Advice / Lifestyle

5 Tips for Tiny House Travel

Our modified Tumbleweed Cypress has rolled all the way from Los Angeles to Nova Scotia to Florida, where I’m currently writing this blog post. In the four months and 8,500 miles I’ve traveled with a tiny home, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. Below is a short list of tiny house travel tips that I hope will be helpful to future tiny house travelers.

tiny house travel

5 Tips for Tiny House Travel

1). You can weigh your tiny home at any truck scale

The best way is to weigh the tiny house with your truck attached, then park, detach, weigh your truck alone and subtract that weight from the total. It’s important to know your weight and to have a tow vehicle that can handle the load. It is especially important to be aware of your tongue weight, which can be found by purchasing a tongue scale. Many tiny homes have a heavy tongue weight because of the loft. You can counter balance your tongue weight by placing some of your heavier items in the back of the trailer (like water tanks or solar batteries). You can also use a weight distribution system, like we do.

2). Call campgrounds ahead of time

I call ahead and tell the campground that I have a 24 foot travel trailer (that’s including the tongue) that requires 30 amp electrical, water and (if I know my 15 gallon water tank will not be sufficient) a sewage drain for grey water. If they ask for the brand of the travel trailer, I tell them it’s a “Tumbleweed tiny house, you know… like on Tiny House Nation?” And that usually rings a bell. No campground has EVER turned us down. In fact,click here for a list of campgrounds that we’ve stayed at.

THGJ Everglades Flamingo - 0003

Tiny House Gj in the Florida Everglades at Flamingo RV Park

3). Attach bubble levels to your tiny house

We have one on the back center of my house (for left/right leveling) and one on the side (for front/back leveling). We use Anderson levelers for left/right leveling and we LOVE them. With these levelers, we can raise one side of our house up to four inches simply by driving onto them! If we need more than that, Guillaume will pull one side of our tiny house up onto planks of wood, and then use the levelers. For front/back leveling, we use the tongue jack. Never use the scissor jacks for leveling; They are for stability only.

4). Get an RV GPS

I use a Rand McNally RV GPS to navigate around low clearances, weight restrictions, propane restrictions, etc. It’s excellent and it is worth its weight in gold for my peace of mind.

tiny house travel

Tiny House GJ driving in New York towards Canada

5). Secure Loose Items

Add a lip to your shelves and hook & eyes to your drawers. Using a bungie cord works as well, but if every shelf and drawer requires a bungie, you’ll die of tedium. The less “lock and loading” the better. It takes us about 20 minutes to secure everything inside the house and another 20 minutes to pack up the outside. Usually I handle the inside while Guillaume handles the outside, so we cut our time in half. We’ve got it down to a science, but we’re also always improving.

Here’s to another 8,500 miles!

Any tiny house travel experts want to share some tips? Comment below!

* This article was originally published on Tumbleweedhouses.com

49 thoughts on “5 Tips for Tiny House Travel

  1. Have you considered posting a map of the places you stopped along your journey. More specifically the RV parks, National Parks, and other places that welcomed you. Maybe your rout so others will know a safe path to travel the road that allows the height of tiny houses to pass freely.

  2. Hi folks! I`m from Poland in Europe and new to tiny house community. I do understand almost everything how the tiny house works,apart from one thing. Where do you keep fresh tank water and one for a grey water. How often do you have to empty it. Love them vids on youtube. Cheers.

  3. Being twice as heavy and per sf, that’s pretty equivalent to ours. There is a gross combined vehicle weight (GCVW) that salespeople and people in general aren’t aware of, which is the total weight acceptable adding tow vehicle and, for want of a better term, trailer weights. It’s a safety issue. We travel with limited fresh water as a full tank weighs 800#s. I did a weight estimate before deciding on a rig, including full fuel tanks and 400 lbs. for Mike, me, and the two dogs, and future belongings in the house.

    When we got weighed (finally) we were 500 lbs over. We only travel in this rig twice a year now, 1,600 miles total. And we are constantly getting rid of unused belongings. It’s amazing how much stuff weights add up. Still, it’s kind of liberating.

    We had a 2003 Ford dually with the same problem. We bought it “used” with 15,000 miles on it, so no new buyer warranty. It was beautiful. It eventually cost us an additional $18,000. We feel your pain.

