An Intro to Van Life with a Baby
Our daughter was born just days before the COVID-19 pandemic put the US into lockdown. In the initial first months, we enjoyed time together as a family and were optimistic that the virus would die down by early summer and we’d soon be able to introduce her to friends and family.
By early summer, our hopes began to diminish. The state of COVID-19 was worsening, not improving, and we were going to be living in a state of a new normal for potentially the remainder of 2020 and beyond.
The conundrum of an entire country between us: our home in Vermont and my family in Seattle. I was growing impatient and increasingly sad to not introduce our first born to my family and to observe how quickly she was growing and changing. Flying felt like a risk we didn’t want to entertain so we were left with few options. Having never driven across the country, I was intrigued and having been quarantined at home for months, the thought of being on the move, catching up with friends, seeing new sights, and weaving in cycling adventures along the way was extraordinarily compelling.
We’re cyclists, so the idea of a Sprinter van was not a new conversation for us, in fact, it’s a popular element of cycling culture. However, the past decade of life for us has been constant air travel, hopping around from one event to another for work and play. A van didn’t seem like as practical of a purchase–until early summer when it was suddenly on the mind of many Americans. Airline reservations plummeted and RV Sales skyrocketed 170% in 2020 as compared to summer 2019. Now the issue wasn’t just whether to purchase a van, it was also whether we could find a van that would fit our budget and needs. Navigating a van purchase felt overwhelming as we weren’t entirely sure how to define our budget and needs.
Amidst asking a litany of questions to those we knew who had already embraced the van life, our next tactic to sourcing a van was to put the word out and see if our network might know of one for sale. A few came onto our radar, specifically a friend who also took on family van life with a baby, but the van resided in Canada and with borders closed, that was not going to be a viable option.
Our tactic did pay off: an acquaintance heard we were on the hunt and though his van was not currently for sale, he mentioned that he would entertain selling. Conveniently for us, the owner had modified the 2014 Mercedes Sprinter for a cyclist’s needs and was willing to help us make a few tweaks and alterations to suit our new family of three. It was a minimalist setup, but it would suffice perfectly for a blend of being economical and practical. Within a week we had put down a deposit, the alterations were in motion and there was just enough time to list our house on Airbnb. Last minute items were ordered and there was no time for a test trip. No later than 36 hours from receiving the keys, we hit the road for what would be an eight week trip in total from coast to coast.
After 10,000 miles and 21 states driven, 95 hours of bike riding around the country, and many adventures had, we’ll walk you through the gear essentials, resources, and the lessons learned along the way. We’ll talk through “balancing” life of work on the road, our hacks and efficiencies at finding time to ride bikes and adventure with our daughter. Some said we were crazy to do it–it turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made.