8 Best Travel Trailers for Your Summer Road Trip
Looking to join the RV revolution this summer but not sure where to start? This handy guide will help you find the best option for your socially distanced travels.
You can take it with you
As the pandemic rages on, families are understandably hesitant to venture out on a typical vacation, especially if it entails a flight. Still, it’s summer, and staring at the same four walls is getting monotonous. Thankfully, there are definitely some good ways to get away this summer. One popular option? Hitting the open road, socially distancing at a campsite, and bringing your accommodations with you. If you don’t have a motorhome and tents really aren’t your thing, a travel trailer may be the perfect option for you.
For the newbies out there, travel trailers differ from motorhomes in that they need to be towed to wherever you’re going. While having one self-contained vehicle do it all makes sense for some travelers, the travel trailer is a great choice for many people, since it can often be towed by the vehicle you drive every day. Also, once you get to your destination, you can unhook the trailer and drive that vehicle for supplies or explore places inhospitable to large truck/trailer combinations (like a national park). Not sure which you want? Here’s a handy guide to the different types of RVs out there—and how to find the best one for you.
Choosing the right travel trailer can start with considering the type of vehicle you currently own. Once you’ve become accustomed to the RV lifestyle, you might want something larger, and at that point, you can upgrade your tow vehicle to accommodate a larger trailer. Here are some great options to get you started, whether you’re renting or buying.
Renting a travel trailer
One of the great things about RV travel is that there’s a great option relatively near you. For proof, see this list of the best RV parks in every state. Still, you might be understandably hesitant to invest in a travel trailer if you’re new to camping. That’s where renting comes in. “Renting a trailer is a great way to experience RVing without committing to buying a vehicle,” says Megan Buemi, spokesperson for the online rental marketplace RVshare. The company’s nationwide listings offer a wide variety of RVs, both from major companies renting a fleet to individual owners looking to make some extra cash when they’re not vacationing themselves.
Standard travel trailer
Whether you’re heading out on one of the 50 best road trips in America or just to your favorite local campsite, a midsize travel trailer, like this Winnebago Minnie, is one of the most popular options on the market. Typically ranging from 21 to 28 feet in length, it can be towed with a full-size pickup truck or large SUV. Many have a slide-out section that allows for plenty of extra living space once parked. Depending on the size of the trailer, these can sleep between three and eight people, and—huge selling point—they have a full bathroom, so digging your own latrine in the middle of the night isn’t a worry. A nicely sized kitchen and plenty of storage space mean you can have all of the comforts of home when you’re done adventuring during the day.
Luxury travel trailer
If you really don’t want to rough it, you can opt for luxury camping adventures that just may turn you into an outdoor person—or an Airstream travel trailer. Long the icons of campsites, their polished aluminum outer shells are unmistakable. The Airstream Classic can give you all the comforts of home—in style. These are larger campers, often weighing more than 7,000 pounds, so a full-size pickup or SUV that can handle that weight is needed. Bob Wheeler, CEO and president of Airstream, tells Reader’s Digest that “over the past [few] months, we’ve seen many new customers taking to the Airstreaming lifestyle as a safe and healthy way to travel during these challenging times.”
Fun fact: Did you know that an Airstream trailer was used to quarantine the Apollo astronauts when they returned from the moon? Yes, there was a time when quarantine wasn’t such a gloomy word.
Pop-up travel trailer
On the other end of the price spectrum is the classic pop-up camper, like this unit from Rockwood. This style of travel trailer folds down into a low trailer for towing and unfolds with fabric sides to provide sleeping space. These are lightweight and easy to tow, even with many cars. Another advantage besides towing weight and price? Pop-up campers usually can fit in a regular home garage—which is great if you have a homeowner’s association that prohibits parking RVs outside.
Disadvantages to a fabric-sided pop-up? Most don’t have a toilet, which means you’ll have to head outside if nature calls late at night. It’s also a bit harder to regulate the temperature inside a pop-up since the fabric doesn’t provide much insulation. Further, if you’re in a crowded campground, that fabric doesn’t provide noise insulation if you end up near rowdy neighbors. Don’t be that rowdy neighbor—follow the unspoken etiquette rules of RV camping.
Folding travel trailer
A step up from a pop-up camper is a hard-sided folding trailer. It still folds into a lightweight, easy-to-tow package, but it has hard sides that provide better protection from the elements. Not being prepared for inclement weather, by the way, is just one of the camping mistakes most first-timers make. Some campgrounds also prohibit the use of fabric-sided pop-up campers due to their lack of protection from bears. Should Yogi try to help himself to your picnic basket, a hard-sided folding camper, like this one from TrailManor, will be safer for you and your family. One more bonus: This style of camper tends to have a small indoor toilet.
Teardrop travel trailer
Are you traveling solo or just with a significant other? Are you towing with a smaller car? Then a lightweight teardrop camper might be the ideal travel trailer for you. So named for its streamlined teardrop shape when viewed from the side, this minimalist option contains little more than a bed, a bit of storage, and a small cooking area. This Timberleaf Classic weighs around 1,500 pounds, so most cars can handle it without breaking a sweat.
Customizable travel trailer
Need a bit more room than a teardrop while keeping the weight down? This Happier Camper HC1 travel trailer has a modular Adaptiv system that allows you to customize your trailer to your exact needs. The modular components can be mixed and matched to create beds, benches, countertops, and more, and they can even be set outside the trailer come bedtime. Plus, this travel camper is a bit taller, so you can stand up while changing into your clothes for the day. It’s also lightweight, so most cars can tow it safely—and, despite the modern interior design, has a space-age ’50s look that is incredibly hip.
No matter which travel trailer you choose, make sure you’re prepared. Check these 8 things on your car before heading out on a road trip, and don’t forget to pack these 12 unexpected things for vacationing during a pandemic.
Fifth-wheel travel trailer
If you’ve got a big family or quarantine pod, or you just like your space, you should seriously consider a fifth-wheel travel trailer. The ultimate in space and comfort, most can sleep between eight and 10 people, using slide-out rooms to expand the floor plan once you get settled. You’ll also have plenty of room for all of your cool new camping gear.
What’s a fifth-wheel, you ask? It’s a different style of hitch mechanism—one very similar to those found on semi-tractors and trailers. As with this Jayco Eagle, the hitch is mounted in the bed of a full-size heavy-duty pickup truck, rather than using a low-mounted hitch near the bumper. This trailer and truck combination is much more stable while towing, as more of the trailer’s weight is borne by the truck. However, as these trailers are generally long and heavy, a truly heavy-duty truck capable of towing 10,000 pounds or more is necessary.
Do your vacation adventures include dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, or mountain bikes? In that case, a toy hauler might be the ideal travel trailer companion for your outdoor lifestyle. A toy hauler like this Montana High Country has what looks like a garage toward the back of the camper that can hold your precious off-road equipment securely and separately from your living space. According to RVshare’s Buemi, “A toy hauler is a great way to combine the luxury of RV living with the rugged utility you need to bring along your toys.” Toy haulers are offered in fifth-wheel and in regular bumper-pull configurations, depending on your needs, budget, and tow vehicle abilities. If a beach trip sounds heavenly, check out our list of the best 25 spots where you can camp on the beach.