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Old 08-31-2015, 08:49 PM   #15
La Casita
Dan and Liz's Avatar
1987 25' Sovereign
Fort Collins , Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 194
Get thee to a rally or two and talk to the folks.

Dan & Liz H

"I'd rather be happy for just one day than miserable for the rest of my life."
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Old 08-31-2015, 09:23 PM   #16
Rivet Master
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2015 22' FB Sport
Kansas City , Missouri
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 708
We were a lot like you (except we are not even close to retirement. Congratulations in advance on that.)

Here are some things I found helpful.

Go to the RV show in your area and look at all the RVs there. Try to go the Friday night instead of the crowded Saturday daytime. There will be lots of things to look at and helpful sales people. Look at all brands with smaller and mid sized units there and ask them to show you the features. You will learn a lot. There will also probably be folks there from your local state conservation campgrounds/RV parks with maps and brochures that are informative.

Start a few boards on Pinterest looking at camping, RVs, airstreams. This is visual web surfing and a great way to collect ideas and save information. You also get some good ideas and see the interiors of lots of ways people organize things for camping.

Go to all of the airstream dealers within a 4 hour drive at your house and compare them. We had no dealer in our city. We visited 3 within a 4 hour drive, and another further away last summer when visiting friends on vacation. We went on Saturdays, and always called ahead to make an appointment with a sales person. A good salesperson with some available time can show you a lot of features and information. And it helps you evaluate the overall knowledge base of the dealership, and judge how it might be to do business with them. You also can find out if driving to/from them requires an easy or difficult drive as to roads, routes, traffic, etc.

Watch youtube videos on airstreams, especially the model you are most interested in.

Read the forums, and ask questions if there is something that interests you that you don't quite understand. Read all of the categories, especially all on the bambis, and interstates. These are all smaller units and share common problems and solutions.

If you have any friends or co workers who camp, ask if you can see their set up sometime. Most people will be happy to have you drop by their storage place next time they are heading out to do something or check on the unit. (As many components of airstreams are common to a lot of RV brands there is a lot of cross-over)

Ask people who own a trailer why they chose the one they have. And also what they would change on it if they could. And ask them about their tow vehicles too.

Have Fun and best of luck.


Piggy Bank
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Old 08-31-2015, 10:03 PM   #17
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Vintage Kin Owner
Virginia Beach , Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 5,678
Hi from the East Coast

I did what you are contemplating, it's now been almost 9 years. I'm sitting watching "Tiny House Hunting" and wondering why these fools don't just buy a trailer.

So, stuff I'd do better the second time around. Go to Forum or WBCCI rallies and meet other Airstream owners. Some WBCCI rallies are "closed" (no Airstream, no welcome) but many will welcome prospective members/buyers. Forum rallies are almost all "open" to anyone even SOB (square old box / some other brand) owners and lookers.

Take a towing course - I had friends supporting me, but formal instruction makes a lot of sense. And having a truck driver as a teacher, very good.

Buying the "right" trailer on the first attempt - hem - read here and you'll find a lot of people who have had 2, 3, 4 or more and are probably still not done. If you're planning on fulltiming, a 25 is about as small as you'll really want to go. So, truth? Consider something other than an Airstream as your starter trailer. The Casita (a fiberglass egg trailer manufactured in Texas) can be a great starter, mainly because it loses so little value and after a year or two you can sell it for almost as much as you paid... and you'll have a much more practical "boots on the ground" basis for blowing the big bucks on an Airstream.

New vs. Gently Used - Lots of people jump in with both feet, and two years later realize they've camped 3 times. Then you swoop in and help them cut their losses. You'll have to fix something, but it'll save you $15K. Your choice, just saying.

Happy Trails, Paula
Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 09-01-2015, 11:08 AM   #18
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davenport , Iowa
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Me TOO!!!

