Friday, May 6, 2016

The Top 10


I recently read a post on Facebook giving what they said were the 10 essential steps to a happy retirement RV adventure:-

1.     Choosing the right vehicle is the first step to the perfect RV lifestyle for a Retiree.
2.     Research Insurance for the RV and your own health!
3.     Discuss all the emergency services and medications you might need with your doctor beforehand.
4.     Take a print document your medical history in your RV
5.     Get a Locksmith to manually inspect the locks of your RV
6.     Chart all the RV dumps in your proposed routes beforehand.
7.     Have an itinerary, rough or fair, always at hand!
8.     Have a thorough estimate of your finances on the road.
9.     Get a proper RV Toolbox 
10.  Test it!

Facebook is a great thing, and yet Facebook is a terrible thing!

Why?

Well you can learn all kinds of neat stuff from links in Facebook – a great thing!
You can also get all kinds of misinformation from links on Facebook- a terrible thing.
The list of 10 things above was said to be the 10 essential things to do before setting out on your retirement RV adventure. REALLY??

Here’s my thoughts on the list:

1.     Choosing the right vehicle is the first step to the perfect RV lifestyle for a Retiree.

I disagree that this is the first step. The first step should be to decide if you and your partner are going to be able to actually go on such an adventure in the first place! Can you afford to buy an RV, are you willing to either sell your home or rent it out while you’re away? Are you going to be happy storing or selling all you furniture, keepsakes, hobby supplies etc? Can you be away from your friends, neighbors, kids, grandkids etc., for a year or more? Can you live on your retirement income? Are you healthy enough to be away for months at a time?
Many people CAN’T let go of their homes and “Things”, most people can’t tear themselves away from the kids and especially the grandkids. We’ve met several couples that while one would love to try full time RV’ing the other has said “Absolutely Not!”. And if you can’t afford to live on your retirement income then there isn’t likely to be a sudden answer to that! Likewise if you need regular health care then you aren’t going to be able to get around that very easily.

2.     Research Insurance for the RV and your own health

This one surely is part of deciding if you are able to go in the first place? RV insurance isn’t a show stopper but health insurance could be. The thing to look into is whether you will be eligible for Medicare or not when you are ready to leave? If so then you will need to select a Medicare Supplement provider that covers you all over the country. If you will need “Obama Care” insurance then where you live will be the most important thing in establishing the cost of that insurance.
Which is why I think the 2nd most important thing is deciding where you want your DOMICILE to be. For an explanation of Domicile versus Residence see http://banbrv.blogspot.com/2015/03/home-is-where-you-make-it.html.

On the other hand if you intend to keep your house and contents then you may not have any choice in your domicile so you can then explore your choices for Medical insurance.
Your choice of domicile will likely also involve a mail forwarding service which is an important thing to consider when you hit the road. Escapees.com can help you with all of this and lots more.

                       3 Discuss all the emergency services and medications you might need                         with your doctor beforehand

All this should have been part of deciding if you can go on the trip in the first place and the medication availability should be taken care of in your choice of Medicare Supplement provider. Our medication needs are taken care of through Walmart so we can go anywhere in the country for refills.

                         4 Take a print document of your medical history in your RV

I wouldn’t personally say this is essential and a paper copy might not be ideal anyway. Keeping an electronic copy on a cloud based server might be easier. Talking to you doctor and arranging that they will forward your records when asked is a common sense step. Personally we don’t get stressed about this but we don’t have any severe medical conditions. If we did have any we probably wouldn’t have gone full timing.

                        5 Get a Locksmith to manually inspect the locks of your RV
Huh?
I can’t imagine why this would be on the list. Would you get the locks on your car inspected before you drove it?
Sure take a spare set of keys and have one set each so if you lose one set the other person can use theirs to get into the rig, but that’s not vital.

                        6 Chart all the RV dumps in your proposed routes beforehand.

Another HUH??
There are a couple of ways to go RV Camping. One is using regular campgrounds, the other is camping away from regular campgrounds (Popularly called “Boondocking”).
If you are camping in regular campgrounds, either commercial campgrounds or state/national parks then you can select the park based on the amenities at that park. You can have “Full Hookups” or “Partial Hookups”. The difference usually is whether the site has sewer or it has a dump station for sewer that you usually have to drive the rig to, to empty the tanks.
Boondocking is usually on BLM land or in a Walmart parking lot, neither of which will have ANY hookups. No need to panic though because the RV has batteries for electricity and storage tanks for fresh water and waste water so that you can live for several days without having to empty the tanks. When it comes time to empty the tanks then Cabellas Stores, Camping World Stores, some Truck Stops, commercial campgrounds and some state parks have dump stations you can use for a fee. There’s a smart phone app called “Sani Dumps” that will find free or pay dump stations so there is no need to plan a trip around dump stations.
If you want to try boondocking then you need to learn how long you can last without plugging into power or running the generator, and how many days you can go before the grey or black water tanks fill up. There are ways to stretch the time it takes to fill the tanks, we can make 7 days if we need to.

