Travel Trailer

An introduction to recreational vehicle types


This is a brief introduction to the Travel Trailer type of recreational vehicle, intended to provide essential information for choosing the best RV type. (Looking for Travel Trailer Manufacturers?)

Tip: Not sure if this is the right RV type for you? Please take a look at Getting Started.

Definition

Travel Trailer

Photo courtesy of Travelaire

The travel trailer is a towable that connects to a ball hitch mounted on the tow vehicle, and is designed as living quarters for recreational travel.

Other terms used for travel trailer:

  • Conventional trailer
  • Bumper pull trailer
  • Travel trailer coach
  • Tagalong trailer

Sub-Types

The travel trailer has the following sub-types:

Toy Hauler

The term toy hauler is applied to both travel trailers and fifth wheels, and it describes an RV designed to carry toys—small cars, dune buggies, four wheelers, motorcycles, etc.

Distinguishing features of a toy hauler is the large door in the back which opens down to create a ramp, dedicated garage area or fold-away furniture in the main living compartment, and often a third axle to support the heavy toys.

Expandable

An expandable is a travel trailer designed to expand and collapse in one of two ways: vertically or horizontally.

Vertically: On vertically expanding units, the slightly larger top portion of the trailer slides down over the bottom half, considerably reducing the height during transportation. At the campground the trailer is expanded to full height, resembling a traditional trailer.

Horizontally: On horizontally expanding units (also called fold-out trailers), tent-like compartments fold out from the body to create beds.

Teardrop Trailer

A teardrop trailer gets its name from the tear shaped profile—pointed in the back and rounded in the front. The shape notwithstanding, some manufacturers group all very small trailers into the teardrop category. In general, teardrop trailers are small and light, towable by large cars and SUV's. Some are small enough to be towed by motorcycles.

Most teardrop trailers are so small that they provide only the very basics: bed, a small amount of inside storage, and minimal external cooking facilities. Some models are large enough to accommodate inside cooking and dining.

  • For an example of a small teardrop, see Wee-Kender
  • For an example of a large teardrop, see T@B

Park Model

The park model is a travel trailer that requires park facilities to function. It lacks holding tanks and dual-voltage appliances, requiring to be plugged into water, sewage, and electrical facilities.

Because of these limitations, park models are ideal for long-term or permanent placement as a vacation home. Often these trailers are placed in a park, skirting is added, a deck is built by the entrance, and occasionally additional rooms are added.

A park model is more of a small mobile home than a recreational vehicle, in appearance and function.

Travel Trailer Pros

  • Spacious, open floor plans suitable for a variety of uses, including snowbirding.
  • Provides more interior space per length foot than motor homes because it does not contain driving and engine compartments.
  • Tow vehicle doubles as local transportation.
  • Lower profile allows easier entry than a fifth wheel trailer.
  • Lower profile allows roof storage of items such as canoes, with less concern for top clearance.
  • Can be towed with a variety of vehicles fitted with a standard ball hitch and rated for the trailer weight.

Travel Trailer Cons

  • Least stable on the road of all RV types. Requires the most skill to tow and back up.
  • Large trailers require large trucks.
  • Less storage than fifth wheel trailers because it lacks a raised section.
  • Driving and living compartments are separate. Living area inaccessible while moving.
  • Generally cannot tow vehicle behind trailer.
  • Larger models can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.
  • Larger models require large storage area when not in use.

RV Checklists

The following RV checklists on our web site are applicable to travel trailers:

Other Resources

A list of recommended travel trailer resources on our web site: