Family Van Life: Balancing Work and a Toddler

Read on to learn what worked for David and Janine, and some tips they share on balancing work and a toddler while camping in a van.

David and Janine recently took their very first campervan trip with their two-year-old toddler, Summit. ExploreVanX decided to have a little Q&A with them to talk about some of the biggest questions that are asked from working parents who want to travel with their kids. The biggest one is simply, how do you do it??

Read on to learn what worked for David and Janine, and some tips they share on balancing work and a toddler while camping in a van.

How did you know you could handle camping with a toddler while also working?

We lived in a van full time prior to having our son, so we were pretty accustomed to balancing work and van life. To be honest, adding a toddler to the mix required quite a bit of adapting on all our parts.

We are used to remote work and have been doing it for years now. Challenges happen every day, mainly with cell service for internet hot spots. We were prepared for those challenges, but this trip was different. Not having traveled in this way since the start of COVID, work seemed harder to sit down and commit time to. Simply wanting to be outside and hanging out with Summit rather than accomplishing work was very difficult, mentally.

With you both working full time, who watched Summit?

Shift rotation was the ultimate solution, which was what we did mostly at home anyways. The planning seemed harder in the campervan since we just wanted to spend quality time with Summit and go explore.

I (David) worked early mornings while Summit still slept. Then we took turns throughout the day so Janine could work on her photography.

How did you keep Summit occupied?

We’re very lucky that Summit is easily entertained. He enjoys his toys sometimes but will choose a book or throwing sticks into a stream over his toys any day. Van life gives him that freedom. We were able to find parks and pull-offs where he could enjoy himself while still having good cell service for our hotspots.

Summit’s favorite things are sticks, rocks, and exploring. Books and toys will only keep him happy for minutes while being outside can for hours. He’s the perfect van life toddler!

How long were you able to work before needing to care for Summit?

Normally we would take 1-2 hour shifts. We also made sure to take short breaks and switch off when needed to make Summit food, move spots, and take mental breaks. Communication between us both is key, and adjusting as needed is crucial.

Were you able to get as much work done as you’d hoped?

Yes, but it was stressful. We will go into it with a better mindset and plan next time to work more efficiently together as a team.

What advice would you give other parents?

Traveling with kids is always more difficult. When you take the kid out of their element they may act differently, or even regress from things like potty training or sleep schedules. Be ready to roll with the punches and not be disappointed if the plan does not go as intended. Remember that the experience you give them could be how they view camping and travel for years to come.

What advice would you give a single parent?

We give props to all single parents in general. In this case, having a rental van and a self-contained living space on wheels we feel could make everything about traveling much easier.

We think that traveling by van or camper could help keep stress down. It can cut down on time spent setting up camp, cooking, or moving things in and out of a hotel. Everything is right there and easily accessible. We find it an easier way to travel and a more exciting way to see the world.

What’s the most important thing you learned on your trip?

Van life with a toddler is as much parenting as a balancing act. We learned that we must live slower and read our son’s signs to know what we need to expect. Learning when he had reached his limits for the day or even the moment can change how the overall experience impacted him. With this in mind we also need to be ready to pivot plans.

The memories we made on our trip made it all worthwhile. Having the ability to work from anywhere with our son with us is priceless. Don’t let the challenge stop you from having some of the best family experiences while traveling and learning together!

Interested in renting a campervan? Visit our rental directory to find the perfect campervan rental near your next travel destination.

We want to thank sCAMPerVan and Renogy Solar for powering this trip!