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Old 04-10-2019, 11:50 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
Turners Falls , Massachusetts
Join Date: Apr 2019
Posts: 16
Newbie: big or small?!

Hi! I am very new and despite having done a lot of research so far, I thought I'd ask you kind folks some questions.
I am in my early thirties leaving a very stressful job for the past 8 years. I am seeking a life change and have decided to go the way of rehabbing an airstream and heading west to volunteer at national parks (etc..).

I have thought long and hard and have been doing budgeting, research, etc. I think that I am a personable person who would enjoy the lifestyle and meeting new people.

My main concern right now is size. Since this would be just me and my two cats and I would be living in it for extended periods of time (move only 3-4 times a year?) I am drawn towards the bigger airstreams. I am seeing a 77 Sovereign Land Yacht this weekend that appears to be in a great shape with a friend who has experience rebuilding campers.

Since I only intend to tow this a few times a year, and having one so big could potentially pose a problem to myself as a single person with not a lot of experience, I was thinking that I could get friends to take vacation to travel with me (fun... and hopefully not too harrowing...road trip)

I want to live in this full time for the next foreseeable future with my two cats, and anything smaller than 20 feet seems way too small for that. I'd like input if going so large for a first time AS owner is a huge mistake ... or ..hopefully not!
Thanks everyone
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Old 04-11-2019, 12:09 AM   #2
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1980 24' Caravelle
vallejo , California
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 267
welcome, your choice of 27-30 ft i think is great. you get a separate bedroom and living space. this gives you (and cats) more room to move around. as far as to towimg;the longer trailer is easier to tow and back-up. getting use to the length just takes some practice. i would get a 30 ft one,but it won't fit in my driveway. good luck and keep us updated on your progress. kurt
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Old 04-11-2019, 07:22 AM   #3
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2006 23' Safari SE
I'm In , Kentucky
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Hi Jsilverlight, welcome to the forums and greetings from central Kentucky.

My wife and I travel in our 23' and are pretty comfortable with the size. I didn't want anything much smaller and my tow vehicle (TV) limits us to the 23' AS. My wife has her "duties" when we arrive or depart but I'm able to get everything hooked/unhooked by myself. I am the shuttle to the storage lot.

Another reason for the used 23' is I had read that within the first couple of years of ownership you either sell (because it's not your lifestyle) or you change the size, larger or smaller. So I didn't want to buy new and then take a beating if I had to sell it. The 23' is very easy to travel with and makes easy overnight stops. I've seen plenty of people with large trailers or 5th wheels spend a half hour to an hour trying to get their rig situated. Our 23' has a fold out couch in the front so it's easy to sleep 2-3, depending on how "friendly" you want to be with your companion. If you are not going to travel very often you should probably go with a longer one so you have room. Shorter ones make moving around the country easier, longer ones for more room when staying in a spot for long periods, just my thoughts.

Prior to the AS I had pulled my 17' boat, some box trailers and a couple of tractor trailers. I've been able to back into parking spots without too much trouble. When I took our AS home for the first time I was nervous because I had never pulled anything that big with my 4Runner, but after the first 50 miles I settled down.

If I were to change the size I would go with a 27' AS. That would give us the extra room and it would still be an easy tow 'n park. We have no plans to change anytime soon because the TV would have to be changed too.

Good luck in your search and new life, may you find peace.
Rich & Yvonne
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Old 04-11-2019, 07:40 AM   #4
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1959 26' Overlander
Western , Massachusetts
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Welcome to the forums!

I'd recommend checking out different sizes in person. You can start by touring our 26' Overlander less than 1/2 hour from Turner's Falls.

See your personal message for contact info.

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Old 04-11-2019, 09:19 AM   #5
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I’d suggest for full timing you’d be happiest with one of the wide body units. That’s 25’ and up. Since not too many Airstreams have pop-outs that extra foot of width really makes a difference. At least the modern ones also tend to have their bathrooms midships which makes for lots of windows at both ends. I’m not an Airstream historian so I’m not sure what year that became a thing.
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Old 04-11-2019, 09:19 AM   #6
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IMO 23 to 25 feel is a livable size - easy tow, parking, maintaining and finding sites to handle it. The challenge over 25 feet is finding a site to handle over 25 feet and Mobility (that is backing up, setting up etc.), keep in mind that the bigger you are to more work involved in all aspects. We went from 16 feet to 25 feet which was an eye opener.
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Old 04-11-2019, 10:15 AM   #7
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2003 25' Classic
Carlsbad , CA
Join Date: Feb 2019
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Originally Posted by JSilverlight View Post volunteer at national parks...
A lot of National Parks have very small campsites, we barely got our 25' Classic into a fairly large site (relatively speaking) at Joshua Tree NP a couple of weeks ago. Not sure if others would agree but 25 and under is generally going to work out better at a variety of campsites, particularly National Parks sites... Various campgrounds cap trailer lengths, sometimes even less than 25'

Good luck!!
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Old 04-11-2019, 10:27 AM   #8
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2015 30' International
Dixon , California
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If you plan on volunteering in California State Parks, check on the maximum sizes at parks you are interested in. Good luck on your life change! Work stress is no laughing matter!
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Old 04-11-2019, 10:28 AM   #9
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Olympia , Washington
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I'll tell you what a multi-decade AS executive told me when I was shopping for an AS several years ago:

"If you want twin beds, get a 25 (because it has better storage); if you want a queen bed, get a 27 (because of the north/south layout of the bed)."

We got a 27, which has worked remarkably well for us (an ol-fogey couple & their Great Dane).
Richard Wills, Olympia, WA --- WBCCI 8873, WL7Z
"Aurum": 2018 Ram/Cummins 3500
"Argentum": 2016 AS FC 27 FB
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Old 04-11-2019, 10:54 AM   #10
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2019 30' Flying Cloud
Montréal , QC
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Flying Cloud 30FB Bunk

Flying Cloud 30FB Bunk

I just went full time 2 months ago. I went with the Flying Cloud 30 FB Bunk for several reasons.

The flying cloud because it's a time tested interior. The 30ft because I wanted room. It has two bedrooms. One of them will eventually come out and I will make it into a den/computer room/ lounge. 2 AC units because if one of them fails I have a backup. 50 Amp service so I don't have to compromise. Big fridge and big tanks. Again for creature comforts.

At 30 feet I'm really not that long. I can get in to 95% of National parks etc.
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Old 04-11-2019, 11:19 AM   #11
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Jim Falls , Wisconsin
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I would go 27’ to 30’. We have a 28’ for my wife, me, and the dog. I don’t think I’d want to go smaller. And I agree the wider is better.

The big thing you MUST remember. AS’s are not suitable for cold weather. If you are going to be living in an area where it’s going to be close to freezing a great deal of the time be prepared to really suck up the LP gas in your furnace. You should check out if the campsite you stay at allows for a larger tank hook up. Otherwise you will be spending lots of money for LP for the smaller size tanks. One April we went to Indiana and it was unusually cold at night for most of the week. We spent $80 on LP for that week, and most days it was in the 40’s.

Also if you are going to be in a camping area that is warmer you will need two AC units for a larger AS. And I would definitely consider heat pumps as well.

But just remember AS’s are not year round campers. They are fair weather campers. If you want to have a year round camper that will take the winter I would NOT get an Airstream. There are other choices.
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Old 04-11-2019, 11:54 AM   #12
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2019 27' Globetrotter
Driftless Area , Wisconsin
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I’m a newbie as well and have come to believe that on this topic (and many other frequently-discussed topics on these forums) there is no universal answer. A lot will depend on your expectations and preferences for travel.

I’m traveling with my family (two kids, wife will join us from time to time) for four months. Dogs will eventually join us but not on the trip this summer. So a 16’ was out of the question. I went with a 27’ which seems huge to me, and it turns out it is. I’d say we use about 3/4 of the storage space. Turns out we pack light and don’t need a lot to feel super comfortable. I’m sure we’ll eventually take over those empty storage areas, so I don’t feel like I overbought on the trailer and have zero regrets. But I am confident that we could have made a 25’ work if we wanted to.

But there are couples (or solo folks) who completely fill a 30’ and wish for more space. And couples that I know who have been traveling for 5-6 months or more in a 4x4 van. My point is that the size varies widely.

