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Old 12-01-2012, 11:49 AM   #1
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For family of five: would you recommend Airstream trailer or RV?

My wife and I are currently trying to decide on either a trailer or an RV. We're interested in either a Airstream 345, or a 29-32' trailer.

I'd be interested to learn more about other's experiences.

We're a family of five, with three little boys - three, one and one (twins). As far as I can tell, there are pros and cons to both choices:

Easier to drive and park (I think?)
Self contained, I would not need to get a hitch/extra transmission cooler fitted to our car.


Strike me as being more spacious than the 345 model RV, especially in the bunkhouse configuration with two bedrooms.

Park the trailer, have the car for excursions.

With young kids, carseats are important. Not sure if these can even be fitted in an RV.

Does anybody have first hand experience, thoughts, suggestions? I am trying to learn as much as possible before jumping in.

Many thanks,


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Old 12-01-2012, 02:04 PM   #2
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Kanata , Ontario
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The choice will be somewhat dependent on the type of travel that you envision. Being located in Toronto and with small kids, I'll assume that you are not retired, and that the rig will only be used in the summer months. This means storage for most of the year.

A motorhome is a complicated piece of kit to have sitting for a long period of time. There are many more systems to worry about as compared with a trailer. A trailer is very simple in comparison. There's not much to go wrong over the winter provided it's winterized correctly. Indoor storage is always nice if affordable.

Another advantage of the trailer is that it's usually less money tied up for infrequent use. It's easier to swap out the trailer or the tow vehicle as family/work needs change with time.

Other considerations...if you have a motorhome then you are always tied to that one vehicle. If you want to explore, or if you want to run out for some supplies, you have to break camp. It is also more challenging to do both of these activities in a moho as compared with a TV given the size difference.

Also, the family must all want to do the same thing at the same time. With a trailer, part of the crew can stay at camp while the other part runs off in the tow vehicle for some other activity.

One last concern that I had seen raised, was in the case of repair on the road, you are stuck with no means of transportation - or a place to sleep. We have brake problems with our tow vehicle our first trip out. While the van was in the shop, the family relaxed in the trailer - had lunch, played cards, had a nap, etc. With a motorhome, there are fewer options.

Now of course many of these points are moot if you pull a toad...which is why people pull toads!

PS - We have one of the 2005 bunkhouse models that work great for the family. Plenty of storage, and great space for both Mom and Dad - and the kids.

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Old 12-01-2012, 03:30 PM   #3
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For family of five: would you recommend Airstream trailer or RV?

Greetings Andy!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Airstreaming!

