IS INVOLVED TO BE A FULLTIMER - Part Two?
to Part One
With so much info about this fantastic fulltime lifestyle we
decided to present this story in two parts. Although it is written about
the Fulltiming lifestyle, many of the tips and hints apply to part
timers too plus all facets of RV Travel.
This portion includes a variety of tips designed for all
RVers enjoying extended time away from a convenient home base.
PETS ARE FULLTIMERS TOO.
parks insist pets are always tied on a 6-foot leash and that they
are never left alone outside. On a safety point their leash should
be non-metal. RVers expect a park to provide efficient power
connections but occasionally you may plug into an improperly wired
connection. If the connection has an open ground and the dog is
attached to the RV with a metal leash, the dog could complete the
circuit. Your pet may not continue with you in your travels.
I heard about this possible electrical problem several
years ago at a seminar addressing RV park hydro. That seminarist
buried his prized dog shortly before his presentation – his
dog’s demise was totally due to the parks improper wiring error
and the dog’s metal chain...
another front, most RV trips take place during the summer. Super
warm days are the norm. As a result we found a unique way to keep
our dog(s) cool. As we
move from park to park I don’t completely trust hydro will be
totally reliable – especially when the campground is full and
everyone has their A/C on. Experience over time has taught us to
plan on the cautious side of things.
On the days we must leave our baby behind, she stays in her
cage and we direct two to three 9” portable fans towards her
plus we turn on two overhead
Fantastic Vents (power fans – fantasticvent.com) to bring
outside air into the coach. These
accessories operate off battery power. Since our coach is equipped
with an inverter we’re comfortable our fans will continue
operating even if the park hydro does not. Power outage doesn’t
happen often but occasionally it can. On a hot day our baby would
suffocate in a closed up unit if she had no fans directed on her
when or if the A/C went out.
travelling with outside cats who like to roam soon discover that
they too must be being secured. Another
option some cat owners use is they add a Kat Kabana (www.katkabana.com).
This is a unique special cage that attaches to RV windows.
Independent cats can move from out to in on a whim plus the
enclosure is high off the ground so the kitty is away from wild
animals. Reference to
a cat’s potty situation, many RVers simply install a litter box
access in the bed frame or a bottom drawer – it not only adds
convenience, it’s functional and out of the way.
our travels 1-3 dogs have been part of our family – in 26 years
we have yet to run into any hassles. Occasionally a park charged a
refundable pet fee that was returned at check-out if our site was
clean upon departure – only once have we paid a small fee for
having more than 2-dogs. On
the other hand at one seasonal park in Texas that had a one pet
policy – our winter stay with 2-pets was approved after we
talked with the manager. Many parks even provide a unique off
leash “Pet Park”. When
we come across a state park or a selective private park with a
no-pet policy, we simply do not go there – thankfully these
parks are few in number. Most restrictions are generally spelled
out in detail on-line or in Campground Directories. In
a word, because we’re Fulltimers, our pets are too – they must
travel with us!
large breeds or those with a reputation of being attack dogs may
not be allowed. In
that case I’d suggest you call the park to ask about their
policy. Whenever crossing the border; you’ll need an updated
Rabies shot (Cdn shots are good for 3-years if the record is dated
– otherwise the pet is only protected for one year). Some agents
may ask for a current Vet health exam (or proof of last Vet visit)
– this is not a common request but it does happen once in a
while. Ensure all pet Rx are clearly marked. Ask your Vet about
flea/tick control plus heart worm treatment.
We travel with flea control from Ontario but at times we
have visited a local Vet for advice on how to treat fleas and
ticks in a specific area. Late in the evening several years ago,
our old dog fell into a Fire Ant nest– they bite and she was
crying in agony. So I
gave her a warm shower followed by a generous layer of Cocoa
Butter cream. That
night she slept like a baby. Although
Vet care is usually close at hand, at times we pet owners must be
creative in our treatment. Ask Park office for contact to local
Vet if required. I now cook for our four legged kid - this
eliminates extensively searching for a specific type of dog food.