The larger trailers require a bigger tow vehicle but provide, as mentioned above, more room for consumables—propane, water and waste tanks, and more roof space for solar. They asre subject to some (but not as many as often mentioned here) restrictions in parks, particularly as you look southwest, but for reference I’m visiting 14 national parks in the US and Canada next summer with my huge 27’ Airstream and crew cab 4x4 F-250 and got reservations in every single one without issues (though some specific campgrounds would not accommodate our rig). 25’ seems to be the largest “go-almost-anywhere” trailer if you want to stay in national parks.

I spent a lot of time on my shakedown trip watching folks with large trailers themselves spend a lot of time managing their stuff. They seemed to be working hard setting stuff up or packing stuff away while I was sitting by the fire. No judgements—they’re welcome to do whatever they want—just an observation.

Let me suggest renting a few trailers for your first few trips? It’s quite an investment and it would be good to make a good decision once rather than have to revisit a suboptimal decision. Focus on what you need to take with you to be content. That, more than subjective and arbitrary notions of “how much space someone needs” will tell you a lot. In our case we’ve car-camped and traveled extensively, and our 27’ Airstream seems absolutely ginormous and luxurious to us. We’ll see how we feel after 4 months in the thing, but I feel great about our selection. If it was just me or my wife and I, I’d have a 23-25 footer at most and a smaller tow vehicle.
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Old 04-11-2019, 12:07 PM   #13
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2007 22' International CCD
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Newbie: big or small?!

Trailer size is real subjective. We have a 22 footer with dual axles. Travel with 4-5 smallish dogs and up to 3 adults. Works for us, but others would find it too small. Renting if possible, and sitting and ‘simulated living’ in several models and sizes at a dealer with a lot of stock, including used ones, is a darn good idea before you buy.
Rich, KE4GNK/AE, Overkill Engineering Dept.
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Old 04-11-2019, 12:33 PM   #14
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2015 27' Flying Cloud
Conroe , Texas
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 278
Pay attention to floor plans

Floor Plans are important consideration !!
We have a 27’ Front Bedroom Flying Cloud. We like this floor plan because:
1) Queen size North to South Bed
2) Bed End tables on each side
3) where we sit most of the time is at the diner table which is in the back - so backed into say a beautiful lake site we are looking at the lake - not my truck

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Old 04-11-2019, 01:06 PM   #15
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2000 34' Excella
Somewhere , Earth
Join Date: Jun 2018
Posts: 58
Life Change

Originally Posted by JSilverlight View Post
I want to live in this full time for the next foreseeable future with my two cats, and anything smaller than 20 feet seems way too small for that. I'd like input if going so large for a first time AS owner is a huge mistake ... or ..hopefully not!
Thanks everyone
We have been living full-time in an Airstream we partially refurbished for the last 6 months, and it has worked well for us so far.

After a lot of research and driving from one side of the country to the other looking at Airstreams, we settled on a 2000 model with a few scratches and dents, which the previous owners had for 14 years. It's a triple axle 34', and the exterior dings are due to the way these trailers swing wide in the rear when turning. I am comfortable with it now, but it is a big, heavy and awkward trailer to tow.

My brother had a 2015 23' International Serenity, which was very easy to tow and would work well for a single person or couple using it for shorter periods. However, as others have said, if you will primarily be stationary a bit bigger would make it a lot more comfortable living full-time.

Even though the 34' is comparatively roomy, we did completely remove the front couch and cabinets, adding a U-shaped couch with a table in the center, which allowed more storage of lighter items underneath. We also removed the dinette, adding a full sized desk in it's place. These two changes makes longer term use of the Airstream more manageable for us.

We also built an enclosure for a washer/dryer combo, installed a composting toilet allowing the black and grey tanks to be combined, replaced the AC, installed 3 motorized MaxFans in place of the existing fans, installed Pergo hardwood flooring, painted the walls, painted the roof with BusKote...and so forth. A lot more than we intended, but once we started we kept seeing more that we wanted to do. Since it is a fairly recent model, the interior cosmetic upgrades and replacing the tires and shocks is all we needed to do, but it still took us about 4 months.

