Making an Airstream a Home

When we decided to purchase an Airstream, we chose to purchase new as opposed to renovating an old one. Actually, renovating wasn’t even a discussion, for many reasons: 1) We didn’t have the time to renovate; 2) We didn’t have the space to renovate; 3) We didn’t have the skills to renovate; and 4) We legitimately love the clean, modern interiors of the new Airstreams, especially the Internationals. The only drawback of purchasing new, as far as interior design goes, is that the new trailers don’t have the homey feel of the renovated ones. Over the past few months, we’ve been making sure to add personal touches to make our Airstream feel like home. We recently made some modifications to our International Signature that add comfort and warmth to the clean, modern feel.

The Dinette – BEFORE
The Dinette – AFTER

As you can see from the above photos, we changed out the curtains and table, as well as added sconces to the puck lights above the table.

We had the curtains made by Carey Boland of AirDrapes. The four panels with tiebacks for the dinette area in a 27FB cost $780. See the closeup below to see the beautiful herringbone pattern.

As we are currently in our home town, we looked to two family businesses to get the table made. My mom’s cousins own Smith Builders, and they had their cabinet guy make the table ($50). My uncle owns Wirtz Painting, and he stained and sealed the table for us ($50). It’s possible we got family discounts, so don’t quote us on the price. We absolutely love the new table! The color matches the dark finish of the cabinets perfectly.

We purchased the telescoping pedestal ($438) from Silver Trailer Supply, though I wouldn’t recommend ordering from them as we had a few issues. We really didn’t care for the flip-up table leg on the old table as it didn’t feel very stable, and the table even collapsed once while towing. The telescoping pedestal is easy to use with air-powered height adjustment and comes with all of the hardware needed to attach the table top to the pedestal and the pedestal to the floor.

Helpful Hint: When putting the table down to use the dinette as a bed, the table no longer swings out and away from the wall, but goes directly down. This means that the size of the table top needs to be smaller than the original or else it won’t be able to retract completely due to the inward slope of the wall of the trailer. The original table top was 37″ x 39″ and we made the new table top 37″ x 35″. We have about a 4″ gap between the edge of the table and the wall now, which we actually prefer to the table being right up against the wall.

Throw pillows are from Target

We ordered the sconces from EzClipse. They’re technically made to spice up recessed lighting, but they work well with the under cabinet puck lights too. To install, I just attached three small magnets on the cabinet around the light and attached the sconce to the magnets.

Another change we made a few months back was to replace the accordion dividers with curtains. The curtains are actually shower curtains from the Target. We purchased the sliding eyes and the hooks from Amazon, and removed the clamps from the hooks.

We did a few things in the bedroom to make it as comfortable as possible. First, we bought extra deep sheets and memory foam mattress toppers from AB Lifestyles. Then, we bought the comforters, Euro pillows, and throw pillows from Pottery Barn Kids. Anyone who has visited us as commented on how comfy the beds both look and feel. We added a little ‘bunk bed’ for Max by cutting a piece of 3/4″ plywood to fit under the mattresses, stained it, and then added his Petsmart ED by Ellen Degeneres bed on top. Since the photo directly below was taken, we’ve also added a Crosley Keepsake turntable, a succulent (real one replaced by a fake one), and a shadowbox frame of our golden doodle, Ace, who is no longer with us. The geometric planter is from Wildwood Lettering on Etsy and the shadow box is from Social Print Studio, where I get all of my Insta pics printed.

And then of course, PICTURES! We’ve been able to add in a few pictures here and there from our travels as well as our life in San Diego. The picture/plant holder below was purchased at The Queen Bee Market in Del Mar, California from Wildflower California and the delicous-smelling candle is by Paddywax but purchased at the cutest little shop in La Jolla, California called Hi Sweetheart (definitely check it out if you’re ever in the neighborhood). P.S. The plant is a horsetail palm.

Good Vibes frame from Target. Picture frames from Michaels.

We also displayed photos using magnets on the wall pockets from The Container Store, which we use to hold some of our vinyl albums. The faux fur blanket Max is lying on is a favorite in a our house, which is why we have three — one for each of us! They can be found at Restoration Hardware.

