Golden tips to help you find inexpensive books, compare cell phone plans, avoid extra postal expenses, and more.
By Janet Groene, F47166
June 2009, FMC magazine
When you’re a full-timer, travel takes on the glow of solid gold. Eat and sleep where you choose. See points of interest in one area, and then move on. When funds get low, find a job along the way. Even if fuel prices flare up, a whole new scene is just a tank of fuel away.
Here are ways to give your travels the Midas touch.
- A company called Better World Books collects used books and textbooks from campuses and libraries around the nation to save them from ending up in landfills. Then they offer them for sale at pittance prices. Shipping is free within the United States or for a flat rate of $3.97 anywhere else. To see what the company has, enter the title of a book or the name of a category (mystery, history, romance) at www.betterworld.com. I found current best-sellers and Oprah Book Club selections for as little as $3.98. The site also has a buyback program, allowing you to recoup money by recycling your reads.
- Here is a new, non-Disney guidebook for Orlando visitors. SeaWorld, Discovery Cove & Aquatica: Orlando’s Salute To The Seas ($15.95, The Intrepid Traveler) tells you everything you need to know about seeing these wildlife-centered theme parks where you can swim with dolphins, feed exotic birds, interact with sharks, and much more. Learn when to visit these parks, what to take along, how to dress, where to eat, and much more. The book is available in bookstores or from www.intrepidtraveler.com; (203) 469-0214.
- Many folks travel with cell phones, but not everyone uses them in the same way. Some people are glued to iPhones to talk, text, and check headlines. Others call the family only once a week or so, or keep a cell phone on hand for emergencies. Before renewing your current contract, do some comparison shopping. First, go to www.myrateplan.com/cellphones to find the best price on a phone (the instrument itself, not necessarily the monthly plan) with the physical features you need. Then go to www.myrateplan.com/wireless_plans to search for the service plan that works best for you.
- When comparing rates, don’t forget to look at the taxes you will be charged. You pay state sales tax on prepaid phone cards, but other plans come with a long list of state, local, and federal taxes. Also, don’t quit your current contract cold. Penalties may apply. Here’s where it pays to review your contract from time to time. If the deal calls for an automatic rollover, you could be stuck for another year or two before you realize it.
- Do you use a satellite phone? Iridium’s newest and most advanced satellite phone handset, the Iridium 9555, is 27 percent lighter and 30 percent smaller than its predecessor.
- Postage rates have gone up again, so take a new look at ways to save money. When you bought that square greeting card, did you know that it costs extra to mail it? United States Postal Service sorting machines can’t handle square envelopes, so you pay a surcharge. Did you know you can mail three folded sheets of letter paper in a business-size envelope for 44 cents, but it will cost $3 or more to mail the same three sheets flat in a 9-inch-by-12-inch envelope? If you make your own postcards and they exceed the 6-inch-by-4 1/4-inch size limit, you’ll need a first-class stamp.
The U.S. Postal Service Web site (www.usps.gov) is a great resource for finding rates and rules that can save not just money but bounce-back mail. The most failsafe way to avoid having mail come back to you is to print the address correctly and legibly, then have the envelope weighed and measured at the post office. Rates now go by zip code, size, weight, and thickness, plus a long list of extra charges that may apply (such as mailing in a wood or metal box).
Do you need delivery confirmation? If you’re mailing an insured package and will hear from the recipient if it doesn’t arrive in due time, you may not need to pay extra for confirmation. That’s just one of the value-added (and perhaps unnecessary) services offered by postal clerks.
Invest in Forever stamps, which cost today’s price of a first-class stamp. The government says they can be used as a first-class stamp forever, no matter what the future costs may be. More price hikes lie ahead.
- GPS and Web sites are helpful navigational aids, but there’s nothing like a first-rate guidebook to save time and fuel. An updated third edition of Yellowstone Treasures: The Traveler’s Companion To The National Park ($23.95, Granite Peak Publications) is an armchair companion you’ll want with you when planning your trip to Yellowstone National Park, figuring out what to do while you’re there, and after the visit when you’re labeling your photos. It has maps, keepsake color photos, and a handy color coding system that lets you go instantly to segments you seek. The book is available in bookstores or from www.yellowstonetreasures.com.
- Do you have a stubborn mildew problem in a basement locker, on an awning, or some other place on your motorhome? An enzyme-based oxygenating powder from Shurhold called Moldaway eliminates mold spores without the use of harsh chlorine or other bleach. It reportedly is safe for use on canvas, vinyl, fabric, wood, plastic, fiberglass, and rubber. It comes in powder form to mix with water. Find Shurhold Moldaway at boat and RV suppliers. Shurhold also makes an ergonomic brush that has a safety bumper to protect adjacent surfaces and a handle that’s said to protect knuckles while you work.
- Staging a family reunion in Branson, Missouri? For relatives who fly in, the city now has its own airport only eight miles from town. It’s served by at least one major airline and also has facilities for private and corporate planes. Fly-in visitors used to have to arrive in Springfield, which is 45 miles away. Rental cars are available at both airports.
Branson is nestled in the beautiful Ozark Mountains. The area is filled with camping resorts where reunion planners can accommodate motorhomers while putting non-RVers in comfortable cabins or lodges. In the Lake Taneycomo area, you’ll find more than 34 lakeside resorts and 10 Corps of Engineers camping facilities. In the Table Rock Lake area, there are 1,200 campsites. The Branson KOA has full-service, pull-through campsites, plus a good choice of cabins and cottages for relatives who don’t have their own RVs. It offers shuttle services to shows, restaurants, and other Branson attractions. For reservations, visit www.bransonkoa.com or call (800) 467-7611. For area information, visit www.explorebranson.com.
- Do you love listening to programs on National Public Radio? The same stories you enjoy on the air are now better than ever on audio CDs called NPR Road Trips. Priced at $14.95 each, they are tailor-made for actual and armchair travelers. Titles in the series are “National Park Adventures,” “Roadside Attractions,” and “Postcards from Around the Globe.” The first two recordings are about sites in the United States, but it’s also fun to listen to the third CD and be transported to Paris, India, China, across Britain by rail, and to Spain to run with the bulls.
These CDs make for easy listening, plus they are educational and entertaining. The best part is the broad variety of destinations presented on each CD. NPR Road Trips, which play for 60 to 75 minutes each, are found in bookstores, audio stores, and at www.highbridgeaudio.com.