Maybe will retire in a few years and maybe will want to drive to lots of national parks (and ski zones?).
Does a trailer work in cold weather (for overnight sleeping)?
I am thinking a small trailer- maybe towable with a V-6 AWD Toyota Sienna. ANyone had experience with this?
I have read about being able to stop at some Walmarts with trailers when traveling- is this real? Are there other good places to spend a night?
Check out cheaprvliving.com. There is some good reading in their forums.
Yes, Wall Mart makes for a quick and easy spot to sleep in a pinch but I wouldn't want to do it very much.
Out west here there is a shit ton of National Forests that you can camp on for free generally for up to two weeks at a time in any one NF. That law is to make sure people aren't living full time on public lands. It's pretty easy to pick up camp and move somewhere else on the less popular NF's and not get hassled. NF lands are one of the best resources we have in this country imo, some are just as beautiful as our National Parks but don't suffer from the designation effect the way a park does. Take a look at the states of Nevada, Colorado, Montana etc. on a road atlas, those places are covered in desolate and rarely visited NF lands.
I'm a big fan of the 4WD Sports mobile type vans. They can be stealth enough that you can post up in an urban area and not be that noticeable.
I've thought about a similar strategy for traveling resort to resort out west. I think it would be a blast. I have done a fair bit of towing a Coleman pop-up with a compact pickup but pop-ups are no good for winter time. Hard sided travel trailers would work. I would like to get a small fiberglass camper like a 13 foot scamp. It's doable with a minivan as long as you stick to the absolutely smallest trailers out there and don't load up the trailer or van with too much stuff but you'd be much better off with a small truck; 4-5k lb towing capacity vs 3-3.5k for a mini van. Here's another place where GM dropped the ball dicontinuing the Astro/Safari vans. They were available in AWD and could tow 5k.
The propane heat works whenever, but the hard part is the water system. Arctic Fox makes trailers with insulated undercarriages. I've done 28 degrees in the ADK with no issues with the water system full on our old hybrid travel trailer. Just reached 28 overnight then warmed up the next day. I'm not sure how good the fridge works in low temps though.
I think you can go from area to area pretty easily... most of the "cooler" areas have very user friendly RV policies... we have done the Powder highway without any hotel rooms needed.
A buddy of mine converted his Toyota Sienna minivan into a pretty sweet overnighter. He and his son have done some Epic road trips the past few years... very cost effective. The van is so posh that he actually sleeps in the car in my driveway when he comes to Mission (as opposed to sleeping in a bedroom at my house)... just comes in to the house to use the can.
Another thought.....I'm a big fan of a simpler set up. One without running water or a fridge. It's pretty easy to go for 4 or 5 day trips without these things. Most towns have a rec center or gym with public showers. Not having these things in your truck/van/camper makes it easier to maintain and opens things up to create a more comfortable living space. A quality cooler can keep your food/beverages cold for around 2 weeks. A propane camping stove can fit into a really small space. Throw in a large water cooler and you are set for 4 to 5 days at a time. Maybe more.
The cool thing about traveling is that you start to meet people form everywhere. Once you develop a network of connections you can jump around and stay with friends for a few days at a time. Just make sure to be unseen as best as possible and cook and clean for your hosts. This though may be more of a thing for younger folks, maybe for those of us >40 might come off as weirdo gypsy creepers. You know we aren't supposed to be living like this once we are over the hill! :)
I guess what kind of set up you would choose would depend on your desired use for the rig.
Once I'm done with school my main goal is to have a van, base out of here in Flagstaff and then go on extended trips all around the 4 Corners region when ever I can. It's the dream imho. I hope you do it!
I've thought about a similar strategy for traveling resort to resort out west. I think it would be a blast. I have done a fair bit of towing a Coleman pop-up with a compact pickup but pop-ups are no good for winter time. Hard sided travel trailers would work.
There is a company, I think it's Travel Manor that makes a hard sided pop-up. Heaver than a real pop-up, but I think lighter than a regular trailer and it has some insulation.