You and your spouse are avid RV lovers. You’re always planning that next getaway, whether it’s a few states over or cross-country. Now that you’ve expanded your family, you’re hoping your kids will grow up to be as passionate about RVs as you are.
You may need to upgrade your vehicle to accommodate your extra passengers. While full-sized motorhomes can be expensive, sizeable travel trailers make for a nice compromise. These can often sleep five or six people comfortably, sometimes even more.
Like buying any vehicle, a travel trailer is an investment. You want to be sure you’ll have one the whole family can enjoy for years to come. As you make this important decision, read these 10 tips. They should guide you in choosing the perfect family-friendly travel trailer.
1. You Need Plenty of Sleeping Options
You and your spouse probably share a bed, but where are the kids going to sleep at night? This is something you definitely have to consider before you buy your travel trailer. If you have two or three kids, that brings your passenger count up to four or five (counting yourself and your spouse). That means you’re going to have to look at bigger travel trailer floorplans.
Yes, it’s true that the more spacious the floorplan, the more you’re paying for your trailer. If that’s just not in your budget, there are ways you can fake having more space. Some travel trailers have slide-out walls that create the illusion of more room. Some floorplans may also have pull-out beds hidden within the sofa that can sleep one. Bunk beds are another way to save on space, since these are stacked on top of each other.
At the end of the day, each kid should have their own bed, or else your road trip is probably going to be a miserable one.
2. Bathrooms Are a MUST
As an adult, if you know you have to drive 20 more miles and you have to go to the bathroom, you can hold it. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s not the end of the world. You can’t and shouldn’t ask the same of your kids. That’s why, to prevent accidents or an annoying amount of pitstops, you’re going to need a bathroom in your camper.
This should include a fully-functioning toilet, sink, and shower/bath. Again, you might not mind roughing it and bathing when you can when on the road. Your kids are used to a certain routine, though, and that probably includes daily bath time. While some older kids will be eager to get out of taking a bath, don’t give them the chance.
Some travel trailer owners with families even recommend getting two bathrooms if you can swing it. This way, one bathroom can be used exclusively for you and your partner. The other would be the kids’ domain. This does give everyone a sense of privacy and space when both are in short supply in a travel trailer. Do keep in mind that you’ll pay considerably more money for a big trailer that has two bathrooms, though.
3. Cable Hookups Are Important for Entertainment
Admittedly, many young people consume TV the modern way these days, watching on their smartphones and tablets. Of course, when you’re on the road, there’s not always a reliable Wi-Fi connection. Thus, your kids may be forced to watch their favorite shows the good, old-fashioned way: on the TV.
If you do plan on getting a TV setup for your trailer, you’re going to need cable hookups as well as TV antennae to make it happen. Many modern HD TVs are designed to be slim and lightweight, so you shouldn’t have any issues with the TV weighing down your vehicle. With HMDI hookups, your kids can even bring their favorite video game consoles and play these during lulls in the trip. Again, Internet connectivity may be spotty at times, but hey, it’s better than nothing.
By bringing so many creature comforts of home with them on the road, your kids should feel more relaxed about taking a long road trip. Also, you know they’ll be entertained. That means they’ll bother you less. It’s a win-win!
4. You Need Plenty of Outlets for Charging and Powering Electronics
Speaking of cable and HDMI hookups, those aren’t the only things you’ll need if you plan on bringing the kids with you on road trips. More than ever, today’s kids are glued to their phones and tablets. This is especially true the older they get. Your kids are going to need a multitude of outlets and hookups so they don’t have to give up their technology when you’re on the road.
The outlets are for their computer, phone, and tablet chargers. You also want hookups for DVD players, Blu-Ray players, CD stereos, and AM/FM radio. Are some of those forms of entertainment antiquated, especially to the average tech-savvy kid? Yes. Options are sometimes limited on a trailer, though. Trust me when I say they’ll appreciate having ways to listen to music and watch movies that are a little out-of-date over having no forms of entertainment at all.
