I’m sure we’re not the first to say it and we know we won’t be the last, but vanning with a baby is pretty much the ultimate parenting goal. Who doesn’t want to give their tiny human the world and what better way to do it than by offering them a life uninhibited and on the road? As a new parent myself, I was deeply inspired when I came across Alexandra and Jonathon’s travels. They, along with their precious 18 month old Sebastian, have been living the #vanlife since 2018, way before their little nugget was even a thought in their minds. When a baby was ready to be added to the family, they didn’t stop doing what they loved. They decided to keep living the life they worked hard for and now they’ve accumulated over a year and a half of memories and experiences with their little love… #goals.
We sat down with the couple to talk ALL things van travel with baby. To learn about schedules, travel days, meals on the road, must have gear, and everything else a newbie parent wants to know about life on the road with a baby, check out the interview below.
La Mesa RV: Tell us about yourselves! What did you do before you started living out of your van?
Alexandra & Jonathan: Hey everyone! I am Alexandra, my husband is Jonathan, and our baby’s name is Sebastian. Before we started our life of adventure on the road, I was a massage therapist, Jonathan was in IT sales, and Sebastian was still just a glimmer in our eyes.
LMRV: How old is your baby? When did you start traveling?
A&J: Sebastian is just 18 months old. We started living and traveling out of a van, long before he was born, in September of 2018.
LMRV: What made you decide to take the leap to travel with a baby?
A&J: We were already living this lifestyle, and absolutely loved it! We were ready to have a baby and thought it would be an amazing experience for all of us as a family unit to get to travel the U.S. together.
LMRV: What is the hardest part about traveling with a baby?
A&J: Well to be honest, it’s hard to pick just one part! Being a parent in general is not easy, so as you can imagine the difficulty is magnified by living in a small space and traveling on the road. Overall, the most common issue that comes up is that our son doesn’t enjoy being in the car seat, so we don’t get to spend more than an hour or two of solid driving time. And in between driving time we need to make sure he is able to play outside at a park. We used to be able to drive like 500 miles in a day and now we are lucky if we drive 250-300.
LMRV: What are your top 5 tips on vanlife with a baby?
1) Finding the best parks/playgrounds while you are road tripping,driving from point A to point B. We would Google “the best parks in X city”, or just type in “park or playground” in our Maps app, and then turn on the satellite mode. That way we could look at the park from a bird’s eye view, to check it out.
2) Have a sink big enough that can double as a baby bath. Since we spend most of our day outside in nature or in parks, Sebastian would be ready for a bath every night before bed.
3) Stick to a routine. There isn’t a lot of routine living on the road. Making sure we had our own routine everyday for Sebastian made a big difference.
4) Plan activities for driving time. Books, sensory play, singing songs, movies, snacks. Make sure there are different activities everyday to make it fun for the baby.
5) Lastly, spend as much time as possible outside and schedule daily quality family time each day.
LMRV: How do you pack light when small babies need so many things?
A&J: In our case, we were able to cut down on a lot of items because I was able to exclusively breastfeed him which meant we didn’t need bottles, formula, and everything in between. It’s not to say we didn’t have the standard baby gear! Medicine, clothes, diapers, stroller, baby carriers, etc. While designing and building our layout, storage was a top priority. We were really able to maximize our storage space to accommodate as many baby necessities as possible. Cabinets, drawers, and “the garage” under the bed open storage were all a must.
LMRV: What does a day in your life look like for your family of 3?
• We start the day when Sebastian wakes up around 7:30 after getting washed up, hydrated, and fed.
• Immediately after, we find somewhere Sebastian can go outside and play for an hour or two, and plan out the rest of our day. The plan consists of where we are going, what we want to see and do while we are there.
• Nap time is sacred time in a parent’s life, so depending on what we were doing in a day he would either nap while we are on a hike, or nap in the van while we relax, work remotely, or get driving miles under our belt.
• We snack all day on nutritious goodies, and typically eat 1-2 cooked meals a day. Those meal times depend on if it’s a driving or parked day. If it’s a driving day we spend the rest of the day after nap time, driving and pulling over to let the little man run around.
• If it’s a parked day we spend the rest of the day hiking and enjoying the beautiful outdoors. No matter what’s happening we always make time to watch the sunset.
• After sunset is dinner time, cleanup, baby bath, story time, and bedtime. Then we have time to chill and relax just the two of us until we fall asleep, and start all over again the next day.
LMRV: How do you decide your next destination?
A&J: We have family and friends in literally all corners of the U.S. and sprinkled in-between, so we really plan our destinations around visiting them and whatever natural wonders fall in between. For instance we were in Michigan this past summer, we had a wedding to attend for September in New York, and a plan to visit our friends for Thanksgiving in Florida. I have family that lives in Massachusetts and North Carolina, so we decided to make a whole east coast trip! After the wedding in September we drove up to Maine, went up to Acadia National Park and then Portland to visit a friend. From there we drove down the entire East Coast visiting family and friends, until we got to Florida in November.
*We google what National Parks or top nature spots in every state we are going to drive through.
LMRV: What are your go to baby meals on the road?
A&J: Whatever we are eating is what Sebastian eats with us, or he nurses. We are lucky that he really isn’t a picky eater. We love oatmeal or fruit and granola bowls in the morning. For snacks we love, hummus and veggies, rice cakes + Avocado, popcorn, nut butters on anything, etc. For dinner we make burrito / sushi bowls, whatever fish is local and fresh, curries, pasta’s, chili or other soups, etc. The only thing I do differently is making sure I use a little less hot spices and just add them into Jonathan and I’s individual bowls. But he doesn’t mind herbs and spices at all.
LMRV: Any gear you can’t live without on the road with a baby?
A&J: Oh my goodness, yes!
1) Our baby carriers. A soft high quality front or back carrier by Sakura Bloom and an Osprey hiking carrier.
2) Our Bumbo booster seat, it’s a mini portable highchair.
3) Munchkin non spill sippy cups and little bowls.
4) Stroller for those days you don’t want to have to carry baby.
5) The safest, comfiest car seat on the market.
LMRV: What are some of the logistical parts of vanlife with a baby that a newbie might easily overlook?
A&J: Making sure you have a baby proofed layout, for days that are rainy, or too hot to be outside are really important. By baby proofed, I mean safety of course, but also like a baby friendly layout. Make sure your bed is low and big enough, so the baby can crawl or run around on it during down time, or on those inside kind of days. We regret having our bed so high, and cabinets on both sides of the van above the bed. Great for storage, but not so great for babies. Your bed is the most wide open space in the van, and making sure that area is somewhere you can put your baby and not have to worry about them every second is a game changer. Also install something on either side of the bed, to make sure the baby can’t fall into the trunk (garage) or the other side. There is nothing like having a safe comfy place to put your baby while you work, cook, or do whatever it is you need to do.
LMRV: Anything we missed? Please give us all the details that we might have overlooked about vanlife with a tiny human!
A&J: Just a reminder weather is the ruler of life on the road.
I would highly recommend either installing two Max Fans or one fan and a roof air conditioner for times when you are somewhere the temperature is high and you are stationary, like when visiting national parks in late spring. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum if you live or plan on exploring cooler temperature climates, make sure you have a heater. You want your baby to be comfortable no matter the temperature. Thank you so much, I really hope we can shed some light on living life on the road with a little one!