A Frugal Traveler

Passenger Van Road Trip Prep

We decided it would be best to rent a van for our trip since we would be putting so many miles on it. It was a good decision in retrospect, as we had to drive through a lot of snow and cold weather and covered over 7,000 miles.


When we do national park road trips, the most important things for our family are as follows:

  1. Safe seating for everyone
    • We drive a lot, so having safe seating for all the kids is especially important. Many RVs have bench seating and side facing seating that is of questionable safety. Often the seatbelts in RVs are more of an afterthought than an actual plan. So for us, we needed to start with a passenger vehicle with factory seatbelt and front facing seating as the platform for our travels.
  2. Being able to drive and park almost anywhere
    • Some extended vans are just too long to fit in many standard parking spots, and can stick out even more once you add a bike carrier or rear cargo platform. Since we go through larger cities often and are in and out of typical park spots a lot, this was an important requirement for us.
  3. Ability to sleep in the van without too much trouble
    • When traveling long distances often the driver will need to pull off to the side of the road and nap or rest. Also its great to be able to not rely on hotels all the time. Hotels are good to refresh on occasion, but being able to camp fully inside a van is great for being able to go anywhere and stay anywhere.
  4. Being able to eat, wash hands, and use the bathroom anywhere
    • It should be self evident, that when traveling with kids, small bladders means often stopping to find restrooms. Also, you never know when or where you have to plan a meal.

The more luxury items for a great van build (for our family) would be:

  • Good gas milage
    • Global warming
  • Being able to break down and setup camp quickly and easily
    • We also have a pop up camp trailer, but for long trips where we often just stay in one spot for one night it is too cumbersome to pull a trailer and pop out the camper for just a quick overnight stay. Having everything all contained in a van where we don’t have to make a bed to sleep or pull/pop anything is great.

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