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Snowbirding in Florida
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysOver the past 16 years, I've done a considerable amount of travel in Florida. I did some of this travel as a vacationing tourist, then as a cyclist, and more recently as a Florida snowbird. Living on the east coast, Florida has been an easy and warm place to get to. It's also a diverse and fun place to visit. I can't say I've been everywhere (like Johnny Cash) nor am I an expert on Florida. But I've been to enough places that I felt I could share some of my Florida snowbird wisdom. This post is not meant to be complete or exhaustive. It's just my take on some areas and things to consider when snowbirding in Florida. Let me start by telling you why I started going to Florida. Discovering Florida Growing up in Maine, I endured my share of harsh winters. As a kid and young adult, it was actually a fun time because I was an avid skier. But as I got older and couldn't handle the black diamond trails any more, winters became something that I had to tolerate and wait out. When I became a long distance cyclist, spring became a favorite time to head south for a week-long biking vacation. Even though I was still working, each March I would head to Florida for a week-long bike ride with the Bike Florida group. I did those rides for 8 years and got to explore many areas of north and central Florida from the seat of my bike. It was these rides that gave me the notion for escaping the New England winter and spending that time in Florida When I retired 8 years ago, the winter escape notion became a reality. It was so easy to hop in my car, drive south for three days, and be back in summer like weather. At first, we started out going down to Florida for a month and renting a condo. We began our stays near the northern east coast areas, which I was familiar with. Then we tried extending our stays to two months. We rented houses in The Villages and in New Smyrna Beach, condo's in St. Augustine Beach, and quickly got hooked on the snowbird lifestyle. When I started RVing, I did the math and found out that renting a site at a Florida RV park for 2 months was much less expensive that renting a condo. It was a no brainer to turn a two months stay into three months. This year we'll be staying for four months. We've spent our snowbird time at many places in Florida. You can see the places we've stayed on the map below. Some of these places have been for months at a time and others have been for a week or more. Areas of Florida Some may think that once you cross the border into Florida winter weather disappears and summer time magically appears everywhere. Based on my experience, that's not the case. Some areas can be down right chilly during the winter. Here's how I separate Florida into climates zones. North Central - from the GA border down to Daytona, over to Ocala, and up to Lake City. Jacksonville, the east coastal areas, and Gainesville are the populated areas. Everywhere else is pretty rural. This area is more of as summer time destination and less of a snowbird destination. Winters can be chilly with daytime temps getting up into the 60's. Some days may hit the low 70's, but those are infrequent. Other than Daytona, the coastal areas are not as developed with high rises as they are in the southern area. There are some nice coastal State Parks in this area. Fort Clinch, Little Talbot Island, and Gamble Rogers all have camping near the water. Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine is one of my favorites places to stay. The Panhandle - those areas west of Lake City to the Alabama border. Other than Tallahassee and the coastal areas, it's very rural. It's one of the most diverse and prettiest areas in Florida. Also, it's my favorite area to visit. The Emerald Coast with its white sand beaches and emerald colored water are beautiful. The area from Panama City to Fort Walton Beach is densely populated and a very busy area. Winter temps can be cold (in the 40's and 50's) and the weather can be wacky (e.g. snow, hurricanes). Like the North Central area it's more of a spring summer destination and winter is the off-season. My favorite area in the panhandle is the Forgotten Coast near Apalachicola. There are several nice beach side coastal State Parks in the panhandle. