The downside of living in a 200 sqft Airstream

The downside of living in a 200 sqft Airstream

The downside of living in a 200 sqft Airstream

When we bought the Airstream, I promised to give you an honest assessment of how we like it. We are having fun in our new, smaller home, but I won't say that every day is like a vacation.

The downside of living in a 200 sqft Airstream

    Hey gang! So a few years back, we bought an Airstream trailer, and now it’s 2019, and we officially live in it full-time. It has replaced our former, more traditional home, which we used to share with the rest of our family.

    When we first made the transition, I promised to share with you an honest assessment of how we like RV life and document the time we spent while on the road over the course of the last year – not just a glorified “we rock and so does our RV / living in a big home sucks” picture that assumes every day in an RV is like a full-time vacation. Because, well, it isn’t.

    While we travel a fair amount throughout the year, and my wife and I share a passion for being on the road, much about living in a trailer full-time seems to work in our favor, while other things aren’t working quite as well.

    I’ve said before that our downsize from living in one 1600 sqft house to our new 200 sqft Airstream “Charlie” was a success. Now it’s 2019, and looking back on this past year, much of the transition remains to be an overall positive experience for us! We honestly love living here full-time. We love the campground life. We love our evening walks around the grounds and looking at all the RVs and saying “hi” to the new people we live nearby.

    The Cost of Living in an Airstream

    In reflecting on the pros of this lifestyle change, for one thing, living in an airstream has dramatically decreased our cost of living. Many people ask me how much does it cost to live in an airstream. The answer can vary depending on a few factors. Where are you looking to stay or camp out? Are you renting, or do you own the airstream? How much water and electricity do you use on a month to month basis? What kind of cell phone plan do you require? And do you have your own P.O. box to store your mail while you’re on the move?

    The cost of RV campsites range from $25 to $80 per night depending on the location you plan on living in, the size of the space, and what connections are offered. I have spoken to some people who camp out on properties owned by other family members or friends, and they affirm that these kinds of friendly arrangements help limit the campsite expense.

    Airstream Living Tips

    In terms of renting versus owning your own trailer, the biggest Airstream living tip I could give you is to test out the RV lifestyle before completely buying in. While the cost of renting airstreams long-term exceed the cost of buying a new 2019 model full out, downsizing your home is not an easy task and therefore, not for everyone.

    Water you can get from a well for free and electricity can run anywhere between $45 to $150 depending on how cold or hot it gets. If you’re living in a cold climate, I would be sure the RV you are renting or own is winterized before harsh weather hits. Otherwise, you won’t be a happy camper, no pun intended.

    Cell phone plans and the cost of a P.O. box vary from region to region. If you plan on travelling a ton, I would make sure to get a cellular carrier that has the best coverage to ensure you can contact people throughout your journey, even in the most remote places. Similarly, if you will be on the go constantly, I would consider investing in a virtual or online P.O. box which allows you to access your mail 24/7, all from the convenience of your smartphone. Some plans cost as low as $6.99 per month.

    But with anything in the life we live, there will be…the downside – the honest-to-goodness straight-shootin’ look at both things that we like as well as the things that we don’t. While I am not one to ordinarily complain, in this post, I will discuss the things that I don’t like about living in a space this small.

    Things I don't like about living in our Airstream

    Believe it or not, the thing I hate the most is the lack of headroom when I have to work in the kitchen. Both my wife and I have banged our heads against the upper cabinets while working in this part of the RV more times than we can count. I’m truly surprised that we didn’t give ourselves a black eye after we first moved in.

    The kitchen in the Airstream
    The kitchen in the Airstream

    We are getting used to it and learning how to make it work, but the combination of bumps and bruises serve as a painful sign that our new home is not the optimal size.

    I am also not the number one fan of my workspace in the Airstream, which is the nook at the moment. While we are planning on gutting the nook area and loading it with a much more functional desk for our computer equipment, right now we’re rockin’ the traditional nook and seating area that I’ve had to occupy as my full-time desk and “office.” To say to least, I have some difficulty sending the occassional email and conducting a regular click through search on the internet.