With so much electricity being used on your trailer from all this extra tech, now seems like the perfect time to discuss your travel trailer’s battery. I wrote a previous guide about finding and charging your vehicle’s battery. As a refresher, here are some pointers on your trailer’s battery:
- Almost everything in your trailer uses battery power, including lights, furnace heater fans, water pumps, TVs and other entertainment systems, air compressors, laptops, electric razors, and smartphone chargers.
- You should charge your battery once it hits 50 percent, and don’t let it drop too much beyond that.
- A converter/charge switches from AC to DC power for charging your battery.
- Batteries only last about three to five years depending on where you live and what the climate is.
- To keep your batteries as long as possible, maintain electrolyte fluid levels.
- When the batteries are not in use, take them with you; DON’T leave them in your trailer.
- Charge idle batteries when they reach 80 percent during the off-season.
5. Dining Accommodations Are Very Important
Your kids are always growing, and part of that can be contributed to their gargantuan appetites. Sometimes you feel like your kids are eating you out of house and home. When it comes to life in your travel trailer, you want to feed your kids as you would at home. It won’t be exactly as things usually are, because you don’t have nearly as much room in the trailer. You can try to mimic home life to the best of your abilities, though.
That means you should not skimp when it comes to your refrigerator and freezer. You do have to be careful about not overweighing your trailer, yet you also need a spacious fridge. It’s a tough balancing act, so make sure you take your time when browsing trailers. If you’re not happy with the size of the fridge that originally comes with your trailer, you can always upgrade. Do keep in mind that RV refrigerators can cost anywhere from $200 to $600 though, so this expenditure doesn’t come cheap.
Then there’s the way you’ll cook the food. Some travel trailers, like those from Heartland, may include an oven, cooktop, and a microwave with the more expensive floorplans. A microwave is really handy to have onboard, especially if you have independent tweens or teenagers. This way, they can feed themselves, even if they’re not doing any real cooking.
Now that you have all that taken care of, let’s talk dining space. If you have a large family of four or five (counting yourself and your spouse), then a basic fold-out dinette probably won’t do the trick. Someone will inevitably end up standing and eating. That isn’t fun, especially if someone else is driving the trailer (bumpy roads and food do not mix).
Some trailer floorplans have larger kitchen nooks. Instead of a retractable dinette, you’d get a kitchen bench or U-shaped table that can seat five, six, or more. This means you can fit the whole family around the breakfast or dinner table. You’re already bringing your kids on a road trip for family togetherness, after all, so you might as well actually spend some time together.
I do want to mention that if you get a bigger kitchen nook, you might have to sacrifice space elsewhere in the trailer. Otherwise, be prepared to spend a lot of money, because at this point, you’re looking at the biggest (and most expensive) travel trailer floorplans available.
6. Storage Space Is a Necessity
You know how to pack for the road. You bring several items of clothes (layers, layers, layers!) that can be re-worn and styled as needed. You leave a lot of personal affects and valuables at home, taking with you only the essentials. Yet if you ask your kids to bring what they view as essentials, it’s going to be tons of stuff.
They’ll want to take their phones, tablets, computers, video game systems, blankets, toys, games, and countless other stuff. At the end of the day, this all takes up a lot of room, maybe more than you have in your travel trailer. While you should teach your kids how to pack light, do be prepared that there are going to be several items they will refuse to budge on.
That’s why you’ll need plenty of storage space in your camper trailer. If you’re only looking at blueprints of floorplans online, you might want to see a trailer yourself before you make the purchase. After all, there are so many foldaway, retractable, hidden areas that can double as storage in small vehicles like trailers. It’s pretty incredible.
These cubbyholes and other sizable spaces can be a good way clean up toys that are littering the floor, contain electronics and the endless tangle of cords, and much more. You might even get a storage compartment or two to yourself if you’re lucky!
7. High Ceilings Are Great for Growing Kids
One minute your beloved kids are babies in a cradle. You blink and suddenly they’re about to enter high school. Once puberty hits, many kids will shoot up and become beansprouts. When you put several older, taller kids in a travel trailer, it can feel a little small.