                         7. Have an itinerary, rough or fair, always at hand

I have to strongly disagree with this one!!
We’ve seen the best places, met the nicest people and enjoyed our RV experience most after throwing away the itinerary and only planning our next stop the evening before we are due to leave. That way you can stop longer if you like a place, and leave early if you don’t. If somebody tells you about a neat place to visit in the opposite direction from where you were planning to go to, then go to the new place instead! National Holidays and winter stopovers in high demand areas may require advanced planning but for the rest of the time DO WHAT FEELS GOOD!

                     8 Have a thorough estimate your finances on the road.

That’s all part of deciding if you can go in the first place. If you can’t afford it don’t go!
Do track your spending as you go however based on a planned budget. We have a spreadsheet that we update monthly to track our spending. If we find that we’re spending too much on gas we can stay places longer between “Hops”. If we are spending too much on camping we can stay at Walmart for a couple of nights or at cheaper parks. Our target cost for camping is an average of $25 a night. So far we’re doing that even when some campgrounds in high demand places have been $70 a night (Moab in peak season). Our biggest expenditure is “Entertainment” which covers admissions to tourist spots, movies, dinners out, drinks, cabs and all the things we can stop doing if we get out of hand. We also budget for the cost of maintenance and the replacement of tires (which are REALLY expensive).
If the budget is unrealistic in practice then change it! Some people stretch their money by “Work Camping”. Campgrounds both commercial and state/national parks use volunteers to keep the parks running. In return they will give you a campsite with hookups and possibly pay for your propane too.

                                  9. Get a proper RV Toolbox 

I have no idea what a “Proper” RV toolbox is!
If you don’t do any maintenance on your house or car then you probably won’t be doing any on your RV. If you do your own maintenance then you already have the tools.
RV’s are more maintenance intensive in my opinion. One saying I heard and agree with is – “RV’s are like houses except that they go through the equivalent of a major earthquake every time you drive them down the road”.
Things shake loose, so every now and then I go round and make sure nothing is going to fall off. Otherwise oil changes can be done at Walmart, truck repair shops can do larger maintenance.
More important is GET AN RV BREAKDOWN SERVICE. Either thru your insurance company, Good Sam or Coast to Coast. Towing an RV even a short distance can cost over $1000.

                                                       10 Test it!

Test your plan? Maybe test the tool kit? Test your medical insurance?

It should be INSPECT IT!

Unless you are a very experienced RV’er don’t buy an RV without getting an independent RV inspector to go over it thoroughly. EVEN IF IT HAS A WARRANTY.
RV systems are quite complex with 12 volt, 110 volt systems that parallel each other and have interlocks to prevent damage. There are generators that might run on gas, diesel or propane. There are propane systems for heating, cooking and even the refrigerator! Refrigerators can run on 12 volts, 110 volts or propane and are nothing like your home refrigerator. They can easily cost $1500 to replace. RV tires should be replaced about every 5 years regardless of how few miles they have on them and they cost $500 OR MORE EACH.  http://banbrv.blogspot.com/2015/08/tires-what-rotten-trick.html
A trained RV inspector can find problems that could cost many thousands of dollars to fix. They are worth every penny they charge.

So here are MY top 10 things to consider before you set off on your retirement RV adventure:


2       Are you and your partner able to go on an extended trip?
Can you afford it?
Are you healthy enough?
Are you both committed to leaving everything including family behind?
Can you organize health insurance, mail, banking, taxes, vehicle registrations, drivers licenses, vehicle insurance, internet connections and phone service on the road?
I would recommend anyone determined to do this to join Escapees RV Club (www.escapees.com) and to attend their RV Boot Camp BEFORE buying their RV.

3 Visit every RV show and RV dealer you can find and sit in every type of RV you can. Look at the layout and consider how you would watch TV, cook, eat, sleep in it. Decide if you can move around in it with the slides closed. Can you store all your things in it? You are going to have camping chairs, maybe a table, a grille, mats, a cooler for the outside. Clothes, crockery, cooking gear, computers, sports equipment, DVD’s, CD’s and more inside. Are you going to tow it? What will it take to tow it safely? What will the tow vehicle cost? Do you want to tow a car with a motorhome? Take along a motorcycle? Bicycles? What do they weigh? Can the RV safely tow that much? Here's how we did it http://banbrv.blogspot.com/2014/11/you-can-get-there-from-here.html

When we looked for our RV we took pictures of each one and made notes of what we liked and didn’t like in each. Eventually we found all of our likes and only 1 dislike (That we could live with) in the RV we bought.
Remember most people buy 3 RV’s before they get the one they really wanted! The better you research what you want in a rig the less you’re going to lose when you sell the first 2!!
Get a professional RV inspector to go over ANY rig before you buy it, even if it comes with a warranty.

