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In our north Seattle neighborhood, I can count at least six travel trailers parked on sidewalks, in driveways and in alleys on any given day. And every.single.time, I’m jealous.
They all look cool and cute at the same time, and lead me to think,
(Insert laughter here for anyone who understands that “idyllic,” “road trip,” and “family” don’t often occupy the same sentence, even if a billion-dollar trailer is involved.)
If you, like me, are smitten with these tiny trailers (aka towable RVs), read on for what to consider when buying one and some suggestions for the best small travel trailers on the market today. Even a smaller camper these days might offer everything from bunk beds to solar panels, an entertainment center to USB ports.
Each of these small trailers is a great option for small families of four, providing a space to call your own when you’re on the road or at the campground, and is small enough that it doesn’t require an enormous parking area to store it at home. Don’t worry about maxing out on square footage. These small camping trailers are creatively designed with different floor plans to provide plenty of room to spread out and enough space for your gear.
Here’s what to consider and some of our favorites.
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Things to Consider When Purchasing a Family Travel Trailer
Any investment of this size – even though the trailer is small, it still costs a chunk of change – is worth a few hours of research and comparison. Here’s what to look for when you’re considering which is the excellent choice for your family.
Where You’ll Sleep
First things first – where will you lay your head to rest in your shiny, new travel trailer? You’ll need a comfortable sleeping capacity for four people. Depending on the age of your kids, you may do well with bunk beds and a master bedroom with a queen-sized bed for parents. Some trailers offer an additional sleeping space (like a convertible dinette), which can work for small families but can be an inconvenience for a large family.
How You’ll Live
Due to its smaller size, the layout and floor plan matters when picking the best small RV for your family. You’ll want a layout that feels comfortable to everyone in your family so that you’re not starting out from behind when taking road trips in this new (and fun!) way.
Just like when searching for a home or remodeling, list out your priorities. What are the extra features you can’t live without? Do you need a convertible dinette, a queen bed, a wet bath or dry bath, a larger living area, large windows? Be honest with what you absolutely must have, what you’d like to have but could live without, and what you definitely don’t need. This is the space you’re going to return to between adventures with your family, so make sure it’s a space you love.
Type of Bathroom
While you likely won’t get a full bathroom like at home, a wet or dry bath at least keeps you from having to run to the outhouse or campground bathroom while you’re on your trip. A wet bath features a shower with a toilet and sink in the same space (meaning everything in the room gets wet). This compact design is popular with small family travel trailers (such as the Airstream Basecamp) and teardrop trailers.
A dry bath has a shower in its own enclosure, separate from your toilet and sink. Many travel trails, as well as fifth wheels, offer this option, which is more like what you’re used to at home. Keep in mind that the wet bath is more prevalent the smaller the travel trailer.
Features & Upgrades
Just as when you’re buying a car, you’ll have many options for upgrading the standard features of a compact RV trailer. Among the many extras are:
- All-terrain tires or traction
- Solar panels
- Additional batteries
- Larger appliances
- Tinted or frameless windows
- Air conditioning
- Backup camera
- Storage cabinets
- Full bathroom
Think carefully about how you will be using your travel trailer. If it’s just for camping one season a year, how many bells and whistles do you need? Or, if you’re an avid road-tripper for three or four seasons of the year, consider tacking on a few extras that will make you more comfortable (and happy) in the long run.
Weight of The Trailer
Don’t start your shopping and comparison process for the best RV option for your family without knowing the maximum towing weight for your tow vehicle. An owner’s manual will have that number. Then you’ll need to add the weight of the small camper, the trailer hitch, and an estimate of the things you’ll be carrying inside your trailer, like water and gear (a good rule is to use 250 pounds per foot of the actual trailer, not the hitch, to determine if your setup falls within the gross vehicle weight rating). Knowing your vehicle’s limits is essential before making your final trailer choice.
Benefits of the Best Travel Trailers
The best small campers celebrate their diminutiveness. They have smaller interior space, but, like we mentioned above, they’re still a great option because the companies have thought outside the box in terms of fitting in the features you need. The more you pay – typically up to $50K – the more features you’ll get, but it’s really a personal choice. You’ll still have a fantastic vacation with a lightweight travel trailer on the smaller, simpler end – and save money for other vacation fun.