And lastly, we collect pins along our travels and display them on cork strips that we’ve mounted in the dinette area using 3M tape. Just a little something to remind us where we’ve been! Cork strips purchased on Amazon.

 

 

Our First 109 Days

I meant to write this post on our 100th day of full-time travel, which was April 24th, but as tends to happen, we got busy and I just didn’t get around to it soon enough, so 109 days will have to work. There are a lot of people out there considering the full-time travel lifestyle or those that are fairly new to it, like us, so I thought I’d share what we’ve learned thus far. Although, I’ve got to be honest – 109 days in and we don’t feel like newbies, even a little bit. It’s amazing how easy it was to adjust to life on the road and how quickly our Airstream began to feel like home.

Things We Thought Would Be Hard and Scary Aren’t So Hard and Scary:

  • Figuring Out How Everything Works: There are a lot of things that make an Airstream function properly and we got a brief, incredibly overwhelming introduction to them during our walkthrough when we picked the trailer up from the dealership. That was five months before we actually hit the road, so we Googled and YouTubed everything when it came time to travel. Don’t worry – everybody does it. It’s how you learn. You also learn by asking questions of those that are more experienced than yourself. The Airstream Addicts Facebook page and the Air Forum website are great places to get additional information (just know you’ll find lots of opinions there too). Also, the Airstream Instagram community is pretty great as well.
  • Emptying the Black Tank Isn’t That Bad: While it’s still gross, mainly just because of the odor, it really isn’t as awful as we thought it would be. Just be smart. Only use RV-friendly toilet paper and always drop a tank treatment packet in each time it’s emptied. We empty it about once a week and always give it a good flushing with the hose.
  • Hitching Up: This was probably the scariest thing for us. If you screw up hitching up, you can cause serious damage to your trailer and your tow vehicle. Go slow, have two sets of eyes on everything, and YouTube what needs to be YouTubed until you don’t need to YouTube anymore. A lot of people have checklists, but both of us knowing what needs to be done and double checking everything before we take off seems to work just fine for us.
  • Towing: You know how I said hitching up was probably the scariest for us? Well, I lied. Towing is scary, but it’s a lot less scary now after doing it for over 3000 miles. Unfortunately, the things that make it scariest (other drivers) are out of our control. People will constantly pass you on the highway – get used to it and don’t let it distract you. They’ll cut you off. They’ll sit in your blindspot. For anyone out there who has never known the fear of towing a 28′ trailer — be considerate and give these vehicles lots of space. Also, you will most likely learn to hate semi drivers. Travis has done all of the towing so far. I plan to get behind the wheel at some point, because we think it’s important for both of us to be able to do it. When purchasing a tow vehicle, get every option available to make towing easier. With our Ford F-150, the trailer break and blind spot monitoring are essential. Some people may feel the Trailer Backup Assist is too, but we’ve never used it.
  • Backing Up: Here’s the thing about backing up – it hurts your brain – but once you’ve figured out which direction and how far to turn the wheel, it’s easy enough. Speed is your enemy. Go slow and make small adjustments along the way so you don’t get yourself in a situation that’s hard to get out of. Figure out if hand signals or walkie-talkies or using driver side/passenger side versus left/right works for you and go with it. And never, ever get mad at your partner for the words that come out of their mouth while backing up the trailer. By the way, we opt for the pull-throughs when available.

Things We’ve Learned About Our Airstream:

  • Many people will tell you to buy a used Airstream that’s a few years old so that all of the issues have been worked out of it. We felt it was important to buy new so that we knew exactly what the trailer has been through and how it’s been maintained. Just as buying new doesn’t guarantee everything is going to be perfect, buying used doesn’t guarantee all of the kinks will be worked out.
  • Smoke Detector: Super sensitive. As in, ‘I’m just trying to make some toast in the toaster but the smoke alarm goes off ‘ sensitive. The vent hood gets turned on whenever anything is cooked and we put a shower cap over the smoke detector until the cooking is done. Of course, we never, ever leave the trailer when the stove or oven is on and we always remove the shower cap immediately.
  • Fresh Water Tank: The fresh water tank is literally under lock and key as you need to unlock a small access door in order to fill it. Our fresh water tank, however, likes to fill on its own while we’re hooked up to city water. This apparently is an issue many Airstreamers encounter and is due to a faulty valve on the autofill relay (whatever that means). We know how to temporarily remedy the issue, but will have it looked at at some point in the future. It’s important to check the level of your tanks regularly. If you notice your supposedly empty freshwater tank is taking on water or is full, turn the city water off at the spigot. Turn the water pump on and use up the water that’s in the fresh water tank. You can then turn the city water back on and hopefully the issue is corrected. I know some people avoid this issue by strictly using the water pump and others turn their water off when away from their trailer so they don’t have to worry about an overflow situation. If you ever return to your trailer and see water pouring out of the area where the tanks are located, this is probably the issue.
  • Windows: They stick and need to be (carefully) unsealed from the outside. Never try to force a window open, as they can shatter. Use a credit card or something similar to stick between the window and the rubber seal, and gently slide it along the bottom of the (unlocked) window until it’s unstuck.

