Getting Ready - Small Travel Trailer Checklist
Guess What We Forgot!
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CHECKLIST! There are lots of things to do when getting ready to leave for a trip with your small travel trailer. If you're loading up for a weekend trip close to home, it may be pretty simple. But if it's a big trip, you will probably start getting ready weeks in advance. To make it easier, I keep all our equipment and supplies in bins in one section of the garage. But all the preparation usually comes down to one thing. Did you forget anything?
Yep...the most dreaded words I've had to say to my wife when we were too far down the road with our small travel trailer to turn back! Guess what we forgot! I got all the maintenance items taken care of on both our small travel trailer and the truck. The propane tanks are full. I loaded everything we thought we needed for the activities we are planning. But we still forgot something.
Well there's always plenty of Walmarts along our route, and we always have plenty of credit cards, but nothing's worse than getting back home and having spent money for another one of something you already had. Or even worst, getting all setup at a remote campground and then finding you need to run into town. YOU MUST HAVE A GOOD CHECKLIST! Here's our basic process.
Print out a new checklist
You'll want to develop your own checklist for traveling with your small travel trailer, but mine is a good starting point to use as a template. (download it for free from the Tools page)
Add items we noted on the checklist from our last trip.
We carry our checklist with us for our entire trip. It's where we write all our notes of things we want to remember for the next trip, and also things we need to do in advance.
Jot down specific items for this trip
If we have special things to take along or things we need to do for this specific trip, we add them to the checklist as we think of them.
The Basic Checklist Steps
Here are the basic steps to follow. Make sure you have included them on your small travel trailer checklist.
- Secure everything inside the trailer
- Check tire pressure on both the trailer and the tow vehicle
- Stabilizer jacks up
- Trailer coupler hitched to tow vehicle
- Sway control and/or weight distribution hitch installed
- Safety chains installed
- Trailer electric plug connected
- Breakaway switch connected (if you have electric brakes on the trailer)
- Wheel chocks removed
- Trailer brake lights and turn signals verified to be working
- Final look inside and out
- Trailer door locked and step up
A few other really important things before you hit the road...
Insurance / Roadside Assistance
One of the biggest fears when first getting started towing a small travel trailer is having problems while you are on the road. An accident, a theft, or even a problem with your trailer could become a major disruption to your trip. You are going to want vehicle insurance on your small travel trailer similar to what you have on your vehicles, but you also want to consider roadside assistance.
Your vehicle insurance agent may be able to help, and may be more affordable, but the actual coverage they provide is often very limited. Before making your decision, you should also check with a company that focuses on providing service for travel trailers and RVs. Good Sam is by far the most popular and well known in the U.S. They have a variety of plans ranging from just roadside assistance to full vehicle coverage. Even if you feel fine with the standard insurance coverage from your existing vehicle agent, it's worth looking into Good Sam's Roadside Assistance. They have a good reputation of providing service throughout the country.
Loading Your Trailer and Tow Vehicle
It's essential that you properly load your trailer and tow vehicle. Fail to do so and your trip will be stressful and possibly very dangerous. It's all about weight...how much and where you put it.
- Be sure you do not exceed the capacity of your equipment. With a small travel trailer, this frequently means not exceeding the weight rating of your trailer's axle and tires.
- The trailer tongue weight should be 10% to 15% of the overall trailer weight. (see video below)
For us, we limit things in our trailer to only the things we NEED inside our trailer. We put everything we can into our truck to assure we don't come close to exceeding the capacity of our trailer axle or tires. Of the things we do put in the trailer, we try to keep the heavier things as close to the center (above the axle) as possible. This works well for us and generally gets us in the 10%-15% tongue weight range. You will have to figure out what works best for your setup.
You won't be safe if you get this wrong. It gets really scary if your whole rig starts swaying badly going down the highway. Click on this very short video to see why this is so important.
Here's an article that gives you all the details on how to get it right:
Hitching up your trailer
When first learning to tow a trailer, how to line up your tow vehicle with your trailer when you are getting hooked up can be challenging. There are a lot of solutions, but some simple hitching rods are what I've used. They really work pretty well and are cheaper than most other solutions. The rods are pretty fragile however and will easily break if you don't store them carefully. (In other words, don't just through them in your truck bed unprotected.) In my case, I quit using them before mine broke, once I got used to hooking up.
Checkout the short video on the right to see how they are used.
If you have a toilet in your trailer, it's important that you use toilet paper that will easily breakdown with water. Using the wrong kind can clog up your drain and leave you with a terrible mess to deal with.
You can purchase the special RV toilet paper that is designed for this purpose. But a lot of the standard home toilet paper brands can be used and will save you money. The key is to make sure that whatever you choose will work well. Click on this short video to see how you can easily test any paper you consider.