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is my favorite. Central - those areas south of Daytona to Melbourne then over to Tampa and up to Ocala. The big cities of Orlando, Tampa, and St. Pete dominate this area. The large 55+ community of The Villages just south of Ocala is in this area. There are lots of RV parks along the I-4 and I-75 corridor. I did theme park trips when my kids were young so those aren't a draw for me but they are for many. We have spent snowbird time in the Tampa area and found the winter temperatures to be moderate with lots of days in the low 70s. Southern - everything south of Melbourne to Tampa. The winter weather in this area is more warm with daytime temps in the 70's and 80s. Overnight freezes are rare. The coastal area from West Palm down to Miami is very developed. It can also be pricey. The gulf coast side is less developed and more laid back. I don't know the reason but this area seems to attract folks from the Canada, Central and Mid-West states. I like the gulf coast side the best. To me, folks on the gulf coast side seem more friendly. The winter weather is warm, it's doesn't have the high-rise sprawl like the Atlantic side, and the casual atmosphere is easy to take. Securing a Place to Stay If you want to spend some snowbird time in FL, I recommend that you reserve a place ahead of time. Heading to FL during the key winter months of January thru March without any reservations is a recipe for major disappointment. Most of the nicer RV parks and campgrounds in popular areas are booked months in advance Florida's State Parks are popular places during the winter because of the price and their locations. But stays are limited to 14 days. Sites can be reserved a year in advance and in some places like the Keys, they are booked within minutes of becoming available. The demand for campsites seems to follow the weather. State Parks in the southern area get booked up more quickly compared to the Northern areas. For my winter stays at Florida State Parks, I've booked six months in advance and have always found a site. If you wait until October and November, the selection and duration will be limited. Many state parks hold a certain number of sites for walk ins. The popular municipal Fort Desoto Park near St. Petersburg gets booked up quickly. Non-residents can reserve sites 6 months in advance and the good sites get taken quickly. Private RV parks are popular places for snowbirds. Many offer amenities like swimming pools, pickleball, tennis courts, and cable TV. The social amenities like theme dinners, card nights, golf outings, and dances are also draws for the snowbirds. Parking shoulder to shoulder for a few months in an RV park may not be for everyone. But I have found that the social interactions and making new friends is an unexpected benefit of the RV park lifestyle. Many RV parks offer seasonal discounted rates for month-long stays. The park where I stay in Fort Myers Beach offers seasonal rates for 3 month stays. Many snowbirds find a park they like and then keep returning year after year. Some parks cater to their returning customers and will let you keep the same site as long as you reserve it a year in advance. This is what we have started doing. Before we leave Fort Myers Beach in April, we'll book our reservations for the following year. Renting a house or a condo, works almost the same as getting a campground or RV site. You need to book in advance. Many local realty companies offer rentals or you can try sites like vrbo.com and airbnb.com. If you rent a house or condo, you may not get the social interactions that you can get at an RV park. I found this to be true when we rented at St. Augustine Beach and at New Smyrna Beach. The Villages is an exception to that statement. We spent one winter renting a house in The Villages and it was one of the most fun times we've had. I played golf all winter on the free golf courses, rented a golf cart to get around, took several dance lessons, and went to music events just about every night. It was a blast and I really got hooked on that lifestyle. When my RVing days come to an end, I may settle down in The Villages. One strategy for finding a place is to select some different areas and do short stays to see how you like it. Trying different areas for a week at a time is a great way to explore Florida and find out which areas appeal to you. Cost The cost to stay as a Florida snowbird is all over the place. As I mentioned above, the coastal areas are more expensive than being inland. The Florida State Parks are the best deal at around $28 per night for most parks (some are less and some are higher). But you are limited to a 14 day stay. You can move around to different sites within a park, but in many parks you must leave the park for 3 days before you can return. The max number of days you can stay at a specific State Park is 56 days within 6 month window. Moving to different parks is also an option. Private RV park rates vary widely. A beach front site at the Red Coconut RV Park in Fort Myers Beach will run you over $100 per night (no seasonal rate is offered). The monthly winter rate at Bryn Mawr RV Resort at St. Augustine Beach is around $1,200 per month ($40/night). A seasonal 3 month rate at Blueberry Hill RV Resort in Bushnell will cost around $600 per month ($20/day). For a 4 month stay at Fort Myers Beach (just a mile from the beach), I pay a monthly winter rate that averages out to be around $37 per night. The normal daily rate is $62 per day. Boondocking