On my previous post I wrote that our lives have changed significantly in the past few months. It will change even more by the end of the year with our baby’s arrival.
There were other changes in our lives as well that were not pregnancy related. One travel related change that happened was that we bought a travel trailer. If you follow us on social media, you may have seen the new addition to our travel family.
How did this happen?
Did we ever dream we would own a travel trailer? The answer is a resolute: no! We had no need or desire to own one before.
That is, until we moved to Colorado and became obsessed with being outdoors. We started taking weekend trips to every trail we could find. The more we hiked, the further we wanted to go. 5-8 mile hikes became our norm. We loved it.
The only problem was that most of the hikes that we enjoyed were a bit farther from our house. We drove a couple hours to a trail, hiked it all day and drove back home at night. This was okay for a few months, but the driving started taking its toll. We found ourselves wishing we had more time at each location.
One weekend we attended a RV/Camping Show. That is when we started considering an RV. We looked at the various sizes and models, and debated the pros and cons for a few months. The pros quickly overcame the cons, so we bought a travel trailer!
What model and size did you choose?
We wanted a small, light weight model that we could tow with our SUV and that wouldn’t be a monster to maintain. We looked at tiny models that were basically tents on wheels, but realized that the best value was offered by the brand Jayco. They make lightweight models under 3,500 lbs of weight that can be towed by most SUVs.
Our trailer is a 174BH Jay Flight SLX Baja Edition. It accommodates up to 5 people comfortably. We bought the 174BH instead of two smaller models that Jayco offers because the bunks allowed us the flexibility of expanding the family in the future.
What were the pros of owning a travel trailer?
- Flexibility: we can travel anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. There are so many great National and State parks within a day of driving from our location.
- Cost savings: although we could invest or spend the money on other trips, we could enjoy the travel trailer more often. We compared the typical costs of an international trip for us versus the costs of owning the travel trailer. It turned out that what we usually spend one-week abroad for two was enough to pay for a year’s worth of trailer costs. It’s really an affordable option if you plan on using it frequently.
- Bathroom: this was by far the biggest selling point to me. I have a pea-size bladder and I can’t stand vault toilets. In Colorado, most park campgrounds have either limited flush toilets or none at all. On a day-trip that is fine, but on a multi-day it becomes uncomfortable. Having the bathroom was a “no-brainer.” We also learned that the bathroom in our trailer qualifies it as a second-home, which means that the interest rate on the loan is tax deductible.
- Wildlife and pet considerations: there are some areas where bears are frequent visitors. Some campgrounds in Yellowstone, for example, only allow hard-sided travel trailers. We also would like to take our dog with us, but she is not allowed on most trails in National Parks, so having the trailer would allow Miss B. to join us and avoid expensive kennel fees.
- Set up and break down time: for us road trips need to be fun and relatively low effort. The more work that is associated with it, the less likely it is we will enjoy it. For us, tent camping was a lot of effort. Having to break down everything, worry about pet boarding, food and valuables storage, and the facilities available at each location was not appealing to us. We wanted the freedom to roam, a bed that doesn’t need to be inflated and made everyday, a bathroom that can be used anywhere and a kitchen that can store and prepare food without set up time. Those things were crucial for us to get on the road every other weekend and have a good time. It’s not the same for everyone, it’s just how it is for us.
- Quality family time: one of my favorite travel memories is a road-trip I took with my family through several states in which we visited some National Parks: Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion. What better way to build memories for years to come than being on the road?
What were the cons?
- The extra expense: for sure the biggest con. Here are the basic expenses of owning a travel trailer: trailer loan, insurance, registration fees, storage fee, extra gas spent by towing, annual maintenance, hitch installment on vehicle, basic trailer accessories (that don’t come with the trailer), nightly fees at the campsites.
- The opportunity cost of the investment: the money can be invested for income or spent on travel to other destinations.
- Our level of experience: besides a 5-week trip through Australia in a camping van when we first got married, we know absolutely nothing about RVing.
How is the travel trailer working so far?
So far, it’s working great! Jayco has the perfect layout for a small trailer. The size is absolutely perfect for us. It doesn’t feel crowded and because it has a queen size bed and a small dinette, we don’t have to convert anything for eating or sleeping. The bathroom has a separate shower area so the toilet doesn’t get wet as most trailers in this class.
We have taken our travel trailer out on three trips over long weekends since we drove it out of the lot at the end of June. It’s incredible to walk out of it and be surrounded by nature or to watch stars from our bed. We can enjoy Colorado’s parks for less than U$30 a night, hiking right out of our camp site. It’s just too good!
What about the learning curve?
There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to RVing, but it’s not very steep. With some common sense and minimal research, anyone can learn the ropes.
However, the were a couple of surprises that we didn’t know about when we bought the travel trailer:
- The first surprise was to find out that some of the basic accessories for the trailer didn’t come with it. These are things that you need to purchase to use the trailer from the first trip out. Things like tire chocks, sewer and water hoses, leveling blocks, etc. It all came with a price tag of around U$500.
- The second surprise and one that we are adjusting to is how small our water capacity is. We bought a travel trailer that can accommodate 5 people, but the water tanks only last us about 3 days of dry-camping (no-hookups) for 2 people. This means that if we use the trailer for a whole week in one location, we would need to empty the sewer and fill the fresh water tank at least twice, which can be a pain if you have everything already set up in a camping spot.
- The third surprise was to find out that camping spots in Colorado are booked several months in advance. Yep, you read that right, months! Which means that getting a camping spot in the Rocky Mountain National Park is nearly impossible once the season starts. We had luck so far with last minute cancellations and even with free camping that we didn’t know existed. For next year, I will have to start planning our summer weekend trips in December!
These are just our initial findings. I am sure more surprises will happen both good and bad. I will share these with you as they happen.
If you own a travel trailer and/or are a veteran camper, send us your tips and favorite places to RV!!! And as always feel free to leave us any questions in the comments below.
Until then, Happy xploring!