The question of Motorhome or travel trailer is largely a personal one, but you might want to consider some of the following issues:
  • Motorhome
    • An Airstream 345 Motorhome is going to be twenty or more years old with mechanicals of the same age.
      • While most mechanical parts remain readily available, it can be difficult to find a mechanic who is either qualified or interested in working on Vintage Airstream 345 Mechanicals.
      • If the motor has not been replaced or rebuilt in the last ten years, it may be a major expense waiting to happen. Life in a motorhome is not easy for the 7.4 Liter GM V8, and with any deferred maintenance by a prior owner, breakdowns/failures can become problematic.
      • The Turbohydramatic 400 automatic transmission is very durable, but it does require more frequent regular maintenance when asked to do duty in a motorhome. My 1975 Cadillac has a variant of this transmission and it requires transmission fluid changes every 24,000 miles when used to tow either of my Airstreams.
      • Brakes and tires can become major expenses particularly when the motorhome is only used sparingly and replacements become necessary due to age rather than use.
      • Off season storage can pose a number of issues such as making arrangements to start and run the rig on a regular basis . . . or placing it into dead storage with upper cylinder lubricants and fuel stabilizers.
      • Most (if not all) Airstream motorhomes also have generators on board which adds another motor and associated devices to maintain.
      • With your small children, you may also run into difficulty finding appropriate means of securing child safety seats in an Airstream motorhome as most were designed with traveling couples in mind with some having seat belts for no more than four persons . . . and I suspect that weren't any of the special tethering points for child safety seats that we have come to expect in modern automobiles.
      • Sightseeing once at a destination can be a real chore if one doesn't also tow a car behind the motorhome as sightseeing with a motorhome can provide limits when trying to visit certain historic sites or sites in congested city locations.
  • Travel Trailer
    • An Airstream travel trailer with adequate sleeping accommodations for both present and future needs will likely be easier to locat than a Vintage Airstream motorhome. There were six sleepler floorplans offered in several models between 25-feet and 30-feet.
      • An adequate tow vehicle is a must, and that does open a certain realm of decisions that must be made:
        • Compromise in terms of brute trailer towing ability or solo fuel consumption concerns.
        • Compromise between passenger comfort or the ability to haul dirty/awkward cargo with ease (Suburban/SUV opposed to a pickup truck).
        • A dedicated tow vehicle that will be used only as a tow vehicle or a vehicle that will be used for both towing and solo transportation when at home base.
        • New or pre-owned. Shopping for a pre-owned vehicle for towing use can be complicated by the need for particular towing options such as differential gears . . . something that can be changed but at a degree of expense.
      • Since travel trailers were produced in significantly higher numbers than the Vintage motorhomes, you will find a much greater selection of a particular model or floorplan in most instances.
      • It will be possible to find a much newer Airstream travel trailer that may require little if any work to be ready for your next long trip . . . not to say that a road-ready Vintage Motorhome can't be found -- the search is likely to be a little more difficult.
Most of us have strong preferences in the choice between a motorhome and a travel trailer. I have considered a motorhome on two occassions, and chose to stay with my travel trailer as I much prefer the ability to change tow vehicles with minimal hassle, and I don't like the idea of mechanics wandering through my living area when the motor/transmission require repairs or maintenance.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:41 PM   #4
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Get a 34 footer!


Do you already have a tow vehicle? Is that an issue? If not, I'd say get a 34 foot triple axle, newer than a 1985. You can buy them reasonably, they have lots of room, and they tow nicely. You'll just need a 3/4 ton truck to tow it with.

I tow a "Silver Sister" in that it is an Avion. Mine is a 1987 34 foot triple axle. They tow very nicely; track straight as an arrow. You wouldn't go wrong with either a 34' Avion or a 34' Airstream.

Get yourself a mid 90's Airstream 34 footer and have some fun!

See you on the road,
- Jim
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Old 12-01-2012, 06:11 PM   #5
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Life is full of decisions and compromises and RVing is certainly no exception. If you are completely new to this it is great to ask a lot of questions and sort out the opinions that seem to fit your idea of how you want to use your RV. Go forward with the expectation that your 1st trailer or motorhome will likely be a learning experience that may fit the bill or may not be what you had 1st envisioned. If you can rent a motorhome for a vacation, that might be a good place to start. Renting a trailer may depend on what you already have to tow it and how it is already equipped.

One thing to keep in mind is whichever way you decide, you will be towing something. A trailer obviously needs a tow vehicle capable of toting the family and towing the load. You may or may not already have that. An adequate weight distributing hitch and sway control and a brake controller is also on the list of must have equipment. A motor home will inevitably tow another vehicle, preferably one that also can tote the family. Ideally it will be one of the models that can be towed with 4 wheels on the ground or be modified so that it can. It also needs a brake system controlled by the motor home.

Many of us have a definite preference for either a motorhome or a trailer. Then each side can further be divided into large or small models. All have valid opinions and the reason they are happy is that what they have works for them. Many good points have already been made here by others, and many more will certainly come. Just look forward to many great trips you will take with your children and enjoy the sights and places you've yet to visit.
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Old 12-01-2012, 06:43 PM   #6
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Everyone has gave you a ton to think about! But heres another point, and the reason my grandparents chose a trailer over a RV:
An RV is considered a full fledged vehicle, meaning your insurance and plates will cost more. Assuming your not retired and have full time jobs that offer a couple weeks vacation per year means itll only be used a few times per summer. Thats automatically at least $100 per year in renewing your plates! Then insurance is another story. Its $40 a month on my trailer with $10,000 total loss coverage. Not sure what a RV would be.

