Why I Traded in My Minivan for the Winnebago Solis
Top reasons a family of five loves this upgraded mom van and adventure vehicle!
By: Katie Chatwin

I never thought I’d be the mom with a minivan. But when you have a seven, five, and three-year-old, a disabled veteran husband, and basically live out of the car, it was inevitable. I mean, sliding doors are better than sliced bread. 

However, we recently came to the point in our lives that we wanted to travel again and were looking for options to make that possible. We wanted to be “weekend warriors” and really enjoy our beautiful state of Oregon. Our minivan had served us well - it had low miles with all the bells and whistles. So, the thought of trading it in was difficult. Our upgraded vehicle had to be something outstanding, useful, and would help us have the adventurous lifestyle we craved.

A Little Back Story 

What started this journey was our need to find healing through travel. My husband, Chris, was injured overseas as a Marine, and then as a soldier in the Army. After a few years of struggling physically and mentally with combat-related injuries, we decided to get on the road in 2017. 

We rented out our house, bought a 28-ft travel trailer, and took off. I did all the driving and towing. I tell most people when they hear I drive that it is the easy job. Chris has to deal with the kids’ regular need for snacks and taking them in to use the restroom … constantly. Our purpose was to keep Chris’ mind busy and to see as much of the nation that he proudly served. The Chatwins’ national park passports were open and ready. 

However, after spending 13 blissful months on the road, Chris’ injuries became much more severe. His condition had spread throughout his body, and he was wheelchair-bound at that point. We decided to sell the trailer in 2019. We knew we didn’t want to give up that life, but we needed an easier way to make it happen. 

After lots of hard work and dedication, Chris became mobile again, but still was struggling with a lot of unseen conditions throughout his body. With COVID affecting the world, online school was in session, and we were inspired to travel (safely) again. We knew we wanted a drivable RV this time. 

The Search for Our Perfect RV

We looked at so many different classes of RVs. We went to adventure van shows, spent countless hours online, and talked with several dealerships. We had very specific needs as a family of five and wanted something within our budget. We needed at least five seatbelts and two separate sleeping areas. Finding those specs with affordability was a bit daunting. 

I even thought about building a van myself, then I quickly realized that would be just as expensive, time-consuming, and didn’t have the quality control. Also, I wanted to still be married afterward to enjoy the van! I came across a great YouTube video from Winnebago about their new Solis class B van. It was perfect for this perfectionist. 

After looking for so long, we decided to order it. We traded in my minivan and upgraded to the 2022 Winnebago Solis 59P. The payment of our Solis was less than the minivan, travel trailer, and trailer storage payments. It was a no-brainer. 

Our Top 5 Reasons Why We Love the Winnebago Solis

I can not say enough about the Solis. We always get stopped by people asking to have a tour and I love sharing all about it. Here are some of the ways we are using the Solis and reasons why this van is such a great fit for our family. 

1. Upgraded Mom Van

I use the Solis as my daily driver. It fits in my small driveway (in my HOA neighborhood) with zero issues. It’s so simple to drive. I pick up the kids from school in the pickup line like everyone else. Except, I have cold drinks, snacks, and a restroom on hand. That makes all the after-school activities so much more enjoyable. 

Also, forgetting extra clothes is a thing of the past. I always have the uniforms, outfits, extra socks, and change of clothes on hand for all the dance and soccer needs. I can even fix mac-n-cheese on the gas stove for those later winter nights. Fast food is still handy at times, but cooking our own meals when needed fits in with our healthy lifestyle. 

2. Work Van 

I never realized the benefit of the Solis as a “work van” until I needed to use it for getting project supplies. I am a self-proclaimed at-home DIYer, and even though I don’t work at a construction site, a work van comes in handy … A LOT. 

I also love to purchase second-hand goods from Facebook Marketplace, and everything now fits in the van for those pickup runs! I bought a balance beam for our daughter, and it fit just fine. Trips to Home Depot can be a one-stop shop. The versatility of the Solis is so wide. 

3. Road Tripping

Traveling in the Solis is a more obvious objective. However, both long- and short-distance trips in the Solis are a far superb way of traveling with a family of five than ever before. I don’t think I could ever go back. 

First of all, the van fits anywhere. The Solis compares to our SUV when finding parking, driving on freeways, or traveling on small narrow roads in the parks. The Solis also is a breeze to drive in heavy traffic (cough, cough LA), and when visiting major cities. 

Another bonus is, when traveling, you don’t have to stop at public restrooms for those frequent bathroom breaks with kids. (And wondering why you spent another $25 on gas station junk). During COVID times, it also makes things so much safer and more sanitary.  

Plus, every time we see another Solis on the road, we stop and chat for a bit. We actually met some lifelong friends pulling up to a military base hotel in San Diego because they stopped us in our parking spot, and we ended up spending the week together. They happen to know a fellow friend that goes to church with us, and it really was a small world moment. 

It’s such an amazing group of owners that can connect even in this COVID world where community and togetherness really mean even more.

4. Camper Van 

Well, the Solis is designed for the best camping adventures for families, and Winnebago hit it out of the park. With being previous “full-timers,” we know the ins and outs of camping – from boondocking to staying at RV resorts. 

Winnebago didn’t leave much out of this compact design for families. Fast hot water, indoor and outdoor showers, spray hose by the entryway for sandy and muddy feet, kitchen, two sleeping areas, and even an outdoor hook for your dog. For a family of five, storage is also sufficient. 

On a recent three-week Christmas vacation, we had plenty of room for our things plus the Christmas gifts we brought along. However, to put the sofa bed down, we did have to remove a few items – but, again, we had three kiddos' Christmas presents with us. 

On our way home to Bend, we stopped at Cape Blanco State Park in Southern Oregon and truly had such a great experience. The best part for us was the setting up and breaking down camp. It’s a five-minute process. Buckling up my kids in their car seats took longer than setting up.

Like I said above, we can park anywhere, including our driveway. So, when you have your daily car always ready to go camping, you’re inspired to go camping much more frequently. Such a game-changer when waiting to spend quality time with your family on weekends, or during school breaks. 

Did I mention how much we have saved by camping vs. hotels? Well, let’s say we are predicting the van will pay for itself. 

5. Guesthouse 

Many people may question this until the situation arises; however, we’ve found using the van as a guesthouse works really well. We live in the beautiful mountain town of Bend, OR, where many homes are on small lots and are in HOAs. We have a three-bedroom lovely home, but we do not have an “extra” room for our extended family when they come to visit. Now, they have the option to stay in the van, or we offer them our room and we happily stay in the van. 

It’s nice to have an extra space right outside the house to chill. I’d be lying if I said Chris and I have not argued about going to the van for alone time. It’s his new man cave at times, which is fabulous!

The versatility of the Solis is like no other. We have used this in ways we never imagined. I am so eager to see what else and where else the Solis can take us. It’s been a lifesaver. Literally speaking, we were driving home and got caught in a snowstorm and we just turned on the heat, played a board game, and waited for the storm to pass. 

I was so worried about trading in my minivan for the Solis, but it was the best decision. I love driving it. I love camping in it. And it has brought my family back to the adventures we love, cherish, and need dearly.

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