Van Life: Hitting the Road

We have been waiting a long time to finally hit the road. We sold a camper, bough a van, prepared the van, planned trip, and now it was time to get lock up the house and get moving. We woke up nice and early to finish packing the van and to double check that everything was strapped down. By the time we were done we were covered in sweat but our excitement could not be diminished. There is something so freeing about going on a road trip. I think that part of it is leaving all the day to day chores behind. Knowing that your whole world is wrapped up in a small vehicle. Your scope of responsibility shrinks and sometimes that just feels good.

We left late morning with a full tank of gas and mugs full of fresh coffee. The kids were all settled in the back and the dog was sleeping comfortably on top of all of our gear. We departed NE Ohio and headed west for the beaches and forests of Michigan. The first leg of the trip was about 5 hours. It was all highway and pretty uneventful. We try to avoid highways at all costs. If we can take back roads to get to our destination we will, even if it adds some time. The drive is part of the adventure and in many ways makes or breaks the trip. We love driving through the country but on this route it just wasn’t possible.

We made it to to our destination by mid afternoon. Our first stop, Grand Haven/West Grand Rapids KOA don’t stay at KOA’s but when we planned our trip a lot of the campsites we wanted to stay at were already taken. I have to say we were pleasantly surprised. The KOA had a pool, a jump pad, some animals for the kids to pet, fishing ponds, and hay rides. The owner of the park is a character and nice as can be. You know its him because of his multi-colored mohawk. Several years ago he left the corporate world, bought the park, and moved his family down to Ohio. It’s always nice when the owner of a business is involved and cares about the service they provide.

We spent 2 days at this park and took the opportunity to check out the Grand Haven city beach, about a 25 minute drive from the park ( It’s dog friendly until about 11am and the beach is beautiful. We soaked up the sun and played in the cold water. We would definitely recommend this beach to anyone that is visiting the area but get there early because parking is limited. I have to say having the van was so convenient. We had the space to change the kids inside and to grab a bite to eat away from the sun.

The rest of our stay at the KOA consisted of the kids swimming and fishing. It was a great start to our trip and it would definitely be somewhere that we would stay again.

The sleeping situation we decided on was for Anita and I to sleep in the van with our 4 year old and for the two oldest to sleep in the tent. Before we left we purchased a Coleman 4-person dome tent ( to give us a little extra space to store our gear. It sets up quickly and has plenty of room for two people and a decent amount of storage space. It was a very reasonable price at about $70 and kept the kids dry through the trip. As for Anita and I, the seat in the back of the van folds down to a bed but about 1 quarter of my legs hang off the end. Figuring out angles was key. Even though this isn’t as comfortable as the camper there is something very cool about making this all work in a van with a family of 5. I wouldn’t go back. We chalked the first two days of our trip up as a success. Next stop, Petoskey, MI.

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