To see photos from this remodel, visit this Facebook album

After our first two months in our “new” (to us) travel trailer, we quickly learned what we missed about our old 5th wheel: 3 beds for 3 kids.

In our 5th wheel, we had a queen up front, and 3 bunks in the back. However, our 27’ only had two beds in the back: a twin up top and full underneath. “No sweat”, we thought. “Ava (7yo) can have the top bunk while Ruby (5yo) and Henry (2yo) get the bottom bunk together.” But after a few nights of a toddler thrashing about, Ruby had had enough.

And because Ruby couldn’t sleep with Henry, that meant we’d wake up to Ruby in our queen size bed with us … which (yes, you guessed it), mommy and daddy didn’t sleep. So we took a page from our friends the Curren’s and decided to give the kids their own beds.

When we met the Curren’s, we loved what they had done with their Airstream – a “C-shaped” bed up front for their 3 kids, while they took the gaucho couch in the living room of their trailer.

Demolition

I started by ripping out the existing queen platform. Back in October, I had put in some laminate flooring, which did not extend beneath the bed. So that left me with a big gap I knew I would have to fill in. Thankfully, Costco still had our flooring, so I picked up two new packs for about $50.

Next, I decided to rip everything out, but keep the side panels so the pass-through storage up front would remain. We store quite a few things up front there, so I wanted to keep it accessible. This meant building the beds a little higher off the ground than I wanted to, but it hasn’t been any trouble so far.

Building

Going with our recent theme of “Good Enough”, I decided to skip all the fancy wood-working (because I suck at it), and opted for a more “distressed” look of 2x3’s and plywood. Adding the new flooring took the most amount of time. Then it was simply a matter of dropping in some 2x3 ribs and laying the plywood.

We had an existing IKEA Trofast cubby system that fit perfectly underneath Ava’s bed, so we placed it there and added a few 2x3’s underneath for support. We got some foam mattresses for the kids from IKEA – two 28” wide ones and a standard twin size for Ava along the front wall.

I did this work all in a day – 2 days after Christmas and 1 day before heading back out on the road to meet up with a bunch of other nomads in Borrego Springs for New Years. I knew the main issue with the tall beds was the fact that the existing hanging closets on either side were hanging down too low. Sure enough, Ruby smacked her head more than a few times on the corner. So while we were in Borrego with some time off, I took a circular saw to those cabinets and raised them up a bit.

We also removed the top bunk in the back to reduce the claustrophobia I quickly developed sleeping back there. We’re now working on some creative storage solutions in our little cave in the back.

1 Month In

After a month of living with this setup, I’d say we’re pretty happy with it. Before, the kids had no space to play, so they’d be constantly playing at the dinette or be under-foot wihle Erin was trying to cook in the kitchen. Now, the kids have their own space up front and can be expected to clean up before dinner.

They also love sleeping all on the same level together. We frequently leave the front window hatch open for Ava. On clear nights, we’ve heard her whispering to Ruby in the dark, pointing out the stars to each other. Then in the morning, the 3 of them are usually crawling between each other’s beds, playing make-believe and giggling together. Erin and I are slowly getting used to our smaller space. The main benefits for us have been direct access to the bathroom in back, as well as the ability to shut off the kids up front while we’re still up talking.

Of course, I’d love our little rig to magically give our kids bunk beds and for us to have a larger space. But we made the switch to a smaller trailer so we could venture farther out in 2016: places where our 34’ 5th wheel just couldn’t go. So we’ll be content in our little full-size bed, knowing our kids are happy together up front, gazing out at the stars each night.

To see photos from this remodel, visit this Facebook album