Ok, it has taken us a bit of time to get around to answering this question. Lately, as in the last 5 months or so, this has been the number one question we've been asked. So instead of continuing to answer it a few times a day, we've decided to make a short post all about it. So lets get to it...
To answer the ridiculous questions first - Yes, Juniper is buckled in while we drive. Yes, she's buckled into an actual child car seat which is also secured onto a real seat in our van. No, she doesn't sit in our laps, or on the bed, or in her pack and play, etc. Now that those are solved, we can get into the nitty-gritty. We'll start with her car seat. Here is what we use to secure her in the van:
This is called a Doona infant carseat/stroller combo. I think. We just call it "The Doona." Its a bit pricey, but worth literally every penny. Just remember, you're buying a carseat AND a stroller and don't have to pay for both and store both. This thing is awesome if you have a kid, or are thinking about having a kid, or accidentally have a kid, or any of those. It makes life way easier (life with a baby isn't easy, but it helps). It is not only a secure car seat for having your child buckled in while driving, but it is also a full-on stroller. It literally unclicks from the base (on your seat in your car) and with one push of a button, the wheels pop out and you have a stroller. The handle extends so you have two different "heights" to choose from. For living in a van, this thing is a must. You don't have to store a stroller somewhere and have it just take up a ton of space when not in use. It also makes it ridiculously quick to go from driving, to walking downtown. Literally takes only a few seconds.
Ok. So, where does this thing actually go? Look no further:
Hopefully this shows where (in relation to the rest of the build inside) the car seat is actually situated. Her seat is bolted through the floor at the sliding door entryway on the passenger side of the van, directly behind the front passenger seat and butted up next to our table/desk. We are glad we chose a seat with a skirt sewn onto it, because its where we hide all our shoes! :)
Below is a photo showing the underside of the van. The seat came with 4 attachment points. You can only see two of these (with steel mounting plates) in the photo but on the other side of the metal column pictured is the other two.
We purchased the seat from Shop4Seats.com and paid extra to have it made and shipped within two weeks (we procrastinated). The quality is excellent and we have zero complaints (other than it cost us something around $600). The website is pretty easy to navigate and you choose what position in the van it will be mounted, what style mounting base, swivel height, etc. Theres a million add-on options that we passed up on. We chose one of the cheapest options we could and it is ridiculously comfortable. Its actually so comfortable, we have been debating replacing the driver and passenger seats in the front because its just not fair that Juniper gets the squishy seat while we sit on the thin, hard stock sprinter seats. Her chair swivels all the way around, reclines super far back, has a back pocket for storage, and a good deal of forward/backward slide adjustment. We actually called before placing our order just to make sure we were getting what we needed for her to be safe. They made sure we had the right seatbelt, mounting plate, underfloor reinforcement plates, and thru-bolts and nuts.
When we get to a place where we plan on camping, or just hanging out for awhile, we will often times move the carseat and base to one of the front seats (or the bed sometimes) and swivel Junipers seat out a bit to have a comfy place to sit. It works well as "porch furniture" and also to accommodate guests when they visit our tiny little space.
All in all, were very happy with the seat and feel comfortable that it is safe. As far as location, its the only place we could logically see the seat going. We know they make a middle "jumper" style seat that goes up front between the driver and passenger seats, but we don't know the laws for each state about having a baby in a rear facing car seat up in the front. I think it varies state to state (if anyone knows please tell me). So instead of playing a guessing game, we just decided to put it at the end of our desk, right by the sliding door. It takes up quite a bit of room in the entryway which makes getting in and out not as spacious as it used to be, but its still totally fine and we don't have to turn sideways or squeeze through at all.
We hope this helps answer the question and clarifies a lot else for those interested in adding an additional seat into their rig. If theres still confusion, head to our contact page and drop a line.
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