Looking Ahead to RVing with a Baby: Mods & More!
Read how one couple plans to adapt to van travel as a family of three.

By: Kelly Laustsen & David Somach

Our camper dreams started soon after we met and started long-distance dating in the fall of 2012. We originally envisioned ourselves in a truck camper taking short trips. Talking about the adventures we envisioned eased the challenges of living on opposite sides of the country. 

Over the years, we started to dream about taking time off from work for a bigger adventure. When thinking about the rig for our big trip, we decided we wanted something that would also work for weekend adventures and the occasional weeklong trip. We knew we wanted our camper to eventually work not just for us, but also for a kid. 

These factors, along with many others, led us to the Winnebago Revel, which was the perfect choice for the fifteen months we spent traveling around the United States and Canada, the three months we spent in Alaska, and lots of short trips closer to home. We most appreciate that our van includes comfortable eating, sleeping, and bathroom accommodations, while still fitting in a standard parking space and being very capable off pavement. 

As we started to plan for the arrival of our daughter last year, in addition to setting up a nursery and acquiring all the baby things, we started planning how we’d travel in our van as a family of three. Before making any changes to our van, we took some time to reconsider whether it was still the right vehicle for us. After some careful thought and discussions with other Winnebago Revel owners, we decided that we’d need to make some changes to our setup, but that we think our van will work great for us as a family of three. 

Thinking About How We’ll RV with a Baby

We’ve typically been very mobile campers in our van, rarely spending more than one night in the same place, even during our fifteen-month trip. We try to maximize the number of things we do and see, which leads to packed days, rolling up to a campsite in the late evening, and taking off after a quick breakfast and coffee. As we think ahead to camping with a baby, we expect to shift towards a slower pace of travel, spending multiple days in one place and more time in and around the van, instead of off hiking, backpacking, or city exploring. 

So far, we have used our van more to enable our adventures, and our time in it has been focused on traveling between places, sleeping, and preparing food. Our camp setup usually involves no more than parking the van in a semi-level spot and at most setting out camp chairs or our fire pit. We’ve cooked outside the van only a handful of times and almost exclusively eaten at the table inside the van. 

With a baby on board, we expect our van to become much more of a destination, and we expect to spend several days parked in nature, cooking, eating, and spending time just outside the van with our daughter. We think we’ll tend towards more stays at Harvest Hosts, campgrounds, and more accessible public land camp spots, and less at Walmarts, truck stops, or deep in the woods. 

We are quickly learning that being a parent involves adapting and a lot of learning, so it will be interesting to see at the end of our daughter’s first year how our expectations compare to reality!

Getting our Winnebago Revel Ready for a Baby

We have made a couple of big changes to our Winnebago Revel in preparation for our daughter and have a few smaller modifications planned for the next couple of months before our first trip. The Winnebago Revel Facebook community has been invaluable. We have learned a lot from talking to others who have transitioned to traveling with babies or small children

Changes we’ve made or plan to make revolve around thinking how we’ll drive, sleep, eat, and hang out as family of three. They include:

Installing a bench seat with three-point harnesses and LATCH system.

This is the largest change we made, and one we thought long and hard about. While the original bench seat in our Winnebago Revel has lap belts that would work for a car seat, it isn’t compatible with a booster seat. Knowing we’ll eventually need to use a booster seat in the van, we decided to have the bench seat replaced and went with Overland Design-Build in Arvada, CO, for the upgrade.

This was a big job given the systems housed under the bench seat, but (as we are committed to using our Winnebago Revel for many years) it made sense for us. While the new bench seat has required a few additional small changes, including a different table style, we are very glad we made the change and appreciate having seatbelts with three-point harnesses and anchor attachments for a car seat.

Planning to sleep three.

We’ve occasionally had a friend join us in the van in the past and converted our bench seat into a bed. This option is no longer available with the bench seat modification. We have an inflatable air mattress that utilizes the space between and in front of the front seats to make a surprisingly big sleeping area. While this is very comfortable for an adult or child, we are still exploring where our daughter will sleep as a baby and toddler. 

We’ve been inspired by cribs above the bed we’ve seen other Winnebago Revel owners build, and also considered using the area under the bed as a sleeping area.

Expanding our cooking options.

We have primarily cooked in the van using our induction stove, and occasionally our instant pot, air fryer, or mini toaster. We are currently exploring adding a microwave for faster meal preparation and multi-burner outdoor stoves for larger, more leisurely meals.

Creating a campsite around the van.

We envision spending significantly more time eating and hanging out outside the van than we have in the past. We expect to make much more use of our awning and outdoor table. We’ve gotten a large outdoor rug and are exploring more outdoor seating and lighting options.

Planning Van Trips as a Family

We are eagerly anticipating a weeklong van trip this summer around a reunion with our extended family in Idaho and plan to take at least one other longer trip this summer. Once the weather warms up and the sun returns to the Pacific Northwest, we have a few ideas for weekend trips to test the changes we’ve made and get more comfortable traveling with our daughter. 

We know getting out in the van won’t be as easy as it once was, but it feels even more important to us now. We can’t wait for the opportunity for our daughter to experience nature and adventure, get back to our favorite hobbies which have taken a back seat recently, and bond as a family. We look forward to sharing our adventures and lessons learned as we navigate traveling as a family of three in our Winnebago Revel!

What are your tips for camping with babies and young kids? Please add them in the comments.


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User commented on March 24, 2024 5:07 PM
What a nice story. All the best to them.
User commented on March 24, 2024 8:46 PM
I'm Erik, owner of Overland Design-Build in Colorado. We specialize in upgrading the second-row bench seat in all Winnebago Revels. Working with David and Kelly was an honor; I'm so happy that our seat upgrade provides them a safe way to secure a car seat. It warms my heart to know that the peace of mind this security provides allows them and their new baby girl to continue their epic adventures in their awesome Revel!