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New to the clan - considering the big RV move with an Airstream


sdnet01

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Hi all,

 

First, let me get this out of the way at the beginning - both my wife and I are pretty darn young...30 and 33, respectively. We both work pretty high paying jobs, but hate the idea of working a single day longer than we need to. That said, we are saving close to 70% of our combined income in anticipation for our...early retirement. We are also VERY nature-oriented and spend every chance we get traveling this wonderful country of ours. Thus, we're looking into the RV lifestyle.

 

We are both looking to retire in 2 or 3 years which, of course, is super early according to normal societal standards. We will probably be looking for an Airstream around 25', pulled with a reasonable diesel truck. Yearly budget, around $20k to $30k, at least to start, and we do plan on owning outright both the trailer and whatever truck that we end up getting.

 

At first, we probably won't actually travel very often because, naturally, travel = gas. Our plan is to maybe switch locations 2 or 3 times a year for a while until we get our feet wet with the lifestyle and make sure that our budget is well-reasoned and under control. We are very willing to work while camping, too - as camp hosts or any other odd job to help with a little cash flow. While this extra cash won't be strictly necessary, it will, of course, be nice to have.

 

We are living in southern Arizona at the moment. We will probably attend some RV shows in the near future to get a little exposure to what our options are. I also understand that a membership to something like Escapees is a good way to keep costs lower at campgrounds due to the associated discounts.

 

Really, our biggest worry with a move like this is, primarily, space...not just with us, but we currently have two rescued dogs. I practically live on the Internet, and I know that it'll be more difficult finding a reliable connection in some areas. Of course, I understand that there will be some sacrifices with this lifestyle change, and we are both very okay with that.

 

Anyway, I guess this is both my introduction post and a way for me to ask you fine people what your biggest unexpected expense was after you first started this lifestyle. Did you underestimate gas or maybe the cost of camp sites?

 

Of course, any other words of wisdom are more than encouraged, and appreciated! :)

 

Thanks.

 

- Steve

 

 

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Welcome Steve and Wife Being in AZ gives you a good base camp to work from and a nice place to leave come Summer. Try a vacation for several months to see how you like it. If all goes well meet us back in AZ come Winter and you being young can help me shovel gravel on a drywasher looking for Gold at Stanton :) .. My biggest unexpected bill was when I shelled the gears out of my transmission to the tune of $8600 !!

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! While the majority of us are retired, the club was actually created by a group of still working folks who lived in RVs and who followed the construction locations around the country so what you have in mind isn't new to us, but most of the members have gotten older and retired! Currently there is a major effort underway to reach out to those like yourself who are not only younger but many of whom are still working. You might be surprised by the number of our members who actually earn their livings as they travel by operating businesses from the RV or by electronic commuting. I'd suggest that you may want to take a look at the newest addition to the Escapee organization on the internet, called Xscapers.

 

There are many ways to cut the cost of RV living and on these forums you can probably find members who are doing most, if not all of them. Some members cut costs by spending much of their time in locations where they do volunteer work for a few days each week and in return they receive an RV site with utilities, as well as spending most of their time in the outdoors. One of the more popular agencies for this is the US Fish & Wildlife Service and especially their National Wildlife Refuges. Some of us also have spent time doing that same thing with the National Park Service or by acting as campground hosts in state and county parks. If you are interested in that type of living, let me invite you to start by exploring the 30+ volunteer experiences which Pam & I have completed. There are also many of our members who cut costs by spending time parked in areas outside of the typical RV campground where public is allowed to stay, doing what we call "boondocking." You will find that there is a forum on this board that is dedicated to Boondocking and you may want to look through that.

 

There is a great deal more information to be had that you will find helpful if you browse all of the forum subject areas of this forum and also I suggest that you take a look at the websites and blogs of those who post here as you will find a great deal of information and advice in those. Most of them can be found by looking for the links in the signature line of those who post here. There is a great deal to know about RVs when shopping for one and also about living in an RV that you will need to know before you begin to do this so you are very wise to begin planning and researching early. Both the public library and Amazon have many books on the subject of RV living and you would probably find it helpful to read one or two of those.

 

We are happy to have you join us here and we will gladly do all that we are able to aid and to support you as you move into this lifestyle. Do not hesitate to join in with any thread or subject area of these forums with either questions, comments, or just to join the conversation. Welcome!

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Although we've never volunteered or workcamped, probably the best way to save on campground fees is to stay monthly somewhere. We've been doing that for quite awhile now. We just pick out a beautiful place to stay so we can day trip in the car. The rates will vary depending where you are. We've spent anywhere from $350, to one time really splurging at $850 per month. Usually electric is extra for monthly stays. Passport America is a good one to join as it will cut the cost of overnight stays by half. We use it when on the road, and it pays for itself with only a couple overnighters. Welcome to the lifestyle.

