By Janet Groene, F47166
Here are a number of questions I’ve received from Family Motor Coaching readers during the past few months.
Our family enjoys traveling in our motorhome to big events, concerts, and games, but it’s a royal hassle to track down tickets to each venue. Is there an easier way?
Ticketmaster is a national service that sells seats for concerts, performances, and sporting events and is affiliated with the venues for which it sells the tickets. It has offices in most major cities, but if there isn’t a Ticketmaster outlet in your area, visit www.ticketmaster.com online to purchase your tickets. Ticketmaster charges a per-ticket convenience charge and a nonrefundable processing fee on top of the ticket price; delivery fees also may apply. The company also operates www.reserveamerica.com, where you can reserve campsites in numerous states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
If an event is sold out — or the remaining tickets aren’t very good — you might consider calling a ticket broker. There are hundreds of companies around the country that buy and sell tickets to all types of events. To find a broker in your area, check the Yellow Pages under the heading “Tickets.” You also can visit numerous ticker resellers on the Internet. One such company is Western States Ticket Service, www.wstickets.com, which provides one-stop shopping for tickets to blockbuster events such as the Super Bowl, Indianapolis 500, Las Vegas shows, college football and basketball games, film festivals, all-star games, NASCAR races, and much more. Remember, when you buy from a ticket broker, you will be charged a premium above the ticket’s face price, depending on the difficulty of getting the tickets and the buyer demand.
By the time our mail caught up with us, it was too late to send in payment for a credit card bill and we were socked with a $35 late-payment penalty. What’s with these credit card companies?
Welcome to a new age in which late-pay penalties have soared and grace periods have shrunk to as few as 20 days. If this is a recurring problem for you, electronic bill paying can buy you time. If you aren’t comfortable with that, one solution is to keep track of all your charges and send in a check before you receive the bill. Be sure you include all the necessary information including the card number and all other numbers that appear on the bill stub.
I have also read that, in a pinch, you can call in a payment to Discover, American Express, MasterCard, or Visa. Call the toll-free telephone number on the back of your credit card and give the service representative a check number as well as the bank routing number that appears on the bottom of the check. Be sure to enter the amount in your checkbook records, and then destroy the check. Each company will likely have its own policies and fees regarding this service, and it’s recommended that you ask a representative from your credit card company about it before phoning at the last minute.
I’m interested in having a washer-dryer combo in our next motorhome. Are there drawbacks I should know about?
Most full-timers agree that the one household convenience that is missed most is the ability to do laundry. Here are some things to consider before purchasing a washer-dryer unit. The new combos are heavy appliances, and they also take up space in your motorhome that you might prefer to use for other things. While the washer portion of the unit uses much less water than conventional machines, it may not be right for people who frequently camp without hookups. Loads must be kept small, so you will end up doing laundry every few days at about 90 minutes per load, compared to finishing six loads in a few hours at a coin-operated laundry once every week or two.
You must follow directions carefully when using these machines, because front-loaders work differently from top-loaders. If you load too much into the machine, washing isn’t thorough and there isn’t adequate room during the dry cycle for wrinkles to tumble out. Maintenance also is essential, not just to protect the machine but to keep the appliance from leaking into your motorhome. As with all washers, damage also can be done by a runaway machine with an unbalanced load, and as with all dryers, neglected lint can be a fire hazard. If you do decide to include a washer-dryer in your next motorhome, heed the appliance manufacturer’s directions.
We know we should exercise more, but we just can’t get started. Do you have any suggestions for how we can begin a simple exercise routine?
A publication titled Exercise: A Guide From The National Institute On Aging is available by calling the institute at (800) 222-2225 or by visiting its Web site at www.nia.nih.gov/exercisebook. The NIA’s director, Dr. Richard J. Hodes, suggests starting with as little as five minutes of walking and working toward a goal of 30 minutes or more of continuous exercise each day. He says it’s easier if you can work with a partner and motivate each other. If your spouse won’t go along, maybe you can find a workout partner in the campground.
My wife insists on shopping in camping supply stores for cleaners and products that I can find much cheaper in discount stores and supermarkets. Please give me some ammunition to talk her out of this waste of money.
Pat your wife on the back. Household cleaners and waxes don’t usually contain ultraviolet ray inhibitors that ensure longer life for your motorhome’s paint, chrome, trim, and tires. Cleaners made for your home’s sinks may scratch materials used in your coach, and toilet cleaners could be wrong for your plumbing, tank, and dump hose. You could even void a warranty by, for example, using abrasive cleanser on an acrylic shower door; or by using a cheap substitute for the recommended roof coating. When you consider that maintenance is mostly labor, the cost of the products isn’t all that important.
I don’t want to reveal this to my wife, but I’m not as comfortable at the wheel of our big motorhome as I would like to be. I’ve hinted about downsizing, but that’s not an option at this time. Is there a way I can brush up on my road skills?
If you’re over the age of 50, you might consider taking the AARP 55 Alive driver safety course, explaining to your wife that it could result in lower insurance rates. Several states mandate that insurance companies provide a discount for those who complete an approved driver refresher course. Even in states that don’t have the mandatory discount, some insurance companies will voluntarily give discounts. Check with your insurance agent to see if you are eligible.
Another suggestion is to take the RV Safe Driving Course. The program, which is co-sponsored by RV Alliance America, C95, and FMCA, is offered to members at many area rallies and at FMCA’s national motorhome extravaganzas for a fee of $10. The six-hour course (usually divided into two three-hour sessions) covers numerous safety topics, including proper RV loading; sharing the road with truckers; and defensive driving tips. Like the AARP program, successful completion of this course may reduce your insurance rates.
Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, operates only in winter, when it’s held on a deep layer of snow and ice. The school offers half-day and full-day sessions, as well as private instruction and customized programs where you’ll learn volumes about yourself, your vehicles, and slippery roads. After completing the class, you are encouraged to take your motorhome or towed vehicle onto the school’s ice track where you can practice driving in a comparatively hazard-free ice situation. For more information call (800) 949-7543 or visit www.winterdrive.com.
Winfield Sterling, F140733, a full-timer since 1995, has been mentioned in this column before as the man who maintains a list of RV parks that offer sites with instant or “hot” telephone hookups. His list is a godsend for full-timers who rely on the Internet, as well as for anyone who wants an in-coach landline for telephoning. To receive an updated copy of the list, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. In return, he asks that those who use the list send him campground updates to keep the list as current and accurate as possible. The list also can be found at www.hometown.aol.com/winfield3/index.html.
While traveling, we still get much of our fuel price information by talking to truckers on the CB radio. But a Web site, www.gaspricewatch.com, uses thousands of volunteer spotters throughout the United States and Canada to report on the lowest pump prices in each area. You can search the site’s database by city, state, or zip code to find the lowest gas prices in whatever area you are traveling. The FMCA.com Web site provides links to 12 different fuel price-related sites, including this one. Visit www.fmca.com; click on “Motorhome Guide,” “Travel,” and “Fuel pricing links.”
Give it away
In last month’s column, I suggested a number of worthwhile organizations and charities to donate your things to rather than selling them when you are dispersing your possessions to go full-timing. However, I forgot one important item — frequent flyer miles. Call the airline and ask about donating your leftover miles to a charity, such as Make-A-Wish Foundation, which gives terminally ill children the wish of their choice. The miles were free to you, so there is no tax write-off, but the reward is the thought that you’re helping sick children fly to Disneyland or the Grand Canyon. Most major airlines have a frequent flyer miles donation program. To find out the specifics about how to make a donation, visit the Make-A-Wish Foundation Web site at www.wish.org or phone the organization at (866) 880-1382.