The Life-changing Minivan!
Considering the name of this blog, it will come as no surprise to my readers that I’m a big fan of my minivan. We traded in our three-row SUV for a Honda Odyssey Touring a few weeks after our third child was born. We then had a newborn, a 17 month old and a 35 month old. Buying the minivan was literally a revelation; a life-changing experience.
I’ve never had a resistance to a minivan – in fact, when we knew we were going to have a third child, I was pretty excited about the prospect. So it’s really odd to me that there’s such a stigma attached to minivans.
For example, when deciding on a name for my blog, I ran it past many parent friends of mine. One very good friend actually said, “I like it, but I think you’re much hipper than a minivan mom.”
I laughed. That was the exact point. We are ALL much more than ‘minivan mom’. So much more. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a minivan to ease our lives!
And yet, resistance is widespread.
Maybe it’s because the older minivans weren’t what you would call ‘luxury’. No bells and whistles, no clever designs; just safety and space. Or maybe it’s because some people feel like once you succumb, you’re labeled ‘soccer mom’; that all other aspects of your identity disappear. It sounds ridiculous, but I know lots of parents who’ve decided against a minivan for this very reason. They’re so vehement in their opposition, in fact, that they’re willing to suffer the disadvantages of a regular car or SUV, than to purchase a perfectly-suited vehicle that would transform their daily lives.
OK, so I am making huge claims here – “life-changing”, “revelatory” and “transformative”. If you don’t have three+ kids, this might not be true for you. But if you do have at least three children – especially if they’re close in age – you MUST have a minivan. And here’s why:
Three Spacious Rows
The important word here is ‘spacious’. Lots of people I know buy an SUV with three rows and ask, “What’s the difference?” Well, there is a huge difference. We had a top-end, luxury three-rowed SUV and I literally hated it every minute once we had three car seats in it. The very back row had no leg space. I mean, our son’s legs were rubbing against the car seat in front of him – and he wasn’t even three years old. Imagine what it would be like for him at 5, 8 or 10?
It isn’t just the room between rows that is impressive in the minivan. It’s also the room between seats. Because of the thinner, sliding doors (which I’ll get to in a minute), there’s actually more room inside the car, while it remains reasonably narrow from the outside.
Moreover, our minivan actually has an option to widen the space between seats in the middle row to have three car seats fixed in comfortably (i.e., not touching). That is spacious.
If we’re talking about space, let’s talk about the trunk. Most SUVs give you a huge trunk or a third row. Not both. The minivan offers both. With the third row up, we still have room in the trunk for a double stroller, diaper bag, sand toys, shopping bags and space to spare.
With the third row down (as we now have it), the trunk is ginormous! We currently have a double stroller and single stroller, diaper bag, shopping bags, sand toys and snack bag permanently in the trunk, and there is plenty of space to accommodate bags of food from a large supermarket trip.
This may sound weird, but the minivan sits very low to the ground, and as a pretty high roof, giving your kids enough room to actually stand up in the car – and almost enough for you to do the same! Again, this makes getting your kids in and out of their car seats so much easier than in regular cars or SUVs.
I’ve already mentioned the fact that you can fit three car seats comfortably in the middle row, or use both the middle and back rows for car seats. But those aren’t the only options the minivan affords.
It’s also really easy to remove seats from the middle row sides if you want to create a larger opening for getting in and out of the back row, which is hugely helpful!
In addition, the back row has a special easy strap system of lifting out or storing the back seats, which means you can pretty much change how you use the car on a whim.
I’ve said a lot about the space inside the van. Now let’s talk about outside of it. Namely, the sliding doors. This is something you simply don’t get with any other car/SUV.
Why are sliding doors so great? Well, they make parking and getting the kids out really easy and comfortable. When we were in the SUV, I’d have to find a space that gave me enough room between our car and the next to open the door fully and let the kids out, without smashing into other cars. Now, I never have to worry about that.
In addition to the space issue the sliding doors provide, they’re also equipped with a plethora of safety features. Of course, there is the child-lock. There is also the choice of power or manual opening and closing (which is especially helpful if you have a child on an outer-middle seat who tends to play with the buttons). There’s also a feature which stops the automatic opening/closing function if there’s something in the way. Say, your kid’s hand. Or foot. Or head. When the sensor reads an obstructive object, it simply stops the door from moving.
I realize other cars also come with keyless entry, but it is a great feature that the minivan has that eases your life with kids.
Imagine shopping with three kids, maybe one in a stroller, two holding onto the sides, a purse and two shopping bags on your arms, sippy cups in your hands, making your way through a crowded parking lot hoping to make it to your car alive. Then imagine having to drop everything to find your keys in your purse.
Now you don’t have to. You simply touch the car with the key somewhere on something that’s on you, and it opens. Easy-peasy.
Zoned Climate Control
I love the zoned climate control feature in our van! Love it! My husband and I each have our own settings, as do the kids. When my husband’s too hot, I’m so-so and the kids are cold – done. Everyone gets what they want. And when the kids aren’t in the car, I just turn off the back and save on the air.
We didn’t opt for the ‘vacuum’ extra option, but I can imagine why some people might want to. It’s actually a vacuum built into your car for dealing with mess (crumbs, sand, etc.). Personally, I just plug our vacuum into the garage now and again and manage things that way, but there have been plenty of times I’d wished I’d had one in there when we weren’t home!
Another one of the special features of the minivan that I love, love, love and use on a daily basis is the ‘mini fridge’. Now, don’t go dreaming of an actual, full-sized mini-fridge in the car. It’s really just a small compartment between the front seats that can fit up to 4 small water bottles or 2 large ones, that has a large opening into it from the air conditioning. So if you have to have the air con on in the car, and then you press the fridge button, it keeps the compartment cold. Great for keeping water, milk or snacks cool while on the go or even parked (the fridge stays cool for up to an hour)!
So here’s the story with us and the DVD player / TV screen in our minivan. When we were shopping around, we actually asked if there was a model without the screen. I laugh when I think about it now. We so smugly believed that we’d never use it – ha! Well, the car we wanted didn’t come without the screen. OK, we thought, it’ll be great if we ever go on a long road trip and, until then, let’s just keep the protective tape on as a seal and hope the kids don’t notice it’s there. Ha again.
It took the kids about five minutes to know what was ‘hidden’ in the ceiling. I feigned ignorance – “We have a TV screen? I wonder how it works?”
Then one day we were stuck in a lot of traffic, and we decided to try playing a DVD in the car. We were really worried that we’d opened some sort of Pandora’s box. But, much to our surprise the kids don’t actually ask for the DVD player that much, and when they do, they take no for an answer pretty well. Most of the time.
In fact, I’ll admit that the DVD player has had a lot of use in the last 6+ months as, for various reasons, we have the kids in a daycare an hour away from home. So, while we used to give the older kids 30 minutes of TV twice a day at home, we’ve simply decided to combine that time with commuting. It’s pretty genius actually. It’s much easier for all of us to deal with the stressful traffic hours and it means the TV doesn’t go on at home.
The only loser, sadly enough, is our 22 month old who faces backwards and has very little to do while the other kids watch TV. She sings along with the songs, but when the kids are laughing, it almost breaks my heart that she laughs with them, not knowing why! 🙂
Do you have a minivan? What do you love about it? Or have you decided to NEVER get one? Tell us why below!