Camping in Dusty our ’93 VW Eurovan  has been one big adventure since we bought  him in 2015.  We bought him shortly after  having our second daughter when I was having some intense nesting instinct while pregnant. Meet Dusty in this post here. There have been many ups and downs but overall the memories we have created are completely worth it. Since we first started camping in a VW van, sleeping and sleeping arrangements in the  van have changed alot.

Our Family Sleep Goal


Our end goal is that our two daughters, currently aged 2 and 4, will sleep in the pop top (the roof part that extends to create another bed) and my husband and I will sleep on the bottom bed. That is not a possibility right now because my 2 year still crawls while she sleeps and my 4 year old still falls out of bed. Our current hope is that they will be ready to sleep up in the pop top next summer!

Family VW Sleep History


Growing up, my family owned an orange air-cooled VW Van.  Back in ’86 my parents had a really cool hammock/child cot that went over the front seats where I slept as a baby. It is very similar to this model  on the Bus Depot Page here.   My brother and sister who were 4 and 6 at the time slept in the pop top and my parents slept on the main bed.    I wish we had bought one or outfitted one for our Van in 2015 but I was  post partum  and exhausted so that did not happen.   Now that our children are aged 2 and 4  we don’t need the hammock.  But if you have little kids consider that as an option for when they are little.

Newborn and a Toddler


Camping with a newborn and a toddler  in the VW Van was quite the ride. Since I am not huge on co-sleeping all night, we actually kept the seat up to create a make shift crib for our newborn in the trunk area.

For our almost 2 year old we created a small    bed out of mats on the floor of the van. My husband and I slept up in the pop top. To be honest it was a bit of a challenge but worked for us at the time.  I am so glad that we no longer have to sleep in that arrangement.  I was still breastfeeding during the night and often found myself sleeping on the backseat holding our newborn.

Baby  and a Toddler


At some point in time I started to get really tired of having to sleep on the seat. That is when  we pulled the bottom seat into a bed at night. We slept the girls  horizontally on the bed. We put our youngest closest to the back hatch door and our toddler closer to the edge of the bed. My toddler who  consistently says “I need more space” or “I’m to squishy” would not be able to handle sleeping directly beside her sister.  We also put a bag between them to seperate them and a small mat on the ground because our toddler sometimes would fall out of bed.

Often at  6 am  our youngest would still start crying and my  husband would head down to pass her up into the pop top. I would breastfeed her to sleep for another hour and a half and my husband would sleep on the bottom with our toddler.


Toddler and a Preschooler (Current Situation)


Eventually my baby turned into a toddler and when she woke up in the morning before her sister she started wanting to play. Staying up in the pop top and trying to entertain a toddler for an hour while her sister kept sleeping was impossible.

Now, I am now the one that heads down out of the pop top to survey the situation. The situation is usually hilarious. I have found our 2 year old on the ground somehow sleeping in our 4 year olds sleeping bag. Our 4 year old is whining that her sister has stolen her sleeping bag. I have also found our 2 year old trying to snuggle up to her protesting 4 year old sister.

Instead of trying to put them back to sleep when this happens I often  pick up our preschooler and pass her to my husband in the pop top. The need for sleep trumps any idea of trying to stay sleeping with my husband all night. I then  continue to sleep with our 2 year old . If it is morning time we play, read books or start making breakfast.  Our preschooler has been known to sleep until 830-9 am  while we are adventuring on the road so my husband gets a good sleep in.



 How do you sleep your family in your van?!  Comment below!!





By Annika Mang



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2 thoughts on “Camping in a VW Van : How to sleep a family of 4”

  1. Thank you for writing this article! We recently upgraded from a bay window bus to a Vanagon Westy. We have a 13 year old and a 9 month old. I tried the pack n play for the baby and it worked well but there is no room to get out of the bus. I have been trying to figure out something smaller that doesn’t cost a fortune, because she is in the pulling up stage and still falls a lot. I’m so glad to hear other people camp in their VWs with similar sleeping results! Lol!

    1. Sorry for the delay in responding and thanks for the comment! It has been such a struggle but completely worth it. Our children are now 4 and 5 and they both sleep up top. We did “make” a wooden board to go across the top to prevent them from falling. During our 3 month trip we found that sometimes they would be sleeping on the board so we were happy they did not fall out. We love that we can now sleep in the bottom together and enjoy hanging out in the bottom reading while they sleep!

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