Originally Posted by nearlyretire View Post
Looking at buying a Sport 22 FB in the next 3 years pending my retirement. This will be a first for me and I know that I have a lot to learn about tow vehicles, hookups, tire pressure, steering, backing up, sway and everything else. Is there anyone on this forum who originally jumped into this lifestyle knowing nothing about trailers (i.e. never owned one before, didn't grow up in a household that owned one, never owned a tow-class vehicle, never worked on cars or got grease under their fingernails, etc etc)? And if so, how long did it take to come up to speed and then how long after purchase did it take to learn to safely drive, steer, backup, maintain the vehicle? I am certainly able to read about, study etc everything I can, but I know that reading manuals etc. just won't translate when rubber finally meets the road. Thanks!!
Dear Nearlyretired, I will be following your post closely as I am also close to retirement. I will be purchasing my AS next summer. I already have subscribed to AS Life, have bought AS Living and Newbies Guide to AS. I hope you don't mind if I follow your post. I also need all the education I can accumulate!! It's just so exciting to think about owning an AS!! Good luck to you and yours!! G
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Old 09-01-2015, 11:58 AM   #19
2 Rivet Member
2000 30' Excella
Greeneville , Tennessee
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 84
One simple rule, Don't get Stupid.
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:01 PM   #20
1 Rivet Member
Chicago , Illinois
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 15
Thanks for Asking!

What a great comment stream! And how appropriate for my husband and me.

Today is actually our first official day of retirement! Like you, my husband had a serious countdown to Airstream going for nearly two years.

Some thoughts:
  • Try to attend Alumapalooza or any other rally to meet other Airstream owners. They'll invite you into your homes so you can get a better sense of options, etc.
  • Carefully consider your tow vehicle. In our case, we bought the Airstream first (FC30) and then purchased our rig (F150 Eco Boost). If you have your tow vehicle and cannot consider another one, make sure that the Airstream you purchase will actually tow the recommended weight.
  • Live in this website. My husband has learned tons here. He also has enjoyed many videos from Long Long Honeymoon. They've got all sorts of great instructional videos that can help inspire you until you have yours!
We've just purchased our Airstream and since we don't have our tow vehicle yet (it's backordered!) we must make a 90 minute trip to visit it. For now, that's been fun. We intend to take many of the recommendations here. We've also reached out to other Airstream owners in our Michigan 52 Unit and hope to go on some short trips with them so we have some experts in our midst. And we're already signed up for some longer caravans in 2016 and 2017, again so we have community and support!

Again, congratulations on the move to the Airstream life (EVENTUALLY)!!!

Melinda and Duncan
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:09 PM   #21
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2009 28' International
Pacific Palisades , California
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 316
Great suggestions here!

Once you've done the basics, such as thinking through what tow vehicle is best for your both towing and your non-towing needs, the Airstream dealer from whom you purchase your coach if buying new can be a great asset. When given an indoctrination, take careful notes and ask if it's OK to video the person doing the demonstration. As others have said, this is a house on wheels (or a boat on wheels!) with many different systems, and you would do well to understand the basics of each. Over time, you can learn more detail.

In fact, maybe the hardest thing of all is to sort out the newbie essentials from the flood of details available.

Taking an RV course is a good option. Going into our first travel trailer, we never did, but it can be confidence building. I've towed small boats since I could first drive, so backing trailers and understanding that a trailer going forward always turns inside the turn of the tow vehicle (that's why you always make super wide turns when driving forward around an obstacle) was nothing new. But the weight, adjusting weight distribution and other factors certainly were new. Obviously, a super lightweight sports car with oversize brakes can stop quickly. But when you have three tons of travel trailer pushing you forward when you're trying to stop, a bit of a different story! And when you try to leave lots of room in front of you on a crowded urban freeway/expressway, of course people will be happy to slide in and close the gap for you! So steadiness (no sudden moves), large following distances, and patience to achieve both are your best friends on the road.

Even if you do take an RV driving course, it's great advice to find an empty parking lot. Put out some small traffic cones to defined "curbs" and "back in space" and practice turning around the cones (use your side view to see just how close inside your tow vehicles turning radius the trailer cuts in towards the cone.)

Practice backing into the "space" you've created. I find it helpful to stop and think before rolling when backing in. "Let's see--if I turn the wheel to the left while backing up, that will move the back of my vehicle to the left, which means it moves the front of the trailer to the left and the back of the trailer to the right." Saying that out loud and picturing it before you start rolling will really help, as silly as it may seem.

Understand that there is a limit as to how severe an angle there can be between your vehicle and the trailer before damage occurs. Understand also that it takes a long distance to go from extreme angle to straight. So when you start, try to use small angles, giving yourself tons of distance to correct.

Here's another backup tip--to straighten out the rig, the vehicle must follow behind the backwards moving trailer. You steer to follow the trailer's path. Again, pause first and picture this before you move an inch!

