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Travel Trailer

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Why I Chose an RV Travel Trailer Over a Motorhome

August 13, 2019
RV Travel Trailer Setup KOA

When it comes to choosing a Travel Trailer or a Motorhome, there are a lot of factors to consider. There are countless posts like this on the web, so I am going to do my best to explain why I chose a travel trailer over a motorhome. Keep in mind that this is an opinion piece and some of my justifications may not make sense to you. I read a lot of posts arguing for one side or the other and came to the conclusion that it is best to hear what others have to say even if their situations are different. So with that out of the way, lets get into Why I Chose an RV Travel Trailer Over a Motorhome.

Travel Trailers are Cheaper

I’ll be totally honest here, cost was the number one factor in deciding to go with a travel trailer over a motorhome. Being that this was our first time owning a recreational vehicle such as this, we didn’t want to jump in over our heads. I grew up spending time in motorhomes, driving them, and towing other vehicles behind them, so I was not a total newbie. We just didn’t want our first experience doing this on our own to cost us a small fortune.

At the time we made the purchase, we were not sure how often we would be able to take it out. The idea of traveling full-time for two months was not even on the radar yet. Knowing myself and my family well enough, there was a chance that we would make this large purchase and not use it often enough to warrant owning it. I didn’t want to regret my purchase.

I didn’t want to finance anything. If we had decided on a larger trailer such as a fifth wheel or went with a motorhome, financing would have been required to afford it. Interest rates on trailers are not the lowest and qualifying for a large purchase such as a motorhome is more difficult when you are self-employed like I am.

The reason I am telling you all of this is to help you get in the right mindset for making a large purchase like this. Besides the purchase itself, there are other costs associated with RV ownership. Depending on your income you could end up overextending yourself to the point where you can’t afford to take enough time off to really enjoy your RV. That would be a tragedy and it’s a trap that is all to easy to fall into.

Trailer Tires & Wheels
Largest maintenance costs of an RV Travel Trailer are your tires and wheel bearings.

Maintenance Costs

There are a lot of maintenance costs associated with keeping a house on wheels safely rolling down the road. There is a pretty simple rule to follow here. The more moving parts, the more costly maintenance will be. An RV Travel Trailer doesn’t have a motor, drivetrain, or much electronics on board.

Your main maintenance on a travel trailer will be your tires and wheel bearings. Wheel bearings should be replaced every 10,000 miles and tires replaced every 3-5 years or when they have reached their rated lifespan in mileage. Other maintenance costs are relatively inexpensive such as treatments for your onboard storage tanks and refilling your propane tanks.

Many will argue that you still have maintenance costs associated with using a tow vehicle and this is true. You will have to also properly maintain your tow vehicle. If we had chosen a motorhome, we would have to maintain that and a smaller vehicle that we would tow behind our motorhome. If you don’t bring a secondary vehicle, you will have to take your motorhome everywhere which means packing up each time you want to go into town to buy groceries or explore a nearby area. Even towing a vehicle behind a motorhome puts wear and tear on that vehicle resulting in a decreased lifespan of your secondary vehicle.

Large Bunk Beds
Large Bunk Beds make it possible to fit more family!

More Living Space, Less Parking Space

We like camping in State and National Parks. Most of these facilities have smaller campsites that will not accommodate large motorhomes. Our Forest River Salem Cruise Lite 28′ travel trailer fits just about anywhere. We have not yet had a situation where we wanted to stay somewhere but could not fit due to the size of our rig. A motorhome with as much living space would require a larger site than our travel trailer and that would limit where we would be able to stay.

As a family of six, we need space. Though a fifth wheel trailer would have provided a lot more space, we went with a tow behind travel trailer because we did not have a truck with the pulling capacity to tow a fifth wheel. Purchasing a fifth wheel meant also purchasing a new truck.

Our travel trailer can comfortably sleep six and even more if the kids were to pair up. The bunk beds provide our kids a lot of sleeping space that they wouldn’t get in a motorhome of comparable size.

Flexibility When Traveling

When we camp, we spend the majority of our time exploring the area. Often that means driving somewhere outside of our camp area. If we had a motorhome, we would have to tow a secondary vehicle behind it. Since we are a family of six, that would have to be a decent sized vehicle as well. You can’t pull a medium/large sport utility vehicle behind a small motorhome.

While we were on our trip this summer we were camped next to a family who’s motorhome was their only method of transportation. Each day they would pack up their motorhome and head out exploring. That seems like quite an inconvenience to me. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would be annoying to have to pack up just to leave for a few hours.

