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  1. Default Do you recommend a Conversion van? New young family road trippers.

    I'm new to this forum and have already gotta some great tips. I've always loved taking road trips and I love to drive. After a recent trip to the White Mountains with my 2 young children, my husband and I have decided to see the country. We expect to take several road trips per year and are researching destinations for next year. My children are 6 and 1.5 years old.

    So far we've taken our trips in my car and my husbands small SUV. He is tall 6'2" and gets cramped easily. Within the past 10 months we've driven to New Hampshire, Virginia Beach, and Florida from New Jersey. I've had to listen to "I can't get comfortable" and "Are we there yet?" thousands of times!

    I have been pondering the usefulness of a conversion van, and think that it may be the best thing for our family. I've seen some unbelievable prices for what they offer and the condition they are in. We're talking under $5000. We would use it almost exclusively for road trips. I thought about getting a minivan, but I'm not really fond of them and we'll have both of our vehicles paid off in a few months, and I intend to drive them until they die. A minivan as a travel vehicle? Unless we buy newer we may not get the features that we want. I don't see putting out $20,000 for a used minivan just to travel in.

    But what are your opinions? Is a conversion van overkill? We will take one big 1000+ mile trip per year, and 2-3 smaller trips (less than 8 hours) per year. Are they really expensive to maintain (I'm ok with gas, I expect that), but oil changes, brakes, tires....? Are they really comfortable for the driver and front passenger (my hubby)? If you have one, what do you like about it?

  2. Default Does anyone worry about bears while hiking/camping/exploring?

    I intend to spend a great amount of time exploring the country with my family. One thing that makes me a little nervous is the potential for a close encounter with a bear. My children are young and I worry about their safety when we take our many road trips across the country. Should this be a major concern for us? We would like to hike, camp, and explore many National Parks. What is your experience?
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 09-10-2010 at 12:32 PM. Reason: Merged - Please don't create multiple threads about the same trip

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default what works for you

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Certainly, a conversion van could serve your needs, but most of the questions you have are really something that will need to be based on your own personal preference.

    Having a dedicated vehicle for a roadtrip is going to be fairly expensive. In addition to the upfront cost, you need to think about depreciation, storage, taxes, license, insurance, etc. Maintenance costs shouldn't be too much different than a car, but that will be a cost too (along with special care needed when factoring in properly storing the van).

    You'll also have to decide if you'll spend additional money to personalize and convert your conversion van. Even if you have it outfitted pretty good, a van is going to be tight quarters for a family of 4 to sleep, so it still likely wouldn't serve the same purpose as an RV where you could truely live it in.

    Is all of that worth it when you're only taking a couple trips a year? That's something only you can decide. I'd certainly weigh those costs with the cost of simply renting a car or even an RV for the occational trips, but plenty of people who buy RVs, camping trailers, and similar items only use them a few times a year, so you wouldn't be alone.

    As far as bears or any other wildlife situation goes. That really gets mostly into a common sense situation. In places where it is a concern, there will be signs and warnings, but in general you have to be looking for a problem, before you'll have a problem. Think of it this way, millions of people visit national parks every year, and the number of animal attacks is hardly noteworthy - and most of the cases where it has been an issue, the people were largely to blame.

  4. Default

    Thanks for the reply!

    I expect that we will take many more than a couple trips a year, once we get the van :). We're very spontaneous and we get tons of time off throughout the year, so it'll be nice to say let's go somewhere for a few days and do it! We don't do it often now because I hate to fly and my husband hates being cramped in the car.

    I guess I was hoping to hear other peoples personal experiences with the vans for travel, in terms of comfort and function. Driving what we have now (both vehicles)becomes uncomfortable after about 2-3 hours, and it would be nice to have more room for all. I don't intend to do any more converting to it though, so I'll spend some time looking for one that is right for us. I'm willing to make the initial investment for the purchase, and am prepared for the expected insurance, registration, etc. I never really considered storage though, good point I'll have to look into that.