A great way to do this is to get an experienced friend to back up your rig in the parking lot while you stand alongside the rig. He can call out to you what he's about to do and then you can watch what happens at each stage of the process. This should include some "corrections" to the inevitable oversteer situation.

Not very many people do this, but we find it works great to have my wife (an excellent driver) drive the vehicle while I stand outside and direct her with hand signals to tell exactly which way to turn the wheels--and exactly how much to turn them. With more experience in trailers, I can see the angles developing before there's an issue. Once we got comfortable together doing this, we nail it perfectly every time (as long as I don't mess up!)

As others have said, ALWAYS use a spotter (preferably yourself when you have experience) when backing up. No exceptions!!!!

Formulating and using a checklist is a superb idea for at least the first two seasons. Pilots of all different sized aircraft use them before every flight, regardless of how much experience the pilot has--and for good reason! My wife and I do individual walk-arounds ofthe rig for a visual check every morning before we pull onto the road. Trailer attached? Electrical cord attached? Stabilizer jacks retracted? Chains attached and clear of the ground? Trailer brake cable attached? Weight distribution/anti sway engaged? Tires not flat? Wheel lugs tight? Awning locks engaged? Windows closed? (Fantastic vents can actually be left open safely if you prefer.) Double check both main cabin door locks? That's a partial list...way too hard to remember everything, so that's that the written checklist is for!

You're going to have great fun! Just take it easy, check and double check everything, and--take it easy! Remember, this is going to get easier and easier, and it's lots of fun!
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:31 PM   #22
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1996 25' Excella
Shakopee , Minnesota
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 10
Yes! wide swings
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:46 PM   #23
2 Rivet Member
2010 25' FB Flying Cloud
Snoqualmie , Washington
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 80
Images: 3
Similar experience. We hope to retire within the next 12 months (hopefully earlier - but the stock market is killing me). In 2013 we decided we would do the trailer thing; and at the time bought a diesel truck that we knew would tow what ever type of trailer we decided upon. In 2014 started to hunt around for a used ~ 2010 25' AS. After nearly a year, finally found one a few thousand miles away that was in good shape and at the price we were willing to spend. Personally glad we went with the more expensive AS versus trying a cheaper trailer first. I actually think my wife would not be as pumped to travel if it weren't for the AS coolness!

Before we got our AS, I started an excel spreadsheet noting many items from this forum, which greatly helped me by the time i got the AS. I have a section that is my depart and setup checklist (taken from several other posts on the forum); a section on what to buy; a section on cleaning and repair; and a section on good places to go that others on the forum recommend. I just keep on updating this as i learn or see new info on the forum. Could be helpful to do something similar.

After working thru the issue of hitches, Both my wife and I found it much easier than expected to do the trailer thing. Things like backing up not nearly as bad as many say (i.e. still not divorced) - just do it slowly. If you have experience going tent camping, then this will be a piece of cake. Even if not, I expect you will be surprised. It is taking it on that first road-trip - and going for that 1st 15 minutes.
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Old 09-01-2015, 01:03 PM   #24
2 Rivet Member
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2007 23' International CCD
vero beach , Florida
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 54
Just do it

I bought my Airstream because my friend, Marylou, dared me to do it. One day we were talking about how much we loved AS. I said I would buy one someday. She said, "You only like to talk about Airstreams--you will never buy one..." Well, I showed her by driving across the state and buying a new 23' International Ocean Breeze.
I drove home 120 miles in a Florida lightening/thunderstorm/major rain. I had never towed anything before. When I got home, I thought, "What in the world have I done?"
Well, here we are , 8 years and about 60,000 miles later.
Best decision I ever made.
My suggestions:
1. Find a friend who has an RV...let him/her show you the basics.
2. Take a bunch of short trips from home.
3. EXPECT problems--it is like a boat..there will be problems. They are all "fixable."
4. Have a GREAT TIME!

