You might remember my main motivation for getting our pop up camper was to fit in more family time. Up until we bought our Santa Fe, we hadn’t done many family vacations outside of Disneyland. I really wanted to introduce my kids to more of our beautiful country, so I love hearing stories about other families who are inspired to do the same. It’s great when you get your kids involved in planning the adventures, too. And this next little family really took it to another level.
Let me introduct you to Carla and her 11-year-old daughter, Emma. Emma has always wanted to go camping, but Carla is more of creature of comfort type of gal. When Emma was younger, Carla actually set a tent up on her king-sized bed as a compromise, but Emma wanted more. Instead of camping, Carla flew her around the world to satisfy her sense of adventure. She quietly hoped Emma would forget about camping, but about a year ago, Carla ran out of steam. She knew they needed to find some middle ground.
Carla started surfing the Internet looking for ideas and found all the amazing reader features on our website. An idea was born. Carla pitched that idea to her princess, and Emma was all in. They were getting a camper! They searched months for the right used pop up. Just when they began to get desperate and almost ready to settle, a new ad popped up on Craigslist. They jumped on it. And when Carla says “we,” she says she really means “she.” Emma may have been only 11, but she is a professional shopper and negotiator. She has bartered in markets around the world, so Carla sat back and let Emma take the reins. She knew they had a $3000 budget for the total project, and Emma was going to make sure she came in under budget. It took her 15 min to get the seller to bend to her will, but Emma managed to get that 1997 Dutchmen 1203 trailer for $1400. 😆
Carla and Emma set a 12-week timeline to finish their remodel and were off to the races. Overall the trailer was in good condition for a 20-year-old pop up camper. There were a few things they needed to address–there was no table and the overhead lighting did not work, but the air conditioner was running well, so that was a plus. Although it had good bones, the camper smelled so badly that it would knock your socks off. They started the process of emptying it out–the cushions, mattresses, portable toilet, and refrigerator all got set on the front lawn. Carla looked at the pile and quickly realized it was not all going to fit in their garbage cans. Emma had an idea. She was convinced they could sell the lot on Craigslist, and a very short two hours later, it was all sold for $200. Emma was beaming, as this increased her remodel budget to $1800.
The next stage was Emma’s favorite step–shopping. They started at At Home stores, shopping during the fall season, when all the outdoor cushions were on clearance. Emma walked the aisles of cushions–now 50% off–and found the focal point of her design–the triangle print fabric. When she selected that cushion, Carla was hesitant, but they found some complimentary solid colors and knew they could make it work.
The hard part was picking out the right sizes of cushions. Carla had taken measurements before they left, and they spent an hour that afternoon setting up a true-to-size demo of their camper. They took over an entire aisle and received a lot of looks in the process. It was a lot of work, but they were able to piece together a design to fit the camper seating perfectly. The two overflowing carts of cushions cost them $400. Emma was a little deflated at the cost, but Carla felt they won the lottery that day because she didn’t have to sew new cushions.
Then Carla and Emma took a trip to Ikea. Carla read so many rave reviews of the Ikea mattresses and comforters, that she decided to check them out. Emma was pretty discouraged by the price of these mattresses, though. She walked the store looking for cheap items to repurpose for our little trailer to help offset such a huge expense, and she found the RIKTIG curtain clips. They worked well within the existing curtain track, and the price was right. On the way to the registers, the took a quick peek at the damaged area, and much to Emma’s delight, one of the very mattresses in their cart was marked down $100, as it was out of the packaging. What luck! Emma’s luck continued at WalMart, and she was able to score sheets, mattress covers, and curtains–in the perfect size–in the back-to-school clearance area.
With most of the shopping done and a large pile of purchases forming in their family room, it was time for Carla and Emma to finish the demo. The countertops and area around the refrigerator were all water damaged and had expanded over time. Carla let Emma take a sledge hammer to all of it. They removed all of the drawers and t-trim from the trailer, too. They primed the remaining cabinetry and walls with Kilz primer, as a first step. After the Kilz coat, all of the smell was gone from the trailer. Next was a coat of white paint and new white t-trim from Amazon. If you replace your T-trim, Carla suggests keeping the odd pieces to use as templates for the new ones. It makes the installation so much easier.
Emma picked a peel and stick plank vinyl flooring from Lowes, and it cost them $50 to purchase enough to replace the floor. Carla saw a number of readers here who had used it successfully and thought she would give it a shot. Installation was a breeze, and she was so pleased with the end result. It was easy to cut to size, too–even with all the angles. They used the remaining flooring to cover the MDF counter which is beneath the galley sink.
To replace the countertops, they paid $100 to a local carpenter off Craigslist. He created four replacement countertops and a tabletop. On Amazon, they found folding table legs that worked perfectly for their new table. They matched the stain for the countertops and table to the flooring Emma had selected. They also used some inexpensive angle iron to create a new base for a floating countertop where the fridge used to be. It’s a great place to store their portable toilet.
Carla and Emma purchased new self-closing hinges from Lowes and replaced the hardware on all of the doors. These keep the doors shut while traveling. After they put up all of the white curtains and attached the new white doors, Emma thought the camper looked “too white.” Carla removed the doors to the entry cabinet and painted the inside yellow. She left the doors off that cabinet so the pop of color would show through.
Carla and Emma found teal yoga mats at Five Below for $5 each, which they placed underneath the mattresses to add a little extra padding. They created drop lighting from strong magnets, battery operated camping lights, chain, and some metal cage shades. They also installed magnetic battery operated lights, purchased at BigLots, above each bed which are all controlled by remote.
Now that the camper was completely remodeled, it was time to see if camping was everything Emma had hoped it would be. They loaded up their new PUP and took her out for their very first camping trip on Emma’s 12th birthday. Emma was so proud of the end project and even happier to be under budget. That night, Carla surprised Emma with a Dolby compatible outdoor portable movie projector, which she purchased on Amazon. They closed the bunkend privacy curtains for one of the beds and had an instant movie theater fueled by Carla’s iPhone.
Carla and Emma started this adventure with just an idea–no experience whatsoever. Look how amazing it all turned out! After the successful trips they took last year, they are already planning their camping trips for the coming summer. Carla says she truly believes that this project will be a constant reminder to Emma of what she is capable of. I couldn’t agree more! You are amazing, Emma! And you’re not so bad yourself, Carla! Not every mom (ME! :lol:) would relinquish so much control of the remodel process, but this is a bonding experience you two will remember forever. Thanks for sharing.
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