Traveling with a toddler poses unique challenges that we have had to consider every step of the way. Little Bird has always been very easygoing (for the most part) and does great in her car seat and adapts quickly to different environments. We learned so many lessons on our trip in January and on our inaugural trip with Cate and making the camper a safe and comfortable place for her (and us) was incredibly important.
First, we knew that having a space where we only really need to “set up” once was vital to our sanity. On our trip in January, the eighth setup/repack about put us all over the edge. Second, we knew Little Bird needed her own space with an actual door. This would help to contain her stuff and provide her with a quiet place for napping and sleeping, away from everything else. She goes to bed by around 7:30 PM, and while I still often feel inclined to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” that is too early, even for me. Finally, and most importantly, we needed to have a safe place for her to sleep. The dealership advertised that Cate can sleep 10 people, however, I am pretty sure they assume these hypothetical people do not cover every square inch of the bed throughout the night and that they have a well developed sense of perception and edges. Little Bird is not yet that civilized.
When we started our camper search, we settled quickly on a bunkhouse setup. Our floorplan provides a bedroom for us and a dedicated room for Little Bird. However, a bunkhouse is just that – a room filled with bunkbeds that were far too dangerous for a 1 year old. We started scheming immediately on how we could alter the room to make it work for our needs. For our inaugural trip and the first week of being fulltime, Bird slept in her Pack ‘n Play. This worked great, except it took up almost all of the floor space (meaning she could not actually play in there and all her toys found their way to the main living area every day). We were also having to bend between two bunks to change her and it was super inconvenient all around. I had a vision of taking out one of the bunks and adding a crib rail and gate. Will and my dad talked out a plan, and my dad executed it beautifully. Her “crib” truly looks like it was meant to be there. We used a baby gate from the house and my dad built custom rails with dowel rods that fit around the top bunk then align with the gate. Now she has a safe place to sleep, we have an easy place to change her, AND she has room to play on the floor. The first time she took herself into her room and started playing independently was a huge win.
Creating an inviting space for her to play was high on my priority list. By freeing up space on the floor, we were able to bring in a small shelf to store her toys and books. She is at an age where she is transitioning to different kinds of toys, so figuring out what to bring was a challenge. We needed to limit what we brought but maximize the learning and fun potential. I picked toys that she can play with now but grow into over the next few months. For books, I brought her favorites as well as the books that start focusing more on learning words and vocabulary. It is easy to think that we are hitting the road with a 1 year old, because that is what we know, but trying to think about the learning she will do in the next 6 months alone is mind boggling.
Other key features of her room are the noise machine (worth its weight in gold) and the baby monitor. Now that her bed is complete, the baby monitor is affixed to the wall. It is so nice to have an eye and ear on her when we are sitting by the fire in the evenings or even just to check on her throughout the night. For better or worse, we have discovered that using the microphone function and telling her firmly to “lay down” is the best way to get her to hit the deck and actually settle down to go to sleep. We do not have to go in, we do not make the dreaded eye contact that tells her it is time to party. We can watch her and communicate effectively to get her to sleep. We have made other changes to make the camper safe for Little Bird, but getting her bedroom complete was the catalyst to getting the rest of the camper put together and feeling like home. As long as she was unsettled, it felt like everything was not quite in its proper place. However, within hours of getting her organized, the whole place came together and really started feeling like home.
Little Bird’s new “crib”
Little Bird exploring her new room