Things We’ve Learned About Living in a Small Space:

  • We’ve lived in a small space before. When we first moved to San Diego, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment where we also both worked from home, so we’ve experienced tiny home living before as well as spending 24 hours a day together. The transition to the Airstream was not that difficult for us.
  • When living in a small space, it doesn’t take much for the place to feel messy. Keeping things tidy is essential: Make the beds. Do the dishes. Put things back where they belong immediately. Close cabinet doors and drawers.
  • There’s Not Much Privacy: You can’t be bashful about bodily functions in an Airstream. There’s a fan in the bathroom that helps mask noise, but there’s no hiding what’s going down in there. There are two curtains that separate the front from the rear of the trailer, so you can get some visual privacy, but not really any sound privacy.
  • We Downsized Too Much: This probably wouldn’t be the case for most people. Neither Travis nor I are sentimental people. We had no problem throwing away, donating, or selling most of our stuff. The must keep items are in a storage locker in San Diego. The rest fits in the trailer with room to spare. There are a few items that I wish I personally would’ve kept (cute little jean jacket and Grey’s Anatomy DVDs) that definitely would have had a place in the trailer. If you have the luxury of a slow move in, bring everything you want to keep and toss as you realize you don’t have room or a need for something.

Route Planning/Travel Days:

  • I wish that we could be people who didn’t need to plan our route ahead of time. We own a consulting business and Travis has to travel to visit customers about once a month, so our route planning is a lot less spontaneous than we’d prefer.
  • We’ve found that we really enjoy State Parks. They typically have a good combination of nature and basic amenities. Every one we’ve stayed at has had water and electric hookups with pretty decent showers, which means you can make your grey tank last longer. The longest we’ve gone without being hooked up to sewer was seven days. The sweet spot is probably is four. State Parks also tend to be pretty dog friendly.
  • We’ve found that we prefer to drive no more than three hours a day. During our drive to Wisconsin, we were driving up to six hours a day, and that is way too much. It feels like an entire day is wasted and it makes us cranky. Plus, we like to try visit a landmark or attraction of some sort wherever we stay and long travel days can interfere with that.
  • Keep time zones in mind when figuring out departing and arrival times.
  • Always keep your eye on the weather a few days in advance for not only where you currently are but also where you’re headed. We once had to make a change when our originally scheduled travel day was forecasted to have 35mph winds with gusts up to 60. No bueno.

Miscellaneous Nuggets of Information:

  • Always fill fresh water before you hit the road – you never know if the next place is going to have it for sure.
  • We’ve become champions of short showers. When at a place with decent showers – use them! Washing my hair in our shower is difficult, so I always take advantage of the showers.
  • We share a towel because there just isn’t a good place to hang two to dry.
  • There’s a Dollar General in EVERY town/city even if it’s not actually a town or city. Seriously, every one. I started noticing this phenomenon early in our travels when we were on our way to Death Valley and it has held up.
  • Regardless of what others think, we do NOT feel like we’re on vacation all the time. We still work, do laundry, clean, do the dishes, make the beds, etc.
  • I’ve always hated having stuff (sweatshirts, empty bottles, etc.) lying around inside the car. I was a firm believer the interior of a car should be clean. Well, that goes out the window when you travel full time. A storage bin, two water cans and a dog backpack live in the backseat of the truck – and I’m okay with that.
  • If you’re a lover of watching TV, you may want to consider getting satellite. We just use the built-in over-the-air antenna — sometimes it works great, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. We’ve gone as long as six weeks without picking up any channels. That’s where DVDs come in handy.