    This site is great, I expect to spend a good deal of time planning here!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I think you may want something bigger than a conversion van. I'd look at used RV's. It sounds like you would be using it enough for it to pay off.

  6. #6


    We usually rent a minivan when we go on road trips. One reason is that if we broke down in our own car, the delays could be pretty significant. If something happens to your rental, that company will get you a replacement. If you are traveling in a conversion van under $5K, you might have to wonder how reliable it is?? On the other hand, if your husband is mechanically inclined or you have a mechanic you can trust, it might be worth it.

    In regards to bears, it's definitely something that I think and worry about. However, I've done a lot of research on bear safety - what to do/not to do. Also, before I go on a big road trip, I purchase a hiking guide for that area. Those books will warn you if certain trails are frequented by bears. We then avoid those trails. We've been going on road trips to MT, WY, and CO area since 2006 and have yet to see a bear. We've been close to seeing bears from a far a few times, but we have yet to see one in the wild.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Class B Motorhomes

    I'm not sure I'm positive what scale of van you're referring to as a conversion van. In the RV industry "conversion van" means something quite different from what a car dealer might be talking about.

    For your purposes, even though it is more money, I'd recommend you look at some of the Class B motorhomes. They are small enough to fit in a normal parking space (some even can fit in a garage) and large enough to be quite comfortable on an extended road trip. One of our colleagues has a Chinook and his family uses that about 20 weekends a year. Almost like a bigger SUV.

    And you might find this article helpful as well -- it provides an overview about the various kinds of RVs from someone who really knows the field.

    What I would recommend is that you rent a RV or two and see if they fit your family's needs. Be sure to read these two columns about the things to consider about renting RV's...

    How to Rent a RV -- some of the $$ are based on 2005 pricing, but the other info is still helpful

    Checking out a Rental RV Tips we've learned over the years.


  8. #8


    Im not sure if the original poster will be back back on the forum but here is my conversion van that I use for my road trips.

    As for reliability, the van has passed with flying colors. I say this as my van has just passed 200,000 miles and still starts/runs perfectly. It is common for the ford conversion vans with the 351 to last this long. I have spent some money keeping it going safely, all spent on general maintenance, tires, brakes and interior improvements.

    The only problem I would see you having with getting a conversion van is the sleeping situation. I am 5-10 and I sleep very well in the back (I have a futon mattress over the bed that stays down) On certain roadtrips I have had 6 adults riding in the van (3 on the bed in the back, driver, passenger, and one person sitting on the floor) and it honestly wasnt that bad for a 6 hour road trip. There is a tv and vcr in most of them, so the kids can watch movies or you could hook up a video game system if your nifty enough i think.

    Again, I have no idea if you will even ever be back on this board but before buying your van check a few things. One, check under the van for rust around the front strut pillars. Im not sure if this is only a ford problem but check that the gas line that you fill your vehicle with gas isnt rusted (200 dollars for a custom built replacement).

    Sorry if some of this is incoherent. I got online because I couldnt sleep so im a little loopy right now!

  9. #9


    A conversion van is PERFECT for RoadTrips, they can save $$$$$$ in costs and pay for themselves, you can Live Sleep and Eat, right in the van.

  10. Default

    I totally vote Class B! Roadtrek is a real winner! I got confused to because some vans look like limos. I would go for whatever fits into most state parks. I think the lower you go, the more you get what you pay for. If somebody wanted a driving experience, I would go for the best spacious vehicle that had the best MPG. It is hard to say because everyone is different. I can't see anyone driving for 2-3 hours and NOT wanting to stop sometimes and stretch, Yoga is amazing for this, I am so glad I am "equipped" already. Kids are very special people, you just must stop for them and give them lots of attention that is kid level... they are different and want to do different stuff, mostly linger and run around places... I am thinking of driving some at 3-4 pm for that reason, but still will need a break.. I don' want to hurt their backs in those little seats..

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