And the big reason Id choose a trailer over a RV: gas mileage! I have a big honkin 460 in my tow vehicle. Similar to whats in an Airstream RV (454) but I retained 9.5 mpg on a 400 mile trip. Im sure an RV would get worse, but my truck is a bad example. I get 12 mpg on a good day not towing!
No Airstream Yet...
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Old 12-01-2012, 07:14 PM   #7
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Car seats and little ones are very important. They are difficult enough to set up correctly in a car or SUV. I do not think it could be done without some imaginative modifications in an older motor home.
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:28 PM   #8
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First, welcome to the forum, you have come to the best place for information on everything AS related. Before you spend the big bucks, I would recommend that you rent a few Class A and TTs to see what fits your camping style best. While you probably won't find any Airstreams to rent, this should give you some insight into the basic differences between these two option. Have fun on your search, and keep asking questions!
Scott, Becky & Heidi (our standard poodle and travel companion)
WBCCI #1215
Air #54601

Remember... No matter where you go, there you are...

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Old 12-02-2012, 03:32 AM   #9
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I think I can give a good perspective here since I have both a trailer and a motorhome and travel with my wife and two boys (three has added complexity, for sure).

There are advantages and disadvantages to both as have been already pointed out in this thread. That's why I have both. So, I'll try to give a perspective from how my family uses both.

The motorhome:
This is great when ON the road. I'm not sure what the kid seat laws are in Canada, and they vary somewhat by state in the USA, but where we live, so long as the "occupant" (kids included) are not on the driver's platform, then they not required to have any restraint. There are seat belts on the front couch, but this means someone is facing sideways to the direction of travel. Most kid seat owners manuals will tell you to never secure a kid seat sideways. So, the motorhome is nice going down the road because the kids can move around, lay down (so can mom!), watch TV, go to the bathroom, get drinks and food, etc. etc. We do not pull a toad with ours as I feel the old 454 has enough work just getting the motorhome around. That being said, when we get to our destination, we're pretty much there unless we can ride our bikes to where we want to go or else we disconnect and drive the moho. We choose to take the moho on a trip when we're a) moving everyday or b) know we're going somewhere that we will not need to leave the campground (i.e. a rally).

The trailer:
Ours is a 27' with two fold-out double beds. Honestly, the mid twins would have been better for the boys because when they have to sleep in the same bed, they just fight with each other for an hour before going to sleep. But, we need/want the closet space that having the mid-double affords. As mentioned before, a trailer is nice when you want to leave the campground and go places. The camper is really more of a hotel for you. The trailer is nice as well because then I have the tow vehicle that I can carry things which are wet, dirty, and anything that I do not want inside the trailer. It makes it tougher to carry bikes though since Airstreams (typically) do not recommend putting bikes on the back. There are a number of threads on the forums discussing how and where to carry bikes on/in your Airstream or tow vehicle. The kids must be strapped into their car seats and are thereby stuck with their drink bottle, a handheld game thing, and the hang-on-the-front-seatback DVD players. They travel pretty good that way, but they get restless eventually. That never happens in the moho.

In the end, if I had to chose one, it would be the trailer, hands down. The moho is nice to have sometimes and it's kinda rare and classic. It's nice to have the ability to have both. But, it's extra money (license, insurance, maintenance) whether it gets used or not. And, being that it's 35 years old, there's the constant fear of "what's gonna break next?" Luckily for me, all major breakdowns have happened at home. I think all the kinks are worked out now, but she surprises me every now and then. I do carry Good Sam emergency roadside service.
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Old 12-02-2012, 07:19 AM   #10
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Very well done, above.