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You might want to rent a 25' TT without a slide for a week or so.

Check out the storage area inside/out for full time.

Small refrigerator may mean more trips for grocery.

Does if have enough closet space?

Is the cooking area big enough for cooking and cleaning up?

Is it easy to make up the bed?

 

Floor plans of a Airstream

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Rather than an Air Stream, look for a 1980's Avion and fix it up. They are a much better deal than an Airstream and much better built.

 

Aa noted, 25 foot is an awfully small trailer for two people and all of their belongs for long term living. Avion has a 34V model that is 35' long and can easily be pulled by a 3/4 ton diesel pickup.

 

Ken

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Thanks guys for the welcome and replies. The more that I look through my options, the more I am leaning towards something a little closer to the 30' range, maybe a foot or two larger. Upgrading later from a smaller to a larger trailer will be pretty costly, so we'd like to make sure we get the size right at the beginning. :)

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You do know a TT measured length includes the outside tong/hitch length?

And maybe the rear bumper if it has one. Inside usable length could be 4' or so less.

 

Yeah, that is good to know. Definitely will be looking for something larger than our original estimate. Thanks.

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Rather than an Air Stream, look for a 1980's Avion and fix it up. They are a much better deal than an Airstream and much better built.

 

Hmm, interesting. I did do a quick look and they certainly are cheaper than Airstreams. I will keep these in mind. Thanks.

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While there are certainly folks who full time in Airstream's, it's not common. The reason for this is primarily one of space and storage. Full timers need to carry all their worldly goods with them. Because of their shape (oval instead of rectangular), the interior and exterior storage space in Airstreams is compromised by the lack of corners.

 

Please understand that folks full time in just about anything, and no one is right or wrong about how they go about it. If the allure of the round aluminum tube floats your boat, go for it. Just realize that as with every type of RV, there are trade off's.

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While there are certainly folks who full time in Airstream's, it's not common. The reason for this is primarily one of space and storage. Full timers need to carry all their worldly goods with them. Because of their shape (oval instead of rectangular), the interior and exterior storage space in Airstreams is compromised by the lack of corners.

 

Please understand that folks full time in just about anything, and no one is right or wrong about how they go about it. If the allure of the round aluminum tube floats your boat, go for it. Just realize that as with every type of RV, there are trade off's.

 

Thanks Rif, that is a good concern to keep in mind. My folks had a 5th wheel for a while and that, with its slide outs, certainly does increase the living space quite nicely for those who are living in their RV full time. Thanks for your note.

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Since you are concerned with ultimate cost I suggest that you buy the largest unit you can afford now. After 6 to 12 months of living in it full time it will become much smaller than when you bought it. Another way to look at it is to find one that's the perfect size for you and then buy the next larger one, Airstreams are very nice and hold their value quite well, but you might want to look around a bit more and see what other options exist before you make your final decision,

 

We full time in a 36' motorhome and looking back at our buying decisions I wish we had gone for a 40 footer at least. We have gotten used to the amount of space we have and are very comfortable now. We have done a few remodeling projects to make the coach "ours". Changed a booth dinette to a credenza and table with chairs, got rid of the Norcold 1200 and installed a residential fridge, installed a washer/dryer (got tired of having to go to a laundromat) and changed some of the furniture to more comfortable stuff.

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As a beginner you'll be dealing with special hitches that make a TT pull safer and easier. But we call them tail waggers for that reason. Because of the tongue length the effect on your truck is like picking up a chair lying on the floor by one leg at the very end. The trailer has a lever on the truck. The 5th wheel hitch can be as expensive as a travel trailer load leveling hitch, but usually about half price. 5th wheels put the load on the rear axle of your tow vehicle taking away most of the leverage as now the chair is being picked up near the middle leverage wise. You barely notice heavy winds or trucks passing if your hitch is installed properly and your fiver rides level.

 

You said you are choosing the truck and trailer. Regardless of which type of trailer you get I strongly recommend you get a long bed. I now have a short bed and am using a hitch you might like even with a long bed called an Anderson ultimate hitch. It is not a gooseneck that extends the leverage of the trailer pin, that most fivers, not custom ordered for that extra engineering and gusseting, that can damage the frame. But aside from a long bed giving you lots of hitch choices, it also allows for hauling a bit more of the things I prefer outside like our sewer hose in a pipe, and our BBQ grill propane cylinder. Also firewood or other items that will not stick up past the truck bed sidewalls or tail gate.

 

Again I agree that all of the things I mention are overcome daily by TT aficionados. I am no longer fulltime, but just got a really nice 28.5 foot trailer that has the features I need for a vacation trailer for a few weeks at a time at most, and has a lot more storage than the travel trailers I've been inside.