If you have any questions about things I mentioned above, or things I didn’t mention above, please comment below or send a message and I’ll do my best to address them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things You Need to Start Your Airstream Travels

We did not spend one night in our Airstream before we started living in it full time — crazy, right? In the months that led up to our departure date, we scoured the interwebs to determine what things were needed to live and travel in an Airstream. Most items we purchased were hits; some were misses. After six weeks on the road, we’ve realized what’s important, what’s not, and what falls somewhere in between.

The following lists are what work for us in our life in our 2017 27FB International Signature. I have not included anything to do with the towing aspect including tow vehicle, mirrors, back-up camera, hitch, sway control, etc. I’m not posting links of where to find the products as that would take a looooong time, but if you want more info about something, let me know.

You Definitely, 100%, Need These Things:

  • Sewer Hose Kit
  • 30 Amp Power Cord (included with new Airstream)
  • Hose for Fresh Water Only (included with new Airstream)
  • Tire Chocks
  • Levelers
  • Bubble Levels
  • RV Toilet Paper
  • Tank Treatment Toilet Drop-Ins
  • Hitch Ball Lube
  • Disposable Gloves (for Dumping)

The above items will allow you to be fully hooked up, level, not roll away, and avoid poo issues (clogged black tank, stinky toilet, nasty hands) — so, the important stuff.

May Not Need Yet but Definitely Will Some Day:

  • Sewer Hose Extension
  • Sewer Hose Support
  • Hose to Flush Black Tank
  • 50 Amp to 30 Amp Adaptor

When I say some day, I mean some day soon. We lived without these items for a few days, but all but the sewer hose extension were purchased within the first week. The sewer hookup where we are currently staying is at the back of the site, so our original 15′ hose didn’t reach; therefore, we needed an extension. The hose support allows gravity to do it’s job when you empty the gray and black tanks. The hose to flush the black tank is used every time we empty it to get all of the ‘stuff’ washed off the sides of the tank. And the adaptor is used when only 50 Amp service is available, which happened at the first place we stayed.

Our 15′ sewer hose with 10′ extension which is supported with a sewer hose support system.

Don’t NEED, but Should Strongly Consider:

  • Hitch Lock
  • Propane Tank Lock
  • RV Surge Protector
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • LP Tank Monitoring System
  • Water Filter
  • Flexible Hose Protector

If we lived in a perfect world, you wouldn’t need the first two items — but we don’t, so you may want to consider them. The surge protector is a pricy item, but what’s even pricier is if you hook up to a bad current and it fries the electrical items in your Airstream. The tire pressure monitoring system is also a little pricy. If you don’t want to invest in it at this time, do make sure to purchase a tire pressure gauge and check the tires before every trip. There’s a lot of weight on those tires and they need to be topped off often, especially if they’re sitting in the sun. The LP tank monitoring system is so you know how much propane you have left. Some people may like to chance it, but we want to make sure we don’t run out on a night with below-freezing temps. For us, the water filter falls under necessity, but doesn’t for everyone. We don’t drink the water out of the faucets, but we do use it to shower, wash our hands, and wash the dishes, so we want the water to be clean. We hook the filter up at the spigot-end of the hose so that only filtered water runs through our hose.

Our Progressive Industries EMS-PT30C Portable EMS RV Surge Protector, which is secured with a cable and lock.
We mounted the monitor for the AP Products 024-1000 Tank Check LP with Monitor Kit under the SeeLevel Tank Monitor.

Don’t Need, but Make Life Easier:

  • Generator
  • Wet/Dry Vac
  • Small Air Compressor
  • Dehumidifier
  • Security Cables and Locks
  • Assorted Bungees and Straps
  • Assorted Baskets and Bins
  • Assorted Mounting Tape/Hooks (Velcro, 3M, Scotch)
  • Museum Putty
  • Magnetic Knife Holder
  • Magnetic Spice Tins

