True Story: How I Survived Living in a 36' Travel Trailer with Two Kids, a Husband, a Dog, and Myself
Written By: Jenn Cole
Last Updated: 2021-02-13
Let me start with our why. We were in a tough spot… We lived in Silicon Valley at the time for my husband’s job. Dream job- totally worth it, so we made some sacrifices.That being said, his dream job allowed me to be home with our kids and once they were of age, I also got to home-school them. Beyond thankful. Okay, back to our reason. We were renting a 2 bedroom apartment, in this area it started super expensive, but we found out they were raising the rent A LOT. Oh, and the worst part… bed bugs came included. Yes that’s right. We fought with them the entire time we lived there. We needed something different. And even though my husband’s dream job paid us well, apartments were well over $2,500 a month at this point to rent. And frankly, we were kind of burned with apartments.
Our Thought Process
We went to a bunch of other apartments to try to see if something else would work better for us, it just was too expensive and too big of a risk at this point. We started coming up with other options… Maybe I would stay with family 3 hours away and see each other on the weekends. But our kids were so little and they needed both parents- not to mention, we like being together and this wasn’t our favorite solution. My husband even considered sleeping in the back of a van. I didn’t like this option. We came up with our final option of buying ourselves a truck and a brand new 36 foot travel trailer. (The longest bumper tow trailer you could buy in 2013). I remember the night after we signed papers so clearly… We loved the truck and trailer we had just bought, but I also realized that was it, we weren’t changing our minds or doing anything else… I started to panic a bit about the space. But I felt like we would be okay, we’re together.
Next challenge was finding a trailer park. We searched for the best ones, full hookups, low crime, not price gouging, allowed dogs, and had long term parking available. We found a nice trailer park and they had a spot ready for us right next to the main office. There was also a trash service there and it was fairly close to my husband’s job. All in all things were falling into place. This was also a fresh start for us, as we lost all our furniture due to the bed bugs I mentioned previously. We were ready for this.
Can you believe that a truck, brand new trailer, and a spot to rent was going to be hundreds of dollars less a month than an apartment?!
The Big Moving Day
We arrived to pick up the trailer and do final inspections and we were fully packed and ready to move in. We had our parents helping us that day and we were excited to make this work. This was the very first time my husband towed a trailer and he did phenomenal. We made it 3 hours to our new place without any problems. He backed the trailer in, and we hooked everything up. Neighbors were so curious and excited to see the trailer (ours was the newest on the lot). We unloaded the cars of things and I stressed on where everything would go. Clothes were everywhere, toys were everywhere. I wasn’t sure how this would work.
That night we quickly realized that the baths our kids took used up all the hot water. We were switching to showers for them. My kids were 2 and 3 at the time we moved in. They were the most excited and we would make it work! That was kind of my mantra. We got this! We made a run to the grocery store the next day and to target, because we quickly realized we could use some things to help us organize!
We picked up metal cubes for our clothes to be organized. Under the master bed (that lifted up) we laid these cubes flat and had instant cubbies for our clothes. For my kids, we left these standing up in their “room” and they had their clothes organized. We had everything put away and things had a place, we were making it work!
Fast Forward 3 ½ Years Later
We lived in this trailer for 3 ½ years. That means that my once very little kids were now 5 and 6 and much bigger. They were more active and also in school. My dog (a pug) was with us the entire time too. We all grew a lot as well as learning a lot.
We definitely made this trailer our home.We kept finding ways to improve our lifestyle while we lived in it. We learned a whole lot about travel trailers too. We learned how to conserve the heat and make the water last a little longer (we bought an awesome shower head). We ran out of propane, so we got a sensor that would tell us how much we had remaining. We also learned that our electricity was cheaper than filling those propane tanks. So we got a portable heater for our trailer that was awesome for the winters! We lost our pilot light due to wind (multiple times) so we made a cover. Outside of the things we learned about the trailer, we also learned a lot as a family. We met a lot of new people. We became closer as a family and learned to live without so much stuff. We spent more time outside enjoying things. We learned tricks about our trailer that we never thought we would have to… getting clogs out of black water- Boiling water helps!! Or cooking more evenly in the oven- ceramic tiles!! We had tons of rain and earthquakes that we went through, actually earthquakes in the trailer were kind of fun. We learned to shop for only what we need weekly. We meal planned every Sunday and on Monday, I’d go get what we needed for that week of food.
We used all the things from camping stores for better organization. Paper plate holders, trash hangers, spice rack … Seriously anything that would make organization and space better, we wanted. We also did away with laundry basket and got a laundry bag! Totally a space saver! The other thing I can’t recommend enough is power strips and command velcro tape. There was never enough outlets in places… We put power strips in a couple areas and used command velcro strips to keep them on the wall so we can always have a place to plug in a phone, computer, whatever and it didn’t destroy the walls.
As far as cleaning, boy do I miss cleaning that small space up!! I got a broom and dust pan, but also got a little dirt devil vacuum that was great for keeping the floors cleaned. The laminate floor was small enough for me to wipe it with a cloth and soap often. Our dog picked the top of the couch as his spot, and eventually that started coming apart. We sewed it up and it was good as new! The other thing I’d highly recommend especially if you’re doing this with small kids… We flipped the dining cushions over on the spots where they sat to eat, this way when they spilled jelly everywhere from their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I could wipe it up and it was not cloth.
The scariest night we spent at our new home was when a gang went through. There were shots fired in the middle of the night and I just remember huddling over the top of my kids. We definitely spent some time up with family for a bit after this.
I got to homeschool my kids in the trailer. We kept everything organized in a box and it was great! Again, we got to do a lot of things outside with school. My kids loved science projects outside. There were definitely days where things got messy and the space was tight. But, you guessed it, we made it work!
I was itching to exercise while we lived in our trailer. I tried yoga and things I could do insided, but I love the intense cardio. We bought a pop up tent and tarps that we bungeed up during the day. I let them down during my workouts and was able to exercise outside in my own private cave!
My favorite thing we had while living in the trailer was the outside kitchen. If you’re planning on living in your trailer, spring for the outside kitchen. It provides so much more space and an outside sink and refrigerator. Totally worth it and SO nice to have more space to cook! We also invited people over and could all sit outside and hang out together- because let's face it… you can't really have people over inside your home if your home is 36 feet!
The Bottom Line: I Survived and So Can You!
After 3 ½ years, my husband accepted a job that took us out of state (definitely an improvement on our quality of life). We sold our travel trailer and packed up and moved. We rented a house for a year until we were able to buy a home. I look back on our life in the travel trailer often. It definitely wasn’t always easy. We had a lot of frustrations and it was very tight often. BUT we made a lot of memories and did things that others will never do. We learned so much and I think my husband and I are stronger for the things we learned and how we made this work together. My kids got a lot of time with us because we were all so close. We did what we had to do and we made it work. I feel like we did a pretty dang good job at making it work too. My answer might’ve been different while we were actually living there, but looking back, I wouldn’t have traded those moments that are now happy memories for anything!