 

Your first instinct to go to shows is a good one but they all look like palaces there. There are things you need to look at for fulltiming that are specific to durability under daily use, and insulation and noise control. You want to know what the framing is made from, I prefer aluminum others prefer wood, the roof of a used RV will need replacing immediately or very soon if you, like me buy used, and it is ten years or more old. The cost to have it replaced is in the $5-8k range. Next you will want to know what the floor and the roof under the EPDM or TPO roofing is. Mine was chosen because I knew that older 2003 fiver had an aluminum frame and a 3/4-1" marine plywood roof. You want tires well under 5 years old so you need to learn to read the date codes on tires. For fulltiming dual pane thermal are a must for me as well as well insulated water tanks underneath that are heated with ventilation or their own duct by the furnace in freezing weather. Good underside insulation also helps in summer for keeping the A/C inside and the outside heat out. You would be amazed at how much noise the thermal windows cut down as well as adding some more to the heat gain resistance in summer.

 

You would do well to go to the RV consumer group and get their rating books. They are a guide more to eliminate the worst brands/models. Do not expect them to choose it for you. But narrowing down the field is a great thing when you are shopping. They can be found at httP://www.rv.org

 

You do what floats your boat, or in this case land yacht, and welcome.

Safe travels.

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Since you are concerned with ultimate cost I suggest that you buy the largest unit you can afford now. After 6 to 12 months of living in it full time it will become much smaller than when you bought it. Another way to look at it is to find one that's the perfect size for you and then buy the next larger one, Airstreams are very nice and hold their value quite well, but you might want to look around a bit more and see what other options exist before you make your final decision.

 

Based on my experience riding motorcycles, I absolutely agree that you quickly get used to whatever you bought and want the next one up. In the end, money is probably saved by simply buying the one that you truly want up front rather than having to fool with selling your current rig and moving into another one. Appreciate the advice.

 

It is actually looking like the Avion might be a better bet for us. We understand that slide outs won't be an option for us, though. But, they are built well and last a real long time, too. There are so many options...at some point, we all just need to make a decision and go with it. I'll get to that point eventually.

 

As always thanks for your thoughts.

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We had a 1989 Avion 34V that was a fantastic trailer that we had restored. But when we decided to go full time, the Avion just did not have enough room for us, two dogs, a small parrot, a guitar and a ham radio. SO we went back to a 5t wheel and wound up at 40' and 3 slides.

 

We have seen a few folks full timing in 30' to 34' Avions or Aistreams and they hace set up the truck with a cap on the bed and store a lot of stuff there.

 

AN Airstream owner will not admit that an Avion is the better built trailer.

 

Ken

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Since you have begun the process quite early, I'd suggest that you spend a lot of time in the potential choices that are of interest to you. When you think that you may have found a candidate, go there and do a walk-through with both of you simulating doing all of the same things that you do in your home today. Keep in mind that this will be your house and not just a short vacation, which means that minor issues will be with you constantly and will be much more difficult to accept than they would for a vacation of temporary nature. Go through the motions of your entire daily routine, both at the same time just as you do now. You will find some things can be easily solved by minor changes in routines but there may be others that just have to stay the same. A great deal of what determines the size of RV a couple must have is the physical size of the two people. Both your height and girth contribute to this effect. Small people do not need the same space as do larger ones. One thing that is often overlooked and too small for long term use is the bathroom. If you bump your knees on the sink when you sit on the commode it will probably not be a good experience.

 

Also keep in mind that there will be days that you will both be cooped up on the inside, no matter how well you follow weather patterns. There will also be times when one is ill and the other feels great and so you need to make allowance for each to have some space at times. We find that the couples who seem to fair best in the smaller RVs are usually smaller physically and they are also couples who consider themselves best friends and not just partners or spouses. Pretend to take a shower, brush your teeth and everything in your life routine each morning. Simulate the cooking of meals with both inside and doing whatever it is that you do at the same time.

 

If all of this works you then need to consider what things you will want to have with each of you and where those things will be kept. If you have a hobby now that requires a lot of space, say model railroading, what will you do to occupy your time once you don't have room for the train layout? If you expect to change your hobbies to fit the smaller living space, start making those changes now so that you will know what you enjoy and what turns out to be a dud. You can easily try living small now with the ability to expand again, but once you sell the house and move into the RV your options will be far less. Take advantage of the advance time that you have to do what is needed to insure a successful transition.

 

Most of all, remember that there is no single right way to live in your RV any more than there is for a stick house. The only limitation to what you can do while living on the road is your own imagination!

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We had a 1989 Avion 34V that was a fantastic trailer that we had restored. But when we decided to go full time, the Avion just did not have enough room for us, two dogs, a small parrot, a guitar and a ham radio. SO we went back to a 5t wheel and wound up at 40' and 3 slides.

 

We have seen a few folks full timing in 30' to 34' Avions or Aistreams and they hace set up the truck with a cap on the bed and store a lot of stuff there.

