Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Making A List, Checking It Twice

Recently several people have approached me about my plan to travel extensively in an RV when I retire. It seems they'd like to do it too. Some want to live full time in an RV, while others dream of traveling big chunks of time throughout the year. All want to pick my brain about my plans and preparation. So I decided to put this post together and share what I've learned so far.

Being prepared is not just a scouting motto. It's sound advice for anyone planning a journey, but even more so if that journey is travelling extensively in an RV. While I am still bound to my day job and my apartment, I have not been idle on this matter. Since making that decision, I have set off to learn as much about it BEFORE the actual journey. If there was one message I've heard over and over from other RVers it has been BE PREPARED. It seems many folks who fail at full-time RVing are those less prepared for the lifestyle.

Don't count the days until you leave on your trip,
make those days count.

Whether you already own your RV or not, use your time before your journey begins wisely. Techomadia has a great video on the Sucky Sides of RVing. I highly recommend it. But that's just the beginning. There are tons of videos on You Tube about RV life.

Join Facebook groups dedicated to RVing, especially groups focused on the model rig you have or want to buy. If you're not sure which rig you'd like, join several groups dedicated to the few you're interested in. This is a great way to learn the pros and cons of a particular brand and model. Once I narrowed my RV choice down to a Winnebago Travato, I joined a group dedicated to that particular RV. Honestly, I have learned more in that group than anywhere else. I've learned about the electrical and plumbing systems of the Travato, along with how to make minor repairs. I've learned about modifications I could make to the coach that would make my life easier and more convenient, and what equipment and everyday items would be helpful. I've even picked up tips on how to negotiate for and buy an RV. And I've met a lot of new wonderful friends. Basically, I am a sponge, soaking up all the information they dish out.

Make a checklist of everything you will need to buy or do before your trip, along with columns for Action Items, Comments, and Status. Once you start that checklist, you will be shocked at how much you need to do BEFORE the trip begins. I'm not talking about equipment you need to buy, although that's on the list too, but steps you need to make in all areas of your life to be prepared. Then I divided my checklist into subheadings such as Social Media, Domicile, Personal, Techy and RV Equipment, and RV Household Items.

Social Media - Since I'll be operating my writing career from the road, I decided to give myself a new brand that tied in with travel. Thus, the Novel RV was born. This included things like buy the domain name, set up a web site, have a logo made, set up blog, a You Tube channel, etc. All of which are currently in progress, although I do have my new logo already!

Domicile - If you are going to full time in your RV, are you going to change your domicile state? There are some very good advantages to doing this, especially if you currently reside in a very high tax state, as I do. In this category I listed reminders to research state residency requirements and mailing services that will let you use their address for your new address, While you can research the best residency choices before you leave, much of the foot work for this is done after you are on the road as it requires a trip to your new state. This includes setting up a new address, registering your vehicle, getting a new drivers license, and registering to vote. If you are not getting rid of your brick and mortar residence when you hit the road, this step isn't necessary.

Personal - Some of these items tie in with Domicile, such as vehicle insurance, health insurance, and possibly making a new will. Make sure you check out health insurance options in your new state for flexible options that fit your new lifestyle. Also included in this category are items you might not think about prior to the trip, but which are important. Is your passport up-to-date? Is your dental work current? One of the things I did recently was have a lot of dental work done that was not urgent but would be needed eventually. Better to get it done while I have dental insurance through my job. How about your eyeglasses? Is your exam and prescription up-to-date? And make sure you have an extra pair to take with you. Also make sure you have a good supply of any medications you need and research where to get refills while on the road before you actually hit the road. And if you have a pet, don't forget to research vet services/insurance.

Techy Equipment - do you need a new computer before your trip? A WiFi booster? Cell phone charger? How will you handle getting online in remote areas? Should you change your cell phone carrier? Will you need an invertor for charging your laptop and for using appliances? Technomadia has a lot of videos and articles on this. Also check out Technomadia's RV Mobile Internet Resource Center.

RV Equipment - On this list should be your water hoses, one for drinking water and one for general use. A surge protector, water filter, and water regulator. Should you get portable solar panels? A sewer hose attachment to make dumping easier? Leveling blocks? And don't forget to add a tool kit, including a box of rubber gloves for dumping and black tank additives/tablets. (See, necessary details that could be easy to overlook.)

RV Household Items - Some of your home stuff can go with you, but most of it cannot. I'll be needing new lightweight dishes, unbreakable glassware, and easy-to-store cookware, some of which I have already collected or been given as gifts. Are you taking sheets to fit your RV's beds or a sleeping bag? Your existing towels or quick dry microfiber towels? Trading out your mixing bowls for collapsible ones? FYI - This should be your longest list. Go through your current kitchen and bathroom and take a good long look at your stuff and decide what can go and what should be replaced with smaller, more compact items. You have a lot less storage on an RV.

Personal Items - Are you completely dismantling your current home, or keeping it while you travel? This is important. If you are keeping your brick and mortar home, then you many have a place to store belongings not in use in the RV. If not, you will need to decide if you will put your extra stuff in a storage unit or par it down until all you own is the stuff in your RV. I've met several people who put their belongings in storage and leased out their home during their travels. I also came across people who gave up their home and stored their extra stuff, then regretted it since they seldom returned to it. Remember, it's just STUFF.

There is also preparation for personal items. I'm scanning all photos I want to keep and storing them on my computer and offline storage. I'm also scanning all my personal papers, contracts, will, etc. The only hard copies I intend to have with me are RV related papers and my passport. Also, put together a packet of your most important original documents, such as your will, RV sales documents, etc. and give them to a trusted family member or friend to hold for you. You could also put them in a safe deposit box, but again, that's more storage.

The RV - this is the final category on my checklist. If you have not decided on exactly what model you want, here is a good place to list the pros and cons of the models you are considering. If you already know what you want, this is the place to list the dealers you've contacted and your honest opinion of your treatment and their knowledge. And be honest. After all, you are spending a lot of money and this is the most important item on this list. Did the dealer seem knowledgeable about the unit you want? Were they customer oriented? Were they willing to negotiate? Check out their reviews online. Ask other RVers who have the same model where they bought theirs and if they were satisfied with the transaction and subsequent service.

At first glance, a checklist might seem like overkill, but trust me, once you start checking things off and the closer you get to your journey, the happier you will be that you made a list. Also, several items on the list can take several months to complete, so it's nice to monitor your progress.

You wouldn't start a hike without proper shoes, safety aids, and water. And isn't this much bigger than that?

I may not be on the open road full time for a while yet, but I've got stuff to do in the meantime!


Rosie Mcsweeney said...

Love, love, love your new brand and logo!!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Thanks, Rosie! B sends her love.

Peggy said...

Making a list and checking it twice.... 5 days and preparing.