Note: if you’re
planning to transport pet food across the border, keep it in the
original bag. Depending
on the latest disease outbreak, periodically some pet foods may be
confiscated. Ask your Vet to suggest an alternate brand just in
case the brand you’re using in Canada is unavailable in the USA.
to Free At Last Part One
to the top
safety tip from a recent Pet Travel seminar at an RV rally is to
add your “Phone Number” plus the words “I’m Lost” to pet
collars – either sewn or painted. Of course many pet owners also
insert identity chips to protect their pets – especially if your
baby is active and may run away. On the rare occasion we must
leave our dog(s) in a boarding kennel, we shop for a comfortable
pet resort style facility - preferably not in a pet hospital with
sick pets. Of course
we check the kennel out in detail for appearance, cleanliness and
staff expertise before agreeing to board them.
Although travelling with pets is not for everyone, many of
us feel they do add to the wonders of fulltime adventures. It’s
nice to know that since we began travelling in the mid 80’s,
problems we have encountered have been minimal.
RVer who leaves Canada on a trip should alert company(ies) of the
credit cards you plan to use that you will be out of country.
RVers who don’t do this may find their card will show up
‘declined’ when you least expect it. Thankfully a simple call
will release it. But
you may not be aware of this situation till you go to pay for
gas/fuel etc. The
banks think your card has possibly been stolen so they block it as
a precaution. This doesn’t happen every year but enough that it
can be embarrassing.
and I no longer carry a winter supply of cash or travellers
cheques with us either. ATM Fees can add up fast so instead we
take cash-back using our Debit cards at stores such as Wal*Mart
etc – the same as we do at home. This provides us access to
sufficient cash for day to day purchases – amount allowed is
generally $100. from a chequing account (savings is not an option
on USA store payment machines). Most
bank cards work this way – although a few may charge a
transaction fee. We
have used BofM for the past 8-years – no fee and no hassle.
Thanks to on-line banking and/or telephone banking it is easy to
move cash between accounts. Bank staff may not even be aware that
their particular cards work in USA stores – best source of info
is to ask other Snowbirds. When you go through the checkout for
the first time, ask if you can do a ‘test’. Most cards will
work in the majority of USA grocery/department type stores.
number of Canadian banks now offer US$ credit cards which are
valuable for shopping in the USA but these cards do not have a US
Zip code. If you
establish a USA mail forwarding address from one of the main RV
Clubs it is easy to apply for a USA Credit card such as Discover.
Only drawback is while you are in Canada drom BMO I must make payments by
mail or courier service because ‘routing numbers’ on their US$ cheques have a different amount of numbers than US checks, so
paying by phone or on-line is not possible. Some Cdn banks do
partner with branches in the USA,
reap many valuable benefits by obtaining various RV
club Cards –
some are free, others come with club membership. In Canada your
Explorer RV Card offers a variety of discounts but if you show it
at USA campgrounds that offer 10% discount to certain clubs,
frequently these parks will also give you the reduced rate because
you belong to Canada’s National RV Club. Encourage the park to
sign up as a member park by calling the club office.
Their listing would be free if they offer 10% to club
members. 10% is not a huge savings but it offsets the taxes we
pay. American RV Clubs
such as FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) or Good Sam or
Escapees offer a similar network of parks where members reap the
10% discounts. Plus all these RV Clubs offer superior RV related
Emergency Road Service with unlimited mileage, unlimited calls and
two tow trucks if required. Inexpensive fulltime insurance offered
by Wayfarer Insurance is a Home Owners style policy. I don’t
know about you but knowing we travellers are protected for the
style of coverage we enjoyed in our previous homes gives us mega
peace of mind.
part one of this story I discussed the pluses that Flying J
provides. But carrying
a truck chain cards such as the Flying J’s ‘Frequent Fueler
Advantage card’ or one from Truckstops of America (TA) or Irving’s
in the east plus more trucking chains offer additional advantages.
Flying J not only provides safe free overnight parking away
from trucks; a superior restaurant (many stops that is now
Denny’s); parts/convenient store – card holders also reap the
benefit of discounts on gas; fuel and propane and ½ price
dumping. Their RV lanes include dump stations along with fresh
water to fill tanks. WiFi is usually available for a fee from Fly
J and many times it is free at Denny’s.
