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Old 09-27-2011, 04:04 PM   #1
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Question complete newbie with many questions

My husband got orders to AK and we'll be driving next Spring from TX. Because we have kids and cats and I just don't like flying or hotels, we've decided a travel trailer is the way to go. However, I am overwhelmed with all the choices. And it doesn't help that I know next to nothing about tts.

I guess first things, first- Is there a 'Travel Trailers for Dummies' guide? LOL. It would be super helpful to have some sort of book about travel trailer care, maintenance, and general use.

Second, I would appreciate some recommendations on travel trailers. We need a bumper pull. Bunk beds are a necessity as we have five kids. I want AT LEAST one slide out, but more would be better, like the 3 on the 2012 Palomino Puma 30DBTS. My wish list includes a washing machine- either a washer/dryer combo or stackable. I'm completely aware this is a "wish list" item, though. I would prefer to stay below $20K to leave a nice financial cushion for the extra expenses associated with Alaskan life (snow boots, etc for 5 kids adds up when you're moving from a place where jackets and sweaters aren't needed).

I haven't been able to figure out how much we can tow but I'll assume it's alot. Obviously, mechanics are not my strong suit. haha. In all seriousness, I looked at the owners manual, the inside of the door, and I'm still baffled. I drive a 2002 E350 conversion van, 9 passenger, diesel with super springs on the back. My husband tells me it has a beefed up suspension for towing, but even he can't figure out the weight. We're guessing around 9K pounds. Any ideas?

So far, we've only looked at a 1998 40' Sandpiper and a 2006 32' Pioneer. Tonight, we're looking at a 2009 Heartland 31BHD. The Sandpiper had a washer/dryer, but no bunks. The Pioneer had the bunks and I liked the storage space, but no washer. The Heartland also lacks a washer, but I'm pretty excited about the floorplan. I just found a 2012 Palomino Puma 30DBTS with free power package (whatever that is) with 3 slides I'm going to call about. Out of those, which one is the best quality?

I read about someone who drove the ALCAN and the vibrations made their blinds fall off in the tt...I want quality, not something else to fix. I need it to tow well, and I need enough space for 5 little boys to do their school work and play cars when it's rainy.

Thanks for any advice you can give.

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Old 09-27-2011, 04:16 PM   #2
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If you are buying a trailer just for the ride maybe a rental would work better. Are one way units available?

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Old 09-27-2011, 05:47 PM   #3
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For under 20k; you're going to have a hard time finding anything that will do well in Alaska.
You can try PPL; They sell consignment RV's and usually have a good selection.

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Old 09-27-2011, 05:52 PM   #4
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Probably the first thing to get is a passport for each of you. Pets may be a problem as well. I think you can take a boat from Seattle, not sure.
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:20 PM   #5
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By no means am I an expert. But, we have owned 2 pop-ups, a TT, and 2 MHs, and now we're also looking for another TT. With that being said, I think you're going to have to start with KNOWING the actual tow weight rating of your vehicle. Along with that you need to know the combined (GCWR) of your vehicle. That's the weight of your vehicle plus load TT. One thing that I read which concerns me is that you said you needed a 'bumper pull'. I assume you mean a Class III hitch with travel trailer in tow. If you truly mean a bumper hitch......you need to rethink that. Another thing you'll need to know is your vehicles tow rating for the hitch you have (not the rating of the hitch). Did I confuse you?....did me!
Mike & Cindy, (of course with Lucy the Miniature Schnauzer & Eddie the Yorkie) Dublin, VA / Fun Finder TT / X215WSK
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:22 PM   #6
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There is a ferry, but we're going to drive. Pets can ride the ferry, but have to stay in the car for most of the trip. I'm not doing that to our cats. I will have to get health certificates for them right before we leave, though.

We're in the process of getting passports. The military provides some for us- but we can only use them if we're on orders. So, no trips back home to see family unless we buy passports for everyone or fly.

I'm not horribly concerned about insulation since we're planning to use the tt here in S TX through April and hit the road in May. By that time, the weather shouldn't be too bad- I'd guess better than Tahoe in the winter.

My main concern is quality/durability. Will it have the ground clearance to deal with frost heaves and ruts? Is it so poorly constructed it'll literally fall apart like the one I read about? Or will it hold up to spending hundreds of miles on bumpy roads? (We will be taking it slow, but still.)

The '09 Heartland 31BHD we looked at tonight was the nicest one we've seen, but we decided it wasn't just right. We home school so our library needs to go with us...at least a large portion of it. That combined with clothing and things for 5 little boys takes up alot of space. There was also no room for the litter box except the bathtub because I won't put it beside the children's bed, our bed, or under the dining table. The litter box may wind up being an issue...It's too bad the cats aren't potty trained.
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:19 PM   #7
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You definately need to look at weight ur van can pull safely! Then get a trailer @ least 2k lbs lighter than that number if your planning on that much stuff going with you. There's gonna be lots of hills on the way and if ur overweight u will regret it. Get a sway and weight transfer hitch and bars. Costs $500. If ur planning on keeping the trailer then get a well insulated one because alaska is cold 12 months out of the year compared to s tx. If your van isn't 4wd don't bother pulling it up there. Take the ferry. There is a long stretch of road going into ak that is all dirt. Google it! I just talked to people who drove there and said it was total hell on their 5th wheel and 1 ton dually. Washer and dryer in tt is waste of space with that many kids. Use a laudry mat. U have to be parked with electricity to use washer anyways. And propane isn't cheap to operate a dryer. I think u said he's in the service? So plan ur trip around bases on the way and they usually have free laundry and a lot cheaper than civ campsites. If ur budgets 20k then don't buy anything more than 17k. Cuz of taxes title and all the other crap u have to buy right off the bat with a first trailer. But most importantly know how much ur van can pull and get one 2k lighter at least! Yes I said it twice cuz its that important. Don't listen to the dealer. They will tell u everytime that ur vehicle can pull whatevr ur looking @ hope this helps!

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