top of page

Sleeping In A Van With My Kid: Our First Night Of Many

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

A week after arriving in St.Louis with my new campervan, my son Carter and I hadn't spent our first night together in it van yet. I was pretty much driving it around like a standard car visiting family.

"When we officially said goodbye to our family and friends, that's when Van Life got real!" -Bionca Smith

Day one living in the van felt like a cross between the feeling you get when you're a kid about to go on a field trip and day 30 felt like three months after your high school graduation if you didn't go off to college. You have a lot more time for yourself, but you continuously ask yourself: "What now?" Or was that just me? Lol, My new reality was that I no longer had the morning drill or to face traffic. I now had all this extra time, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it.

Bionca Smith takes a selfie before heading out in the van home.

Where Should We Go First?

I sat in the driver's seat, pondering this question for about 10 minutes. We had zero plans, and the only expectations we had were to 1. To wander with the least restrictions possible. 2. Find Hidden Gems around the U.S, and 3. Find free WiFi as much as possible! (3 years later, this hasn't changed lol) The only event that we had on our schedule was to plan around our friend's wedding, which was in New Mexico 10 days after our Van Life launch. I jumped on the highway and headed west until it was time to rest.

Our First Camping Spot

I figured the safest place to park would be somewhere we could park in the public view. I felt this way because I imagined that in the event of an emergency, we'd be seen and be able to get help quickly. I also felt that if we could be seen in public sight, someone was less likely to attempt to do a break-in, or they'd be seen if they tried.

8 Yr old Carter sitting outside of McDonald's watching YouTube on his cell phone.

I parked at a 24hr Mcdonald's off to the side of their drive-thru window, and we went inside immediately to get food and brought it back to the van. This is when we then made our first ever Youtube video documenting our first night in our van together. We used Mcdonald's WiFi to upload it, and then we went to bed right there in the parking lot.

Mom and Son document their first night sleeping in a van for the first time together.

8yr old Carter 1st night on the top bunk inside a 1989 Ford Econoline Camper Van.

"Sleeping on the top bunk is fun!" -Carter D.

Our First Time Eating a Van Made Meal

In the morning, I woke up before the sunrise to leave McDonald's and I drove for about an hour before I pulled off the road to wake Carter up for our first breakfast in the van. We ate Apples, Strawberries, Oatmeal with Blueberries, Orange Juice, and hot tea.

-Carter reacts to eating blueberries. (Watch until the very end LOL)

After breakfast, we tossed our dishes in the sink, jumped back in the driver's seat, and I drove for several hours. I wanted to get out of what I thought were all the seemingly dull states as quickly as possible, but it seemed like it was taking forever at 52 MPH. This is the MPH that the previous owner of the van referred to as the sweet spot for moderate gas mileage and driving with ease. For miles, all we had seen were cornfields and a few cows here and there.

Carter's 9th Birthday on the Road

Prior to leaving St. Louis we had a birthday party for Carter with family and friends. On the day of his birthday, we were on the road and we celebrated at a KOA where we did a balloon release that evening.

Carter on his 10th Birthday at Springfield KOA.

Up Next: Part 3: The Questions Google Couldn't Answer About Living In A Van


Was this information helpful?

Please join our mailing list to receive updates and helpful resources.

Your feedback matters!

Please comment and tell me what information was valuable to you or what you’d like to know more about over the next couple` of weeks. You can also follow our Instagram for daily updates on our adventures.

Are you interested in supporting our work?

We continuously want to thank our Patrons for supporting our blog. Because of their support, we can commit to the time and craft of creating content that helps others. Please consider supporting our work by sharing or work, buying our products, or becoming a Patron today. Learn More


To Make a Donation to Support our Philanthropy Goals

Thank you for the fuel!

854 views0 comments


bottom of page