I came home from eight days in a van with two five year olds half expecting a medal or badge of honor to be awaiting me on my doorstep, but none such medal was there! Truth be told, it wasn't all that bad because we planned accordingly and had taken several van trips as a couple and knew what to expect.
We picked the boys up from school and drive a few hours before stopping for dinner and then we let them sleep in the bed in the back before we arrived at an Airbnb for our first night. The trick to this is having pjs in their backpacks so they're easy to grab and their electric toothbrushes charged (and accessible) as well. I keep my overnight bag organized with toiletries and easy to slip on clothes as well so I'm only carrying in one bag from the van.
We drove the rest of the way the next morning to the redwoods after an easy breakfast of yogurt, fruit, boiled eggs and toast. Healthy items that are grab-n-go make the best for van trips. I made sandwiches en route and passed them out with apples once we arrived at the first stop. We hiked, stacked rocks, balanced across fallen logs and stood in awe of massive redwood trees together before deciding to check out the Trees of Mystery on our way to the coast. This is definitely a stop worth your while!!!
We always have cereal bars, pre-made smoothies, and cheese sticks on the ready as you know kids eat constantly. Snacking in the van helps the hours pass by. On the way to Beverley Beach where we camped our first night, we read stories, did puzzles, and the kids colored in the back. We tried to avoid screen time as much as possible and its amazing how kids will entertain themselves using...gasp...their imagination..when given no other choice.
The first night in the tent was rough, and looking back, we should've put the kids in sleeping bags instead of using the sleeping bags for cushioning in the tent. It was brutally cold so I slept with Cannon in the van after he gave me the "F this, mom" look around 2am.
We drove the Oregon coast over the next several days, stopping anywhere (and everywhere that looked cool). We decided the best course of action for the journey was to mix up some nights camping in tents, sometimes in the van, and sometimes in an Airbnb. We ate most meals in the van, but stopped occasionally for a meal at a restaurant and to use a decent bathroom.
The easiest camping meals were hamburger patties in foil over the fire, roasting hot dogs with beans I made in the van, and smoked salmon on toast with avocado and tomatoes for breakfast. Eggs are easy and only require one pot and sometimes I mix it up with cheese and tortilla chips for migas! We also keep the van pantry stocked with popcorn, nuts, crackers and grab-n-go veggies in the fridge like artichoke hearts or cherry tomatoes. Celery is easy to eat too and there's always peanut-butter around!
We spent the last few days of our trip in Mt Hood and Hood River, which is a gorgeous town! In fact, it was so unexpected that we didn't plan any time there other than to ride the Christmas train. But, I definitely would go out to Hood River again. Besides Bend, Id say Hood River is one of the few cities in Oregon where I don't feel like I've taken a time machine back 30 years.
Trees of Mystery
Cannon Beach (haystack rock and Ecola State Park)
Astoria Goonies House, Film Museum
Mt Hood: Mirror Lake Trail, Hood River
In sum, a week long trip with kids requires organization (storage cubes and individual backpacks), lots of easy-to-grab snacks, mixing up sleeping arrangements, and keeping everyone active and exploring! In just one week in Oregon, we saw redwoods, misty beaches, mossy forests, mountains, snow, rivers, and sand dunes. Oregon is the most underrated state as far as natural beauty goes, its politics in absolute turmoil, but definitely a state to spend some time in!
Keep exploring! -Chelsea
Parenting expert, blogger, inventor, single mom to twins, barefoot nomad, adventure seeker, boho spirit, advocate of play