Originally Posted by nearlyretire View Post
Looking at buying a Sport 22 FB in the next 3 years pending my retirement. This will be a first for me and I know that I have a lot to learn about tow vehicles, hookups, tire pressure, steering, backing up, sway and everything else. Is there anyone on this forum who originally jumped into this lifestyle knowing nothing about trailers (i.e. never owned one before, didn't grow up in a household that owned one, never owned a tow-class vehicle, never worked on cars or got grease under their fingernails, etc etc)? And if so, how long did it take to come up to speed and then how long after purchase did it take to learn to safely drive, steer, backup, maintain the vehicle? I am certainly able to read about, study etc everything I can, but I know that reading manuals etc. just won't translate when rubber finally meets the road. Thanks!!
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Old 09-01-2015, 01:11 PM   #25
3 Rivet Member
2012 25' FB Flying Cloud
Grand Rapids , Michigan
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 148
We bought our 25 three years ago. The best piece of advice I received: Find a big empty parking lot and spend an hour backing into spaces, turning corners and parallel parking. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll learn what to do and it's a lot more fun than trying to back into a camping site with a dozen monday morning quarterbacks watching your first attempt. When you do get to that first camp site - take a deep breath and take it slow. Remember how easy it was in the parking lot and just repeat it. You will do just fine!

Our 25 is just about the right size for the two of us, but if I had to do it over I'd go 27 or 28. Amazing what a couple of extra feet can do for storage. 30 might be too big for some of our state parks here in Michigan. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to maneuver a double axle trailer - I am much better with the 25 than I am with a small single axle trailer.

The suggestions for a trip to the Airstream Factory are excellent. One of the best things we could have ever done as newbies. You'll meet great people who were all first timers once and more than willing to help.

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Old 09-01-2015, 01:40 PM   #26
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1969 31' Sovereign
Spokane , Washington
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 12
Blog Entries: 1
Pretty much jumped into the deep end

The only thing I did before I bought my first trailer (a 16' canned ham) was to repair and maintain my Karmen Ghia and towed a 4'x8' utility trailer across our (small) town and back. Twice!

Then I retired and decided I needed a project and bought the 16 footer - which is all aluminum and very light. So I could tow it with my Toyota RAV4 (4 cyl). I learned to repack the wheel bearings, bought new tires, fixed the tail lights and started going camping in it even though it was practically stripped inside and I slept on the floor until I build a bed. I had it go into a nasty 'sway' once, fortunately on a country road, and learned about tongue weight.

Since you don't have a tow vehicle ("never owned a tow-class vehicle,") you might want to start smaller (and less expensive) than an Airstream. If you have an SUV or crossover or a small/light duty truck, you can safely tow a small travel trailer or a utility trailer. I know utility trailers aren't the same thing (as several have already pointed out) but they are inexpensive to rent and you can at least practice backing and going around corners. RangerJay is totally correct on the mirrors - none of them work. As in, they vibrate off, down and/or away as soon as you start driving. A couple of times, I duct taped them on but I wouldn't recommend it . . . difficult to get the tape residue off.

This year I bought a 1969 Sovereign (31') and a 2011 GMC Sierra HD 2500 Diesel truck. Since I've only had the truck a couple of weeks, I haven't towed the AS yet . . . another learning experience, what fun! I've been checking out nearby, large and empty parking lots, ha ha.
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Old 09-01-2015, 02:12 PM   #27
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2017 27' Flying Cloud
Moneta , Virginia
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 68
I have had experience doing every thing you said you hadn't done. We got the AS bug and I thought "no problem, I go this covered". Was I wrong. I have had to learn many things in a short time, some at a large $ cost (had to buy a new TV). Although renting a rig would expose you to what this lifestyle entails, I'd suggest you find a friend that has experience towed a travel trailer that could help you learn the ropes. It may have something to do with my age, OK everything has to do with my age these days, but I find towing a TT is different from all the other trailers I've towed over the years. After my experience with an inadequate TV for the Blue Ridge Mountains, made sure you get a TV within the 80% rule that has sufficient power to handle the terrain you plane travel. You will have fun and learn new things.
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Old 09-01-2015, 02:50 PM   #28
3 Rivet Member
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1958 22' Caravanner
not shared , Nebraska
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 166
nearlyretire: Females are teachable. 20 years USAF officer. Most guys just want to know what time it is- not how to build the clock. You can become the clock builder. If you depend on this forum you'll remain a novice and will read 7 to 18 eMails per day. Not all knowledge is available and some subjects you may wait a long time before they are addressed. You'll be well prepared if you can hook up with some Airstreamers via eMail. You'll become expert if you get the phone number of an Airstreamer who has over 100,000 miles under the belt, towed in most US states in all weather and all over Europe for 5 years, had multiple rigs, has a strong background in military vehicle maintenance and years at Sears Automotive, and remodeled 2 houses from ground up. Go private to BigButtUgly. You have not yet started at square one.

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