Setting Up a Travel Trailer to Live In: 20 Essential Steps


Setting-Up-a-Travel-Trailer-to-Live-In

Deciding to live exclusively in a travel trailer is a huge step. Not just because you will be cutting back on most of your finances, but because it will change your way of life completely. Like anything, living in a travel trailer has its own pros and cons. But I’m guessing you have already thought of all that. Now you’re here to figure out how to live in a travel trailer.

What are the 20 essential steps to setting up a travel trailer? Moving into a travel trailer requires a lot of steps, including buying the trailer, finding land to live on, selling the nonessential personal belongings, and changing the way your daily life functions. It takes a lot of initiative to get started and can take a few years to get there.

1. Decide on a Travel Trailer

2. Find a Plot of Land to Live on

3. Limit Your Amount of Personal Belongings

4. Figure Out Sleeping Arrangements

5. Decide on Kitchen Set Up

6. Look into a Portable RV Garage

7. Weatherproof the Outside of Your Travel Trailer

8. Keep Warm in the Winter

9. Build a Deck or Organize an Outdoor Living Space

10. Keep Extra Propane Tanks and Water Jugs on Hand

11. Look into Alternative Power

12. Know the Ins and Outs of Black Water

13. Ration Your Grey Water

14. Be Mindful of How Much Fresh Water You Use

15. Keep Cooking Simple

16. Food and Dish Storage

17. Consider Building a Small Garden Bed

18. Make Good Sleep a Top Priority

19. How to Make it Feel Like Home

20. Remember to Consider the Legalities and Set up a Mailing Address

Once you decide to live in a travel trailer, there is no going back. It can open your eyes to a simpler way of life and help you appreciate the things that you do have. Whether it be to save money or because you suddenly had to get rid of everything you own to afford living, travel trailers can be the answer to a simpler and carefree life.

How to Set Up a Travel Trailer to Live In

Setting up a travel trailer is going to be difficult no matter what you do. Selling all unnecessary belongings might be the hardest part for some, and giving up the luxury of long showers and a bathtub might be the most difficult thing for others. There will be something that you might falter at, but it all pays off in the long run. Let’s talk about the basic steps to living in a travel trailer.

1. Decide on a Travel Trailer

The first and foremost step to take is actually buying the travel trailer. When deciding on what trailer to buy, it is important to consider what layout and size will work best for your lifestyle. If having a bathroom directly next to your bed is important to you, then find a trailer that has that. If you live for cooking and are a genius chef, then a bigger kitchen might work best for you. The larger you go, then more expensive the travel trailers will get. It might help if you buy used.

I recently wrote an article on this site called: “How to Choose the Right Size Travel Trailer: An In-Depth Guide” . In it, I mentioned all details you need to consider when choosing a travel trailer.

2. Find a Plot of Land to Live on

Whether it be a spot in an RV park or a plot of land in the middle of nowhere, you need somewhere to set up camp. RV parks or private campgrounds are usually the most expensive option aside from buying a plot of private property. They can cost anywhere from $25 to $80 a night, though if you could find a monthly rate, that would be a cheaper deal.

Public campgrounds are cheaper because it is usually a state or national park, and they don’t usually have any amenities aside from showers. Staying as a public campground will usually cost you around $20 a night but staying long term will probably get you a smaller payment. The cheapest option by far if Boondocking or Moochdocking, which is when you park your RV in a parking lot or in a friend or family member’s driveway. These options lack hookups, though.

Here, you can find an article from our website about the topic: “Do RV Parks Allow Travel Trailers? – Read This Before You Go”

3. Limit Your Amount of Personal Belongings

This is probably one of the tougher steps to living in a travel trailer. You will have to sell or donate most of the belongings that you don’t use on a regular basis. That means keeping enough clothes to last you a week for all seasons of the year and scrapping anything that isn’t necessary. If you keep things organized by using organization bins, it will help make your travel trailer fell larger and less cramped than it is.

