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3 Little Kids, 1 Minivan - is there hope?

My wife just had twins, and we have a 20 month old. My 97 4runner won’t work with three car seats - they just don’t fit. So it’s Suburban or Minivan. My questions:

1) Is it a pain in the you know what to get a baby into a third row car seat in a minivan?

2) With three kids do you still have enough storage to travel with luggage?


Take your car seats and start testing. I would wager that you can get three across in most modern minivans. You might even have to look around for more narrow (sleek?) car seats. If you’re lining them up across the middle row, you can just take out the back seat and you’ll have all of the cargo space you could ever dream of.

Good luck with all that. :slight_smile:

Our Caravan Has Two Built-In Child Seats W/3 Point Harnesses

It came from the factory with them. It was really convenient for us. When not used for kids, the seats convert to normal adult seating. The 2 big sliding doors were handy, too. Our kids are grown now and the Caravan still delivers 27 MPG and low insurance costs (safety ratings).

I don’t know if they are still available new, but used ones are out there and used integral child-seats that can be interchanged with other Caravans, are out there.

One would only have to mess with one additional portable chid-seat with one of these Caravans.

America, what a country!

I traveled in a current rented Sienna with two family’s (3kids) & four adults for a week or so. The luggage fits very well if not better than a 4runner in the rear(it goes way down low). It was comfortable. It was not too bad getting to the rear, it would be significantly worse in a Suburban due to smaller door openings.

We had a 98 Ford Windstar which was replaced by a 2006 Sienna. Both vans have decent cargo room with the three rows. The Sienna has 2 Captains chairs for the second row and a 60/40 split rear bench. The Sienna’s rear bench folds into the floor which is very convenient. The Windstar had a one piece rear bench seat which was a real bear to take out.

In your case, you could put the older child in the back and fold the other side of the bench seat into the floor. The Chrysler vans also have the flip and fold seating available. I would avoid the short wheel base Chrysler vans as the storage behind the third row is limited.

We’re currently getting ~21 mpg with E10 gas on the Sienna in semi rural/suburban driving. The Windstar got ~19 mpg under the same conditions.

Good luck,

Ed B.

Here’s what I’d say about putting a kid in the rear-most seat: don’t. I realize the personal story that I’m about to relate isn’t a complete actuality (ie won’t happen to everyone in the same situation), but several years ago I had some relatives traveling on the freeway in a Dodge Caravan. They were forced to stop suddenly in heavy fog. The semi behind them did not. The people in the third row were severely injured, one killed. Would not put my small kid in the third row.

Thanks for all the suggestions. We’ll look at the mini’s, the suburbans, and the conversion vans on Thursday and see what happens!

Regarding the Suburbans and conversion vans - they are major gas hogs. I would much recommend a good minivan instead. I recently sold my '95 Suburban, got 12 mpg typically. And it’s harder to access the 3rd row than a minivan.

We had 2 minivans (consecutively) and three kids. It’s easiest to get into the third row with a child. SUVs with 3rd rows require flipping up the seat and crawling behind it. You can sit in the 2nd row Captain’s chair, swivel around, and place your child it her seat. We travel with 5 adults (16 and up) now and still have the minivan. We can go to the in-laws for Christmas for a week, carry Christmas presents for 6 and birthday presents for 2. The luggage all fits behind the 3rd row and I can see out the rear window. Minivans are the most efficient use of space for moving people and cargo together. You’ll get much better mileage with a minivan (20%+) than an SUV with comparable capacity.

You could always get one of those pods that go on the roof if you run out of room. Sure, it will cut your fuel efficiency when it is up there but, unlike a larger vehicle, you don’t have to drive it around like that all the time.

Tried That … The Kids Hated Riding Up There!

What kind of minivan? Can you really get much behind the third row seat? It looks like not much space at all.

Do all 2nd row captain’s chairs swivel? If not, what do you recommend?


Our current minivan is a 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette. The captain’s chairs do not swivel, but the arm rest raises so that you can swivel on the seat. This should be standard fare on any minivan available today. If you are looking at a new one, consider the Chrysler minivans. They have fold flat seats so that don’t have to remover them if it’s a cargo day. Those same seat recesses in the floor are cargo space when the seats are up. There should be plenty of discounts on Chrysler products these days.

Thank you for all your suggestions.

We looked and finally pulled the trigger on a 1999 Suburban. Cheap and spacious. I’ll try to tune it for 20+mpg (yes, it can be done), and maybe we’ll move to a minivan in a couple years.

I just don’t see the minivan as practical for travel for us. Doesn’t tow much, and we tend to camp alot, and there just isn’t room for the gear. Maybe the next vehicle.

It makes me wonder how my partents managed with four kids and a station wagon.

The present rule for traveling with children is to fill up all available space. My son has one child. One Christmas when they were going to make the trip to visit us, his car wouldn’t run. He borrowed a 15 passenger van from his church to make the 350 mile trip. He had that completely loaded–two parents and one child.

What really amazes me is all the things first time freshmen students bring to college. Many of them come with U-Haul trucks. When I went to college in the late 1950’s, my Dad opened the trunk of the old Buick that we owned and I could take what I could fit in the trunk. I put in the bare necessities–my books, records, music and horn. The non-necessities–towels, washcloths, soap, change of underwear, razor, etc. stayed behind. As a child, I remember making a 700 mile trip to visit relatives and having to share the back seat with my brother, an orange crate of tomatoes and other garden produce to share with the relatives and a suitcase. The trunk was reserved for important items–fishing tackle.

It may have something to do with your age. When I was a kid, there were no seat belts and no car seats. You could fit 6 kids in the back of a sedan and two up front between the parents. Car seats and seat belts became mandatory in the last 15 years or so. Today, it would be very difficult to fit 3 children is car seats in the back seat of a sedan.

And it’s much more difficult to put the kids in seats in a wagon or SUV than a van. It can be done, but the added ease of use is the major reason why minivans are still a popular option.

You’ll have plenty of room, that’s for sure. As for the 20 mpg, I’m skeptical. Maybe at 55 on a level road, but I never averaged over 16 for a tankful in mine. Let us know how you do it!

I think it involves recalibrating the odometer/speedometer :slight_smile:

My grandparents did and I only have 3 of 4 aunts. My aunt’s twin died at age 2 in a car wreck with a drunk driver.