Preparing the inside of our van was quite a feat. The van originally came with 2 captains seats and a bench seat in the back that folds down into a bed. We removed one of the captains chairs to give us some more room. We also removed the center console that was between the two front chairs. The console had a TV/VCR combo. Figured it was time to retire it to the great unknown. I’m not sure where to get any quality VHS tapes anymore, haha.
With this new space we decided that this is where our cooler would go. We went back and forth over whether we wanted a traditional cooler or a plug in. The plug-ins are typically pretty small when it comes to interior space. With 5 people it just wasn’t going to cut it. We decided on purchasing a traditional cooler but one that wouldn’t break the bank. We went with a LIFETIME 77qt. cooler ( https://amzn.to/3hCMWjh ). The cooler fit perfectly between our two seats and held plenty of food. Perfect for a big family. It is extremely durable and we only had to replenish ice every 3-4 days. That was also with us leaving it at our campsite out in the sun for most of the trip. At $184 it was well worth the price.
After the cooler the next thing we found we needed were some new cup holders. I’m not sure why after producing vehicles for over 100 years car manufactures still haven’t figured out how to make a decent cup holder. The ones that were in the van were not capable of holding any style of cup or bottle that I am aware of. We spent our first few trips desperately grabbing our coffee mugs around every turn. We finally decided that this was something that would need to be taken care of. We originally ordered some that were terrible and had to return them. The ones that we purchased after that were the Seven Sparta cupholders with expandable base (https://amzn.to/3kfnqSN ). Basically they are a one size fits all. You place them in your existing cup holder and twist. The base expands and tightens. These things were a life saver and worked like a champ. They held every type of cup we put in there and never loosened up. No more hot coffee flying across my lap or the dash board.
Finally, about 1 week before we hit the road we realized that our house sitter was not going to be available. This also meant that the dog was coming with us. This changed the dynamic of the trip considering you cant leave a dog in a van in the summer. So, this either meant we couldn’t go anywhere that dogs weren’t allowed or we needed to figure something out. What we decided was that we needed A/C for the van when it wasn’t running at the campsites. After a ton of research we chose to purchase a portable A/C unit to put into the van. We could keep the van nice and cold for our furry friend and it wouldn’t be so bad to have some air conditioning while we were sleeping. It was a big decision because these things are not cheap and we looked hard for a good deal. We ended up going with the Black and Decker 8,000BTU unit (https://amzn.to/3yVgiz3). You have to remember that if you use one of these for your van or home you have to vent the hot air out a window. Our van has perfect sliding windows to set this up. The unit worked great for what we needed it for. The dog stayed comfortable when we had to leave him behind and at night it was such a relief to climb into a nice cold van after a hot day. The money was definitely worth it. The only downside is that is is a little bulky especially in an already packed van. We ended up storing it behind the drivers seat when we were on the road and it did just fine.
In the end the van was packed to the hilt but we managed to bring everything we needed. Traveling and hitting the road is really the only way you find out what you need and what items you would like to add for comfort. The money we spent on these items was well worth it and they made our trip much more enjoyable.
In the next blog its time to hit the road and head into the great state of Michigan. See you there.