For the seasonal clothes that you aren’t wearing, you will want to keep them packed away in storage. The more you have put away in a designated space, the less you feel like your living space is closing in on you. Keep a laundry bag, handy, and laundry supplies in your car so that the clothes that you do wear are put away and ready for washing. In some cases, the travel trailer has a built-in washer and dryer, which will make this step a bit more bearable.

To save on trips to the laundromat or the freshwater and grey water tank, re-wear mostly clean clothes. If you wear a pair of jeans and they don’t get dirty or sweaty, there is no har, in wearing them again another day. If you make a habit of this, then you will end up saving money and water in the long run.

4. Figure Out Sleeping Arrangements

Deciding on where you will be sleeping doesn’t have to be difficult. Most travel trailers have a full or queen-sized bed as well as a fold-out bed for the kids or guests. If you plan on living in a travel trailer long-term, then be sure to buy a trailer that has enough space for you and your family to sleep in.

5. Decide on Kitchen Set Up

A lot of the luxuries we have in our kitchens are unnecessary, and they would only take up space in a travel trailer. You really need to ask yourself; do you need a microwave? Is a stove a necessity? Also, consider what size refrigerator you will need. A microwave is the least likely kitchen appliance that will get in the way of daily life. A stove, however, can take up a lot of space, especially if you will be doing most of your cooking on a BBQ or over the fire.

Some of the more expensive travel trailers come with an oven which can come in handy more than you might think, but again, it is not a necessity. A full refrigerator is necessary in most cases, though. You would be surprised how much leftover food you can have when living in a travel trailer. And to waste it is to throw money in the garbage. So, to save your wallet, you will want to make the most of your refrigerator space.

6. Look into a Portable RV Garage

A portable RV garage is a kind of essential for those cold winter months. Just like any regular trailer or pipes that are installed to close to the outside walls of a regular house, pipes can freeze, and so can you. A portable RV garage will help keep you and your water pipes warm when it matters most. If a portable RV garage is out of your budget, then you can build a shed that sits over your travel trailer. You can do this cheap by using repurposed materials.

7. Weatherproof the Outside of Your Travel Trailer

If your travel trailer isn’t brand new, then it’s possible it needs some weatherproofing done. The windows are usually the first things to need to be resealed, and it’s a quick and easy fix with some silicone caulk. Simply caulk around all of the windows and any cracks you might find along the way. This is also important to do around any lights and access panels you might have on your travel trailer.

If you want to go the extra mile, then consider calking any cracks, vents, or skylights on the roof. You will want to stay away from the air conditioning unit, but otherwise, everything else is fair game. If the caulking lines look too tacky for your taste, you can even have your roof coated with a monochrome coating. This is more for aesthetics, so it is unnecessary and isn’t worth it for a lot of people.

8. Keep Warm in the Winter

Heat tape in the winter can really be a lifesaver. It works wonders to prevent frozen pipes. The only drawback to heat tape is that you need electricity to use it. So, if you are boondocking, heat tape won’t work for you. Another trick is to keep the heater at a minimum of 50 degrees. Keeping your travel trailer this warm will help prevent frozen pipes as well.

With the heater turned up, it can cause a lot of moisture in the air, so to prevent this, you will need to keep the air vents slightly open for air circulation. Insulating windows, air vents, and garage be the most effective step to keeping warm in the winter. This will keep any warm air inside both the garage and the travel trailer. Lastly, if you keep the cupboards open where pipes run, it will allow some warm air to reach the pipes, keeping the water from freezing.

Related reading: How To Prevent Travel Trailer or RV Pipes from Freezing?

9. Build a Deck or Organize an Outdoor Living Space

An inevitability that many people don’t think about is that you will be spending most of your time outside if you live in a travel trailer. Not only will you need seating for you and any possible guests you might have over, but you also need a place to kick back and relax during your downtime. By building a small deck off of your travel trailer, you will have the opportunity to make it feel more like home.

