An array of tips, ideas, and reminders for those who embrace the full-time home-on-wheels lifestyle.
By Janet Groene, F47166
All RVers like discovering helpful hints to make their time on the road easier and more enjoyable, but full-timers have highly specialized questions, privileges, and problems. That’s why this column seeks out tips specifically for people who live in small spaces, happily pull up stakes as often as they please, and call the world their home. Many are working and even rearing children along the way.
Full-timers live the most carefree life on earth. Perhaps one of these items will solve a problem for you.
Long-distance caregiving. During a family health crisis, it can become exasperating for an overworked caregiver when friends and family constantly call for updates. But you can keep others up-to-date on a loved one’s condition by creating a free family Web page on www.CaringBridge.org. When a caregiver has news about the patient, they can post it on the page for everyone to see. Meanwhile, messages also can be posted by those who want to ask questions or send encouragement from afar. No matter where you are, you can be in the loop. To protect privacy, families should give the URL only to trusted confidants.
CaringBridge is quick and easy, but for a long-term situation, you may prefer to go with a more powerful site: www.CarePages.com. This free service also makes it possible to create a Web page, and it includes features such as e-mail lists, photos, links to one another, and links to sites that describe the illness and its treatments.
Renting a car. Take a new look at the cost of purchasing, insuring, and maintaining a towed vehicle. Another choice is to rent a car as needed for specific outings. Here’s how:
Look for weekend or midweek specials. Depending on your locale, rentals during slow periods can be amazingly cheap.
You may not need the rental car company’s extra insurance. Review what insurance you already have through your credit card and your RV coverage (although it may be worth it for you to take the rental insurance at approximately $10 per day to avoid making claims on your own insurance that could raise your premiums). A Loss of Use fee may be charged by car rental companies for time lost if the vehicle is out of service as a result of damage you caused. If you rent a vehicle in Alaska, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas, this coverage is required.
When renting a car, don’t pay extra for things you can supply yourself. Bring your own child safety seat, GPS, or connectors for your personal music player.
Want to leave your motorhome and make a quick trip north in the spring or south in the fall? When rental companies reposition their fleets, one-way rentals can be as little as $10 a day. These shifts are usually seasonal but can occur at other times as well, such as during the Olympics or a blockbuster convention. Do, however, work with a respected company. Private deals can go awry in many legal, personal, and financial ways.
When you rent a car outside the United States (including Canada and Mexico), different rules apply to the protection you have through your existing insurance and credit card.
Sew what’s new. Some reference books belong in every full-timer’s library. My bookshelf includes a first-aid manual, a dictionary, cookbooks, and now the new Sewing Answer Book by Barbara Weiland Talbert ($14.95, Storey Publishing). It’s a lifesaver for anyone from all-thumbs menders to advanced crafters. Buy the book for its helpful content and for its sturdy, lifetime binding.
Outrun your allergies. Has sneezing season hit the area where you’re traveling? A free iPhone and iPod Touch application, Zyrtec AllergyCast, allows you to enter a zip code and find out what the pollen level is in that area that day, along with pollen forecasts for the next day. Simply enter other zip codes at various compass points to see whether you can drive to another location (such as a nearby waterfront with an onshore breeze) where the pollen count is lighter. When you wash the motorhome, don’t forget to scrub down the screens, awning, and screen enclosure. They trap dust, mold spores, and pollen.
Survivors on the go. If you’re full-timing while also dealing with a serious health challenge for yourself or a partner, it can be lonely unless you have a support group. You’ll find many choices online. Do a search describing your situation, such as support+group+breast+cancer or support+network+fibromyalgia. Then find the right forum for your disease and your personal needs. Some people go full-timing despite chronic health problems, while others go because they have a health problem that can be improved by a different climate or by traveling to areas that have specialists in that disease. Being mobile has its health advantages.
Inexpensive camping. If you belong to a membership camping network, printed directories are handy, but make sure to check the network’s Web site, too, for news of seasonal, last-minute, or online-only bargains. Some membership RV resorts in Florida are offering stays this winter for as little as $99 a week (two-week minimum). What’s your secret to finding inexpensive campsites? Is it memberships? Boondocking? Club discounts? Free or inexpensive government campgrounds? Volunteering in exchange for free camping? All of the above? E-mail email@example.com or write to me in care of Family Motor Coaching.
Your getaway date. Did you buy your dream motorhome for full-timing, only to have your getaway date delayed? Meanwhile, you have payments, insurance, and perhaps storage costs. A company called Bates International Motor Home Rental Systems Inc. will put your late-model motorhome into a rental pool and take care of all the details. There’s no guarantee renters will be found or profits made, but there could be tax advantages. Go to www.Batesintl.com or call (800) 732-2283 for more information. You also should consult your tax adviser before making this decision.
Bail out. Do you have to move out of your motorhome for two or three months during extensive repairs or renovations, but can’t afford a motel suite with basic living facilities? Look into monthly apartment or house rentals from companies such as www.ExtendedStay.com, www.biz-stay.com, www.SabbaticalHomes.com, or www.homeaway.com. These companies specialize in arranging short-term stays in a home environment. You also might be interested in finding a house-sitting or pet-sitting job through HouseCarers.com or HouseSittersAmerica.com.
Home sweet home base. South Dakota has always ranked high in our surveys as a home base, because it offers savings in taxes, registration fees, and insurance. The honeymoon may be over unless you actually live there. States and counties are beginning to trade information about people who “live” in states that have no income tax. The long arm of the law may soon be pointing your way.
Partners. Problems for unmarried full-timers seem to be getting more complicated. If you don’t have a legal or blood relationship with your travel companion that applies in all the states where you live, could die, invest, or get sued, it’s more important than ever for you and your travel partner(s) to get your legal paperwork in order. Even before same-sex marriage was in the news, state laws governed many facets of human relations: minimal marriage age, what constitutes a common law marriage, palimony, child custody, joint ownership, inheritance rights, waiting periods, residence requirements, divorce laws, etc.
Make wills. Sign powers of attorney for each other. Pick up forms at any hospital or doctor’s office to fill out and give your travel partner the right to make medical decisions for you. As your household grows, keep track of who buys what and where any gifts come from. If you split, it will be easier to divide possessions. Remember, if you cosign a debt for your partner or anyone else, you’re on the hook for it.