How to Take a Road Trip When You’ve Outgrown Your Mini-Van

My husband and I recently came to a shocking realization.

We can no longer take a road trip with our family in our mini-van.

If we want to take luggage, that is.

We discovered this last year, when we were planning a trip to the Texas Hill Country(Fredericksburg, specifically) for a wedding. As we thought about all of the gear we’d need to take for our 3 kids under age 5 to stay a full week away from home (stroller, pack n play, baby tub, etc.) we knew we’d never squeeze it in – or even in a rooftop luggage carrier. Additionally, our dogs have developed a nasty habit of chewing up our house (and each other) when we leave them alone overnight, so they would have to come along, too.

We were faced with two one options: 1) Don’t go, OR 2) Find a way to get our family, our dogs, and all the required gear to and from the Hill Country that allowed us to keep our mini-van interior dedicated to human (and canine) comfort.

Companion Trailers is a Dallas-Fort Worth based company that manufactures and rents small, lightweight towable trailers. They are designed to ride low to the ground (though they give you as much road clearance as a typical car or mini-van) so they won’t flip or “wobble”. Just about any car can tow one of these trailers (see the Mini above hauling one) – they even have a size that can be towed by a motorcycle! The best part is that, for a small fee ($20, which is waived with a rental of 5 or more days), the company delivers your rental trailer to your home and picks it up from you when you return.

Step 1 – Getting Hitched

Our first step was actually outfitting my mini-van with a towing hitch. You may not believe this (sometimes I still don’t), but I spent a summer during college working as the office assistant/appointment maker for a hitch installer – Broken Arrow Hitch and Trailer. (I just found out that they’ve grown quite a bit since I was there in 1991…I didn’t even recognize them when I went to the website to pull the link for this article. Believe me, it was a much smaller operation back then.) From that experience, I knew I wanted a Draw-Tite hitch, so I needed to find a DFW installer who could install one. I chose to go to Joe’s Hitch, Trailer, and Truck Accessories on Peak Street just off I-30 in Dallas. My experience there was wonderful, deserving of its own post, because Jamey Wozniak and her team were so amazing (yes, Jamey is a woman, and you should see how she runs this business – the 4th oldest truck and SUV accessories business in the world. Wow!).

Step 2 – Selecting the Trailer

Our second step was picking the size of trailer we needed. We knew we would need to get every piece of luggage for 3 people into the trailer….plus the aforementioned baby gear. We decided to rent the “Companion 6” Trailer, which has a 6′ luggage compartment, a short secondary ‘nose’ luggage compartment and overall length of 9′ (check out the slideshow of the storage capacity on the Companion Trailer website). It rents for $35/day.

Step 3 – Packing the Trailer

I was surprised at how much we were able to fit into the trailer. We got all the must-haves, like the stroller, pack n play, baby tub, and luggage that included dozens of diapers for a baby and a toddler. We had room left over, too, so we threw in some extra toys for the kids and a second layer of bedding for the dogs. Here’s what the trailer looked like once we’d filled it:

Step 4 – Driving the Trailer

The real test, I thought, was going to be driving the trailer. Turns out this was easier than anticipated. I even took a turn at it, and it wasn’t difficult at all. I just had to remember that there was an extra 9 feet or so behind the mini-van when I changed lanes on the highway or made a turn. There was no swaying or tipping at all; it was a surprisingly smooth addition to our car. The best part was backing up — the trailer was so light if there was any complication with backing up due to turn radius or other cars, you could just unhook it and move the trailer. Easy!! Here’s what it looked like as we pulled out of the driveway:

Step 5 – Having Fun!!

Thanks to our trailer, the entire car was free for our enjoyment. And we – or at least, most of us – enjoyed the ride. Our oldest chilled out to a movie on the DVD player, the baby slept, and our middle son – just turned 2 at that point – wriggled, fussed, and cried for most of the road trip. (Note to self: even towing a trailer so that we’d have more room in the car couldn’t solve the need of a 2 yr old to MOVE instead of being strapped into a car seat.) And when we got there, we had a blast…especially the boys, who got to do the hokey pokey with their favorite sitter at her wedding reception:

And for that, I have to thank Companion Trailers, because we wouldn’t have been able to do this road trip without towing our gear behind us in the trailer.

Companion Trailers advertised for 6 months on in 2009, which is how I heard about them in the first place.