If a deck is out of your budget, then all you have to do is get a few chairs and maybe a small table to organize around a fire pit. This will work effectively to make your home more unique to your tastes while working as a place to spend time with friends and the family and to cook meals at.

10. Keep Extra Propane Tanks and Water Jugs on Hand

It might not seem all that important until you need it but having extra propane tanks and water jugs can really save the day when you are running low or suddenly out. In some cases, the gage on the freshwater tank might go out, and you won’t know you are out of the water until it stops working. The same goes for propane. If you have a stove, you will need the propane on those cold winter nights. It’s not practical to cook your food in the snow, so be sure to stock up.

11. Look into Alternative Power

If you decide to buy property to settle down on, chances are there aren’t any utilities ran on it yet. This is especially the case if you plan on living off the grid. There should always be batteries to power your travel trailer, but you will need to charge those batteries eventually. If this happens to you, you will need to find another source of electricity.

Buying a generator is always a great way to take care of all of your power needs and then some. Additionally, buying a battery charger will help when you need to charge your batteries quickly while you use the generator to power your home. If you try charging them with the trickle charge that usually comes with the travel trailer, you will be using the generator all day. Replacing your lights with LED lights will help save a boatload of power as well.

LED lights won’t use much of your power, so you will be able to use that power where you need it most. Lastly, if you invest in portable solar panels, in the summer months, you will be able to save on generator fuel because the sun will power your home instead.

Before you continue reading, here is an article I wrote about Inverter: Does Your Travel Trailer Have an Inverter? Here´s How To Check

12. Know the Ins and Outs of Black Water

Dealing with the black water is probably the most unpleasant thing about living in a travel trailer. If you don’t know what black water is, it’s anything that gets flushed down the toilet. The black water tank has a tendency to fill up quickly. If you go to the bathroom outside, this could cut out a lot of the liquids that go down the toilet. Using a lot of toilet paper can be an issue too. It can clog the valve and back up your pipe, which will make a stinky mess in your bathroom.

When you are emptying your black water tank, be sure that it is completely empty. In some cases, the sensor doesn’t work, and it might sound like it’s empty, but it’s actually not. It can cause a similar situation to using too much toilet paper.

On the other hand, you will want to fill it up completely before you dump it because it prevents stink and makes it easier to keep the tank clean. When you do dump it, make sure to flush the tank out with water and sometimes a small amount of bleach to keep it semi-sanitized.

13. Ration Your Grey Water

The grey water is any water that drains down the bathroom and kitchen sinks. It fills up quickly, oftentimes more quickly than the black tank fills up. To keep the grey water tank low for as long as possible, use a bin to catch any sink water and use as little water as possible when brushing your teeth and washing face. You use your sinks a lot more than you might think, and once you need to start rationing is when you realize just how much you use it.

Using hot water to wash your dishes is the best way to quickly get any grease off. And when you shower, you will want to make it a quick one. When you need hot water, turn on the water heater a little bit before using the water to allow it to heat up. Using special soap that rinses off quickly and only washing your hair a few times a week will help conserve water as well.

14. Be Mindful of How Much Fresh Water You Use

When looking for a travel trailer, be sure to keep an eye on the size of the freshwater tank. They vary in size depending on the size and make of the travel trailers you are looking at. Water is used for a lot throughout daily life, including making tea or coffee, showering, and cooking, among other things. If you don’t have a well to hook up to, you will be using water from the tank, so you will need to ration and supplement. A 25-gallon freshwater tank can last up to 5 days.

If this isn’t enough water for you, you can buy 6-gallon tanks to keep as back-ups. You can even use these to fill up your tank while you wait for your black water tank to fill up. You will be able to fill your fresh water tanks at the septic dump while you are there to dump your black water tank. So, to avoid extra trips just for freshwater, keep these extra tanks handy.