I am envious of motorhome owners when it comes to traveling to and from campsites. The law still allows people to move about the motorhome while on the road whereas, in a truck or SUV, you have to be in your seat with the seatbelt fastened. This is rough on kids which also makes it rough on parents. This would be my main consideration for owning a motorhome over a travel trailer.

We don’t really have any plans to travel long distance, so we prefer the flexibility of using our tow vehicle disconnected from our trailer when camped.

It’s Easier to Store a Travel Trailer

You can easily park a travel trailer and just leave it be. Simply make sure you have prepared it for whatever kind of climate it will have to endure, and that’s it. I will share my RV Travel Trailer storage checklist in a later post. A motorhome will need to be started from time to time and even driven. It is a motor vehicle. If it sits for too long, it simply won’t work when you need it next.

RV Travel Trailer & Ford Excursion V10 Tow Vehicle
RV Travel Trailer & Ford Excursion V10 Tow Vehicle

Other Deciding Factors on Choosing a Travel Trailer

I could spend a lot of time rationalizing each reason, but I think you get the point of my article. An RV Travel Trailer is much better for shorter distance travel where you prefer the flexibility of being able to use your tow vehicle while leaving your camp completely set up.

While upfront and maintenance costs were a major consideration for us, so was fuel economy. We currently use a 2000 Ford Excursion V10 as our tow vehicle, which pulls our trailer really well but is not very fuel-efficient. It does however become much more fuel-efficient when it is not pulling the trailer. Most larger gas-powered motorhomes are going to be powered by the same or equivalent engine and will also get poor gas mileage. Tow a vehicle behind that motorhome, and it will just get worse.

I will probably write more on this topic later, but I am interested in hearing your opinion on choosing an RV Travel Trailer over a Motorhome, or the other way around. Share your thoughts and opinion with me in the comment section below.

Articles

5 Things I Learned RV Traveling Full Time for 2 Months

August 11, 2019
Wandering Hills Boondocking

Everybody thought I was crazy when I presented the idea that we take the entire summer and travel full-time in our RV Travel Trailer, my wife included. Here are some of the questions we got:

  • As a small business owner, how will you afford to take that much time off?
  • How will you handle laundry?
  • As a family of six, how will you survive in such a small amount of space?
  • Don’t you have to dump your tanks every day?
  • Where are you going to stay?
  • and the list goes on…

Despite all of the doubt, we made it, and it was the experience of a lifetime for most. We traveled and stayed in Nevada, Southern Idaho, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and then back down to Modesto, California where we currently live. To be honest, two months was not long enough. We drove through some of the most amazing places and just didn’t have the time to stop because we had to make it to our next location. The trip went by so fast.

With that said, there was a lot of takeaways from this trip. Being relatively new to the world of RV Travel, I learned a lot and was glad that I planned as much as I did. I have so much that I want to share on this site, but I am going to start with 5 Things I Learned RV Traveling Full Time for 2 Months. Let’s jump into it!

You don’t need as much space as you think

Interior photo of the trailer the day we purchased it.
Interior photo of the trailer the day we purchased it.

After the first meltdown one of my kids had, I was wishing for some extra space. One thing I quickly realized is that with less space, you have no choice but to handle situations more effectively. You can’t just send your kid to their room, because that is only a few feet away. I tend to put my kids in a timeout so they can cool off. When they are just feet away, I was more quick to go to them and talk through what just happened.

I realized that even at home, we didn’t spread out that much. If we were having tv time, we were all on the couch together. If the kids were playing toys, they were all within a few yards of each other. When my wife and I were trying to cook dinner, the kids were all up in our business. So there wasn’t much of a difference between being at home with 1,800 square feet of space or being in the trailer.

We did realize that unless you are intentional, just because you are closer to each other in a trailer doesn’t mean you are getting closer as a family. It makes sense, nobody has room to escape from each other. You have to go out side to make that happen, which isn’t really that bad of a deal when outside is beautiful.

There are so many places to RV camp

Our off-the-grid spot we found through Boondockers Welcome in the middle of the forest.
Our off-the-grid spot we found through Boondockers Welcome in the middle of the forest.

I had every location we were staying booked in advance. The first month of our trip was booked a little over four months before we left. At that point, I still had not convinced my wife that we were making the right choice. I was however, fully committed.

I did learn as we drove that there are countless RV Campgrounds. They are everywhere. When booking the locations we would stay, I did my research. I looked at Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and photos in Google image search. I even went on Instagram and searched for the location to see what images people were posting there. I was determined to make sure the places were safe, clean, and full of friendly people. What I would come to realize is just how little we actually needed from an RV Campground.

Some RV Campgrounds have exceptionally clean bath and laundry rooms, which was nice. At some of the RV Campgrounds, we would shower in the campground bathrooms because they were clean and the hot water was unlimited. As time went on, I would end up showing in the trailer because it was right there, and our trailer produces hot water pretty quickly.

The most frustrating thing was knowing that I did a bunch of research to plan ahead only to see tons of great locations we could have camped along the way. I would have planned less had I known this, but the only way to really know that is to have traveled those roads before. Most RV Campgrounds are not marketing experts so their online presence is lacking making them pretty hard to find.

I also felt that we needed full hookups as often as possible. I had thought that we would only be able to make it a full night without needing to dump our trailer tanks. Later on in the trip I would find out that we can actually go closer to five nights if we conserve.

RV Campgrounds with full hookups are going to be much more expensive. We could have made the trip significantly cheaper had I been a bit more brave and relied more on what we had onboard instead. Regardless, the trip was still not as expensive as a weekend at Disneyland.

It’s not as glamorous as Instagram portrays

We stayed in a parking lot one night. It had a slight slant to it.
We stayed in a parking lot one night. It had a slight slant to it.

Early in the planning process, I started following a bunch of full-time RV Travel families on Instagram. Most of these families share their highlight reel which is full of continuous exploration and adventure. I kind of bought into the idea that we would either be adventuring or sleeping. I knew that some of the time I would have to work while the family went off exploring, but I didn’t realize just how much of that exploring I would have to lead, or it wouldn’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong; there were a few days where my wife and kids went out exploring without me, but only a few. As we got further into the trip, this got a bit better, but we still spent a lot of time at the locations we stayed at, and that’s ok.

Your kids are still going to say, “I’m bored,” even though there are endless opportunities is right outside the RV door. They will still complain about food options. All of the frustrations of parenting will still be there. I, however, was of the mindset that I would rather hear I’m bored from the middle of a beautiful campground in a forest than at home in 100+ degree Modesto. You can’t always pick your battles, but you can pick where they take place.

We started an Instagram for our travels to share our adventures with our friends and family back home. I had this vision of sharing multiple photos of amazing adventure each and every day, but that was not realistic. When you are traveling for two months on the road, you have to have some normal moments. There has to be some sort of “regular” to life, and that is ok. Not every moment needs to be picturesque.

You don’t need as much stuff as you think

Set up at our first campground of the two month trip in South Lake Tahoe.
Set up at our first campground of the two month trip in South Lake Tahoe.

We didn’t pack as much as we could have. Compared to the amount of stuff we saw others with, I would say that we did pretty good at not overpacking. We quickly realized just how few of the things we did bring actually got used. By the end of the first month, my wife had a give-a-way pile going. There were things we realized we just didn’t need, so we got rid of them.

I packed a bunch of photography gear because I planned to do a lot with my photographer, but I ended up using a fraction of my gear. I could have left a lot of it behind. I just didn’t need it.

The kids brought some of their toys, but they played with a small amount of what they brought. It’s funny how that works out. We think we need all of these things, but we don’t end up using them. How much of the stuff in your home do you use daily or even weekly?

I brought all of these BBQ tools and stuff I thought I would need only to use a fraction of it. We even brought more clothing than we needed despite the trailer not having much clothing storage. It’s not that we “got by with less,” it’s that we didn’t need as much.

The experiences become infamous stories forever

Single lane rocky dirt road we drove up seven miles to our campsite with barely enough room for our trailer to get through.

Traveling full-time for two months is going to result in some stories. There are definitely some stories that will live on forever between my wife and I that the kids don’t notice, like driving down a narrow single lane dirt road up a mountain not knowing if there would be a spot to turn around. Stuff like that.

There are countless stories that we relive with the kids from little adventures to fun people we met. You just can’t put a price tag on that.

Will we do it again?

Boondocking in the middle of a private forest.
Boondocking in the middle of a private forest just outside of Olympic National Park.

Yes! For as long as we can. The trip was such an experience and we learned so much. There are things we would have done differently, but that’s for another post. The time spent together can’t be traded for anything. You just can’t get the youth of your children back. Once it is gone, it’s gone forever. My wife and I saw this trip as an investment in our children rather than our bank account.

If I can pass on one piece of wisdom from all of this it is to consider what you can cut back on so you can afford to spend time with those closest to you. We all seem to be racing towards retirement only to find out that there is nothing there waiting for us but a void of time. Invest now, not only in your own wellbeing but the wellbeing of your children.