    Interior of our Airstream: Look at how cramped it all is!
    My work area is on the right (Apple Macbook and monitor)

    Next, there is very little external storage, which is both good and bad. Naturally, recreational vehicles cannot offer the same storage space that a traditional “sticks ‘n bricks” home can. But our Airstream trailer is even worse which can make the act of living in an RV difficult at times.  While 99% of Airstreams don’t have slideouts (which we like), they also don’t have “basement” storage compartments that click into space like larger motorhomes do.  These compartments are only accessible via the outside of the RV and offer a relatively large space to store stuff.

    We don’t have that much luxury.  We do have one externally-accessible storage area in the very back of the Airstream that also happens to be accessible by lifting up on the bed. Of course, this area is packed full of stuff all the time with items like my tripod, our winter clothes, extra toilet paper and paper towels, luggage, dog food and other larger things. It is also our main bulk-item storage area which in turn, makes it hard to search for the things we need throughout the year.

    Under the bed storage in the Airstream
    Under the bed storage in the Airstream

    One good thing about our relative lack of full-time storage is, well, we cannot accumulate stuff and live in excess! We just gave ourselves an excellent reason to completely transform the way our family does gift-giving during the holiday time – at least to us. We aren’t yet as bad ass as Our Next Life, who convinced their family to adopt a “No Spend Christmas,” but we have at least found a way to stop the gift-giving madness in our direction. A simple happy holiday email now suffices on our end!

    There are no laundry facilities in our RV which makes one other aspect of living on the road a bit tricky – staying clean. Many larger motorhomes and 5th wheels do have small areas for working two-in-one washers and dryers, but there isn’t nearly enough space in our 30′ Airstream for that. This means we gotta travel to laundromats to do our laundry. We also get a little more creative with how many times we wear clothes…it may sound disgusting, but stick with me for a second before you click away to another post out of sheer disgust.

    Of course, we never wear clothes that truly need washing. We have a little transportable hamper in our main closet where we throw the clothes that can’t be worn again. But yes, I do often give my clothes the “sniff test” and, if they show no sign of smelling ripe, I am not opposed to re-wearing those items rather than immediately loading up the hamper. And to my surprise, a hell of a lot more articles of clothing are minty fresh enough for another round!

    Lastly, I miss my king sized bed. I’m not a big fella – 6-foot even, about 200 pounds, but I still enjoy a little space to move around in bed. Without slideouts, there’s no bloody way a king bed would fit in the Airstream, so we share a queen. Can anyone say “first world problems”?And before wrapping up the post, a quick note about the black water – yes, the black water tank is where our poop and pee live. Water, along with any contents contained within, gets flushed from the toilet and held in the black water tank underneath the Airstream. Naturally, this tank requires emptying every week or so, and many consider it to be a “shitty job,” literally.

    Our sewer hose running from the trailer down to the campsite's hookup
    Our sewer hose running from the trailer down to the campsite's hookup

    But honestly, it's really no sweat. In fact, I don't even need to move or touch the sewer hose at all during this process. All I do is pull the black water tank release handle and watch that beautiful brown poop water drain out of the tank, through the sewer hose and into the sewer. Then, I connect the fresh water hose (a regular garden hose) up to the "black water rinse" receiver line and wash out the black tank, as well as the sewer hose itself, with fresh H2O. When complete, I push the release handle back in and go on about my business.

    I don't even need to wear gloves during this procedure. Hardly any smell emanates from the hose or sewer system. Though I felt compelled to mention this process, it is NOT one of my dislikes, actually. It's all a part of the process of living in an RV that has toilet facilities.

    And that’s it! Luckily, everything I’ve mentioned isn’t life or death. It’s just something that we get used to as a part of this major lifestyle change that we decided to pursue. When you want to change your backyard every couple of weeks and be free to travel to interesting places – like we do, this is a darn great way to live in 2019!



    Steve Adcock

    774 posts

    Steves a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence.