we know so many of you out there want to do just what we did, grab a camper, hit the open road, and see all there is to see. right? does it seem totally un-doable or so far in the future that it truly doesn’t seem possible? there are so many ways to travel, and rv’ing is definitely a great way to see a lot and do a lot at once. within this community are so many choices, travel trailer, motor home, fifth wheel, small, big, and in-between. where to start?
after traveling most of this year in our airstream we know so much that we had no clue whatsoever about. things like, gas costs, camping costs, where there’s an abundance of campgrounds and where you can’t find one anywhere. what it’s like to tow, problems that arise, hooking up, unhooking, parking, driving, boondocking, solar power, generators, yada. yada. yada.
with all this we’re hoping to share some insights that just might get you out & about sooner than you think. first, towing can be awesome. (travel trailer of fifth wheel) you have a vehicle for running all over town in when you’re all tucked into a spot. no driving your motor home everywhere you go or towing a car behind the motor home. it’s two totally separate things and in a lot of ways this offers major advantages. your vehicle and your home are not one in the same. if something goes wrong with a travel trailer (that doesn’t prevent it from being towed behind your car) you can keep moving until you get to a good spot to work on repairs. when you are out sight seeing it’s just like any other excursion with your vehicle. on the negative side, if you have a heavy rig, you need a heavy duty truck/suv to haul a travel trailer. heavy duty = heavy duty gas bills. and those gas bills stay with you on all of that sight seeing too.. it will decrease a little since you aren’t pulling.. but not that much. if you’re towing, parking and pulling into and out of places can be more of a challenge, and sometimes not feasible at all. so when you’re trucking down the highway and see something you want to stop and see, it may or may not be easy.
this is where size of your rig comes into play in a big way. our little eddie is pretty small, 22 ft total, but.. heavy. so we needed a lot of car to get up and go and gas was our number one expense, it blew every other cost out of the water. we definitely had times i would have liked to have stopped but it was absolutely not feasible, and a few times that i really wanted to see something and he had to let me jump out so he could keep moving and then turn around further down and maneuver. (always worth it to both of us, but still a challenge sometimes) having said this, we love our painted airstream and it will get lots more love from us always, both for trips and as our guest house! if you’re traveling with a family, sometimes you have to go larger or it just won’t work (or won’t work without everyone sleeping with one eye open.. haha!) when traveling en mass, going bigger versus staying home? no contest, go bigger. (but just big enough for everyone to fit happily) but if it’s just you or you and a partner, light and small will free you up immensely. there are several lightweight, fiberglass travel trailers that you can pull with a car! huge difference on gas bills, and for many, whatever vehicle you currently use will be fine, so no added cost of purchasing a tow vehicle, double bonus. these campers are easy to maneuver, can be parked almost anywhere, and are easy to drive/pull for anyone regardless of towing experience. (pop-ups could fit into this category as well) the more simple your set up the more freedom and cash for your travels, and with a regular car as your tow vehicle you’ll be running around town saving even more money on gas while you’re camper is parked. it’s not for everyone, but if you can go small, and light, we highly recommend it.
motorhomes are a whole other ballgame. you will either have a tow vehicle behind you, creating more gas costs, or if you choose not to tow you have to drive your “house” with you everywhere you go. can be a downer, but on the upside, there are tons of smaller motor homes that offer much larger conveniences in the same amount of space than you might find otherwise. companies devote a great deal of time into motor homes, making them as much like home, with as many of the creature comforts as possible. if you’re willing to drive something larger, chances are you’ll get double the amenities. motorhomes typically have great storage and good flat roofs for adding solar panels. once you get used to driving it, zipping in and out of just about any spot becomes second nature. If however, you have a big rig, a bus, or some other long version, you run into some of the same issues as pulling a trailer. (harder to maneuver, ease of pulling in/out of places, etc…) we have definitely seen some small motor homes that blew us away, we couldn’t believe the storage, bathroom size, and kitchen amenities. another big bonus, when you’re driving you can jump up and get something from the back.. can’t do that if you’re towing. if you can drive a small motor home, take bikes or a little scooter on the back (we frequently saw this) then you can have the best of both, less gas expense from not towing, more amenities, and easy maneuvering. if scooters or bikes don’t cut it, then not having a separate tow vehicle might be a bit of a drag.. all depends on you and your personality.
and for all of you dreaming… that none of these options will work or seem viable in your near future…. don’t give up!! we 100% believe that even though the experience would be different from camping, if you have a decently gas friendly vehicle, jumping in the good old car and hitting the road is awesome. if you can keep your standards of where you stay from being sky high, you can hit the road with no rv, just you, your car, and basic living needs and see the country. stay at mom & pop motels, check craigslist for affordable places to stay, there are tons of programs online for staying with people for free (with like minded people who love to travel as well, and help others trying to do the same) and if the weather is great you can even tent camp. the huge advantage is how easy you can go and do everything with no restrictions. if you get somewhere and don’t love it, it’s easy to move on, no being stuck at a campground that you had to book in advance because that was the only place to stay, etc. you have the freedom to be more flexible, and if it were us, waiting until we got somewhere (if we were unsure of the place) to see if we wanted to stay at all. if it’s somewhere you know you’ll love then you can check on any of the above listed ideas and be good to go when you arrive.
it may seem like this would cost more, but in reality you might end up saving or at the very least breaking even. we can’t stress enough how high gas costs are and how that plays into your budget, being in a gas friendly car virtually eliminates thousands and thousands of dollars you’d spend towing or driving a motor home, this will very much balance out the spreadsheet of staying in motels. especially if you mix motel stays with other overnight options, or staying in one place for a week or more and getting discounts. in many ways, you could go and see much more, much faster this way, which is great! especially if you don’t have the ability to take big chunks of time off, but can take a week, two, three or four at a stretch. you would be amazed how far you could go and what you could do with only a suitcase and your car. there are obvious downfalls, eating out more, not having a kitchen, but lots of motels offer these amenities, in the lobby at least, and most alternative stay places are homes where you have full access. while it may not be for everyone and is not the camping or rv experience, it would allow the thing that has most people on the road for in the first place….travel, seeing the u.s., exploring. at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about for everyone. going and doing.