    It is amazing how much effort goes into downsizing decisions and how hind-sight results in so many forehead slaps.

  4. We installed solar in our 300 sf home (RV.) This was ten years ago, prices have gone down considerable since then. At this time the only additional cost has been $400 to replace the six volt batteries, which lived almost to the day as long as they said they would. We stayed totally solar power independent in the winter in AZ for nine years. We plug in at our property in the summer in ID because I totally love my washer and dryer in the shed and well, because we can.

    Solar is fantastic.

  5. Mike and I have been living small as full time RVers since Dec. 13, 2005. My sister is very interested in tiny houses and has lured me in, as a somewhat expert less is more observer.

    Our home is 300 sf, 13,933 lb. GVWR, 33’3′ from the pin which has a 2,195 lbs. dry pin weight. These numbers are very important to me, as I spent many days researching tow vehicles that could handle the house. (I was a reference librarian in our previous life, no query too small or large.) Our tow vehicle is a F350 4×4 crew cab, long bed with a GCVW of 23,000. In hind-site, a F250 2×4 short bed with the same GCVW would have given us considerable more pulling capacity as it is a lighter vehicle.

    The question I have about tiny houses is how the weight is reduced to allow safe pulling. Mike has been in home construction for decades and we built our last stick house ourselves, so we’re both aware of the weight involved in building a house, large or small. I love the organic look of tiny houses; our home is cozy inside (remodels and decorating) but does lack the outside esthetics of a cottage.

    So, how do you do it? I know a RV is not considered a tiny house and while I disagree, I very much respect that view for others.

    Btw, I love love love living small. We take the house to the Colorado River in AZ in the winter and back to our rural property in ID for the summer. Someday we may get too old to drive between the lines and end up in a stick house again, but it will be very, very small. One could say tiny:)

    • Well, a wood framed house will inherently be much much heavier than a travel trailer as you already know. Usually almost twice the weight. I don’t always recommend people to build/buy a tiny house if their one and only intention is to travel with it on a sporadic basis, it has to be a lifestyle commitment as well.
      Our house is 125sqft on the floor and weighs 10,160lbs fully loaded with about 1,500lbs on the tongue. We tow it with a 2006 6.0 Ford F250 crewcab long bed 4×4. It’s rated to tow up to 12,500lbs. The house is not aerodynamic so it’s that much more challenging for the truck. And the truck we got (actually, the engine that Ford design for that truck) is a POS and cost us quite a bit during our travels. A lighter truck with the same engine could tow more, yes, but you’d also have a lighter truck trying to stop the weight behind (even if the trailer has brakes). A longer wheelbase also helps with towing (at least for tow-behind trailers).

  6. Hi Jenna! My fiancé and I are moving to California permanently from Canada and were wondering if you know of a good resource where we could find information on restrictions when it comes to bringing our tiny home (that we have yet to build) across the border. Any suggestions? Love your blog!

    • Honestly you should read our posts about crossing the border. Here, here and here.
      You’d have to do research on having the right paperwork to take your rig into the USA. We are USA citizens that were traveling through Canada with our (selfbuilt) camper. It would be way different for a Canadian wanting to move permanently into the USA and I’m not sure we can really give you much info.
      Good luck

  7. Hi, me and my husband are interested in living and traveling full time in an rv but I love the look and layouts of the tiny houses. Have you run into any issues towing yours, how well do they hold up to being towed? Also since its home built have you run into any issues with insurance or tbureaucrats? What is your trailer classified as?

    • Our house is registered as a recreational trailer in Illinois.
      We do not have insurance on it, being built by ourselves, it’s a little tough to get insurance. Our truck insurance covers us liability-wise but not property-wise. If we total our house, we’re on our own.
      Our house is not RVIA certified, again since we built it ourselves, but it has never been an issue. I’m responding to you from an RV park here that claims in their brochure that they would only accept RVIA certified units, yet we’re still parked here. Not sure for long term parking though.
      The house has been holding up beautifully to the miles. We’ve towed it 22,000 miles over the past year, in all 4 corners of the USA and all the way up to the Arctic Circle in Alaska (that’s hundreds of miles of dirt and gravel road). We’ve had no major issue or maintenance issues. It’s been great.