opportunities in Florida are limited. There is dispersed camping in the Ocala National Forest and in the Apalachicola National Forest but stays are limited to 14 days in a given month. I've been through both of these forests and they are very remote. Not all Wal-Mart in Florida allow overnight parking due to city and county ordinances. There are some truck stops along the key Interstates that allow overnight parking but these aren't intended for snowbird stays. Boondocking may work in some places if you're doing a short stay or just passing thru but it's not a strategy I would recommend for an extended stay. Condo and house renting prices also vary by location. We rented an ocean view condo in St. Augustine Beach for around $2,900 per month. A small house in The Villages will cost around $3,300 per month and higher during the winter months. Snowbirding in Florida can be pricey, If you are focused on reducing expenses, then look for places away from popular areas and try for places in the Northern and Panhandle areas. The Snowbird Lifestyle For me, I put lifestyle over cost. It all about how I want to spend my days. I prefer to spend my winter months in a warm climate near the ocean. I like to spend my days being outside walking, biking, kite flying, or just sitting on the beach. I also like not having to drive to get to places. In the afternoon or evening, it's an easy walk to several places where I can enjoy some live music. Also, I have grown to enjoy the RV park lifestyle where I get to socialize and spend time with my fellow snowbirds. We attend the weekly Saturday morning breakfasts at the RV park and play in the weekly corn hole tournament. Sunday afternoons are usually spent dancing at Doc Fords Rum Bar. It's a great way to spend the winter. You can see more or my journeys at my website: jdawgjourneys.com Disclaimer: References to specific campgrounds, RV parks, or websites is for example only. These aren't listed as recommendations and I have no affiliation with any of the businesses or websites that are listed in this post. All rates and prices listed are approximate based current published rates at the time of this posting.
How to Drive Your RV Partner Nuts
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysWhen I think about RV travel, I envision places, destinations, camping, adventure, and the open road. There's also lots of mechanical and how to stuff that comes to mind. But RVing is also a people activity. It can be done with groups, by couples, or solo. I have yet to RV with a group, but I've done it with my wife, son, and solo. I don't mind traveling solo. But, having a partner along to share the fun and adventure with enhances the whole RV travel experience. There are blogs and articles written about how to do solo RV travel. But, I haven't seen much written about the interpersonal aspects of RV travel. And, that got me thinking about this subject. I was going to write a piece about how to enjoy RVing with your partner. But, then I turned it around and thought, perhaps writing an antithesis piece on this subject would be more fun. Being married for almost 40 years, my wife and I have quite a bit of experience in driving each other nuts. In fact, I may be an expert at it. My wife and I are polar opposites. She's an extrovert and I'm an introvert. She's left brain and I'm right brain. She's a touchy feely socialite and I'm analytical loner. But most of the time it works really good for us because we complement each other and fill in each others gaps. Author Robert Fulghum said - "Where ever you go, there you are." When we're RVing, our personalities and behaviors come with us. I can attest that what drives us nuts in our normal life, also drives us nuts in our RV life. Driving someone nuts is not all bad. It's just part of normal life. We are all capable of doing it. When traveling with a partner it's good to know what some of the triggers and behaviors are so you can minimize the breakage and misery. I know from my experiences that these nine things can drive your RV partner nuts! 1. Never Doing What Your Partner Wants A trip plan / idea has to start with someone. On many trips, I usually take the lead on the trip planning. But, not soliciting input from my wife on the timing, schedule, places, or attractions is a sure recipe for a trip disaster. Also, not listening to her ideas on things to do is just asking for fight and will easily lead to items #3, #6, and # 7. I always review a trip idea and potential schedule with my wife before I book anything. I know how she likes to travel so I plan accordingly - no long drive days and plenty of rest stops. I also try not to over schedule so there's extra time for unexpected stuff that she might come up with. 2. Over Reacting to Little Annoying Stuff I've been guilty of this. Your partner cooks a meal and sets off the fire alarm in the RV. How about flushing the toilet while you're flushing the black