Step 8: Choosing an RV or Camper

This post is step 8 in the steps you need to take in order to become a travel nurse. It’s time to choose a trailer!

We should probably mention that there were other options for housing; agencies will offer company housing or help you find a place nearby. We weren't that excited about living out of a suitcase or staying in hotels for months at a time--and while some of the company housing is probably very nice, the travel trailer gave us the freedom to take our home with us wherever we went. Plus, without the company housing, most contracts will throw in a living stipend which will cover the cost of the campground easily.

Different Camper Species

When we first started looking at trailers, we knew nothing. We had always been tent people. We did not know the difference between a Class ‘A’ RV and a camper. Now, we are experts and for the ignorant and foundationly anchored, here’s the quick breakdown: All the "classes" are RVs, which means they have engines and steering wheels. These were automatically DQed from our search. Not only are they expensive, but with an RV, every time Paul went to work, the house would have to go with him.

 Amazon surreptitiously covering up all the various mobile homes with gray canvas

Amazon surreptitiously covering up all the various mobile homes with gray canvas

Fifth wheels sit in the bed of your truck and require some fancier hardware to tow. The benefit of the 5th wheel is that it doesn't drag out as far behind the truck, so they're a bit easier to haul. They also have higher ceilings with more storage space. Whenever I found a really impressive camper remodel on the interwebs, they always turned out to be 5th wheels. The trouble was, a 5th wheel sized truck, tow package, and, really, the 5th wheel itself were all out of our modest price range. Adios, ceiling fans!

We went with a travel trailer, which is 100% pulled behind the truck, but still offers the conveniences of home. Anything smaller--like a pop-up camper (which folds into itself) or a truck bed camper (which fits 100% inside the bed of the pick-up) was too small. I'm sure there are folks who live out of these mini-models, but we wanted our trailer to function like an apartment+office. That means we needed space to cook, shower, sleep, work, read the newspaper, play cribbage, practice pinterest inspired "no equipment" jazzercise, and stretch, all in less than 30x8 feet of space. With our 90# dog too.

 Outdoor Office + Office Assistant

Outdoor Office + Office Assistant

The Travel Trailer of Our Dreams

So we set off to find the perfect travel trailer. At first, all travel trailers looked the same to us. They are small, but not in the cute and sleek "tiny home movement" kind of way. More like in the prefabricated, assisted living kind of way. Tiny homes are about the organic, raw material,  industrial chic look. Travel trailers are 100% synthetic, peel and stick, and laminate chic.

 Actual trailer we walked inside on our tour de trailers

Actual trailer we walked inside on our tour de trailers

Trailers tend to have small kitchens and big TVs. There's usually not a lot of storage space and the windows don't open easily. They feel prefab because they are--there's a limited number of floor plans to choose between and the floor plan decides the permanent feng shui of your space. For us, the search became much easier once we decided on the floor plan we liked best and ignored the different manufacturers and the aesthetic details from trailer to trailer.

We discovered that trailers with "rear kitchen" floor plans usually had more counter space. This was big for us because we like to cook and our budget likes it when we don't eat out. Lots of rear kitchens have a U shaped counter that helps to  break the space up. It makes the trailer feel more like a studio than a hallway in which you live. In addition to the rear kitchen, we also knew we wanted to have "slides." 

Slide outs are the things that stick out of the trailer once it's parked. It makes the space feel larger without adding more bulk to what you tow on the road. We hoped for one slide so that the couch and dining area push back to make more living space. Odin would appreciate being able to turn around inside the house and move about on days when he's home alone. We ended up finding a trailer with two slide outs--the couch plus a "wardrobe slide" (basically a tiny closet that closes into the driver's side of the bed).

 We are now fluent in these tiny diagrams

We are now fluent in these tiny diagrams

This gave us lots of extra space for storing stuff, which is nice because we packed for all weathers and occasions. We have tents and sleeping bags, bike gear and winter coats, pant suits and dresses, towels and bedding and lots and lots of books. Storage space cannot be underestimated. 

We decided the max length we were comfortable with hauling was 30ft, and once we knew our length max, our floor plan (rear kitchen), and the slide thing (yes please) our search became much easier. We could narrow our options based on price and location. When we started, all trailers looked the same, we now began to see all the tiny differences.

Those Pesky Details

It’s the details that’ll kill you. If you’re showering in something the size of a broom closet, you don’t want to fight a slimy shower curtain to wash your hair. We began to notice when there was no shelf space next to the bed for a book and a glass of water. And wouldn’t it be obnoxious to only have two outlets--one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom? Where are you charging your laptop in that trailer, hmm?

In a 30 x 8 foot space, every inch counts. We took our list of used (did we mention we only looked at used?) trailers from various makers and made an initial top 5 list. Then we paid a visit to each so we could see how the pictures posted online measured up to the trailers in the flesh/laminate.

Our initial top fave disappointed immediately. Once we were inside, we could see that the siding was warping and there was obvious water damage. This was like the only all caps NO NO that all of our trailer research had espoused.  The other trailers didn’t offer an immediate standout.  They each had something we hated and wanted to change.

When we were feeling our most hopeless about our trailer prospects, we decided to visit a slightly pricier, two-slide Keystone Hornet in upstate NY. We loved it immediately and they offered a deeply discounted price (that was still more than we hoped to pay).

After a few days of fretting, mock bargaining, and pacing pep talks, we went back to the dealer. We chatted, I put on my “disapproving and skeptical” face, and Paul made them an even lower offer WHICH THEY ACCEPTED.  We are either foolish newbie RV idiots, or we’re the freaking luckiest.

The choice was a mix of convenience (time and location), preferences, and finances.  There are things that are not perfect—like why does every freaking RV kitchen have a multi-level counter top? Still, five weeks and tens of thousands of miles into full-timing it, we have not been disappointed.

 Observe the Super small oven and the multi level counter top

Observe the Super small oven and the multi level counter top

For friends and family, I tried to make this post interesting and brief. It’s likely that you lived through these decisions with us and heard us mull each factor over hundreds of times.

If you somehow stumbled on this page because you’re thinking of buying a trailer, I hope this was helpful in some measure. We’d be happy to offer any other details or answer questions.

SPARK NOTES:

a) Visit some RV dealerships and pick your size

b) Stand inside tons of trailers and choose a your floor plan

c) Look at pricing/placing/interior "deal breaker" details

D) make an offer! They will cut you a deal especially in December