15. Keep Cooking Simple

Just cooking with the main staples will help keep your storage and refrigerator clear of clutter and organized. When you try to cook extravagant meals every night, you would be surprised by how much extra stuff you accumulate in your kitchen. And if you cook meat and vegetables in bulk, then all you will need to do is heat it up when you need to eat it. This cuts back on prep time and leftover food taking up the refrigerator storage.

Using the BBQ as often as possible will help keep your kitchen clean and keep meals simple but tasty. It will give you the opportunity to sit around the fire for a nice meal and avoid a mess all at the same time. If you have an outdoor cooking stove, this will be handy as well. In the hotter months of summer, it will help keep the extra heat from cooking out of the trailer.

Coffee in the morning is almost always a necessity, but it isn’t practical to make if you need to start up a generator every morning to do it. If you consider using a French press to make your coffee instead, you will cut out the power usage from a coffee machine, and your coffee will likely come out much stronger anyway.

16. Food and Dish Storage

When you are living in such a compact space, it is impractical to have a ton of dishes you won’t be using on a nightly basis. Keeping one dish for each person on hand is all you need. The same thing goes for silverware and kitchen utensils. For food and seasoning storage, storage bins can be extremely handy. Also, if you have any extra storage in the trailer, using it for food will help keep you stocked and organized.

Canning is an option not many people think of, but it can be incredibly useful. It is essential to take your favorite foods and to preserve them in jars to eat at a later date. Buying in bulk when your favorite foods are on sale will also help you save money and stay stocked up.

17. Consider Building a Small Garden Bed

If you decide to settle on a plot of private property, then it might be beneficial to consider building a garden bed to grow your own crops and herbs. Growing your own foods will help you save hundreds of dollars. That’s not to mention, buying dry herbs isn’t exactly cheap either. And building a garden doesn’t have to be expensive. If you start composting a few months earlier, you will even be able to make your own soil to garden with, which will save you plenty of money.

18. Make Good Sleep a Top Priority

When you live in a travel trailer, sleep is one of the most important things to consider. Nighttime noises are much louder in a travel trailer, and the beds that come with them aren’t exactly comfortable. So, by buying a good mattress, you will be improving your chances of a good night’s rest.

Wearing earplugs and running a fan while you sleep can also help keep the noise out. In the colder months, the heater can make a lot of noise at night, so by turning the heater down while you sleep, you will keep the heater from kicking on so much and waking you up in the middle of the night.

19. How to Make it Feel Like Home

Living in such a small space so consistently can drive anyone crazy. There are a few ways to make it feel more open and cozier. Keeping it clean and tidy can help more than you might initially think. If you sweep daily, make the bed every morning, and tidy up as you go about your day, your travel trailer will never feel so cramped.

Additionally, you will want to have a lot of cleaning rags on hand to clean up any spills. For the most part, though, clean dry if you can because, in a travel trailer, wet rags just seem to spread the mess. Keep a wet vac in your car for accidents or spills on any fabrics. If you invest in a dirt-collecting doormat and keep your shoes outside, it will contain the dirt as well, which means less mess to clean.

Consider collecting small mementos to hang on the walls. This will liven the place up and make it more personal. Painting the walls and cupboards white with some bright color accents will also make it feel more open. If you are the creative type, Pinterest has a ton of ideas for small greenery to hang on the walls as well.

20. Remember to Consider the Legalities and Set up a Mailing Address

Probably the most important step to remember is the mailing address and laws for living in a travel trailer. The laws concerning permanent living in a travel trailer vary from town, city, and state. They are different everywhere you go. So, before you take that leap to change your living situation, be sure to research the laws in your area.

Even though most mail comes through email nowadays, there are still those circumstances when you need to receive paper mail still. There are a few mail forwarding services that are popular and get the job done like MyRVMail and Escapes Mail Forwarding Services.

Recommended reading

>> Can You Rent an RV If You´re Under 25? [Read This Before]

>> Do Travel Trailer Need Alignments? What You Must Know

>> Do Travel Trailers Need Snow Chains? – Best Advise

Setting up your Travel Trailer at your camp site >> Check out the video below

Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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