By Janet Groene, F47166
Following is a list of advice, books, reminders, and places to find products that will help to keep your life on the road happy and healthy.
Have any ICE?
When you’re unable to speak for yourself because of injury or illness, what is the fastest way to get word to your loved ones? To first responders, “ICE” stands for In Case of Emergency. It’s one of the things paramedics and other emergency workers look for in your wallet or, more recently, on your cell phone.
Put ICE numbers where they easily will be seen. One idea that has surfaced recently is to use your cell phone’s built-in phonebook to store emergency contact numbers and file them under the letters ICE. On your cell phone, you can program in as many ICE numbers as necessary (for example, ICE #1, ICE #2, etc.). Then first responders can simply push the button(s) on the cell phone to get word to the important people in your life. ICE isn’t the place to put emergency numbers that you yourself would dial in an emergency, such as 911, your doctor, or the roadside assistance program you use. Nor should they be used as a substitute for the kind of medical alert information tag you wear on a necklace or bracelet to tell paramedics you are diabetic or allergic to penicillin.
Before leaving for travels in Canada or Mexico, call the toll-free customer service numbers at your credit card companies to find out whether an extra fee is charged for currency conversion. At the two MasterCard banks I checked (CitiBank and Chase), the surcharge is 3 percent. Discover does not charge a fee.
Changing funds at currency exchanges, ATMs, and banks costs a percentage plus “” in many instances “” an additional flat fee regardless of the amount changed. When traveling in other countries it’s often easier and cheaper to use a charge card than to pay the high fees levied by money changers. Your purchases are then billed to you at the exchange rate on the day of the transaction.
Few people know more about boondocking than Russ and Tiña De Maris. You may have met them at Quartzsite, Arizona, where they stay every winter. Their book, RV Boondocking Basics: A Guide to Living Without Hookups ($14.95, ICanRV Publishing), is filled with expert tips on solar energy, wind power, battery management, sanitation, and fresh water supply. The book’s drawings show how to make a tilting solar collector; how to hook up batteries in series or parallel; how to make a truck-mounted waste tank; and much more. The book can be purchased from the publisher by calling (360) 357-5728 or visiting www.icanrv.com.
Kids on board
Armchair travelers love the Travelers’ Tales series, which adds new titles almost every month. Each volume is a collection of from-the-heart stories written by ordinary people who have had extraordinary travel experiences. Four of the books are of special interest to anyone who travels with children.
A Mother’s World: Journeys of the Heart ($14.95) is a collection of stories about mothers traveling with their children. Gutsy Mamas: Travel Tips and Wisdom for Mothers on the Road ($7.95) is a pocket-size book of travel advice, and Family Travel: The Farther You Go, the Closer You Get ($17.95) is an entertaining collection of travel stories involving families. David Elliot Cohen’s book One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children ($14.95) is about one family’s trip around the world. It’s a very ambitious and expensive excursion compared to RV travel, but it will resonate with motor coach travelers who want to take a year off for full-timing with their children while they are young. These books are available at bookstores, through online booksellers, or from the publisher: (800) 247-6553; www.travelerstales.com.
It can be addictive to spend time at www.swapthing.com, but it’s an inexpensive way to advertise. If you want to, say, swap your campsite in Texas for one in Oregon, or trade your abilities as a bookkeeper for the use of a fishing boat, go to the site and start sleuthing. The cost is $1 per transaction for goods or $10 to swap a service. On the site you can list items you want, items you want to get rid of, services you seek, or services you can provide. The Web site is great fun for those who have unlimited computer access.
Most travelers will find many uses for a compact plastic bag dispenser, but it’s especially handy for RVers o clean up responsibly after their dogs. The Knot-a-Bag Dispenser is only four inches long, making it small enough to clip to a belt. Inside is a roll of plastic 24 inches in diameter and 32.5 feet long. Pull out as much as you need; cut the plastic with the built-in safety cutter; tie a knot; and you have a clean, waterproof bag. When it’s filled, knot the other end and you have a leak-proof, odor-proof carrier. The dispenser and two rolls of bags retail for $6.99; three additional rolls are $6.99. It’s available from Davis Instruments, 3465 Diablo Ave., Hayward CA 94545. Call (520) 732-9229 or visit www.davisnet.com for more information.
Go over your credit card statements with a fine-tooth comb. Scammers often try making a small charge at first that may be overlooked easily. If they get away with that, they make one or more larger purchases. If you find an unauthorized charge on your statement, it’s often wisest to cancel the card immediately.
One full-timer was shocked to find his credit card was refused because it was over the limit. He knew he hadn’t spent that much and soon realized someone else had made those charges. The credit card company immediately canceled the card and straightened it out at no cost to him, but not until my friend had run up a large phone bill, suffered frayed nerves, and had to scramble to find new ways to pay his bills while waiting for his new card to catch up with him. It’s good to have a backup credit card for situations such as these.
Is a credit card trying to find its way to you? Often companies put “do not forward” on the envelope to prevent cards from being lost or stolen. If you rely on the U.S. postal system to forward your mail, the card may be returned to the sender. For full-timers on the go, it’s important to have a forwarding service that understands such things.
Do you prefer to take individual-size shampoos into the campground shower? Buy certain foods in single-serve packs so they’ll be used before they go bad? Use so little of some items that you’re always looking for travel sizes? Minimus is an online retailer that offers thousands of items, some hard to find, in individual sizes. Most are priced nearly the same as you’d pay in superstores, and postage is free on orders of $20 or more. Go to www.minimus.biz to find food, drink mixes, toiletries, first-aid items, and much more.
Medicare part D
Full-timers who are 65 and older need to sign up immediately if they want to take advantage of the new prescription drug coverage. As usual, things are more complicated for full-timers, because the choice of plans depends on whether you shop in one place, regionally, or nationally. It also depends on whether you have other prescription coverage at present; have prescription coverage through another plan; have income low enough to qualify you for special coverage; and take certain brand-name drugs for which no generic equivalent is available. Do as much comparison shopping as possible, discarding information that does not apply to your on-the-go life.
Information is available online at www.medicare.gov or by calling (800) MEDICARE (633-4227).