tanks. Or, your partner doesn't understand conserving power while boondocking and drains the house batteries by leaving all the lights on for hours. Some of this stuff can be maddening. But I have to remind myself - it's all little stuff, it's all easily fixable, and not worth having a hissy fit over. 3. Holding a Grudge The small confines of an RV are a bad place to hold a grudge. Driving down the road with hours of the silent treatment takes the fun right out of a trip like a flat tire. When I sense that something is bothering my wife, I try to get the issue out and discuss it. At least we're talking. And I try to resolve the issue before nightfall so we don't ruin another day. If it was something I did, I am quick to apologize and try to make amends. And, I try to remember the adage - "Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?" 4. Not Sharing the Work I don't expect my wife to do all the cooking and cleaning on a trip. We share the chores. I cook about half the time and do my own laundry. When traveling we've worked out our routines. I do the driving. She cleans out the RV when we stop, helps with the setup, and keeps me fed with snacks and treats when we're on the road. We've found a good balance so no one person feels overburdened. 5. Constant Critiques This rarely happens with me or my wife, but it is one I'm sensitive to. I have certain codes of conduct that I live by. One of those codes is to never ever criticize or make fun of your partner in public. Also, if you feel you have to give a critique, then pick the right time, say what you need to, and be done with it. Don't belabor a point or constantly relive a bad experience. Constant critiques will lead to the next item. 6. Not Wanting to Be on the Trip Traveling with someone who is miserable is no fun. My wife doesn't enjoy traveling as much as I do. So, when contemplating a trip, I always make the offer to my wife - "Is this something you want to do or do you want to pass?" I don't want my wife to feel pressured to do something she won't enjoy. It's no fun for her and no fun for me. That's the main reason I travel solo at times. My wife is fine with me going off on a solo trip. She's not holding me back and I'm not imposing something on her. If a trip isn't going well, it's best to turn around and head home. RVing shouldn't be the source of misery. 7. Non Stop Texting & Talking on Your Cell Phone This is sort of related to #6 above and a pet peeve of mine. If you can't be present on a trip or can't stand to be away from your friends, then don't go on the trip. It's fine to be sending pictures and messages to friends while on a trip and to stay in touch with family and friends. And, if a real family or friend emergency comes up, then you need to deal with it. But, ignoring your partner so you can be consumed with the daily minutiae of your friends lives or spending the day on the phone helping them deal with their child's latest bad behavior crisis, is bad behavior in my book. It doesn't happen often but when it does, it drives me nuts. 8. Not Giving Your Partner Girl / Guy Down Time RV travel can foster closeness with your partner. But unlike being at home, when you're in the RV there may not be many opportunities to go off and have some girl time or do some male bonding. I'm sensitive to this. My wife needs her nap time, shopping time, Facebook time with friends, etc. Every so often I need to go off and do some male bonding or zone out on TV sports. Not respecting these needs will cause discord. My wife and I are pretty good at respecting each others needs for down/alone time. 9. Driving Around Aimlessly This one drives my wife nuts. Trying to find a place to park the RV when out shopping or dining can sometimes be a challenge. I'm a little picky about where I leave my RV. I want enough space to get in and out and need a space that's fairly level. My wife doesn't seem to fully appreciate this because she doesn't drive the RV. So, when she catches me driving around searching for the right spot, it drives her nuts. It's right up there with being lost and not asking directions. I know this behavior can set her off. So, I have to prep her, keep talking about what I'm trying to do, give assurances, and make fun of myself when I'm caught driving around aimlessly. Otherwise, there's a risk of getting the silent treatment. So that's my list. My wife helped contributed to the list so it's really our list. Such a list may make us look like a couple of psychos, but we're two lunatics who love each other and most of the time enjoy traveling together. We've learned to be aware of each others crazy quirks and are doing our best to deal with them or make light of them. Driving each other nuts has been part of our 40-year journey. It's not all bad, because driving another person nuts is one of the key features of real true love! Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.com
How Much Does an RV Lifestyle Cost?