You’ve probably experienced it before yourself. As an adult, how many times have you bumped your head (or almost bumped it), going from the bedroom to the bathroom or the kitchen? The ceilings of most travel trailers aren’t exactly high, so you kind of duck whenever you walk so you don’t hit anything.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You and your older kids don’t have to risk back pain just to get around your trailer. You just have to prioritize ceiling height as you browse around for a family-friendly travel trailer.
Yes, taller trailers do exist. Many Forest River trailers are known for their higher ceilings, which may be up to 80 inches tall! Look for floorplans like the 36BHBS, 31KQBTS, and the 30KQBSS for 2019 Wildwood models. In addition to the taller ceilings, these trailers can also comfortably fit nine people. With so much space, your kids could conceivably bring a friend or two along for summer road tripping adventures.
Even if you’re not so tall (like this writer here), you’ll still enjoy having taller ceilings. These don’t have to be 80 inches for you to feel the difference, either. A taller ceiling opens up the trailer and makes it feel more like home. There’s no risk of bumping your head, and you’ll feel like you can stretch out a little. Who doesn’t love that?
8. Skip the Carpeting If You Can
Kids aren’t exactly the neatest people. They’re still learning their table manners. Once you add the momentum of a moving vehicle to the mix, you might have to contend with more spills than you were anticipating. Sodas and juices and sweet snacks can leave a sticky residue behind that takes several wipe-downs to get rid of. Crumbs from chips, popcorn, pretzels, and countless other snacks can get lodged in corners you can’t reach. That invites pests like insects and mice onto your vehicle, where they’ll make nests and pose a health risk to all passengers.
That’s why I recommend you try to stick to hardwood flooring when you buy a travel trailer. Carpeting, even the low-loop flat kind, can still bury crumbs, stains, and other food particles that you just don’t see. You may not have the room for more than a portable handheld vacuum on your trailer. These do a decent job of cleaning up messes, but it’s just that: decent.
Hardwood flooring is easier to clean. You can sweep daily and mop every week. Food crumbs and particles have fewer places to hide, which is to your benefit. Mice and insects can wreak havoc on your trailer, chewing up wires, upholstery, metal and wood surfaces, and more. Don’t let it happen!
9. Get a Picture Window or Two
Kids get kind of impatient on long car rides. After all, “are we there yet?” is every kid’s catchphrase. While sure, today’s technological kid can entertain themselves with their phone or tablet, after a while, they’re going to get bored sitting in the trailer. While you and your spouse are up in the front navigating, give the children something to look at, too.
Picture windows lets the kids see the scenery as it passes them by. They may just glean an appreciation for the world around them and the beauty of nature. At the very least, windows will keep them from complaining, and that’s just as nice, right?
10. Consider Toy Haulers, Too
If all else fails and you can’t quite find the perfect travel trailer for you and your kids, don’t be afraid to expand your search. Our other RV writers here on Camper Report can personally vouch for toy haulers for family traveling. Sometimes these trailers are just as big—if not bigger—than that travel trailer you were eyeing.
If you find that quarters are cramped in your travel trailer with that many passengers, then a toy hauler might be a good alternative. You can sometimes get bigger bathroom and kitchen nooks, more storage, and more beds with these trailers, too.
Just keep your mind open during your search. In the end, what matters most is that your family is comfortable and happy. If that’s in a travel trailer, then great. If it’s in a toy hauler, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
Whether you have younger kids or older ones, bringing them on the road with you poses its own set of challenges. They get bored easy, so they need windows. Your travel trailer also must have plenty of outlets and power sources so the kids can charge their electronic essentials. Large dining spaces and hardwood floors make eating and cleanup a breeze. Bunk beds or pull-out beds prioritize privacy.
Now that you’ve read the above tips, you’re hopefully one step closer to starting a family lineage of road tripping in a travel trailer.
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