4. Camp in the RV before you leave on the big trip so you can find all the stuff you forgot to get. Like hoses, coffee pots, tire pressure gauges, air compressors. 
Camp with and without hookups so you can tell how long the tanks take to fill and how long the battery will power the lights etc.
Get to know how to empty the black and grey tanks, fill the fresh water tank, fill the propane tank, maintain the batteries (If needed), light the oven.

5. Join “Camping Clubs” like Passport America, Good Sam and Escapees. Their camping discounts will pay for themselves, especially Passport America. Join an Elks Lodge - they have lots of lodges around the country where only Elk members can camp and there is always a welcome for you when you visit a lodge in a new town or city. elks.com

6. Make a bucket list, places to see,things to do. You’ll be somewhere and forget that you should have seen a major Bucket List item otherwise.

7. Use RV Parky, and RV Campground Reviews before you stop for the night to find not only commercial campgrounds but also state and national parks or even Walmarts where you can camp and get unbiased reviews of those paces.

8 Get a National Parks Senior Pass if you’re 62 or older. A one-time $10 fee gets you and anyone in the vehicle with you free entrance to National Parks for the rest of your life! Plus 50% off camping fees in National Parks and Corps of Engineers campgrounds nationwide.

9. Watch your budget. You can manage your budget in many ways and still have a wonderful time but don’t spend all your retirement savings.

10. Don’t skip the maintenance, good maintenance done as scheduled by the manufacturer is the key to avoiding costly breakdowns. A $50 oil change beats a $1500 towing fee.

Where’s the number 1??


I believe the biggest secret to a successful retirement RV adventure is to be DEBT FREE when you set off on it.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for a very thorough job of putting together this list of do's and dont's....I'm wondering, tho'...how do you find the places to stay for $25 (or less) when there isn't a public campground available (which are usually cheaper)?

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  2. Hi Sharan, thanks for reading the blog andd great question!
    The $25 a night is quite possible if you are prepared and flexible. First off you don't have to be a in a campground every night.
    That's the big secret.
    There are places to stay that are FREE!
    You may or may not like the idea of camping without the support of an organized campground around you. We don't find it a problem.
    Consider first of all that your RV can operate perfectly comfortably without being plugged in to power, water and sewer. It's got batteries and storage tanks. These will let you stay "Unplugged" for several days.
    Now you can stay at places like Walmart, Lowes, Cabellas stores for a night when you are just pulling off the freeway.
    We joined the Elks. They have lodges all across the country, many of which will let you stay for a week or so. Some have no hookups, some just electric, some water and electric and a few have full hookups. They charge from $5 to $20 a night.
    We also use a phone app "RV Parky" to locate campgrounds nearby. With this we use "RV Campground Review" to see if the parks are worth stopping at and what they cost.
    Once we locate a likely place we use the memberships we have in Good Sam, Passport America and Escapees to get discounts on the camping fees.
    We also have the National Parks Senior Pass which gets us in all National Parks free and gives us 50% off all campgrounds in National Parks and Corps of Engineers (COE) Parks. The COE Parks we've stayed at have been superb and with the pass they have only cost $10 a night!!
    Finally we bought a USED Thousand Trails membership that gives us 30 nights a year free then $3 a night for the rest of the year. We have to pay $500 a year in "Maintenance" but divided by 30+ nights a year that brings it don to around $15 a night. Their parks aren't everywhere though so we don't stay there often.
    Using these strategies we've been able to get our ANNUAL average below $25 a night so far. In fact last month we were at $9 a night for that month!
    Hope this clears things up?

    ReplyDelete
  3. OOPS!
    Sorry Sharan I just remembered something else.
    You can get weekly and monthly rates at some places which cut the costs considerably.
    We just spent 3 months in Casa Grande for the winter and their monthly rate brought the rate down to about $21 a night, and that was in a superb resort park. You can get way less than that in parks that are still excellent but have less features.
    We also have stayed at Escapees parks that charge $5 a night for dry camping but you still get to use all their facilities.
    Once you set your mind to it it gets easy to keep the costs down.
    Thanks
    Brian

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