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysThis question is not a new one. Just do a Google search with the words - "the cost of rving" and you'll see lots of articles from RVer's detailing their costs. But, it's a question that seems to keep surfacing. I recently got some emails asking about the cost of RVing. I also got an email from someone asking if I would write a blog post about how to travel frugally in an RV. I'm not into writing "how to" articles or into giving advice. Also, there's already bloggers who do a really good job covering the frugal RV travel subject. But the emails got me thinking. There's probably folks who read travel blogs or articles and aspire to get into RVing. They probably have questions about what it costs. Not about the cost to buy a rig but what it typically costs to travel in an RV. The idea for what I could write began to jell. I could do a post to share my insights and info about what an RV lifestyle really costs. And, while writing it, I'd figure out what it's really costing me. Before I spent any money on RVing, I first had to answer some questions. Planning My RV Lifestyle The first thing I had to figure out was what type of RVer I wanted to be when I grow up. Was I ready to sell the homestead and go full-time or just be a part-time RVer? Was this RV travel idea just a temporary itch that needed to be scratched (like a one time year-long trip around the United States) or a permanent part of how I wanted to live? Did I want to do road trips and always be on the road or do more stay put seasonal RVing? I figured out that I wanted to be a traveler and spend much of my retirement years exploring the United States. My wife wasn't into doing all the travel but she was fine with me traveling solo. We weren't ready to uproot and sell our house, so I'd be traveling part-time. I also wanted to do a little seasonal stay put RVing (e.g. wintering in Florida, vacationing in Maine). My RV lifestyle also needed to support my regular lifestyle. I'm a minimalist and somewhat frugal person. I like to keep things simple. I also needed to travel within my means. Figuring this out was key to determining the type of RV I wanted and it was a driver in what my RV lifestyle would cost. The Costs are All Relative For me, my RV lifestyle is an added expense to my current living expenses. It hasn't displaced too many costs. I look at it as all relative to my current living expenses. Many things like food, health insurance, medical bills, taxes, car maintenance, property maintenance, other insurances, utilities, clothing, cell phones, and entertainment have all stayed pretty much the same since I started traveling. Some have gone down slightly. I don't drive my car as much anymore, especially when I'm in FL, so I am saving some of fuel. Also, my electric bill goes down when I'm traveling and in Florida. I also got rid of the newspaper delivery, all subscriptions, cut my cable TV, and got rid to my land line. I did some of these things before I started traveling and even more after because I saw less value in them. But, my RV lifestyle did add new expenses and those are the ones I'll discuss - the ones that are directly related to my RV travel. I won't get into minutia with spreadsheets of costs. I'll keep it simple and put them into three categories - RV Related, Fuel, and Lodging. RV Related Expense The upfront cost of an RV can be the biggest expense in an RV lifestyle. Which one you buy is all related to what type of RVer you want to be. Towable versus motorhome. Class A bus versus Class B van. Gas versus Diesel. New vs Used. And the costs for RV's are all over the place. You can buy a used towable for $5,000 or spend $500,000 on an upscale diesel pusher. Which one a person buys is all based on that person's needs and budget. I won't try to answer the question of which one is the right one to buy. The only right answer is the one that's right for you at the moment. But, the type of RV will be a factor in the ongoing RV maintenance and related expenses. I wanted an RV to support road trip type travel. I wanted something I could drive anywhere. I wanted something that would be efficient and not be costly to maintain. I wanted something I could live comfortably in for weeks or months at a time. My first RV was a Class B Roadtrek van. That RV fit all my needs except the "live comfortably in for weeks or months at a time". After two years, I traded the Roadtrek for a Class C Winnebago View Profile. The View provided just the right amount of added space and was still small enough to be able to go anywhere. I wrote about my experience with the View in this post - My Winnebago View - A Two Year Summary. My ongoing annual RV related expense for the View over the past two years have been as follows: RV Maintenance: $1,800 RV Vehicle Insurance: $763 RV Excise Tax: $1,081 RV Registration & Inspection: $79 Incidental Expenses: $375 Total $4,098 The RV Excise Tax expense is a value related tax that