Kenn and I purchased our first travel trailer in 2014. We’ve learned a lot over the ensuing years – usually the hard way. The purpose of this post is to share what we’ve learned so you don’t make the same mistakes we did. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of other mistakes you can make, LOL.)
First and foremost, you need to make sure the vehicle you plan to use to tow your travel trailer is up to the job. Don’t just focus on the dry weight of your camper; you’ll need to take into consideration the weight of the items (food, clothes, etc.) that you will be carrying. If you plan on dry camping, you’ll need to take into consideration the added weight of water in your fresh water tank. (Note: Water is heavy, y’all.)
If your travel trailer’s power cord doesn’t have a built in surge suppressor, buy a stand alone! We learned this lesson the hard way with our first travel trailer. We got hit with a power surge on our first trip which meant our trailer spent the next several weeks at the local dealer for repairs. This was followed by several more weeks at the shop when it turned out the initial repairs were incomplete.
Make sure you have a jack that is rated for the weight of your travel trailer. We had no need for a jack until we had a blowout on our second travel trailer. This is when we learned that our new trailer didn’t have a jack. Rest assured, once we got back home and recuperated, Kenn made a trip to Harbor Freight and corrected this oversight.
Roadside assistance is a great idea. Both of the travel trailers we’ve purchased new have come with a year of roadside service. Unfortunately, it had expired by the time our blowout occurred. If roadside assistance hadn’t also been available as a part of our insurance I’m not sure what we would have done. (Even with the roadside assistance, sitting by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in the Georgia heat for four hours was no fun. I was pretty close to heat exhaustion by the time the tire was replaced and we were back on the road.)
Make sure the hitch is latched. This seems obvious, but we bounced our travel trailer off the hitch three times before we got into the habit of quadruple-checking. We were fortunate that none of the instances occurred on busy roads but it was still stressful. Now we both check multiple times before we pull out.
In addition to checking the hitch (again), make sure all of the storage hatches are closed and locked, the stairs are up, and the door(s) are closed and locked with the safety bar in place. Even though we call ourselves doing all of these things, there have been two or three times we’ve had a good Samaritan call our attention to a problem while we’ve been driving down the road. (Thank you good Samaritans!)
Invest in a box of disposable gloves. Emptying the gray and black water tanks is never going to be a fun process but at least gloves make it a little more sanitary.
Make a checklist. Since we had a tendency to forget the same things over and over, Kenn made a checklist for us. Not only does it include items for the travel trailer such as the things I’ve listed here, it includes common food items such as olive oil, salt, and pepper, and clothing items such as jackets and hiking boots with plenty of blanks for us to add items specific to each trip.
Cut yourself – and any traveling companions – some slack. No matter how much you plan and double-check, there’s always something that can happen. When it does, you’ll get through it. It might not be fun, and it might not be easy, but it will be okay. (I’m still working on this one. When I get stressed, I get snippy/snarky so this is totally a “do as I say, not as I do” moment, LOL.)
Most importantly, have fun. After all, isn’t that the whole reason behind having a travel trailer?
Do you have a travel trailer? What tips would you add to this list?
Tallulah Gorge State Park is located in Rabun County in extreme northeast Georgia. Tallulah Gorge is one of the parks that we have made many day trips to through the years but September 2020 was our first time camping there. We stayed in Site 36 which I dubbed “the worst site in the park.” This site itself was fine; it was a corner site with access from two directions. So, what made it so bad? The tiny clump of trees at the corner which meant that no matter which direction you chose, the travel trailer would have to be at a ninety degree angle to the tow vehicle in order to back into the site. We’ve had a travel trailer for several years now but backing into a site can still be a test of the strength of our marriage; this one stressed both of us. However, in spite of our stress levels – and the guy who decided he had to drive through our site while we were backing in (seriously, dude?) – the process went easier than we expected. The campground host came over after we got set up and told us that we had done a good job; I really appreciated that.
There are lots of things to do at Tallulah Gorge and they all involve hiking/walking. There is a suspension bridge, a rim trail with several scenic overlooks and the gorge floor. Gorge floor hikes require a free permit that must be picked up from the interpretive center on the day of your hike; permits are limited to 100 per day. Also, those planning to hike the gorge must wear proper footwear, meaning no Crocs or flip flops. I highly recommend the gorge hike if you get the opportunity.
We did the gorge hike with our boys when they were young. Close to the end of the hike we had to work our way across the river so we could climb out the other side. Our oldest son still insists that we almost let him “wash out to sea”. He was actually safely tucked away in a small pool. It was his younger brother who was headed over a small falls. We snagged him before he went over but life was exciting for a few minutes, LOL. Ah, memories! On another note, I wouldn’t trade being a “boy mom” for anything.
One thing to remember when visiting Tallulah Gorge or any outdoor location in Georgia is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Our visit was in September which is when the brutal temperatures of August are behind us and things begin to cool off. However, “cool” is a relative term. Temps in the 80s (Fahrenheit) with a humidity level of 60-80% is brutal for those of us who live here much less those who aren’t used to such high humidity.
