It’s fun to shop for a new RV or travel trailer – a dream come true for first-time buyers. They offer upgraded comforts and decor far superior to traditional tent or popup camping. And conveniences like a bathroom, fully operational kitchen complete with cabinets and drawers, a table, a bed, and lighting – oh my!
In fact, it all seems so wonderful you might think you’ll have no regrets, no matter which layout you choose. But this is an emotional purchase. Don’t let your enthusiastic heart override your practical mind.
Here are some of the mistakes we made when purchasing our first travel trailer:
The bed was tucked cozily against a wall of the travel trailer. It didn’t break up the space or get in the way, was plenty big enough for the both of us, and you could draw a curtain across the area for privacy. There was a light and cabinet storage above it, and an electrical outlet within range for charging our phones. Awesome!
Regret #1: Nighttime Visits to the Bathroom
One of the reasons we upgraded to a travel trailer was for a fully functioning bathroom. As I get older, it seems nighttime visits are more and more frequent. I was done using a bucket in the tent or walking to a campground outhouse in the dark a few times each night.
But, due to the positioning of our bed, one of us had to crawl over the other to go to the bathroom. It was like an obstacle course – don’t get knocked unconscious by the overhead cabinets, careful not to rub against the shockingly fragile window blinds, watch your step down, don’t stub your toe on the edge of the table, and – ouch – try not to squish, kick, or knee your partner on the way out.
It turned out to be a much bigger aggravation than we ever expected.
Consider a layout with walking room on each side of the bed. We could live without the countertop and storage space of a nightstand, but nightstand upgrades are well worth it too. Under-the-bed storage is also a welcome feature.
Regret #2: Consideration for Guests
We started out with a small towable trailer. Indeed, to this day, we love our cheery red Winnebago Micro Minnie like it’s our first-born – no regrets there. But, when we were shopping, we thought it would be nice to provide comfortable sleeping arrangements for people who might stay with us from time to time. We have adult kids, friends who love camping but only have a tent, visiting family from other states, and dogs.
So we purchased an interior floorplan with a set of bunk beds. These could accommodate people, dogs, or supplies. Smart thinking, right? Wrong! Bunk beds are for families with young children. There are far better ways to utilize the massive and awkward amount of space they take up when it’s usually just the two of us – even with the dogs.
As far as choosing an interior layout that houses guests overnight, think about how often this might actually happen. Maybe choosing a trailer with a table that turns into a bed would be good enough. Heck, maybe your guests can bring their own tent (or borrow your old one)!
We regret sacrificing a lot of space we could have used more effectively and comfortably for the sake of occasional visitors.
The thought of a flushing toilet and a shower thrilled me. I can still live out of a toiletry travel bag. There’s plenty of places to stash towels. But a functional bathroom requires more supplies than what I needed when we were tent camping. And you want to leave these items in the trailer instead of carting them back and forth every time you take it out on the road.
- RV toilet tissue
- RV toilet treatment tablets
- Toilet brush (be careful what you use doesn’t scratch)
- Cleaning supplies for the toilet and shower
- A small trash can and bags
- Deodorizer (and maybe some reading material?)
- Medications, first aid, shaving gear, and more that don’t fit in a toiletry bag.
The bathroom in our first travel trailer had no amenities – no vanity, drawers, or cabinetry, no mirror, no sink or countertop, and not even a towel rack. We kept a couple of storage totes in the shower that we had to find a spot for temporarily whenever we showered.
My husband installed door hooks, an over-the-door hanger, an over-the-shower hangar, and a toilet paper holder. These things helped, but using the bathroom and managing supplies was really cumbersome.
When shopping for your new travel trailer, bring your packing list along so you can imagine in your mind where you might store all your stuff. Even a simple medicine cabinet would have made a big difference for us.
Staying organized is essential in such a small space. Storage wasn’t an issue in our first travel trailer. Because creativity goes a long way. We brought in portable shelving, bins, and dividers, installed hooks, netting, and velcro, and covered the top of the stove for counter space.
The challenge became having easy access to the items we stowed away. For instance, most floorplans include storage beneath the dinette benches. But not all models have cabinet doors so you can get in there. Instead, you have to remove the cushions, then the unfinished plywood (don’t get slivers) for access.
Thoroughly check out the kitchen. As I mentioned above, bring a packing list so you can visualize where you’ll keep things. Open all the cabinets and drawers, notice their height, width, and depth. What type of organizational bins, dividers, and trays might you need, and will they fit? Where can you keep oddly-shaped or oversized items like an Instant Pot, coffee maker, paper towels, or campfire roasting forks?
Choose a travel trailer floorplan for function as well as comfort. You won’t regret it!