 

AN Airstream owner will not admit that an Avion is the better built trailer.

 

Ken

 

Thanks Ken, appreciate your thoughts. We are definitely looking now in the 31' to 34' range for Avions, just like the one that you had. We also understand that if we do this long enough, it probably won't be our last trailer that we buy, so we just need to make the best decision that we can to get us to that point. Maybe one day we'll upgrade to a 5th wheel.

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Since you have begun the process quite early, I'd suggest that you spend a lot of time in the potential choices that are of interest to you.

 

Thanks Kirk, we definitely plan on doing something like you suggested. We're planning a couple stops at RV dealerships that have Airstreams (even if we end up with an Avion, Airstream will be close enough for this little test). We may even look to Airbnb and stay in an Airstream for a couple nights so we become fully immersed for that time.

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Listen well to Kirk when he says to pretend living in a potential RV. Hitting your head every time you bend over the sink while brushing your teeth is more than a minor inconvenience when it happens daily. Not being able to get to the bathroom to wash your hands while your spouse is cooking may mean your food gets cold when you finally get clearance to do that. Fighting over the one comfortable seat is not good for a marriage. When checking out a potential RV I sit in that chair and read whatever literature is available to keep me in the chair long enough to know if it is comfortable for more than two minutes. When you've been hiking around an RV lot any chair is comfortable for two minutes. Also look at the TV from the various chairs; are you comfortable or do you have to crane your neck to see? Are you going to have to take turns sitting in the left or right view chair to balance out your neck? Do you have to slouch down to keep from tilting your chin up? How long are you going to be willing to do that? Empty your pockets and lie down on the bed--where did you put your pocket things? Will you be able to put your shoes back on there or will you have to carry them into the living room? It is hard to realize how many little things we do in a day and how we will do those things in an RV unless you stay in it long enough to actually go through all the motions. That's why I like doing my initial evaluations at PPL in Houston. They leave you alone and let you spend as much time as you need in each unit to determine whether or not you could live in that one. If I was starting out I'd likely check into a motel in Houston, pack a lunch, and go spend a couple days at PPL spending a half day in each potential unit. You could save thousands of dollars by not making a mistake on your first purchase. (Don't eat in the unit, go to the customer lounge to do that, please.)

 

Linda Sand

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Kirk has great advice and is very tactfull. I'll be a little more critical. A 25 ft trailer with no slide outs is going to be very tight for two adults and two dogs. OK for a camping trip but for a home on wheels? Really think hard about it. Remember this is not just going to be a house on wheels, it is going to be your home.

Then there is the issue of storage. Air Stream TTs are beautiful to look at but they have limited storage compared to a 5th wheel or Class A. Yes you can pack a lot of stuff in the back of a Suburban to tow it, but is that where you want to carry your tools (and you will need to carry some), compressor, grill, outdoor chairs, extra cloths and bedding, perhaps a portable sat dish, etc? You may not want those things now but you will given some time.

I know there are people who do full time in such a small space, I just don't know how.

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I know there are people who do full time in such a small space, I just don't know how.

 

We will certainly be looking for something larger than 25' - somewhere in the neighborhood of 31 to 34 now, based on the helpful comments of the forum and just a little common sense, too. We will also be looking to stay in an Airstream over the next couple months through Airbnb to get a feel for how this might work for us. This should give us a good indication of the living arrangements, though far from the entire "full timing" experience.

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Good move! Living in one for even a week will be better for you to gauge whether it suits you. No matter what rig we get there is always one that is just what we wanted but didn't know at the time. I can tell you that were I to start all over again back in 1997 knowing what I know now my decisions would have been a tad different. Not the type, just the details.

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Good move! Living in one for even a week will be better for you to gauge whether it suits you. No matter what rig we get there is always one that is just what we wanted but didn't know at the time. I can tell you that were I to start all over again back in 1997 knowing what I know now my decisions would have been a tad different. Not the type, just the details.

 

Yup, understood. And honestly, we aren't looking to make the perfect decision right off the bat because, well, perfection doesn't exist. Instead, we'll make the best decision we can with the information that we have available. If we want to upgrade to something larger in the future, no big deal, we do it. Live and learn. :)

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Yup, understood. And honestly, we aren't looking to make the perfect decision right off the bat because, well, perfection doesn't exist. Instead, we'll make the best decision we can with the information that we have available. If we want to upgrade to something larger in the future, no big deal, we do it. Live and learn. :)

Good thinking. Very few of us buy our last RV first. In spite of all the research and practicing at home we did our first RV only lasted four months. That can happen when your spouse is so intent on pleasing you that reality of the downsides for the spouse doesn't hit in time. Plus, you just don't know what you don't know until you get on the road. Who knew how quickly a 10 gallon black tank would fill up with two full-timers using it? That wasn't something we could test at home.

 

Linda Sand

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