All very good advice so far. What is your definition of "a few" days? If you're planning on spending 3 full days/4 nights (or, heaven forbid, less than that), then you probably would be best off staying in one base camp and doing both parks, as best you can, from there. If more than that, then 2 base camps - one for the Tetons and one for Yellowstone - would be a good idea.
Our personal preference in campgrounds leads me to suggest Colter Bay RV Park (for hookups) or Colter Bay or Gros Ventre Campgrounds (no hookups, or limited ones) for the Tetons, and Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone or Madison CG (inside the park) for YNP. Grizzly is a very nice park with full hookups, nice showers, laundry facilities, etc. and is only a few blocks from the park's west entrance. You'll do a lot of driving anyway, so it doesn't add tremendously to the load, IMO. Madison CG is 16 miles east of West Yellowstone, no hookups but definitely the in-the-park atmosphere. Very popular; make reservations for Madison ASAP.
If you want to spend most of your time in one park vs the other, you can use one base camp and visit the other park from it, but it's a LONG day from Grizzly to Jackson and back, or from the Tetons to the north end of Yellowstone & back.
x2 on Mountain Home RV Park or - if you prefer state parks, Three Island Crossing or Bruneau Dunes. The state parks have electric & water hookups. Mountain Home is a really nice FHU park. Would make a good laundry stop in between the national parks as well
You do need to make reservations for Yellowstone especially and the Tetons well ahead of time. If you are camping within the parks, then the timeframe for those reservations is definitely now.
Good luck with the plans & the trip!
Check the park website (nps.gov/yell) for information about which lodgings/restaurants will be open inside the park. Probably not much - by November, when the snow usually starts falling in earnest, they will stop keeping the roads clear and letting the snow build up in preparation for the winter season.
Grizzly RV's closing date this fall is October 15th, by the way. Other CGs will have already closed, but there may be some open.
That said, you're more likely to be able to access the park in late October than you would be in April, since roads are not likely to be snow-packed yet.
I think it really is largely a case of ignorance of the (unwritten) rules. My husband grew up in a camping family and learned the rules early on, and passed them on to me when he got me into camping after our marriage; it's a big pet peeve of mine when other campers flagrantly violate what I know to be rules of good behavior - but I'm also sure that most of them were not taught correctly when they started camping. (Probably started on their own as adults, with no one to teach them.) Second Chance, that sounds like a good way to approach the problem; you probably increased understanding on the part of several individuals (and perhaps an entire group), with a minimum of hostility.
Definitely get sway control and weight distribution. It makes towing so much easier (and much more under control - i.e. safer.)
I would suggest to find a dealer - preferably reasonably local - that you like, and trust your gut. Even if you like the dealership and/or they get good reviews from others around, do not necessarily believe what the salesperson says. "Sure, you can tow this" is one of the most commonly-uttered untruth. :) We've all been there (or at least most of us have.) If you have a choice of several reputable dealers, so much the better - visit all of them.
Once you locate a good dealer, look at what he has on the lot, take brochures home for different brands & models, and go through them. We have found that certain items are important to us in a floorplan, and not all brands make the floorplans that work for us. You already know you want a bunkhouse model, full-length bed (those are very hard to find in the lighter/smaller trailers) and other things you mentioned, so that will narrow the search for you.
As far as memberships go, you may want to see how the first year goes and then decide. We have both KOA and Good Sam memberships and like the 10% discount we get on their camping fees. If you will be using mostly state parks or national forests/parks, then the memberships won't do you much good, but if you will be using primarily campgrounds that offer a pool, playground, etc., you may want to consider getting a yearly membership in one or both of these clubs. I believe the annual KOA fee is something like $24, hardly a bank-buster, but if you'll only be camping 3 or 4 times a year, it may not be cost-effective.
Wow! Your guardian angel was working overtime. So glad you got to the bottom of this, got things fixed, and can be on the road in better condition. Hope you find a good reliable mechanic back home for future use!
Ditto with those who are asking what you plan to tow this camper with. That makes a huge difference as to what advice we can give.
Also x2 on "don't listen to RV salespeople." Some of them don't have a clue what they are talking about and some of them are just downright dishonest. Even the relatively honest ones may be lacking knowledge about your specific situation. And x2 on those who have pointed out that a hybrid is not what you want for winter camping - tents just don't hold heat in well.
I also agree that you need to know what will be available where you plan to camp for snowboarding. That refers not just to bathrooms but also to electric hookups (and how many amps), water availability, sewer hookups, and a place to get your propane tanks refilled, because camping in the winter will suck down a lot of propane in a huge hurry. We lived in our trailer (not a hybrid) for 10 days in late March/early April one year, with overnight temps below freezing and daytime temps ranging from 45 to 65, and went through 1 1/2 30-lb propane tanks in that time. We ran completely out of gas on a Sunday and our usual propane sources weren't open, so we had to buy a 20-lb tank at a hardware store and hook that up for a while. Fortunately we were familiar with the area and knew where to go. You will need to do some research ahead of time.
A word about sleeping 4 or more friends. Campers usually have a queen-size (sometimes double) bed for 2 adults, often not quite long enough for 6-footers unless they like to sleep in fetal position. The other "beds" will consist of the dinette and some form of couch, either a futon-like affair or sometimes a foldout couch. The foldout may sleep a couple adults; the futon and the dinette will not. In fact, the dinette won't be long enough for a 5'4" adult to sleep on unless they are sleeping diagonally, with no one sharing the bed with them. Bear this in mind. Campers with multiple beds are designed for families: i.e. parents and children.
Depends on where you like to camp. If you're happy with pullthrus in private CGs, you'll fit most places. If you like state & national parks & national forests, you're pushing the limits. We had a 34-footer and traded it in for a 27-footer, and still can't fit in all the places we'd like.
The Rockwood Mini-Lites and Micro-Lites are just that - lightweight - meaning the materials used are not as solid as with bigger, heavier campers. Workmanship I would say is probably average; you're bound to find a few faults with fit & finish, but most times nothing major. I think you might struggle to pull that 21' with that midsize SUV, and if you don't have at least an 8-cylinder engine and a "tow package" (larger radiator/transmission cooler/built-in wiring and classIII hitch or better), I would discourage it. However, since you're used to towing the 17' with it, you probably won't find it all that much different to tow, since one of the biggest factors is wind resistance.
One of our local dealers carries Lance trailers and truck campers. We had heard good things about this brand so went & looked at a few. We didn't like the floorplans (personal preference: we like to be able to access the bathroom enroute - without deploying the slideout - and none of the floorplans we saw allowed that). And some of the windows seemed to have been messed up - the seals broken, etc. Not sure if that was from the factory, or if something happened in transit. We ended up - mostly due to the floorplans - buying another brand. Loved some of the options they had - the sliding bin in the front pass-thru storage is one that sticks in my mind - but didn't seem to us they were worth the extra $.
Agreed, Rock Cut is very nice! I had heard nice things about Blandings Landing but haven't ever been there; we did enjoy Thomson Causeway (COE) park, but the train is an issue there as well (as it will be in virtually every park along the river!) Another good SP in the area is Mississippi Palisades; likely to be full on the holiday weekend, though.
For near Dubuque - if you can't get into Wyalusing SP (Wis), which is our all-time favorite (Wis. Ridge CG only; some sites have electric, but most are pretty short) you might consider the Rustic Barn CG - also in Wisconsin but perhaps 20 miles from Dubuque. Electric & water at sites, nice farm country, both pull-thrus & back-ins. Not sure what they have for kids to do, though - we didn't check into that. They do have a group meeting room (or did when we were there, some years ago).