applies to my domicile state. Not all states have this tax or they may call it a license tax. Some have personal property taxes instead. Some states don't have this type of tax. There are some incidental expenses that come up like replacing a sewer hose each year or replacing RV parts that break. This might total around $200 each year. Also, there's memberships (FMCA, Coach-Net, Good Sam) that total $175 each year. These expenses are specific to my RV and they're some what static. The Excise Tax reduces as the value of the RV goes down. I do some of the routine maintenance on the RV (oil and filters) to save a few bucks. Fuel This expense is driven by how many miles I travel, the fuel efficiency of my RV, and the price of fuel. I drive all over the country each year and log about 20,000 miles per year. Some drive more and some drive less. If you stay in a certain geographic area, then it's easy to limit the miles you drive and save money on fuel. My RV is a very fuel-efficient vehicle. I average 16.5 miles per gallon. Some days I get 18 mpg and some days I get 14 mpg. At 16.5 mpg, driving 20,000 miles per year, I burn about 1,212 gallons of fuel per year. My RV uses diesel fuel. This year the price of fuel has been falling, which has been great. Using an average of $2.30 per gallon (It's lower now), my cost for fuel last year was about $2,800. Last year, when diesel was close $3.80 per gallon, my cost was $4,600. Price is a big factor as is efficiency. If I had a similar sized gas RV that got 8-9 mpg, my fuel cost would almost double. The fuel efficiency of my a rig was a big factor in selecting my specific RV because I planned to drive a lot each year. If you don't drive a lot then fuel efficiency will be less important. Lodging By far, the largest RV lifestyle expense can be for parking the RV overnight. It's also the one that can be controlled the most by where and how often you travel. Campgrounds and RV parks all charge fees for overnight stays. The rates can be all over the place based on type and location. National and State Parks usually have rates lower than private campgrounds. I've seen fees typically in the range of $20-30 per night. Some places with minimal facilities can be as low as $12 per night. These places may be lower in cost but they're also at some of the most beautiful places. Private campgrounds or RV parks are usually slightly higher in cost. These usually can be in the range of $30-$45 per night, but it can go a lot higher. I've seen some high-end RV parks in Florida with water front sites charging over $100 per night. Prices at private campgrounds can also vary by season or special event. Campgrounds near Daytona all raise their rates for Speedweek and Bike Week. RV parks tend to have more amenities like full hookups, wi-fi, swimming pools, and cable TV. And some offer discounts for weekly or monthly stays. But there's also some places where you can stay for free. Many federal lands such as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or US Forest Service areas allow free camping for a certain limited time period. These areas are usually undeveloped (undeveloped = no hookups or facilities) and many are in the western states. A good resource to find these areas can be found at this website : Ultimate Campgrounds. It's also possible to park overnight for free at many Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel Restaurants, and truck stops. The OvernightRVParking website is a great resource to find these locations. It cost $25 per year to use this website, but it pays for itself with just one overnight stay. The key to staying at these places is to always ask permission to see if overnight parking is allowed. When I travel across country, I try to stay at truck stops or Wal-Mart while I'm going to or from a destination. Once at a destination, I usually stay at public or private campgrounds. When on a road trip, I try to use free overnight stays about 15-20% of the time to save some money. When I'm in Florida or on a stay put vacation, I'll stay at a campground of RV park because I want water and electricity hook ups. I don't track my detail expenses in this area. I'm usually in FL for at least 12 weeks each year and stay at an RV park. That's my largest lodging expense at around $4,200. There's another 12 weeks of road trip and vacation travel that I do each year. Looking at the number of days and an average rate, I probably spend another $2,100 for that lodging. That adds up to around $6,300 for lodging for about 6 months of travel. Many probably pay much less for lodging. You can boondock in Quartzsite, Arizona for the whole winter for less than $200. You can find RV parks in California, Arizona, or Florida that have monthly winter rates for around $500. If you're don't care so much about location and don't want to pay a lot there are many opportunities to save money on lodging expenses. And there's some who do all their road trips staying at truck stops or Wal-Mart. Summary