Keep that in mind when considering how much work your chosen trailer will need. If you are buying an older model, there are a long list of non-cosmetic things that you may need to address, so make sure you have the skills to tackle such a project, or have the funds to pay someone who does. Most of it was new to me so some of the work is amateurish, but it was only cosmetic and we don't plan to sell the trailer, so it doesn't matter.

As for living in colder climates, it is workable for short periods, but you will burn a lot of propane. We have been in snow and freezing temps in the mountains of Arizona, California and in Montana, and at times went thru a tank every 2 days. We haven't had any issues yet, but there are certain precautions you have to take, which you can read about at length on these forums...

Good luck with your decision making process, and hopefully this has been of some benefit.
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Old 04-11-2019, 01:12 PM   #16
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Walnut Creek , California
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Renovate an AS. That is a mega project. Many folks with big coaches choose a small one to renovate because smaller is less work.

The 29-31s are available used and often not at a big cost, but the renovation can be long and expensive if there are significant issues from leaks and neglect.

Look very hard to find the unicorn that deos not require structural repairs.

Depending on your budget, there are three options:

1) Get a Bambi .... hard to find, but cute, easy to tow and will fit is any available NP site.

2) Get a dual axel 23 ..... big enough and small enough ..... going to be an issue as to price as many are newer, but shop smart for best value.

3) Get a 27 ..... best solution for comfort and space. It's on the large size, but with some accomodation it works. Send a private message to Rocianti. They have been doing the deal. Hosted at Glacier last year, looked at a 23, and still have the 27.

Note - the Bambi is hard to find for a price that is low. Look at a Casita. Purchase for poor condition Bambi price and sell for not much loss if you find it's not a solution.

Note - you could pay a professional to tow the coach for you. Twice a year would be less expensive for that solution and distance has an impact.

Note - start your research on the right tow vehicle now. You may or may not choose to pull the trigger, but you need a day to day vehicle and a dual purpose solution may impact your trailer choice.

Note - an Airstream is not a four season trailer. Consider how to address and mitigate to support your plan.

Note - NPs do not require that you own an Airstream. However, they do get you a lot of smiles. Pat
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Old 04-11-2019, 01:34 PM   #17
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2010 25' FB Flying Cloud
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Check out the 25' twin. It has the N/S bed and is very easy to tow and great storage.
My wife and I went from a 30 ft to a 25 and love it. Orginally it was a queen and converted to twin. We also took out the bench by the door and added a swivel recliner. Check out those mods by different posters.

.Check out the blogs by Moosetag
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Old 04-11-2019, 04:02 PM   #18
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Another thing to keep in mind: whatever your tow vehicle is will also be your daily driver. A longer Airstream will require a pickup, or pickup-based tow vehicle. Of course, that gets you the truck bed for extra stuff, but that also means that you will be taking all of that with you to Wal-Mart. A shorter Airstream is lighter, so it can be towed by more vehicles. Again, the tow vehicle will also have to hold all of the stuff that doesn't fit in the Airstream.

Smaller Airstreams often have smaller tanks than larger ones. Most, but not all, campground hosts sites have full hookups, so that isn't an issue.

Everything is a compromise. So far, no one has created a 20' trailer with the space of a 34' one.
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Old 04-11-2019, 04:16 PM   #19
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2007 22' International CCD
Corona , California
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Newbie: big or small?!

At least not until Airstream starts building a Tardis model. That one has an Olympic size swimming pool in one of its many interconnected rooms.

Can’t resist a “Dr. Who” reference here...
Rich, KE4GNK/AE, Overkill Engineering Dept.
'The Silver HamShack' ('07 International 22FB CCD 75th Anniversary)
Multiple Yaesu Ham Radios inside and many antennae sprouting from roof, ProPride hitch, Prodigy P2 controller.
2012 shortbed CrewMax 4x4 Toyota Tacoma TV with more antennae on it.
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Old 04-11-2019, 06:22 PM   #20
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2014 23' Flying Cloud
2015 28' Flying Cloud
Laguna Niguel , California
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 59
Go BIG or stay home. Just get a a good tow vehicle and after few miles you'll be just fine. My first was a 23' 9 months later I switched to a 28' and travel with dogs. Now if I had cats I would want something as big as possible, maybe they would find their own spot to hang out. You will all enjoy the adventure.
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