Note: For some reason, WordPress decided not to let me caption my photos. (insert eye roll here) The first photo is, obviously, Tallulah Falls. The second one is from underneath the suspension bridge. Why? Just because I like geometry of the supports.
I didn’t get to travel much when I was young so Kenn and I wanted to make sure our boys had a chance to see a little more of the world. We couldn’t afford to take them on cruises or jet off to international locations but we could at least get them out of the house and introduce them to the sort of places that we love. (They would probably say we took them hiking far too many times, LOL.)
Time and money management were always important on our trips so I planned everything down to the nth degree. I researched the locations we were planning to visit, booked the hotel rooms/cabins, and planned out our activities for each day. Looking back, I may have occasionally over-planned, but it was a labor of love.
Keeping up with details, planning, and organizing are just a part of me and have served me well both at home and at work. However, I think the last four years of my day job sort of burned me out. I enjoyed what I did but it required an extreme amount of organization; my days were ruled by a schedule that was usually booked at least a week in advance. Now that I’m retired, I’m enjoying having flexible days without having to account for every minute of my time.
Somehow, without our even discussing it, Kenn came to my rescue because he is now the one doing most of the planning for our trips. We decide together where we are planning to go and when and he handles making the reservations. I’m still the money manager but I’m happy not having to deal with all of the details.
We cancelled our road trip plans last year due to the pandemic but this year we are fully vaccinated and ready to hit the road. We’ll be taking a trip up the east coast this fall. This will be our first time traveling long distances with our travel trailer so I’m sure we’ll be learning many lessons along the way which, of course, I’ll share here. 🙂 As proof of his new role as Chief Trip Organizer, we already have reservations at a campground in Maine. Go, Kenn!
Fort Clinch State Park is located at Fernandina Beach, Florida. (Fernandina Beach is located on Amelia Island, a barrier island off the eastern coast of Florida.) Fernandina Beach is a special place to Kenn; he and his family spent a week there every summer when he was growing up. I learned to love it as well when we took our sons a few times over the years. (Well, as much as I love any beach.) When we visited with our boys in tow we stayed in a hotel or rented a house. Once we became empty nesters and bought a travel trailer, we decided to visit Fort Clinch State Park; it became an instant favorite.
Fort Clinch has two campgrounds: riverside and beach-side. We prefer the riverside. The riverside sites are well shaded by old growth trees dripping with Spanish moss. While there are a few palm trees scattered around the beach-side sites, none of them are actually shaded. The bath houses at both campgrounds are clean and well-maintained and there are washers and dryers available for use.
Fort Clinch is perfect for both nature and history lovers. Nature is everywhere and the beach is an easy walk from the campground as is Fort Clinch, which dates back to the Civil War. If you are a fossil-hunter like me, the beaches around Fort Clinch are great for hunting shark’s teeth – especially if you happen to be there just after the channel has been dredged. (All of the teeth, etc. pictured in my recent post about fossiling were found at Fernandina Beach.)
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when planning a stay at Fort Clinch State Park. The first is that it is hard to get reservations at this park. Reservations open up eleven months in advance and are gone almost immediately. Our last trip to Fort Clinch took place in April 2021. It took Kenn a couple of weeks of stalking the reservation site in May 2020 to get our reservations. Second is that you need to be prepared to take your time when entering (and exiting) the park while towing. The entrance road is covered by a beautiful canopy of old growth live oaks; the bigger your rig, the more “exciting” your drive may be. However, if you take your time (and occasionally drive in the middle of the road) you’ll be fine.
We’ve talked about making a trip to Fort Clinch every year but the verdict is still out. We love the park but there are just so many places to see!
I am many things: a woman of faith, a wife, a mom, a Grammie, a writer, a blogger, and much to most people’s surprise, a gamer. The long-awaited remastered version of my favorite video game series, Mass Effect, releases tomorrow and I am SO EXCITED. (For the non-gamers reading this, a remaster basically means that the graphics and game play have been tweaked and improved without making any changes to the plot/storyline.)
I’m not sure why people are always so shocked to find out that I’m a gamer. I’m an avid reader and writer and video games are just interactive stories. My favorite games are role-playing games or RPGs. RPGs give your character (or avatar) a chance to interact with the other characters and make choices relating to the storyline and/or your character’s behavior. (I can’t be mean, even in games.)
The Mass Effect series has been a part of my life since the first game released in 2007. It’s hard to explain what these games mean to me. Only another gamer can understand how I feel about these characters. Are they real? No. Are they my friends? Yes. Just like some people re-read favorite books, and re-watch favorite movies, I find myself going back to these games over and over again simply because I miss the characters.
We all have our own ways of dealing with sadness and grief. When the world is too much for me to bear, I play Mass Effect. My virtual friends and I tackle saving the galaxy together until I can face reality again. Over the course of eighteen months during 2016 and 2017 my husband and I lost our three remaining parents. Mass Effect is the only thing that kept the grief from being overwhelming. I can’t even tell you how many times I played through the series. I knew I was starting to heal when I was ready to play something else.
I can’t wait to replay my favorite games and see the changes/improvements that have been made. In some ways, it will be like playing for the the first time – again. So, if you need me over the next few days, I’ll be in my basement, gaming.