Some people will never use a generator — it all depends on what type of Airstreamer you are. They are expensive, so do not buy one until you need it. We use the (small) wet/dry vac to vacuum out the truck (often) and seal things into Space Bags. We have a small air compressor that we use to fill our tires. The dehumidifier is a ? for us thus far. Airstream owners swear that you need one because moisture = bad, but to date we’ve only been in the Southwest, where the humidity has been 25% at its highest and zero precipitation, so we haven’t needed to use it yet. Security cables and locks are important if you want to lock up your generator or surge protector or whatnot. They aren’t that expensive and they don’t take up a lot of room, so you can have them on hand if the need arises. The next four items are all about organization and securing things. For instance, we have our generator and gas can strapped in in the bed of our truck so they don’t slide around when we travel. We’ve used various (removable) hooks throughout the trailer, velcro to hold rugs in place, (removable) 3M tape to hang things on the wall, and museum putty to keep light things on the counter in place. And baskets — so many baskets! For DVDs and office supplies and toiletries and basically anywhere a basket fits. The last two items get items out of the kitchen drawers/cabinets and into an otherwise dead space. We mounted the knife holder above our stove and have the spice tins stuck on the vent hood.

Both the Ouddy 16″ Magnetic Knife Holder and the Kamenstein Magnetic Multi-Purpose Spice Storage Tins were purchased from Amazon.

So, that’s it — the important stuff, anyways! Of course, there’s still the camping stuff (propane grill, chairs, cooler, etc.) and the hiking stuff (backpacks, boots, headlamps, etc.) and the appliances (coffee maker, InstantPot, travel iron, etc.) and work-related stuff (printer and Gator Case for the iMac), but those are individual choices only you can make.

 

 

 

 

Nice to Meet You!

We thought it would be a good idea to introduce ourselves!

WHO:

We are Travis and Missy. We were born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin, but moved to San Diego about seven years ago. Travis is a Marine Corps veteran and we own an ERP consulting business, Bird Rock Solutions. Our 13-year-old dog Max is along for the ride.

WHAT:

We are (fairly new) full-time Airstreamers traveling in a 2017 International Signature 27FB and towing with a 2017 Ford F-150.

WHEN:

We started full timing on 1/15/18 and we will be traveling for an undetermined amount of time. I guess we’ll travel until we feel the need to put down roots somewhere again.

WHERE:

We plan to travel to all parts of the country as well as Canada. We are very much looking forward to checking out places that we’ve been wanting to visit but never made it to, as well as checking out places we had no idea existed.

WHY:

Well, we tend to get restless. In the 14+ years we’ve been together, we’ve moved 9 times, once 2000+ miles. We love experiencing new places and people — what better way to do that than travel the country?!

HOW:

We’ve talked about full-time travel for years, and recently things aligned to allow us to do it.

First, we own our own business and we work remotely the majority of the time. As far as income, nothing changed for us when we hit the road — we just need to make sure we have a decent internet connection most of the time.

Second, we owned a home in North County San Diego for 3.5 years. We bought at a good time and then the market got hot in San Diego, and we decided to sell. With the profits from the sale, we were able to purchase our truck and Airstream outright; therefore, our living expenses are basically just campsite fees, gas and food.

You know, just some candid shots of us sitting outside our trailer.

 

 

 

 

Establishing Domicile in South Dakota

When you don’t have a permanent physical home address, you can establish residency (your domicile) in any state. Some states are better than others for this purpose. The three most popular states for full-time travelers to establish residency are South Dakota, Texas, and Florida. These states don’t have a state income tax and they are also pretty lenient as to what is required to establish residency. We chose to make South Dakota our domicile for a couple of reasons:

  1. As we own a consulting business that we will continue to operate while traveling, South Dakota not having a corporate income tax was a big draw.
  2. Once residency is established, you only have to spend one night in South Dakota every five years. This requirement aligns with the go-with-the-flow nomadic lifestyle of full-time travelers.
  3. There are no vehicle inspections in South Dakota. Some states require vehicles and/or travel trailers to be inspected once a year. This requirement may interfere with the go-with-the-flow nomadic lifestyle of full-time travelers.
  4. We are originally from Wisconsin, where the majority of our family still lives, and plan to visit there regularly. South Dakota’s proximity to Wisconsin will make it easy for us to make our required residency visit.

Other things to consider when choosing a domicile are vehicle registration rates, sales tax rates, health insurance rates, and vehicle insurance rates. As we are coming from San Diego, EVERY aspect of transitioning to South Dakota is more affordable for us – yay for us!

