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2009 Sienna LE
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just wanted to share with everyone the setup I built for my family to be able to sleep in our minivan with A/C. When I built it, we had two children, so four in the household. We have a new baby now, but we were still able to barely fit! Here is a quick overview of the setup.

I built bunk beds (playpen size) for the rear. They are designed as a frame with removable beds/shelves. I built the bottom "bed" high enough to store our double stroller underneath it.
White Comfort Black Infant bed Motor vehicle

My wife and I sleep on a tri-fold 1/2" plywood bed platform (full/double size) that lays on top of the folded-down seats. It is covered in a thin carpet to protect the seats and is hinged with two piano hinges. The bed platform comes all the way to the dash at a height just above the top of the gear shifter. I made a cutout in the bed platform for the steering wheel. We use three four-inch foam mats as a mattress. The mats and the folded bed platform are around 25"x54" and fit on the floor between the second and third rows while driving. When the bed platform is set up, the third row is mostly accessible for storage. We were able to fit two of the car seats and our cooler on the third row while the van was set up for sleeping. Since we have a baby now, we used a small infant bed / "cosleeper" between our feet for the baby.
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Vehicle door Comfort Bag Tints and shades Trunk

For A/C, a 5000 BTU window A/C unit sits in the passenger window frame (window rolled all the way down) on a piece of carpet to protect the paint, strapped to the roof rack with webbing. The open space around the A/C unit is filled in with a piece of four-inch foam.
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Although the van is a small cubic area, it is not well insulated. We cut out Reflectix inserts for the windows, but when we tested it in the TX heat, the window A/C unit wasn't able to keep the van lower than 85 in the middle of the afternoon. We used a large canvas tarp to cover the van, and then it could keep it at 78 or below, even in the middle of the afternoon (nap time). We also put two fans to help keep the children cool—one on the third row blowing cool air into the trunk, and one on the lower bunk bed providing airflow there.
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These pictures are from our first time using this setup, so we are still considering how successful it was. We slept in the van for five nights. Overall, it was good, although I'm not sure if we will use it to sleep all of us again. The main reason is that day trips would be cumbersome, because it takes a good bit of work to get the van back into "driving" mode (remove the A/C, undo the bed, fold and stow the bed platform, fold up the seats, and re-install the car seats). However, maybe we will still use it for outings without the children. We will see! Either way, it was a fun trip.
 

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2009 Sienna LE
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95 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Very impressive. I am curious as to where do you go for the choirs involving kitchen, bathroom and laundry?
Good question. I forgot to mention anything about that. The initial idea for this is that we would use it at campgrounds with power and bathrooms. We would prepare food on a folding table outside the van. We would use this on shorter (one week or less) trips, so no need to do laundry.

On this trip, we were staying on a relative's property, so we did everything in their place and just slept in the van.
 

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2006 LE
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I too set up a window ac unit and have used it a few times. Having a tent over the van is nice just in case it rains. I made a platform for my unit and used a waterproof tape around the unit when I cannot set up a tent. See this discussion.
 
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