Explorer Van: Full Size Adventures for Family of 5

Next month it will be ten (that’s right TEN) years since we purchased our full size Explorer conversion van. While that might be normal for you, I happen to love shopping for new vehicles so the fact I have been driving the same van for a decade is something for me to talk about.

Over the last 20+ years, I have driven a variety of automobiles. Chevy Cavalier, Dodge Stratus, Volkswagen Jetta, Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Caliber and a Chevy Tahoe. Some were stick shift. One was diesel. Some used. Some new. We even bought one on eBay and drove it home from Massachusetts.

With our family of five, the aging Chevy Tahoe was near the end of its automotive journey back in 2009 and we started our search for another large vehicle.

A mini-van just didn’t seem to be “me”. Don’t get me wrong, sliding doors, ample seating was appealing but each one I drove seemed small. I had spent the last few years driving a Tahoe and loved the space, size and the view I had while driving down the road. A mini-van just seemed so tiny.

We looked at a range of larger vehicles, even a few pick up trucks but nothing really caught my fancy. We always attended the Chicago Auto-Show each year and had spent some time at the Explorer Van Exhibit.

Explorer Conversion Vans uses three different lines of vans – Chevy/GMC, Ford Transit, and Mercedes-Benz Metris. You can pick a low-top or a high-top version. Inside you find yourself with spacious seating, cupholders for everyone and entertainment for those long road trips. We started looking at the Chevy version.

I checked out their website and what caught me first was their customer service. So responsive, so receptive and very helpful. With a handful of emails regarding what they had to offer, I was told they happened to have a demo available for sale with just a handful of miles on it (thinking we were just about 4,000 miles). They drove the van to my house and was able to test drive it right around my own neighborhood. While this might not happen every time you purchase a van directly from Explorer – it certainly was a plus!

Once we decided that this was the van for us, we actually made the purchase through one of our local Chevy Dealers. The process was smooth, quick with no drama (we already had the price determined by Explorer) and we were the proud owners of a Chevy Explorer Conversion Van. Only a few tears were shed as we piled into the new van and left our Tahoe behind, and that was from our youngest who was 18 months old at the time.

Over the last decade, this van has been the perfect companion for our family. Our travels have been to South Carolina, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington DC. We have taken her camping, hockey tournaments, motorcycle vacations, Disney, hiking, sightseeing, museums, and drive-in movies. We’ve packed in family and friends for local and long-distance adventures.

How do you drive that thing??

Some people think a larger van can’t be easy to navigate the roads. I get questions all the time on how I can even manage driving a van this size. Here are just a few answers to the questions I usually answer:

  • Parking: I think it is easy to park – with the backup camera it allows me to quickly see what is behind me. I do tend to back it into parking spots (easier to leave!) and always fit into spots. If you head to concerts and other outdoor events you tend to get the “closer” parking as they keep the larger vehicles together.
  • Parking Garages: Driving in the city of Chicago I quickly learned which ones I fit into (has to be greater than 6ft 11in, but remember I have the low top version) and you tend to get the “special parking” closer to the exits as well. Always a plus.
  • Gas mileage: Not too shabby, usually average about 15-19 miles per gallon and only hurts at the pump when you let it get all the way to empty (almost a 30-gallon tank). If you drive local (like I do) a full tank of gas can last almost 2-3 weeks.
  • Highway Travels: You can pack a lot of stuff in the van and still have room to move around. Granted, we never had more than four people in the back for long trips so we always had space.
  • Sleeping: While the back seat folds flat, we have never used it for sleeping during our travels. We have driven overnight – and the boys sleep in the captain chairs and the backseat (all while buckled) and had never had complaints!
  • Durability: With basic maintenance and some general upkeep, we have topped 108,000 miles and still going strong.
  • Chicago weather: Ok, this I will admit, if you don’t have the right tires on it, you might find yourself slipping a bit on the roads. This van is not four-wheel drive (newer versions might be?) but I never have issues. If it is that bad out – I stay home! This does fit 5+ sleds and lots of fully bundled kids ready to tackle the sled hills!!

My favorite part of this van is the size. Ever been caught in a downpour with 3-5 kids and need to get everyone into the car? With this van you literally open the door and everyone piles in, including the adults, and then you close the door and situate yourselves without standing the in rain. In extreme cold or heat – she

When you are in the market for your next vehicle, be certain to give Explorer Conversation Vans a look. I told my little ones when we purchased it (18 months, 5 years and 7 years) that this van would take them to college one day. We have less than a year before the first son departs, and looking forward to packing in the family of five and all his belongings to make the journey!