How To Establish Domicile

 Set Up an Address

The first step in setting up a domicile is to establish a PMB (private mailbox) with a mail forwarding service. You will use this address as your legal address for everything – registering vehicles, drivers license, banking, tax returns, voting, etc. We chose Americas Mailbox in Box Elder, SD, just outside of Rapid City. This is a legal residential address, not a PO Box. In addition to receiving your mail, they help with registering vehicles, getting registered to vote, and getting you in touch with contacts regarding vehicle insurance, health insurance, accountants, and attorneys.

It was very easy to get our mailbox set up. We sent in the required information from their application checklist, which is found on their website, and our mailbox was set up literally the day they received our information.

When they receive mail for us, they will scan the exterior of each piece and upload it to their website. We will determine what mail can be tossed and what should be sent to us. They will then send us our mail when we request it.

Register Vehicles

Americas Mailbox also has a vehicle checklist with the information needed to register your vehicles. I emailed the information to them, they emailed me back with the registration cost, and I sent them a money order along with original copy of the title and a notarized power of attorney giving them the power to register our vehicles on our behalf. The license plates and registration were sent to our mailbox at Americas Mailbox, which we picked up on our recent trip to Rapid City. You DO NOT need to have a South Dakota driver’s license in order to register your vehicles.

Obtain Driver’s License

This, of course, needs to be done in person. Show up at a Driver Exam Station with the following items:**

  • Current Driver’s License
  • Proof of Social Security Number (only if current license does not have a gold star in upper right corner) such as social security card, W-2, 1099, or pay stub.
  • Passport or other proof of lawful status in the U.S.
  • Hotel/Campground Receipt (dated within the last year) – We stayed at the onsite hotel at Americas Mailbox and they gave us a receipt that had both of our full names on it for this purpose.
  • PMB Receipt – Americas Mailbox gave us the exact printout we needed.
  • Marriage Certificate (only if name has changed at some point in your life)
  • DD-214 (only if you want ‘Veteran’ to be printed on your license)

Once at the exam station (where an exam is not required if you have a current, valid license), you fill out an application. You then step up to the counter, hand over your documents, sign a Residency Affidavit stating you intend to return to South Dakota after being absent, perform a quick eye test, get your picture taken, sign the electronic pad, and then you’re handed your new driver’s license. Southern Californians are used to blocking an entire day for the DMV, so the fact that this only took about 20 minutes was amazing – we didn’t even need an appointment!

**Verify needed documents at the SD Department of Public Safety here or by calling (605) 773-6883. Make sure to tell them you have a PMB address.

Vehicle Insurance

Get quotes from numerous insurance companies and make sure they know you’re going to be a full-time traveler.

Health Insurance

Honestly, this is on the to-do list. Travis is a veteran, so he has insurance through the VA. As we are self-employed, we pay for my health insurance out of pocket. Americas Mailbox gave us a couple of contacts for agents in South Dakota. I’ve also done some research on my own and have one company in mind that seems like it would be a good fit. And the third avenue I’ll explore is the RVer Insurance Exchange website, which has been suggested on other full timer’s blogs.

Move Our Business

Our business is currently registered in California, but our attorney is in the process of getting it registered in South Dakota. Once that is done, the business will be ‘closed’ in California. While you can most likely take care of this on your own, we have peace of mind knowing that everything is being done properly and legally.

Choosing a Truck

Once we purchased our Airstream, we needed to find the right truck to tow it with. As we did with the trailer and trailer options, we did a lot of online research and visited multiple dealerships. After doing our research, we compiled a list of features that were necessities, as well as a few luxuries. Our list included crew cab, 4×4, tow package, trailer brake, trailer backup assist, backup camera, blind spot monitoring, large gas tank, bed liner, and a towing capacity of at least 9000+ pounds — but more on the towing numbers later.

