Comfortable, frugal travel – think tiny trailers in the New Year!

This article is for those of you who have the time and energy to travel extensively in the United States and Canada. My spouse and I have been retired three years, and have toured about 70,000 miles through these two wonderful countries.

If you are blessed with both the time and desire to travel extensively, it seems you have three choices. Two of them include traveling by personal vehicle, either by touring and overnighting in hotels or motels, or, touring and choosing to camp in a variety of public or private campgrounds. Another option is traveling as part of a tour group – though that’s not part of this discussion.

Our '58 Serro Scotty Junior teardrop trailer at St. George Island Lighthouse, FL.

In our earlier years, we have done our share of touring and overnighting in motels/hotels. The upside is you can choose some pretty nice accommodations, and, you get comfortable accommodations and a bathroom as part of the package. The downside is the expense, the need to purchase most of your meals and the fact that the hotels/motels often are located miles from your ultimate destination, such as national parks.

So, let’s explore the idea of touring with a personal vehicle and camping much of the time. Camping often comes with scenic locations – in Bryce Canyon or Arches National Parks, those wondrous rock formations are just feet away from your campsite.

Camp sites are also much cheaper than a motel stay, and afford you the option to cook many of your own meals, saving your additional money. If you are 62 or older, get the America the Beautiful federal senior pass, just $10 for life, offering you free entry into national parks and half-off most federal campgrounds!

Tent camping can be either done very lightly, such as the lightweight tents and sleeping gear used by backpackers, or car camping with a larger tent, queen-sized air mattress, and many more of the comforts of home. Over the years, we have done both – but as we’ve gotten older, we prefer more comfort and my spouse likes the feeling of security we get in a hard-sided camp trailer.

Spouse Susan reading inside our Scotty Junior teardrop.

We caught the small-trailer bug about 10 years ago, after spotting tiny and larger classic travel trailers in campgrounds. We found a small teardrop trailer on Craig’s List in Sacramento (for only $3500) and we’ve been touring with a teardrop trailer since.  We are also at work rebuilding a slightly larger classic travel trailer.

With a teardrop or larger classic trailer you get pride of ownership and openings to many classic trailer rallies with similar aficionados. Downsides include requirement to store it someplace and teardrops and some very small trailers have no bathroom and/or shower. Towing a trailer requires some expertise and you lose 15 to 30% on gas mileage (depending upon size and weight of your trailer).

Teardrop travel trailers became popular right after World War II, and were originally built on a platform using 4’ X 8’ plywood – hence, 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall and 8 feet long.  That makes for a pretty tidy little trailer – but one that packs a lot of features into a small space.

The niceties also include light weight (they can be towed by small vehicles getting good gas mileage), easy storage (they fit in a garage or behind a gate beside your home) and they are the talk of any campground (“can you really sleep inside that?”).

The down-side of teardrop trailers are several-fold.  You can’t stand up in them and they offer no bathroom or shower.  My spouse will rightfully tell you that there aren’t a lot of women her age who will travel thousands of miles with such a small trailer – so we include motel stops occasionally for those benefits.

Our '64 Serro Scotty Sportsman; currently being rebuilt by yours truly!

Let’s take a look at both teardrop and larger classic trailers.  We are touring currently in a reproduction ’58 Serro Scotty Junior teardrop, built in 2011 by a West Virginia shop teacher, and found on eBay just prior to a drive trip to Gettysburg, PA.  We picked it up in route to the battlefield, and have toured twice across the country, several times up into Canada and numerous shorter western trips since.

Teardrop trailers are wonderful when the weather is nice – you want to sit outside, enjoy the scenery and take in your campfire – but a bit less so when weather turns inclement. Realizing that, and seeking a bit more comfort and amenities, we found a larger classic trailer (a 10 foot long, ’64 Serro Scotty Sportsman) several years ago, and are in process of rebuilding it currently. Our larger trailer will afford my spouse the ability to stand up inside, includes a small range and sink and cozy dinette upfront – but, alas, no bathroom.

T@B trailers are built in the classic style, can be bought new or used.

Classic travel trailers come in larger packages, ranging up to 30-feet or more in length. Many classic trailers in the 12 to 20 foot range offer all the amenities, including bathroom and/or shower and the options to sleep four or more. If bought refurbished and well-cared for, they can be resold years later for the same price you paid for them.

Several manufacturers also make new trailers in the classic style, such as T@B, Casita and R-Pod trailers (R-Pods are sold at Pan Pacific RVs in Lathrop). Modern pop-up trailers like the A-liner afford amenities in a hard-sided trailer, as well.

This A-liner is a hard-sided, pop-up trailer offering ease of towing, storage and light-weight.

2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, so our 59 stunning national parks will be offering special programming. Upgrade and extend your travel experience in the New Year!

For more information: Most classic travel trailers have their own national organizations, offering trailers for sale, purchasing and rebuilding advice.  See National Serro Scotty Organization,, or Tin Can Tourists, For the America the Beautiful federal senior pass,; National Park Service Centennial,

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at Happy travels in the west!

This entry was posted in Alaska, Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, Central California, East Coast US, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers, Uncategorized, United States beyond! and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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