So, I figured out what it's costing me for my RV lifestyle. It adds up to around $13,198 per year for me to be part-time RVer. I didn't include food as an RV travel expense because I pretty much eat the same or more simply on the road as I would at home. There are also some incidental expenses like tolls and propane for the RV that are minimal (maybe $250 per year). I buy a National Park pass each year for $80 which gets me into all National Parks / Monuments for free. I'm not much of a shopper so I don't tend to buy souvenirs. I may take a tour sometimes, but that's part of normal entertainment expenses. When I plan a trip, I use an average daily expense of about $100 per day to plan the budget for a trip. That figure includes food, fuel, and lodging but it's what I use to figure out the cost. Some do it for less, but it's good have this type of figure for planning a trip. When I retired and before I started RVing, I budgeted around $6,000 for a two month Florida condo rental each year and still had a vacation condo that cost me $6,000 per year in fees and taxes. I sold the condo to buy an RV and use the RV now for Florida so my savings close to what it costs me to be a part-time RVer. For me, that $13,000 is money well spent. Some spend that much keeping a vacation home or taking a couple of week-long cruises each year. That amount would probably only pay for one day stay in a hospital. But for me, it's buying some priceless experiences and memories. I'm traveling 6 months of the year, seeing some great sights, and having a ball. You can read more about my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.com.
The Joys of Being a Sometime RVer
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysSeveral of the travel blogs that I follow are written by people living full-time in their RV. I'm not talking about trailer park living. These are folks who, as part of a plan (not necessity), sold their house and most of their possessions and live a life of what seems like perpetual travel. Their RV is their home and many say Home is where they happened to be parked. It's fun following their adventures because many times they're moving around, having new experiences, and seeing different parts of the country. Some of these bloggers have large followings. I guess lots of folks may like to follow people who are living a different or unique lifestyle - one that appears to be filled with constant adventure. I've been a traveling RVer now for 4+ years. Along the way, I found my RV / travel lifestyle. I'm what I call a "sometime" RVer. I'm different from the full-timers. I still have a stick and bricks home, a permanent residence, and I'm not always on the move. But I'm away traveling in my RV for what equates to about 1/2 the year. Sometime RVing is more that just taking short RV vacations now and then. It involves being gone for weeks or months at a time. Its a way to live two different lives - the at-home life and the travel life. Same person, but changing my habitat when I want. At Home in the Winter, In Florida three days later I like my sometime RV lifestyle. I get as much adventure and go to the same places that the full-timers go. I may not stay as long or travel as often, but I figure I'm having just as much fun. And I don't aspire to change it or be a full-timer. I'm very happy doing just what I'm doing. Many of the full-timers blog about their travels and lifestyle, but I don't see as many sometimers doing the same. I think there are some advantages to my sometime RV lifestyle so, I figured I'd write a post about the joys of being a sometime RVer. 1. I Still Have a Place Called Home As a kid, I moved a lot - about every 2-3 years. It was because of my Dads job working for the Federal government. When I got married and had kids, I didn't want that for my family. I wanted to find a place and job where I could put down roots. I was lucky with the job, found the perfect small town, a nice chuck of land, and I built just the house I wanted. I hammered many of the nails and cut many of the boards. My wife and I planted several of the trees and bushes, did the landscaping, and made it our Home. Its become our Tara. Owning a place can be a lot of work but having a Home is important to me. It's mine, I built it, and its the place I'm most comfortable being at. Its a place where I can rest, recuperate, and recharge. I know I'll have to trade it someday soon for a smaller place, but It's not something I could ever give up for a 5th wheel trailer of a Class A bus. 2. I Get to Live Multiple Lives As I mentioned above, I get to live different lives. Part of the year, I live in rural New England. Its bucolic. My neighbors are cows, corn, and trees. The nearest store is 3 miles away. There's one yellow blinking light in my town. It's life in the slow lane and I live as a country gentleman. When I travel, I get to leave it behind for a time and go live a different life. When in Florida, I stay in a busy beach side