Not all dealerships or car salesmen are created equal. When we were just browsing, we were walking around a dealership (that shall remain nameless) when a salesman approached. We were looking at one vehicle in particular and asked him what the towing capacity was because it wasn’t listed. He looked at the sticker and pointed at the GVWR (truck weight + max payload). We turned around and left. There was no way we were going to work with a salesman – who sells trucks – who doesn’t know the difference between GVWR and towing capacity. We talked with another salesman who really didn’t seem to know much about the product he was selling either or where to find the answers to our questions. Plus, they were blaring country music in their showroom. Ugh. We ended up at San Diego’s Mossy Ford in Pacific Beach where we worked with Pedro Ramos. Spread the word about this dealership and salesman. So knowledgeable. So professional. So worthy of our business.

We ended up purchasing a 2017 Ford F-150 XLT 4×4 Supercrew with a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine. It was a demo vehicle with 249 miles, so it was considered ‘used’ which helped with the price. We qualified for all of the rebates Ford was offering, so after all discounts and rebates were applied, we ended up paying about 23% below MSRP. We were very happy with this, seeing as it had every feature were looking for and even some we weren’t.

We are not truck people. We aren’t even car people. We’ve always been people that need to use a vehicle to get from point A to point B safely. But now, we’re truck people, because we have to be. And guys, this truck is beautiful and we love it. It’s big, though. Really, really big – and that’s been an adjustment.

Now, back to those towing numbers I spoke of. The most important information to know when purchasing a truck for towing is the truck’s GCWR (gross combined weight rating). The GCWR is the total weight of the truck, truck passengers, truck cargo, trailer and trailer cargo. You also need to know your trailer’s base weight and GVWR, gross vehicle weight ratio. The GVWR is the maximum your trailer can weigh per the manufacturer. Our trailer’s base weight is 5,868lbs and the GVWR is 7,600lbs. So, again, research is key as well as having accurate numbers. Here is why the numbers matter:

 

  • Truck Curb Weight:            4,890lbs
  • Truck Max Payload:            2,030lbs
  • Trailer Tongue Weight:         700lbs
  • Trailer GVWR:                      7,660lbs

TOTAL Combined Weight:   15,220lbs

Our truck has a GCWR of 16,100lbs, so there is 880lbs to spare if we are ever maxed out on the truck and trailer. I never foresee that happening, but it’s good to know we’re safe if it does. Also, Ford’s recommended maximum towing capacity for this vehicle is 10,700lbs, so we are also safe there. Just as all dealerships and salesman are not created equal, nor are towing capacities. Things that affect towing capacity are the engine, the sizes of the cab and the bed, wheelbase, tires, tongue weight, axle ratio and probably a number of other things. Two side-by-side trucks may look identical, but have completely different numbers. Do your research, but it also helps to work with a salesman who knows his stuff and knows where to find answers quickly if he doesn’t.

Choosing Airstream Features

Choosing the layout, decor, and features for our Airstream was a little stressful. We’ve never spent a night in an Airstream, so we’re going into the Streamin’ life as newbies and aren’t quite sure what our needs or wants will be.

After looking at a few different trailers, we decided fairly easily on the layout we wanted. We chose the 27 length (which is actually 28 feet) because we didn’t want the trailer to be too long that we’d have difficulty pulling or parking it, but wanted to make sure we had plenty of space. We knew we wanted the twin beds vs the queen bed after seeing how much room the twin beds give you, as well as more sleeping surface per person. We were debating between a Flying Cloud and an International, mostly because of the price, but opted for the International as the interior finishes are nicer and more our style. The rest of the decor features, such as a Signature vs a Serenity and the color package, were basically decided for us when we found a 2017 International Signature 27FB with twin beds in Ebony Oyster Ultraleather Décor at the dealership. To be honest, if we had had a choice, we would have chosen the Signature over the Serenity and the Ebony Oyster over the other two color options any way. We’re extremely happy we got the exact trailer we were looking for.

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The exterior of the International 27FB.
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The floor plan for the International 27FB with twin beds.
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Looking towards the rear of the trailer at the 42″ x 97″ dinette/bed, 66″ lounge/bed, and galley.
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Looking towards the front of the trailer at the 34″ x 78″ twin beds.