  8. My husband and I are preparing to invest in a tiny house! Did you buy one of the kits that you just have to assemble, or did you simply get the plans from Tumbleweed Houses and buy the materials to build it yourself? Would you recommend doing it either way specifically? Also, how does your dog take to being on the road? Does she ride in the truck with you or is it safe/more comfortable for her to ride in the house? Thanks in advance!!

    • Honestly, we don’t know of any company that does “kits”. We know of Tumbleweed that does partially built houses, which are great for people that want a running start. We built our house from plans and purchased all the materials individually.
      Our dog travels just fine. She’s on the back seat of the truck when we travel. It is illegal for anyone to be in the tiny house while in tow, and we wouldn’t want to be anyway. It’s a bumpy ride and would be extremely dangerous in the event of a crash.

  9. My husband and I are currently in the process of building our first tiny house with plans to move it 1,000 miles here in ~2 months. Thanks for all your advice!

  10. How difficult is it going down a steep grade with 10,000+ pounds of house and then your personal items? I would think that would be the toughest part. Any scary moments? Suggestions?

    • Honestly not bad. We have the Tumbleweed Trailer so it’s built right and both axles have brakes. Our truck is also pretty heavy and engine braking goes a long way. We just take it easy. We have had no scary moments going downhill. The only really issue we had was that our wood pail slides a little on very windy roads. If we’re going downhill with lots of switch backs, we might just put that in the bed of the truck.

  11. I really appreciate the trailer parking tips you shared. I would love to take a trip like that! Were you required to stop at any state borders to weigh in? Did you guys build the house yourselves? I love the rustic design of it! Thanks for sharing your story!

  12. Pingback: una pareja construye una casa rodante para hacer un pequeño gran viaje « mis gafas de pasta

  13. I love the blog and dream of living tiny soon. I am a single woman who just turned 50. I am totally hooked on tiny houses. I plan on retiring in the next 5 to 10 years (can you say mid-life crisis). In preparation for this, I have downsized my home from 3,500 sq. ft to a 1,700 sq. ft townhouse. I expect to be able to down size to between 250 and 350 sq. ft by the time I retire. My taste is simple and I consider myself low maintenance. Here are my questions 1) what would likely be my estimated first year costs to go tiny (including the house) living in one place? 2) how often do you live completely off the grid? 3) has moving around your tiny home resulted in any damage to the structure? 4) how do you receive snail mail? 5) are their tax/residency issues when settling down that should be considered? I realize these may seem like random questions and I appreciate your responses.

    • Hi Kelly, glad you like our blog. I will answer you questions as best I can:
      1. This varies way too much from one person to another to figure out. A house can cost $30,000 to $90,000 to purchase or $10,000 to $35,000 to build yourself (prices vary even more than that). Your bills will depend on your appliance choices, are you heating with electricity, propane, wood? What kind of climate? Will you have a washer and drier. You’d have to figure out what you’ll use and do the math.
      2. We rarely live completely off grid. We don’t have a battery system (yet), so it’s difficult for us not to plug in.
      3. The tiny house is built like a tank. We can’t find any sign of damage from driving it around after almost 12,000 miles.
      4. Our legal address is in Illinois at Jenna’s parents house. There are services out there with PO boxes that can receive your mail and forward it. We try to do almost everything online.
      5. Today, it is technically illegal to live in a tiny house (or RV) in most places, so taxes are a really grey area. I suggest you search tiny house legalities online for more info, or read Cracking The Code. We move around so we’re fine. Our taxes are owed to the DMV every year.

  14. Hi there. Came across your blog just at a moment in our tiny house journey where we wrote the big non refundable check to the builder, purchased the one ton truck and donated our stuff…and had a flash of doubt, of “Are we nuts? Can we do this? Can we really travel like we want to?” …I cannot say thank you enough for your eloquently shared experience and the perfect timing. Yes, it can be done! What an exciting adventure and inspiration! Thank you!

    Do you ever have difficulty towing with softer roads (gravel)? We had hoped to do some boondocking along the way, so our Scottie dogs could have more freedom. This is one aspect I have not found any info on specifically in my research. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you again for sharing your journey! I look forward to future posts.

