Van life with children - any wisdom?

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  • This may be the year we finally activate the escape pod and get out of the daily grind for a while, and the big part of that plan at the moment is to get a vehicle we can live in. I'll probably need to keep up work for a while so that will mean parking up Bristol way, and possibly overwintering here too as I don't think we'll have cash in hand to set off south before it gets cold. Hopefully then allowing for a trip down through France and Spain visiting folk and staying on some land.


    This would have been no stress some years ago but we now have a nearly-four year old...


    Anyone have any experience to share of living in vans with kids?
    Considerations that have come up so far - bit more space and comfort required; will mean being out in public space more than we are at the mo; going to be difficult to be stealthed (ever tried being stealthy with a four year old?); risk of hassle from orforities?


    Also - anyone selling a van/luton/truck that might meet our requirements? :whistle:

  • Yep, not necessarily no school ever, we'll keep it under review, but that's the plan as it stands.
    We don't plan on being itinerant for good, may have a good co-housing project coming up in around two/three years.

  • I wish you luck, but the only advice I think would be to get a vehicle much bigger than you THINK you are going to need...a 4 yr old cooped in a vehicle in crappy weather is going to drive you ever so slightly insane with running around jumping around and wanting to play
    I don't particularly wish to piss upon your campfire as it were.. but if I remember correctly and I'm going back 25 years for-year-olds go still a lot more clothes than adults keeping their clothes clean washed and dried it's a pain in the arse in a house with a wash machine and the tumble dryer doing the same thing a van or a vehicle such a 7.5 ton would so me with dread equal to going to the dentist!


    Apart from the logistics of clean clothes addressing issues of boredom and exercise during inclement weather as you say you also have the how do you keep a your-year-old quiet scenario


    I'm really hoping there is somebody here that can help you [emoji1360]

  • Why would I want to keep him quiet? I mean, any more so than in a house?
    Comes back to the 'where do we park up?' problem again I suppose.


    Yeah laundry is definitely a problem, drying more than washing really cos can always find a way to do lots of hand washes - we were travelling for a while last year with not much changes of clothes with us, but that was in hot sunny places so drying clothes was a doddle. I'm hoping we can find a sympathetic friend with facilities! That said our friend runs a laundry service that may be affordable.
    We don't have a huge amount of space as is, but yes, that is a concern of mine - I guess the answer is to be outdoors more, and in other people's houses/community centres/libraries/playgrounds etc. a lot more.

  • I know of 3 single ladies raising kids in vehicles , 2 of them do it very well the third did not and social services intervened which in my opinion in this case was proper , kid was removed to live with relatives and lady was sectioned i think , my point here is that all 3 has the SS poking around as there complaints/concerns raised by others , these complaints could be something as trivial as 'I saw that poor child barefoot splashing in puddles eating leaves', it will raise a flag that the SS are obliged to investigate.
    I am NOT in any way suggesting you are bad or irresponsible parents , just warning you of how others may percieve things , they think they are do-gooders but really just cause stress and hassle.

  • Nah fair enough, I work with social services in my day job so don't really have any worries there - I know how they go about things and think we could put their minds at ease should they be compelled to check us out.
    Good to hear that they can be reassured that you're doing a good job even if you're in a bus!

  • Alf, you can do it ! I don't believe in creating problems where they don't exist, no disrespect to our friend Sooty who talks a lot of sense. Keep at it!! Keep on truckin with Toby n Suzy Trux, full time with an elderly terrier and an 8 month old, enormous blue long coated GSD "puppy" full of energy in a 17 year old Hymer Starline called Starship.

  • Dont go oversize thinking a 4yr old will take up space too much more space,everyone will adjust,most people in houses use a tiny proportion of available space,the rest is used for storage of un used or un nesssesary stuff,clothes..for who are you keeping this child clean?yes theres the basic hygiene to consider,but what 4yr old is worried about looks?washing said clothes can be a pain,but laundrettes,friends,hand wash in warmer weather as you said...down size to a minimum..i did 6 months ago when i moved in with uj,earlier this week we charity shopped 2 bin bags of un needed stuff...and outside space is your friend/garden/classroom/living space whatever the weather..good luck with it all,you ll never know unless you try xx

  • I'm envious of you, Alf, I always wanted to do this and I've kind of missed the boat now so I wish you well on your adventure!


    I can't give you advice re van living as I haven't done it but I do have experience of small spaces with a young child, lack of facilities, home education and social services so can give a bit of advice with regards to those things :)


    Personally I would get involved with home ed groups/activities asap if that's the route you're going to be going down. Not only does it give you plenty of places to go/be out and about with your little one (who I think is very lucky to be embarking on this!), it's really good to have plenty of contacts/help/advice/support/ideas from others who are already doing it and makes the whole process a lot easier. It also helps to have 'outsiders' involved in case you get anyone causing problems with social services. As you say you work with them anyway you probably know a lot of the procedures and situations that can occur but two of the main things that people raise with regards to home education is a lack of socialising and no-one else being around to 'spot' abuse (there's a mass of information to show that these aren't necessary concerns but you will find all that as you start getting into it :) ). If you have regular contact with groups and organised activities it's a helpful tool to show you aren't up to anything dodgy or hiding your child away as someone external can vouch for you, you can show your child is 'seen' on a regular basis and people who run groups often have some sort of child protection training so they are good people to have on side :)


    Lack of facilities - well years ago no-one had fridges, heating, washing machines or anything else and they all managed (and some would say standards were higher!). We didn't have a washing machine for a long time. We covered up for mucky jobs, spot washed rather than washing whole items, rinsed out smalls of an evening and made use of friends' facilities when we visited for coffee :) It's perfectly doable, although you will probably find you stop wearing white :) You might well find that your little one's friends at wherever they go think living in a van is the most exciting thing imaginable so it could turn into a party bus (and I've always thought it would be amazing to turn up at a home ed group in a live in and use it as mobile classroom). Added to which you can use your vehicle as a home ed project for your little one - what a brilliant way to learn about engines, power, properties of different materials, generating heat and light, cooking, storing food, re-using and upcycling, etc etc. I'm excited for you!