**Above photos from airstream.com**

 

Just as when you purchase a vehicle, there are many optional features that can be added to an Airstream trailer. Our trailer already had the optional powered (as opposed to manual) awning installed, as well as the rear and roadside window awnings. The trailers are pre-wired for solar panels and we knew this was a must for us because we would be living and working in the trailer and needed all of the power we could get. We opted for the 200w Flex solar package. We also chose to have a Blue Ox SwayPro hitch installed in order to distribute the weight of the trailer better as well as help control sway while towing. The third option we chose was to have Maxxair vent covers installed on each ceiling vent. These vent covers allow for the vents to remain open at all times circulating air, including while towing and when it’s raining. One thing we did not opt for at this time was the rear view monitoring system (back-up camera). We were unsure if we needed this, but since the trailer is prewired for it, it can be installed at a future date if we deem it necessary. There are many more optional features available, but most are luxuries that are a little ridiculous, like a dishwasher.

Buying an Airstream

Travis and I have talked about a life on the road for quite some. We finally found ourselves in the right position to follow through, but then the question was, ‘Where do we begin?’

If you’ve determined that an Airstream is the type of travel trailer you want, the best place to start is the Airstream website. Download the brochure and look at the different lengths, layouts, and finishes to determine what is best for you. As we are planning to eventually live in our Airstream fulltime, we determined the 27 would probably be the best fit for us.

The next thing you need to do is to see a range of trailers in person. Even if you don’t plan on buying new, go to the nearest dealership that sells Airstreams to get a better feel for the size and layouts, as well as the MSRP – if it’s a strictly Airstream dealership, even better. Be upfront with the dealer and say that you’ve just begun looking and are really only there to get a better idea of the options available. I’m sure ‘just looking’ turns into ‘just buying’ often enough that the dealer shouldn’t feel discouraged or that they are wasting their time.

We live in San Diego and went to a nearby RV dealership that carries Airstreams so we could get a feel for them. We spent some time looking at every trailer they had, noting which models and lengths we liked best. We left feeling a little more educated and much more confident about the exact layout we wanted, but still kept our minds open to the various possibilities.

As a brand new anything is considerably more expensive than a used anything, we also looked on RVtrader.com to see if there was anything available anywhere near us. We found a 2012 Flying Cloud 27FB with twin beds (more about the twin beds later) listed for sale in Orange County. We contacted the seller and setup a time to come see it. After looking at the trailer, which was in great condition for a 5-year-old trailer, we decided that we’d rather buy new. After all, this was going to be our primary residence in the near future. We felt more comfortable with something no one else has ever used (or abused). We wanted to be the first to sleep on the mattresses and the first to, ahem, use the lavatory. Also, after seeing the Flying Cloud, we decided we wanted to go with an International, which is one step up. The interior finishes are a little more chic in an International and a little less RV-ish.

The dealership we visited in San Diego didn’t have any models with twin beds on their lot. The reason we chose twins instead of the queen option is that there isn’t much room to move around the queen bed. With twins, there’s a decent-sized aisle between the beds that allows for a place to change in the ‘bedroom’. There also more sleeping surface per person with the twins. A queen is 60” x 75” and each twin is 34” x 78” – so each person gets four more inches in width and three more inches in length. There’s also a little more storage space both inside and out, which is definitely at a premium in Airstreams. We contacted the gentleman we worked with at the dealership to see what it would take to get an International 27FB trailer with twin beds. He said we would have to order it, which comes with a fee, and that it’d have to be a 2018, which means more $$$.

We looked online at other dealerships and found that the Orange County Airstream dealer had the EXACT trailer we were looking for. As we had just driven to Orange County the day before, we really didn’t want to drive up there again if we weren’t going to get the price we were looking for. Those of you that are familiar with Southern California traffic understand why. We called the dealer to see if we could discuss price over the phone. They said absolutely not; that’s not how they do business. They assured us that we would not be disappointed with the price if we made the trip. We said we’d make the trip the next day. We did not. They called us to check in. We again reiterated how we did not want to waste a half of a day driving if we weren’t going to get the price we wanted. They asked what our price was. We told them. They said they’d give us a call back. When they called back they explained the pricing structure (what they paid, how much they need to profit on each unit, etc.) and offered their very best price – the absolute lowest they could go. As it was just a sliver under 20 percent off the MSRP, we accepted! We drove up the next day to take a look at our new Airstream and take care of the paperwork. The dealer we worked with said that was the best discount he’s ever seen on a trailer! (Of course, he might say that to everyone.)

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Coming soon….choosing optional features for the Airstream and deciding on what truck to buy.