    • Glad to hear that we could help! Who’s building your house and what size is it?

      We haven’t had difficulties with gravel really, you just take it very slow. The vibrations are pretty intense so I hope your house will be built right. We’ve parked in an RV park in NJ where the spots were sandy. That made it a little more difficult for our 3/4 ton truck to maneuver the house around, especially to level it. Our levelers tend to sink into the ground as we roll on them. We’re putting over 2,000lbs of weight on each tire and they aren’t very wide, so they tend to sink in very soft grounds.

      Let us know when you get started. Do you have a blog?

      Guillaume

      • Thanks for the info on softer grounds, that will really help with boondocking site evaluations and our route planning! Gravel roads were a big concern to us.

        Our builder is Jim Ash of Daystar (dba The Vintage Cottage Home) in Oregon. We wanted an RV certified mom and pop company with social conscience, Jim builds tiny homes for the homeless. Interior is all wood to move better on the road. Our tiny is huge at 8’6″x24′, but we’re a family of 7 (3 humans, 4 furry think they’re humans) and needed 2 lofts. We move in May 1.

      • Yes, he just became certified. I did find other TH builders (especially in Oregon, Idaho and WA State) that have jumped on the RVIA bandwagon very recently and became certified as well.

      • That’s interesting. I know that Teal from wishbone tiny homes got approved by the RVIA inspector but denied by the board of directors, sounded like they wouldn’t approve tiny house companies for a few months! Good for you though! Let us know when you get your house.

      • Interesting. I’d hate for you to not get what you want so I’d make sure everything is ok. I was under the impression that RVIA was closed to any other tiny house company certification until March/April. Wishbone Tiny Homes was a recent victim of that as you can read in their blog.
        The two only tiny house companies I see in the official RVIA manufacturer directory are Tumbleweed and Tennessee. Maybe it’s so recent that they aren’t registered in there yet. I just want to make sure you’re getting what you paid for!

    • We use a 2006 Ford F-250 crewcab long bed FX4 6.0L Turbo Diesel. The truck has been towing our house without a problem for almost 9,000 miles now. We do wish we had a slightly larger truck as our tongue weight is too heavy. This means we shouldn’t carry much inside our truck, which is a pain since we want a shell to put bikes and solar panels in it. We usually drive 50mph to save on gas (10mpg) but we’ve towed at 75mph too. It handled fine though the truck was working very hard and it wasn’t fun to tow.
      Our woodstove is the Kimberly from Unforgettable Fire. You can find much more info and links about our stats and materials in our FAQ page.

      • Do you like the Kimberly? It sounds great but, a lot of $. I am also looking at the hobbit which as also sounds like a nice stove for less than half the price of Kimberly. I asked unlimited to justify their cost and got no reply. Love the blog and can’t wait to get our little house on the road.

  15. Pingback: Suggestions for Safe Travel | American Tiny House Association

  16. Hello, travelers,

    When you weight the tiny house and your transporter, do you account for the amount of equipment that is with you and the fuel that you carry?

    -N.N. Team

  17. I appreciated your suggestion about the levelers. Not sure they’ll work on our unit with only 2 1/4 inches between the two tires.

    Suggestion: Check out the “Allstays Camp and RV” app. We rely on it primarily to find any and all types of support facilities needed when RVing on the road. Shows RV parks, relevant stores, easy access fuel stops, etc. Easy and intuitive to use! (They aren’t paying me to rave about the app.)

  18. I Was Wondering If You Have Had Any Issues With Flat Tires Yet?? How Long Are Your Tires Supposed To Last?? Do You Inspect Them On A Regular Basis?? So Are You Planning On Ever Just Parking Your Tiny House And Staying In The Same Place For A While?? I Am Loving Following Your Journey…Never The Same Reports Twice!! 🙂 Hoping Ya’ll Have An AMAZING Weekend!! 🙂

  19. Hi Salies,
    We enjoy your mom’s blog a lot so we have decided to take your suggestion regarding using your embedded Amazon link for our shopping. I sure hope you get a lot of other followers as well as a new stuffed squirrel.

    Love,
    Patches

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