    With regard to authorities I find the best tactic is always to know the law as well as you possibly can, whatever it is that you are doing so that you are prepared if you need to be. I'm quite careful about who I talk to as well; you don't need to announce to everyone that you meet that you live in a van and home educate and if you don't feel completely comfortable then don't feel obliged to share :) We had a lot of negative responses to home education when my son was younger and it used to upset me, which in turn often made me defensive. I only mention that so that you are prepared for it; not everyone will like what you're doing but no-one else is living your life so try not to let it bother you :)


    Please keep us posted about how you're getting on I love reading about other people's adventures!

  • Cheers!
    Yeh we have a bit of a network around homeschooling/unschooling/worldschooling, but are always looking to build this. You can never have too much village :)
    It'll be a fair bit of learning for me too around vehicles, electrics etc. heh


    I guess the key thing is a good park up, but I imagine they're precious currency and not exactly widely advertised!

  • Hi, we are also just embarking upon van life as a family. I thought it might help you to worry less if someone in a similar situation replied to your post. Their are four of us in our vehicle; my wife and I and our two sons who are eight and ten. We also have an average sized dog and when it suits him, a cat. Although it can be a bit close in bad weather you just need to adapt to it and you do rapidly learn to give each other space when necessary. We have a Leyland roadrunner, she is 28 feet long but that isn't all living space obviously! Let me know if you have any specific questions I might be able to help with. Joe

  • Maybe those of us ..such as me...who think taking kids on thee road is a brilliant, amazing, very brave thing to do..but i never had the guts...should offer a uk wide...washing machine,dryer and sherry trifle emergency stopover.for those emergency moments.?

    Dont go oversize thinking a 4yr old will take up space too much more space,everyone will adjust,most people in houses use a tiny proportion of available space,the rest is used for storage of un used or un nesssesary stuff,clothes..for who are you keeping this child clean?yes theres the basic hygiene to consider,but what 4yr old is worried about looks?washing said clothes can be a pain,but laundrettes,friends,hand wash in warmer weather as you said...down size to a minimum..i did 6 months ago when i moved in with uj,earlier this week we charity shopped 2 bin bags of un needed stuff...and outside space is your friend/garden/classroom/living space whatever the weather..good luck with it all,you ll never know unless you try xx

  • Nice one!
    Cheers Joe, I'd put aside thinking about the cats...
    Looked at a bare T350 Luton at the weekend, feels possible having seen the space but then also considering that I do like the indoors comforts! Don't want to go too big with vehicle as that brings other complications.
    Got a bit of a money hitch at the moment so may be postponed again... :curse:

  • Maybe those of us ..such as me...who think taking kids on thee road is a brilliant, amazing, very brave thing to do..but i never had the guts...should offer a uk wide...washing machine,dryer and sherry trifle emergency stopover.for those emergency moments.?


    Washing machine,sherry trifle....how about those no longer carting kids about?kids dont appreciate washing machines or sherry trifle for that matter,lol xxxx

  • Do it! People park up on the downs..i know a lady with 3 young kids inc a baby.who lives in hers..have you got a over 3.5 ton licence..opens the van search up if you have.

  • Nope.
    Far as I understand I probably just need to apply for provisional cat C with the health form...?
    There another cut-off at 7.5?


    Realistic check of finances puts us currently at being able to afford a bare box luton with pennies left over to convert, which I'll have to do as wages come in while paying for tax etc. Or lucking out with a readymade that's small or cheap. Got an LT35 at the moment which is a lovely van but no way enough to be our home.

  • If you can stretch to a Luton then do it, it makes so much difference to have your own private little area without having to sacrifice any floor space. I was trying to work out how to post pictures so you can see the space the four of us share but it appears to be beyond my modest abilities! If you would be interested then just let me know and I might be able to send them to you. Joe

  • Hmm, there's probably a guide somewhere but I guess either they're hosted online somewhere and you link the address, or upload from your computer (may be a size limit).


    Downs sounds better than under M32!
    Sent off for the licence upgrade forms. May have to make an appointment with the optician...

  • Sorry you do have to take a test too. It's the same as the car provisional. When you are a car learner you need a qualified driver sat beside you when you learn to drive a car. You full car license becomes a provisional LGV and you need a fully qualified LGV driver with you to drive over 3.5 tons.
    You wouldn't get in a car with a provisional license on your own.

  • Really?
    I'm finding the DVLA/gov.uk stuff really hard to get a straight answer from.
    My understanding was that if it's 'non-commercial carriage of passengers or goods for personal use' then you don't need full licence. Hmm... or do I still need parts 1 and 3? It's confusing. What do they cost?