Vanlife with kids - a packing list!
Updated: Feb 18
We've travelled with our daughter for 18 months now, she was 10 when we set off. We have a fair amount of stuff on board just for her, and would have loved to have seen a list like this when we were packing the van to give us an idea of what would be useful. We spend an equal amount of time exploring new places and chilling out at beaches or lakes - so we have adventuring equipment and swimming and playing stuff too. There's indoor and outdoor entertainment suggestions, and a clothes list as well.
There is a downloadable copy of this list with checkboxes at the bottom of the page, and a link to our Amazon Store, to save you clicking back and forth a hundred times!
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Vanlife is wonderful for spending time outside, with the doors wide open and new places to explore!
Kite - takes up hardly any space, brilliant for getting out and running around
Bucket - scrunches up small, great for collecting, water, viewing crabs etc
Spade - for filling your bucket
BIG spade - for BIG digging!
Binoculars - There's always something to see - Ibex...storks...dolphins...
Collecting bag - best if it's a shoulder bag rather than a rucksack, to make it easier to fill with rocks, feathers, sticks, shells and other treasures
Net on a long or telescopic stick - for pond dipping or insect catching
Little net - for rockpooling
Magnifying glass - always useful!
Water aerobics float band - this has given Rosie so much confidence in the water that she's happily learning to swim in her own time.
Goggles and/or snorkle mask and flippers - if you have the space, definitely have snorkeling gear on board. It turns a simple sea swim into hours of exploration. We've seen octopuses, urchins, multitudes of fish, hermit crabs, and found amazing shells too.
Thick rug or picnic mat - for sitting and playing on outside. Avoids itchy grass, losing small parts in sand, prickly burrs etc. Also used for yoga!
Water pistols - we have 2 on board and they get brought out when Rosie makes a friend at a beach or lake - free water refills!
It's not always sunny... or sometimes it's too sunny!
Headphones - a must in our van to give everyone peace or privacy as needed
Laptop - ours are primarily for work, but Rosie enjoys gaming on them as well as watching YouTube and Netflix on the "big screen"
Personal game console - Rosie has a Nintendo Switch, and honestly, I'd like one too! I'd love to be able to play Animal Crossing with her :D
Art and craft supplies - we have paper, pens and pencils, glue, scissors, hot glue gun, acrylic and watercolour paints, brushes, sculpy clay and a variety of glitters and other bits and bobs.
Toys! Rosie has plushies and dragon figures on board. A box of lego is always great for playing with new friends as it needs no introduction and has no age limits.
Comprehensive 1st aid kit - the things we use most are plasters, Germolene antiseptic cream and Arnica for bruises. However, we are fully stocked with anything we might need for emergencies. Note - in Spain, Portugal and France (and probably elsewhere in Europe) you have to go to a pharmacy for most things, including paracetamol. They don't sell it in supermarkets like they do in the UK.
Den making materials - if your child doesn't have their own fixed den in the van then some sheets/sarongs plus pegs or magnets to fix them up are a must!
Nightlight - Rosie uses this Whale. It's USB rechargable (and can stay plugged in), it has a soft white light, a bright white light and also lots of colours! It's soft so not easily broken, and because it doesn't need to stay plugged in to work, can be carried around to visit the toilet or elsewhere.
Whistle on a string - Rosie wears hers around her neck when she goes off exploring. If she were to fall or need urgent help from us, she'd give it a hard blast and we'd go running!
Whittling knife - Rosie loves hers!
Fire making equipment - kids love fires, even more so if you have skewers and marshmallows!
Of course this depends on the type of travelling you do and where you go, but here's some things to think about.
Trousers - soft jersey harem pants are great for warm climates, and can be pulled up and worn as a jumpsuit or as shorts. Jeans are hardwearing, joggers warm and comfy.
Tops - longsleeve/shortsleeve tshirts, jumpers,
Underwear and socks - enough to last between laundrette visits (2 weeks supply for us)
Crocs are SO good for kicking off and stepping into, they are great on the beach or for walking around towns. Rosie lives in hers all year round!
Wellies or walking boots - we don't do big hikes, so wellies are just fine for muddy or wet weather.
Swim shoes to protect feet from sharp rocks, get better grip on slippery rocks and have a little protection from urchins
Coat - Rosie has a fluffy warm coat, a raincoat and a denim jacket.
Hat and gloves - we all have a warm hat and gloves stashed in case of cold weather, impromptu trips to snowy mountains etc... Also, a sunhat!
Fancy outfit - just in case there's a dinner out, or some fancy do to go to, it's nice to have a dressy outfit on board!
Swimming costume - Rosie has two, so one can be drying (or lost!) and she still has one available.
Our Amazon Store- Includes everything linked above, plus other useful things - sections on pet equipment, cooking, safety, organisation and more.
Download a copy of this packing list, with handy check boxes.