They’re Convenient and Easy to Tow.
Depending on what you’re driving as a tow vehicle, pop-up campers, teardrop-shaped travel travelers and the like are easy to pull. Think about those huge RVs you see pulling into the site next to yours at the campground or the trouble folks are having trying to park much larger travel trailers. The learning curve isn’t nearly as steep if you’re learning how to tow and park a small family travel trailer.
They’re More Flexible
Just like small, expedition-style ships can go places larger mega-cruise ships can’t, small trailers can go places the bigger RVs can’t. When you choose a smaller RV for your family of four’s camping trip, you can tuck into more remote campsites and easily drive along winding national park roads. Many parks limit the length of RVs, making a smaller trailer a great option if you want more choices when it comes to where to camp.
One of the best things about your new small space is the chance to cozy up with your whole family – almost like being in a tent, but without having to worry about rain and wind (or critters). Depending on the travel trailer you choose, you may have an adorably sized dining area or living space, making it feel like you’re playing house on the road.
They Don’t Use as Much Fuel
Compared to a larger RV, the small travel trailers are cheaper to tow when it comes to fuel expenses – and that’s a good thing these days!
Our Favorite Travel Trailers for Families of Four
While you will ultimately land on the particular model that works best for your family, we offer these suggestions as a starting point for your research.
Winnebago Micro Minnie
Known for its thoughtful, functional design, the Micro Minnie comes in eight different floor plans, which can include a full-size bed, queen bed, murphy bed or bunk beds (the bottom bunk can flip up). A spacious bathroom with a nice-size shower, a roomy and fully functional kitchen, and flexible living space makes the most of the trailer’s small footprint. An exterior door allows you to load and unload bikes and other “toys” you have along.
When you’re hanging outside, you’ll enjoy the 15-foot awning that extends from the door to the rear of the trailer, sheltering you from sun or rain. When the temperatures drop, you’ll be thankful for the heated, insulated, and enclosed underbelly.
Learn about the absolute best small travel trailers for families of four and hit the open road together.
Lance 2185 Travel Trailer
Lauded for its high resale value and reliability, the Lancer 2185 Travel Trailer is ideal for families of four. The queen bed and bunk bed area have a spacious walk-around, so you’re not jammed right up against the wall. The contemporary and modern interior design adds a cool factor. And it’s just 26 feet long with the tongue and jack, so it’s relatively compact and easy to tow. You can also customize it however you like! Add a tankless hot water heater or solar panels, perhaps.
Lance is known for its four-season travel trailers, so you’ll have the added bonus of warmth, thanks to extra insulation and Azdel walls. Extra storage compartments are found in the doors and underneath beds, there’s an exterior storage compartment, and you can add on a kayak or bike rack.
Forest River No Boundaries 16.6
Lightweight and compact, the Forest River No Boundaries 16.6 is particularly well-suited for small families. There’s more storage than you would imagine, both inside and out, so you can bring along just about anything you might need. Choose from multiple floor plans, lengths, and weights (all under 3,500 pounds).
While it may not be as modern and sleek as the Lance 2185 Travel Trailer, the No Boundaries line has small children in mind. After all, one of the best ways to ensure a good vacation is happy and well-rested kiddos. There’s a fun bunk bed floor plan available (you can lift and lay them flat against the wall when not in use), as well as a comfortable queen-sized bed and nice bathroom. The dinette is perfect for four, and the kitchen even has a generously sized fridge in it. Looking for extras? Add an outdoor kitchen, extra space on the roof for storage, all-terrain tires or solar panels.
Long known as the Bambi, this small, single-axle trailer is one of the most affordable in the Airstream line of classic aluminum trailers. (Meaning that if you’ve ever dreamed of an Airstream, this may be a great choice for your family.)
The compact Bambi packs a lot of great usable space into its small-ish square footage – some are as short as 18 feet, 11 inches long. But even at that size, there is still room for a two-burner gas stove, a stainless-steel sink, a fridge and freezer, an LED TV, a built-in stereo, a shower, a flushing toilet, and a mattress that is sized somewhere between a twin and a double. It’s possible to go a little bigger in this class, or use this as your starting point and grow in size later in your adventuring years once the kids are bigger.
Ready to adventure? I’ll be the one gazing on enviously as you pull out of the neighborhood. Have fun!
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