separated into daywear and sleepwear, as it makes it much easier to lay your hands on things.
Having said that, I always say to parents that babies never actually need as much as you think they do. Over the years we’ve got much better at packing light for the children and it’s worth reminding yourself that most things can be washed or purchased if you really do start to run low on them. If you want to know where to start, here’s a basic list of what we packed when taking a baby in a campervan:
- An outfit for each day, plus a couple of spares
- A sleepsuit and growbag
- A pop-up tent for sleeping
- The Chicco Pocket Snack Highchair
- Plastic bowl and cup
- A sling
- Changing bag
- Nappies and wipes
- Muslins and bibs
- Warm hat and coat
- A small towel and toothbrush
- A small first aid kit (including Calpol for teething)
- Pram and car seat
- Small bag of toys and board books
I hope you find some of that helpful. If you have any more questions about taking a baby in a campervan, please feel free to get in touch.
If this post has made you consider trying out a campervan holiday, then check out my post about hiring a campervan in 2023. Or if you’re ready to take the next step and invest in your own van, read my tips about things to think about when buying a campervan. You can also learn more about why we decided to change the way we travel.