RVers spend the night in a free camping spot such as Wal*Mart
truck stops etc. it is wise to keep the tow vehicle Key Fob and
your cell phone beside your bed. In the event of any strange
noises around your unit simply hit the horn button to sound an
alarm and call 911 if required.
FYI this next International call for help works better in a
motorhome or tow vehicle – it consists of 3 beeps of the horn
followed by a pause. Turn all lights on. Repeat this procedure
over and over until someone comes.
Since an RV that is parked in a parking lot is available to
anyone moving around the units – before departure check the
security of all tow connections.
This practise ensures no one was fiddling with things while
you were sleeping. FYI
it is not safe to overnight at highway rest areas especially if
you are the only unit parked there.
Generally they are not a secure overnight parking spot.
Although most rest areas on major highways such as Canada’s
Trans Canada or Oasis stopping spots on toll roads or major truck
stops are safe options. Because
some trucks keep their compressors running – to ensure they have
a good sleep, a few RVers wear earplugs to bed.
security tip is to make up a small “In Case of Emergency
Notifications” form. We
carry blank forms in my wallet with our name. RV Park and
dates we are in that park plus a phone number to call in an
emergency. When we change destinations I
fill in the blanks and store it with our drivers license. This way
if one member is away from the RV and has an accident at least
rescue people have some idea where the RV, travel partner, pets
etc. are parked. These
small forms should include your names, RV parking spot, location
(but not site number), dates you will be there, emergency contact
name, phone number and pet names.
It is a good idea to list Rx meds on the back of form.
long range planning purposes, all Fulltimers should have a rough
plan of where to roost
if a family situation or health problems prevents them from
heading south in the winter. Yes
it is possible to winter in an RV but it is not always the most
comfortable lifestyle. We
spent one entire winter in our motorhome and part of two
additional winters when my first book was published. Promoting
it at Canadian RV Shows made a lot of sense but not every day in
an RV over the winter was a fantastic experience.
However it did give me great material for story telling
(see winter story). When
John picked up a super-bug at a Florida hospital a few years ago
– we had to come home for a month while he cooperated.
Since we have no actual home or kids to stay with near our
doctor, we negotiated a monthly rate of $1000. to rent a pet
friendly ground floor bed sitting room in a hotel with a mini
kitchen. It was not
our most exciting place to spend Christmas, but it was an option
to bringing our coach home. Especially
since there were no campgrounds open in the winter near our
doctor. Remaining a
bit flexible during your travels adds to the wonders of this
grocery store loyalty cards from large chain stores also saves
mega cash. This is just one more way to extend travel dollars.
Using coupons from local papers, periodicals and the Internet or
email also helps to save on your weekly grocery store supplies.
to Free At Last Part One
to the top
is a favourite activity for RVers. Many RVers carry bikes either
on the back of their RV or their motorhome toads or in the trucks
of towables. Bike Racks are easy to install. At the majority of
snowbird parks ‘bike club members’ join together bi-weekly for
extensive interesting excursions that frequently include lunch or
breakfast outings. Parks
are generally large enough that biking within the park is also a
good source of exercise. Plus
most locations include swimming pools, water aerobics and games
such as water volleyball etc. Of course visiting natural wonders
to enjoy a long hike or a walk on a beach will enhance your
getaway. Dance classes and morning workout programs add to the
mix. When the sun is shining and temps are warm it is easier to
get outside and ‘play’, snowbird parks generally include a
very busy active activity schedule inside and out to ensure no one
need be bored.
stop in a wide variety of campgrounds as they explore North
America. It comes in
handy to know how to check for power problems before hooking up.
Every RVer should test the power readings on the pedestal of every
new campground with a ‘Ground Monitor’. These are compact
small 3 prong testers in either a triangle or rectangle shape.
