Part nine of the luxury travel trailers guide.
Growing up in the High Sierra mountain town of Mammoth Lakes, California, we really didn’t travel much. After all, my parents made a very deliberate life choice to raise a family in an area surrounded by nature and outdoor adventure. To be honest, I remember only one major vacation to Disney World in Florida where we stayed in hotels and visited with about 1.5-million of our closest friends during Spring Break. Instead of traveling long distances and staying at hotels, as a family we stayed rather local, exploring the great state of California, almost always outdoors.
In elementary school, my family purchased a very modest 16-foot Shasta travel trailer for $1500. It was a classic! Lacking a dedicated bedroom, the lounge and dining area were to either side of the trailer that converted into beds. On top each floor space was a bunkbed configuration where my sister and I each called home. There was no privacy at all, but it was fun when we were little and just sleeping in it for a night or two.
That tiny Shasta was my first introduction into the world of mobile living. Since then, I’ve designed and built or rebuilt more than 400 custom mobile living spaces all with unique and innovative solutions to meet the homeowner’s needs.
In the past decade, my wife Joanna and I have lived our lives in homes that are no greater than a couple hundred square feet, and almost all of them designed to travel. Along the way, I have experienced the successes and downsides of sleeping accommodations that led to a great night’s sleep for all sorts of families and lifestyles. In this article, it is my goal to share some of my real live experience to help you make an informed choice when searching for a luxury RV or travel trailer.
Likely one of the very first things you will see when comparing RVs, travel trailers, or any other mobile living space is sleeping capacity. Sleeping arrangements typically range from two to more than 10, with sleeping options that depend on what you’re optimizing for.
I’ve seen tiny trailers that can hold a family of eight, like the Shasta I grew up in that were masters of efficiency and small space living. On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen massive million-dollar, 45 foot diesel pushers that slept no more than two comfortably without a guest bed in sight.
The first thing to note here is that size does not correlate to sleep in capacity. Just because you have a longer, more generous trailer does not mean you can bring the whole family with you.
Several summers ago, Joanna and I traveled across country and a large diesel motorhome. At one point we met up with my sister and her daughter to join us for the last leg of the trip. It may have been our assumptions that were misguided, but we were all quite surprised when we realized there was no place for our guests to sleep and we had to buy a blowup air mattress. Well, this 40-foot motorhome was clearly designed for a couple of snowbirds – it just didn’t make sense to me – there was nowhere to bring friends, family or guests along for the ride!
If you have a family or more than two people, make sure everyone has a place to sleep. That should go without saying, because the mobile, nomadic lifestyle can be highly contagious. Inviting friends and family to join you on your travels is highly likely. I encourage you to consider planning for guests, and if so, a place where they can sleep.
Whether you’re a family of two or six, a travel trailer’s bed layout can make a world of difference to the success or failure and whether or not people will start stepping on one another’s toes, which is the first step in getting along!
Sleeping is a very intimate activity and is a sort of safe space. Everyone should be comfortable and in an environment that’s true to them. The concept of separate sleeping spaces is key. If you have a family, and people go to bed at different times is there an area to close off or is everyone out in the open? Does one person wake up earlier than everyone else? I encourage you to look at the layout of the space and consider your daily living work routine. Even if just a couple, having separate areas to sleep when your schedules aren’t always a line is a great idea. As many of us are working collectively and remotely these days, work hours don’t always match up. For example, sometimes I work late into the night and may partner prefers to get to bed earlier. A separate room for kids or adults to sleep in, night or day, with privacy and sound control will enhance the overall the experience.
I’m not advocating that everyone needs their own dedicated sleeping room, the simply isn’t possible in a 200 square-foot home. That being said, there are techniques that can section off sleeping areas and make a day-to-day living more comfortable. If your bed is in a living space, consider who will be sleeping there. Is this a guest bed or a primary bed? Remember every time you get ready for bed you will need to, well… make the bed. If this is a lounge or convertible sleeping space how long does it take to make the bed? Do you really expect to be converting a lounge, pulling out pillows and blankets from cabinets, fitting sheets every single day? The process of bed conversion is an important topic if it’s not a dedicated bed.
Whatever the case, consider the bedroom layout in the living space and how it functions on a day-to-day basis. Sleeping is so important to our health, so a little bit of thought here will go a long way for a happier and healthier life on the road.
My family comes from a long line of tall Hofmanns. As a result, seemingly simple things were a challenge growing up. At 6’5’’, shopping for clothes has always been an ordeal.
Backseats of cars oddly insufficient. And the difference between a queen and full bed meant my feet were hanging off the end.