31 thoughts on “Explorer Van: Full Size Adventures for Family of 5

  • September 30, 2019 at 21:42
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    Thanks for sharing your story. Buying a vehicle is big investment and we just bought ours last year after 13 years. I shed a tear because of the memories we had of our last vehicle. We downsized to a crossover but in hindsight though I should’ve sticked to the SUV. I love bigger vehicles like you.

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    • October 3, 2019 at 21:36
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      We also have a Subaru Outback, and I love driving both, but when the time comes to replace this one it will be a hard choice – I just love the size of it!

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      • October 8, 2019 at 06:27
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        The size makes it intimidating to drive but I can definitely get behind how roomy it is with the kids. I wouldn’t be opposed to trying something like this.
        😊

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  • October 7, 2019 at 11:35
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    wow that looks like a perfect vehicle for family trips… and one we might need LOL

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  • October 7, 2019 at 11:47
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    Wow I have always wanted one of these to travel in! Thank you for sharing your journey and the great info…now I really want one!

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    • October 8, 2019 at 07:56
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      You should try it! I know they rent these, just like RV rentals!

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  • October 7, 2019 at 13:38
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    When my kids were younger I drove a conversion van for roughly 8 years. I too had no trouble driving it, you get used to the size. And man did we have a lot of fun with that vehicle! Thanks for bringing back memories!

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  • October 7, 2019 at 17:00
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    Love this! I’m not a mini van type gal myself. This is a great alternative with tons of space! So many memories in one vehicle 🙂

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  • October 7, 2019 at 17:19
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    good to know information for families on the go and not the family of 4 size that many things seem to be made for! The 5 of us love our minivan!

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  • October 7, 2019 at 17:28
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    Looks like a perfect family vehicle for road trips!

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  • October 7, 2019 at 19:46
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    I love a big vehicle. I just switched to a crossover a few years ago. Although I do not regret it, I miss a large SUV

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  • October 7, 2019 at 21:15
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    As our kids have grown up and moved out of the house one-by-one, our cars have gotten smaller and smaller. I miss the kids so much, but I also miss the option we once had to travel with everyone in altogether one car. Kinda makes me sad. Funny how cars can become somewhat like pets or family members in a weird way, huh?

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  • October 7, 2019 at 21:39
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    I just sold my van that I had for 10 years. I now have an SUV and love it. There is still plenty of room and it works for us to travel in.

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  • October 7, 2019 at 22:02
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    THis seems like a great option for a big family on the go!

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  • October 7, 2019 at 22:17
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    We live in a van, so we know how spacious they can actually be! We have our bed, kitchen, dining room and living room inside! haha, love the post! 🙂

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  • October 8, 2019 at 06:12
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    What a comfy way to take on family vacations!!

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  • October 8, 2019 at 09:17
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    I drive a 15 passenger van for work and I think people think it’s harder than it really is lol We are car shopping this spring and cannot freaking wait! 2020 4runner trd pro coming home!

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  • October 8, 2019 at 10:37
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    Thank you for sharing! I was a kid of a big family and this would have been so useful!

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  • October 8, 2019 at 10:46
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    You and your family definitely need that van! How convenient for y’all!

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  • October 8, 2019 at 15:02
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    Wow!! That definitely gives your bigger family plenty of space. Its nice to be able to spread out some =)

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  • October 8, 2019 at 21:42
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    I smiled while reading your post – I don’t know anyone who has bought a conversion van as they ‘family’ van – this post was enlightening and shows that conversion vans aren’t just for businesses.

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  • October 9, 2019 at 01:05
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    I think I would have really liked a full size van. When my 4 kids were young we had a mini van, and it was never quite enough.

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  • October 9, 2019 at 06:34
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    It’s important to have the right vehicle for your travel needs. When both kids traveled with us, we did have a minivan—a Kia Sedona. My husband still drives it to work 14 years later. With the three of us now, we’re more likely to drive our Toyota Camry.

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  • October 9, 2019 at 11:47
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    We gained some family members this year and now when we travel we may need something like this!

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  • October 9, 2019 at 13:07
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    A vehicle always becomes the silent but necessary member of the family. It’s there when we need to go to a family wedding or to the Emergency Room. It sees us when we are happy and when we are sad. It’s always there for us and the fact that it stays a member of the family long enough to even send your first off to college – that’s just awesome.

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  • October 9, 2019 at 19:56
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    That would be a great vehicle to travel in!

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  • October 10, 2019 at 00:35
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    Looks like it’s been the perfect vehicle for your family!

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  • October 10, 2019 at 14:30
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    Sounds like the van we need!

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  • October 10, 2019 at 19:51
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    Great story thank you for sharing. Love there van.

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  • October 14, 2019 at 07:47
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    Looks like this has been the perfect vehicle for you. We travel a lot, as well, but we’ve been able to get by with a minivan for our family. Keep taking trips and making memories!

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