Van Life with a Toddler: A Rollercoaster Journey

Exploring the challenges of traveling cross-country in a camper van with a toddler - a surprising journey.

Traveling cross-country in a camper van with our toddler was unexpectedly challenging.

Amanda McCracken and her family in the camper van Courtesy of Amanda McCracken

Hey there, fashion-lovers! Ever wondered if a vacation can leave you looking worse than when you started? Well, let me introduce you to the wildest ride of them all: a 734-mile road trip in a camper van with a curious 2-year-old fashionista we affectionately call “The Toddler.”

Now, picture this: the open road, beautiful landscapes, and a camper van equipped with everything from a comfy elevated mattress to a refrigerator. Sounds like the perfect background for an Instagram-worthy adventure, right? Our traveling friends certainly thought so, posting those envy-inducing #vanlife images. But there was one small detail we couldn’t ignore: we had a toddler in tow. How difficult could it be? Ha!

In just six days, we traveled through some picturesque spots in Colorado — Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Ouray, and Hotchkiss. Our campsites offered stunning views of the Arkansas Valley, the Collegiate Peaks, soothing creeks, the majestic Maroon Bells, and even a blooming apple orchard. Talk about a fashion-forward playground!

But let me tell you, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. We encountered toddler tantrums and parenting arguments that could rival a fashion runway show for drama. Yet, in the midst of it all, we discovered some valuable lessons that every fashion-savvy adventurer should know.

Lesson 1: Planning is Key, but There’s Always a Surprise

Now, I don’t know about you, but I love organizing things. So, naturally, I did my fair share of planning and packing before embarking on this journey. I even had small packing cubes for each family member to keep things organized. But guess what? I still missed a few essentials. Should have considered bringing doggy pee pads for my daughter’s car seat — you know, for those unscheduled naptime accidents. Lesson learned, my friends!

Lesson 2: Embrace the Joy of Slowing Down

As adults, we were on a quest to find the most awe-inspiring, remote camping spots. But our little fashionista had different priorities. All she could spot were adorable playgrounds along the way. Oh, the struggle! She wanted to stop at every single one, sit, and play. Now, try explaining to a toddler about having a destination in mind. It’s like trying to find the perfect pair of shoes on sale during a Black Friday stampede.

But here’s the twist: we realized we didn’t have to choose between adventure and playgrounds. There was room to do both and keep everyone happy. Who knew that sand and ants could provide such fashion-forward entertainment?

Amanda McCracken’s family sticking their heads out of the van window Courtesy of Amanda McCracken

Lesson 3: Sometimes, Luxury is Worth It

Now, remember, this was supposed to be a camper-van adventure. But life doesn’t always go as planned, especially when you have a toddler in tow. One evening, we arrived at our destination so late that all the campgrounds were full. Cue the Seinfeld theme. Solution? A glorious hotel room! And guess what? It wasn’t cheating; it was a stylish detour. Sometimes, a little pampering and a hot shower are essential to keep your fashion game strong.

Lesson 4: Communication is the Ultimate Accessory

Being confined to a van with three individuals, all sweaty and a tad exhausted, can test even the most fashion-conscious soul. We sometimes felt like a dysfunctional trio trapped in a music video, but without the catchy tunes. My claustrophobic husband certainly had his moments. Talk about a real fashion emergency!

So, what did we learn? Communication, my dear readers, is the ultimate accessory. We had to check in with each other more frequently — not just about fashion choices, mind you — but to express our emotions and stress levels. And trust me, once we mastered this art, life in the van became a whole lot smoother. Take notes, people!

Lesson 5: Embrace the Fashion of the Present

During the trip, we occasionally found ourselves daydreaming about how easy it would be if our daughter were older. Oh, the things we do to make life simpler! We also wished we could have experienced van life pre-toddler days. But guess what? We quickly snapped back to reality, reminding ourselves of how lucky we were in that very moment. Fashionistas, always remember to embrace the present and make the most out of every situation. It’s the perfect style statement.

Amanda McCracken family in the van Courtesy of Amanda McCracken

Lesson 6: The Toddler’s Verdict

Now, here’s the cotton-candy-flavored icing on the fashion cake. After all the chaos, guess who wants to do it all over again? None other than The Toddler herself! Every time she spots a Sprinter van on the road, she says, “I miss it!” And you know what? We miss it too. Sure, we might have faced challenges and emotionally turbulent moments, but there’s nothing like waking up as a family in a heated van next to a breathtaking stream, with a cup of morning coffee and a homemade breakfast. Talk about a haute couture family experience.

So, dear fashion lovers, if you ever decide to embark on a grand camper-van adventure with a tiny partner-in-style, remember these lessons. Plan, but expect the unexpected. Embrace the joy of slowing down. Splurge a little when necessary. Communicate like fashion telepathists. Embrace the fashion of the present. And, of course, listen to The Toddler’s verdict. Together, you’ll create memories that will outshine even the most fabulous runway show.

Stay fabulous and keep exploring!

-– Have you ever embarked on a fashion-forward adventure with a toddler? Share your anecdotes and tips below! And remember, even the most chaotic journeys can become the most stylish ones. Let’s connect and inspire each other!