Lights indicate ‘OK’ or ‘Open Ground’ or ‘Reverse
necessity is a Volt-A-Check indicator (volt meter) that plugs into
a socket within easy view inside your unit. These are available in
basic analogue or more advanced digital models – of course
digital are higher cost but they may be more valuable. They will
advise how much power you are using when an appliance is
operating. Voltage should not drop lower than 103 or higher than
130 volts. These are
especially valuable when you are in a full park on a hot day when
everyone has A/C turned on – because power in those situations
may be limited. Ground
monitors are available from hardware stores and/or RV supply store
– Volt-A-Check device are more commonly found in RV supply
to control water pressure is another ongoing problem.
RVers getting away for an occasional trip can fill their
tanks and use water from home that they trust but Fulltimers must
rely on source at each RV Park. Fresh drinking water is a concern
for those of us who move from place to place.
However due the large selection of filters available it is
not really a huge problem. Many
RVers attach one or two filters at their unit end of the water
hose so all water coming in is fresh and tasty.
Our motorhome is equipped with an under-the-sink filter
that ensures our drinking water is always good. Those who prefer
to drink from their fresh water holding tank can add a cap or two
of good tasting fresh
water additives available from RV stores. Bleach will work to
sanitize but may leave an offensive taste to their water.
water pressure is either very high or erratically ranges from low
to high. Simply by adding a water regulator at the ‘tap’ end
of the hose, your water pressure stays at a constant 45 PSI’s.
Some water regulators include a gauge but they are not
required reference to function.
Stores such as Wal*mart sell these regulators.
High water pressure can do big damage to RV plumbing -
it’s wise to use a regulator.
with RV Fridges is one more concern.
Unless your RV is equipped with one of the new super large
refrigerators finding enough room to stow food may be limited.
We find it easier to shop for smaller orders twice a week.
Part time RVers can pack prepared and frozen meals to accommodate
while they are away however Fulltimers must buy fresh and cook as
needed. If your fridge
is a 3-way mode, temps will stay constant while you are driving
when set on battery mode. But if it is only a 2-way mode, do not
despair. Temps will stay constant for up to 8 hours if it is
turned off. John and I turn our propane off during travels for
safety which means our fridge is also turned off during each
driving day. If it is hot the day before we drive, we simply turn
it up one more degree. Just for info we’ve never lost any fridge
stationary bringing out the BBQ helps with space and meal
preparation but if you are on the move a lot that may not work.
We carry and routinely use a fairly large electric frying
pan plus a crock pot. If there is no place to easily stow these
appliances under the main cupboard, consider moving them to an
outside storage pod. Fulltimers
can still entertain and prepare gourmet meals but generally in the
majority of RV’s there is only room for one person in the
kitchen at a time. We
switch meal prep duties in our rolling home.
I prepare for entertaining times and John looks after day
to day dinners – he also washes dishes each day too.
Breakfast and lunch we each look after our own meals.
This system works for us but your lives may have different
concerns. Experiment with various scenarios and before long yours
too will work out. When
we have more than two guests, we serve meals either outside or by
buffet style eating on our laps. Our coach has no slide but it has
a spacious configuration, however it only sleeps 2 and feeds 8 for
a short visit.
an inverter to your unit is a big comfort plus in all RV’s, but
in a motorhome it means we have electric power driving down the
road. On hot days we
turn several 9” portable fans on and direct them at us and our
dog Bratt. This point would not be such a must in a towable
vehicle but if you plan to overnight in a spot without hook-ups
having access to electric power is a plus. No, you cannot run the
A/C or the Micro off an inverter, but you can operate fans, small
appliances, TV etc. without the need for a generator or solar
panels. Most of us
could survive for a day before our batteries would need charging.
extra hoses and electric cords plus adapters to cover any
connection situation adds another plus.
Not all parks offer convenient hook-ups and if you do any
boondocking an extra water hose may make it possible to fill your
tanks without moving. Even
if there is a hose near a general park tap, you have no idea as to
what it was last used for. You
don’t want to fill your fresh water tank if someone used it to
rinse their tanks.
RV Chapters and attending large International Rallies are most
beneficial to learn the ins and outs of Fulltiming.
The more contact you have with other RVers, the more info
you will glean from your visits.
