My first introduction to camping as a child was in a then brand-new Airstream Overlander owned by friends of my family -- it set my standard for camping/travel and I have never truly been satisfied with the other options that came between that day and the day when I pruchased that same Overlander in 1995.
(This was the Airstream two years after that first trip.)
The first option tried was the pickup camper. It was brand new in 1969 including the Chevrolet C-20 to carry it. This combination lasted for two years -- My father who wasn't particularly fond of camping disliked driving the truck with camper mounted and it had to be mounted to be stored in our driveway (it was a bear to park in downtown lots near his place of employment). My mother wasn't satisfied with the truck as it didn't offer the comfort and convenience of the family Oldsmobile.
(This was our short-lived 1969 SunWay Truck Camper)
The next experiment was via one of my mother's sister -- she invited us on a camping trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The mode of travel was a 1971 Vokswagen Campmobile towing a 1971 Montgomery Ward Tent-Trailer. I think that we were both relieved to return home -- the VW didn't have air conditioning and the lack of operable windows limited air flow. The tent camper took a minimum of 30-minutes to set up and was only a tiny step above a cabin tent.
(1967 Montgomery Ward Tent Camper similar to the one we used)
The next step was tent camping with our 1971 Buick Sportwagon. This option worked well, but no one in the family relished the nightly setup and the morning tear-down. We were fortunate the few years that we traveled in this manner to never have it rain while the tent was setup.
Another change came about in 1979. After less than successful experiences with tent camping, tent-trailer camping, and truck camper camping -- it was time to try another variety -- Nomad 17' travel-lite travel trailer. This trailer was special-ordered with nearly all factory offered options. This was a somewhat successful during the first season with the exception that the only car that we owned that was powerful enough to tow the coach was my '65 Dodge Coronet 500 Convertible. The second season was marred by an accident caused by a defective leafr spring mount that sheared while underway and caused a 180 degree skid -- the tow vehicle was undamaged, but the trailer had significant damage -- it was never to be used again after the insurance company repaired it and it was traded on an economy car. It did answer the question that this was the most preferred camping method by my parents and myself.
(1965 Dodge Coronet with 1979 Nomad 17' Travel Lite)
In 1983, it was time for another change that took us to a US-built conversion van (B-Camper). It was a brand-new GMC G-20 Van with Ultra Vista conversion by Compliment Vans of Iowa. This was a very comfortable long-disance travel machine, but a very inadequate camper as it featured very limited ventilation and no RV air conditioning. It did, however, prove to be very underpowered for traveling in the Rocky Mountains with its 307 cubic inch V8. This coach made two vacation trips and was traded in 1985 as no one in my family cared to drive it as daily transportation -- too many blind spots on the right side.
RVing was out during the period from 1985 through 1995. That didn't keep me from scanning every RV lot in our area looking for an older Airstream travel trailer. By 1995, it was obvious that I needed to begin the search in earnest for an Airstream. My search took me to many dealers as well as many individuals who were selling older Airstreams. I finally found one that had been advertised for nearly four months that I decided to see -- after spending the better part of an hour driving around trying to find the obscure lane that the owners lived on, it turned out to be just what I had been searching for the past three months. It had the center twins, rear bathroom. and front lounge that I remembered from my first camping trip. Less than two hours later I was placing a deposit on the trailer prior to returning home to have my '95 Chevrolet pickup prepared for towing. It wasn't until several months later that I learned that this was actually the same trailer that I had taken my first camping trip in during the summer of 1964
. Needless to say, I still own this trailer.
(1964 Overlander International with 1999 GMC K2500 Suburban -- summer 1999)
My mother said it all about a year after I purchased the Overlander when she said: "We should have purchased that trailer in 1980 when the original owners decided to retire from traveling. We could have saved a significant amount of money and had something we could enjoy for many years." My mother's health never permitted her to join me for a trip in the Overlander, but she anxiously awaited my photos whenever I returned from a trip.
There is one danger to Airstreaming -- it isn't uncommon for the only-trailer to eventually convince its owners that it needs a sibling. My '78 Argosy Minuet joined the family five years ago. It is smaller and lighter than the Overlander and is ideal for short weekend outings -- but it has been the trailer of choice for the past two International Rallys due to the distances involved.
(1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible with 1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre)
The one thing that was learned through my family's successions of RVs was that it wasn't a good idea to acquire an RV that wasn't viewed favorably by the family. It would have been much more cost effective had we purchased an Airstream in 1969 rather than the pickup camper as a full size trailer was desired by all in regard to amenities available.
As others have written, getting the family steakholders involved in the selection should help to insure satisfaction. The one great thing with an Airstream is that it could be the last RV that you need to buy as there are many 50+ year old Airstreams still being utilized on a regular basis -- the key is diligent regular service. I know of at least two Airstreams that are currently owned by the third or fourth generation of the same family.
There are several RV dealers not too far from Chicago who handle several brands of RVs including Airstream -- Ace Fogdall--Cedar Falls, Iowa; Ewald's--Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Airstream of Chicago--Chicago, Illinois, Outdoor Recreation Center--Council Bluffs, Iowa, Shorewood RV-South--Des Moines, Iowa, US Adventure RV--Davenport, Iowa, and Bill Thomas Camper Sales--Wentzville, Missouri.
Good luck with your research and welcome to the Forums!!