Even a brand-new motorhome is expensive, both in ownership and operational expense. Will never come close to a TT in this.

Second, an A/S is pretty much a permanent acquisition . . that's hard to say with a motorhome due to complexity and increasing unreliability as time goes on.

My folks had a moho for a time. Then bought their Silver Streak and kept it another twenty-seven years. It is still on the road with another owner.
1990 35' Silver Streak Sterling; 9k GVWR.
2004 DODGE Cummins 305/555; 6-manual; 9k GVWR.
Hensley Arrow. 10-cpm solo, 18-cpm towing
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Old 12-02-2012, 07:31 PM   #11
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Thank you all for your insightful, and extremely helpful, comments. It is really only after reading through this thread that I realize how little information I gave you guys. Apologies.

Having gone through all of your comments it looks like the trailer is the way to go for us.

I sometimes get seduced by the romance of old vehicles, without giving much thought to practicality. When I lived in the UK during my 20's I fell in love with and drove vintage Land Rover trucks. When my wife and I first started dating we took one of them across the Pyrenees from France to Spain, following shepherd trails across the mountains. But what was an exciting adventure then - "honey, looks like the axle broke but we've got a spare" - would be a major pain with three kids for sure.

What we are really looking for, at least until the boys are older, is a summer home, or cottage as we call it up here, on wheels. Chances are we'd park the trailer by a lake for the summer, then spend our weekends there. Come fall, it will get stored for the winter. I've already found reasonably priced winter storage about an hour's drive away from Toronto.

As the boys get older, we'd love to use it for vacation travel as well. We've got a tow vehicle that also works as a daily driver, with safe seats for the kids and ample space for luggage. It all makes sense.

Still, I can't help wanting one of these old RVs. They look just so darn nice. Maybe one day we'll do what WineStream did and get one of each.

Thanks again everybody for your kindness and generosity.
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Old 12-03-2012, 05:44 AM   #12
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You know, I've followed this without adding my two cents, but.....

Our first RV was a 77 Barth, which we put many miles on with our first couple of Grandkids. We had the most wonderful time in that old thing, finally selling it for pennies because it was just not roadworthy for extended trips. And, we were retiring and looking forward to extended trips.

There is no good way to restrain children in a motor home, IMO. We used the existing seat belts, but they are worth nothing more than slight security. In our Interstate, the belts are some better but not like the protection a regulation car seat provided. We do have the benefit of Doug-the-driver, who is the safest and most defensive driver I have ever known.

Still, the Grandkids could color, work puzzles, read/be read to, etc., at the dinette while we were driving, not to mention have snacks, juice, lunch, hugs & kisses, etc., easily provided by Grandma. They LOVED it, and we loved it, and we continue this today with the Interstate.

That said, I really abhor the idea of small children spending hours, day after day, strapped tightly into a car seat. It is too restrictive on so many levels.

Ideally, driving will be limited and fun/exploring/adventure will be plentiful.

Have a great time, and will look for you on the road. There are lots of families out there, taking advantage of whatever fortune they have found that lets them see the country with their children. Lots of home schoolin' goin' on.

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚❤️
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Old 12-03-2012, 01:03 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by andreasduess View Post
But what was an exciting adventure then - "honey, looks like the axle broke but we've got a spare" - would be a major pain with three kids for sure.
LOL! That's awesome. I can see my wife being about the same, but yeah, would suck with kids. Not something you want to happen to the Airstream on the way to vacation. I'm impressed you had a spare AXLE!
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Old 12-04-2012, 08:39 PM   #14
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Small thought for you.

An AS trailer is easy to tow confidently. That can't be said for any old trailer. With a nice TV and hitch, you will find that a AS trailer adds no significant stress to your driving. Hard to believe, but true. My wife can drive our rig with great confidence - much to the surprise of most other friends we have in the AS world where it tends to be "men only" drivers.

I think it looks intimidating if you haven't done it, but it really works out to be a pleasure.

And finally, trailers have a certain something - that is magic!

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