Large periodic regional and annual gatherings include a
variety of educational seminars that help educate all RVers.
Explorer RV Club is Canada’s only country wide association, but
clubs such as FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) and Good Sam
plus Escapees are the largest such organizations headquartered in
the USA – these three also have numerous chapters based in
Canada. Joining clubs, reading their magazines and attending
rallies is without a doubt the best source of information to
understand the principals of this fantastic lifestyle. Of course
info on the Internet is also very informative.
Contact Options change almost by the day. Mega
choices from Internet sticks (if you can put your service on
winter vacation), to Hughes-net satellite systems, to tethered
cell phones plus so much more are available. The most
comprehensive website available for all things concerning networks
issues is GeeksOnTour.com Jim
and Chris are experts reference every technical issue. Since
upgrades change so frequently it’s too difficult to keep on top
of things. These two
Geeks offer the latest in technology. You can join their Computer
Education program at $39. Annual Membership, but the site also
includes abundant Free content.
offers two main forms of Satellite TV that RVers can use if they
want Canadian programming – either Express Vu or Shaw (Star
Choice) dishes. Shaw
is the best for RVers because they provide tech support as far
south as Belize. Reception
is good in all places if you have a clear view to the satellite.
Roof mount systems are available from some install
locations, but that version is costly. Most of us use the easy to
set up tri-pod system. Express Vu will NOT knowingly provide
service in the USA – customers will be cut off if Express Vu is
aware the Dish is being used south of the border.
In the extreme south USA, Express Vu customers will also
loose between 20-30 channels. As we moved north, the channels
returned. It has
something to do with the footprint of the dish so that it will
provide programming to northern Alberta. There is a convenient
roof mount dish available in either manual or automatic style for
the Express Vu Dish.
family and friends who don’t enjoy the RV lifestyle continuously
ask if we get bored. Bored? Not
likely – it is usually difficult trying to fit busy schedules
into a 24‑hour day. We
spend most of our time moving around and exploring new and
exciting destinations. Main
winter hot spots include – Arizona, California, Florida, Texas
and Mexico plus many spots in between.
Climate is especially pleasant during fringe seasons of
October to November and March to April plus tourist traffic is
light. Spring and fall we explore points en
route to our extended destination. Sights in the vast and
beautiful country of Canada beckon each summer.
that the US$ is close to par, Canadians receive a benefit of
campgrounds and major attractions at reasonable rates. Although
the busy full functioned snowbird parks are our usual choice of a
winter getaway but, several years, we and many of our RV friends
changed destinations every one or two weeks. Some evenings, groups
joined together for impromptu music fests or a tail gate
pizza party. As well, park’s plan activities such as dances,
potlucks and special dinners that extended our social times.
Although an extensive array of park activities keep snowbirds
happy, each resort differs from the next. Generally it's
absolutely impossible to participate in everything.
are so many things RVers like to do in retirement, but just plain
socializing with others and not being confined to a schedule is
the most important benefit of RV living. And, it's certainly not
moving from park to park can enjoy long forgotten hobbies or take
the time to learn a special craft. Each area they visit caters to
different interests so, whatever your wants, there will be
something perfect for you. The most common complaint we hear from
full and part-time retirees is, "I don't know how I ever
found the time to work eight hours every day." Life is so
full when everything you do is enjoyable.
busy doing what you wish to do is why RVing seniors remain so
young. There are people in their 80s still roaming and calling all
of North America their home. However, by that time, many RVers
trade their home‑on‑wheels for Retirement Phase 2 in a
home on some kind of a foundation, but they still continue to
enjoy life at local festivities without travelling to new
previous articles I covered budgeting, border crossings, RV travel
to the US, mail forwarding, becoming a staycationer, calling home
especially with my Verizon cell phone, packing tips, medical
requirements and residency. Many
of these columns that add to the overall Fulltime
lifestyle experience are highlighted on my Articles
Page and on my Advice and How To
Pages. Whether you get away for the
full year, the winter or for a few months please travel safe.
Remember, occasionally we all go through less than perfect times,
but overall the good days well overpower any negative ones.
Have a safe trip wherever it takes you.
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