When it comes to the recreational vehicle industry, not all bed sizes are created equal. You may be surprised to learn that there’s a whole industry of RV specific bed sizes. The term RV queen or RV king is just another way to say smaller than normal.
Good intentioned designers of travel trailers were unable to realize successful floorplans using normal bed sizes, but their marketing department required the term king or queen in order to sell trailers. Their solution? Make a different bed size and call it something else.
Point being, if you have a queen bed at home, don’t carry that expectation going into RV shopping. A traditional queen bed is 60” wide x 80” long. RV queens can be 6 to 10 inches shorter than a traditional queen. So, if you’re a taller person or simply someone who needs more space in a bed, be sure to check the dimensions. You may need to size up to be comfortable. Your queen bed at home may be in reality closer to a RV king.
Quality of sleep is more than just a dark room in a comfortable bed. The environment around us can you make or break the quality of sleep you get. I remember living on a boat for several years. There were two bedrooms, and each was very different from one another. Both had decent size beds, that were actually too small for me, but I was younger and I loved the ideal about living on a boat.
One room on the aft (back) had a very large window at the foot of the bed, actually oddly large for a boat. The other bedroom on the stern (front) had two tiny porthole windows on either side of the room. Joanna and I quickly found the two sleeping experiences to be vastly different. On hot evenings the back bedroom with the single large window was nearly unbearable. It was hot, muggy, and stale air.
On the other hand, the front bedroom, the smaller of the two, with tiny porthole windows to either end embraced the concept of cross ventilation. Although the windows were smaller than a dinner plate, the positioning of the windows allowed for cross ventilation. Now this is a very key concept. Placement of windows in a room and how far apart each window is from one another can tell you if there will be adequate natural circulation in that space when all of the windows are open.
Ideally, there are windows on each side of the bedroom allowing for air to circulate freely from one side to the other. Imagine wind flowing across your living space in one direction. Having windows on either side of your travel trailer embraces this concept and allows air to travel freely across your living space.
A sleeping area with only one window will inevitably by hot and uncomfortable. Make sure the ventilation area on these windows is as large as possible, in addition to being located on opposite sides of the room. This is the best-case scenario.
Growing up in a small town of about 7,000 people, I became accustomed to the concept of peace and quiet. When all activity stops after 6 PM and any cars on the road are usually signs of trouble, so you get used to the benefits of a dark and quiet sleeping experience. I had no idea how important this was until I went off to college at age 18 only to realize the world was very, very noisy. Earplugs became a favorite accessory starting in my college dorms and throughout the years. Unfortunately, wearing earplugs could be quite dangerous if there’s an emergency, such as a fire, and you need to get up in the middle of the night.
Noise pollution is a very real thing. While our goal may be to travel to remote areas far from the hustle, bustle, and noisy traffic of urban centers, I guarantee your mobile lifestyle will bring you to an occasional rest area or campground where you’re no more than 20 feet from your neighbor. Sometimes you’re just 5 feet apart!
When it comes to luxury sleeping in a quiet space, this has less to do with the bedroom layout, and more about the construction of the floor, walls and ceiling of the travel trailer itself. In architecture, we called this the building envelope. Referring to the shell or set of built structure that encloses the living space. This includes walls, doors, windows and the like. There are so many details and reasons the envelope may perform or not when it comes to sound isolation.
Creating a quiet, sound-resistant envelope is something that’s often overlooked in design. The structural factors that greatly impact sound include: the type of insulation, how wall/ floor/ ceiling components are attached together, the materials that are used, and so much more.
That being said, the results of a quality designed and built trailer are as clear as day to the trained eye but are often hidden from those with less experience. The following is a simple tip for the buyer of a luxury RV that will help you test how quiet the unit truly is.
Close all the doors and windows, sit inside, stop talking, listen. Can you hear any ambient outside noise? Chances are you’re in a busy area with plenty noise outside. If not, bring someone along with you and have them shout at you outside. Imagine this is your neighbor in a RV park or campground and you were trying to get some sleep. The best luxury RV is designed with what would be described as a very tight building envelope. Sound should not travel well from the outside to the inside, and vice a versa. If you can easily hear those folks outside or better yet, can carry on a conversation, my recommendation is to say, “No thank you,” and point your search elsewhere. What’s the point of spending good money on a luxury experience if you we’re not able to get a good night’s sleep?
Studies have shown time and time again how important sleep is to a healthy life. We may not fully understand this while we sleep, the impacts of a sleepless night will stay with you all day. A luxury sleeping experience is one where I get a great night’s sleep and wake up feeling amazing. In your search to find the best luxury travel trailer, I highly encourage you to put this one at the top of your list. If your sleep experience isn’t excellent, what else really matters?
Here is what to consider when choosing the best travel trailer to sleep the entire family comfortably.