town, where tee shits, shorts, and flip-flops are the normal daily attire. I can live the life of a beach bum where I'm constantly surrounded by people and all the convenience of eateries, shops, and night spots. It's a nice change of pace. When I take a road trip, I can be gone for a week of a couple of months. I can be a wanderer or explorer going from place to place and staying in places with beautiful scenery. When I've had enough or need a change, I don't need to find a new place. I just go Home. 3. I Get to Go When I Want, Come Back When I Want Full-timers get to do part of this. Vacationers, not so much. If I'm home and there's a few days of good weather, if I feel like taking a road trip, or if I just get bored, I can easily take off and hit the road. My RV stays parked in my yard and is kept fueled up, packed, and ready to roll. It works the same in the other direction. If the weather turns bad, the RV is acting up, I get sick or bored, I can just head Home. I don't have to worry about where to head or making a new reservation. Just select the Home choice on my RV's GPS and drive. 4. I Have a Less to Worry About I like to focus on the positives and try to tune out the negatives. Think about all the good that will happen and not worry about the bad. I am an old Boy Scout and follow the Be Prepared motto. When I'm RVing, I'm prudent and try to be prepared for the small stuff and don't worry about the big things that are out of my control. Like what will happened if the RV had a catastrophic failure (engine, tranny) or what if it's damaged by weather or an accident. As a sometimer, my RV is just another vehicle, something replaceable. It's not my home and it doesn't hold any treasured possessions. If something bad happens to it that can't be fixed on the road, I'll call for a flatbed and just head Home. 5. Its Easy to Take A Break from Traveling When I was really sick in 2011, I didn't go to Florida for the winter or travel at all. I was pretty ill and just didn't feel like going anywhere. Going to doctor appointments was the only travel I did. Luckily, I got better and when I felt confident and good enough, I started traveling again. Bad **** can happen to anyone and at anytime. I'm not sure what I would have done that year if I was a full-timer. That's one thing I like about being a sometimer. I don't have to travel. I can park my self at Home and take a break anytime and for as long as I want. 6. I Can Stay Married My wife is also a sometime RVer, but she's more in the once-and-awhile category (like a vacationers). She likes going to Florida for the winter and maybe will join me on a beach stay-put vacation. But that's it. Her type of adventure is a girl's game night or a day shopping at a new outlet mall. She needs to be rooted somewhere, have friends / family around, and doesn't like wandering or always moving. And that's ok. It's no fun traveling with someone who's not happy. We've been married for 38 years and she's fine with me going off and doing my traveling thing. I just have to keep coming back to her and keep checking in with her. Behave myself while on the road and leave her the check book. She's happy, I'm happy. 7. I Have a Place to Go When It's All Over I see my RV lifestyle as temporary. Maybe it's not a joy but it's something I'm at peace with and comfortable knowing it will have an ending. RVing is something I'm doing now, I'm really enjoying it now, but it ain't gonna last. Some may not agree or look that far out and that's ok. I'm not a fatalist, just a realist. At some point, I know that I will either lose interest in traveling, lose my confidence, or just lose the physical ability. Some times I joke that we're all one doctor's appointment away from a calamity. One bad test result can change your life. I'm not at all focused on that and I'm taking each day as it comes. But when it does happen or if I get sick, I want to know I've got a place to go and deal with it. I've got doctors and specialists who know me and I know the good places to get care. And I can just park the RV and forget about it. I don't have to worry about finding a place to park or a place to find care. And for me, that is what's good about being a sometime RVer. It's not better than anyone else's RV lifestyle. Just what I like about mine. I get to go when I want, come back when I want, stay put when I want, and I can easily give it up when I want. And I've still got a wonderful place called Home. Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.com
The Simplicity of RV Living
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysI just returned home from almost four months of living in my RV. It was a first. I took the RV south in December and spent a wonderful 2 1/2 months at an RV park in Fort Myers Beach, FL escaping the cold New England winter. From there, we hung around St. Augustine for a couple more weeks and then headed west for a month on the road exploring west Texas. I had a great time. The Fort Myers stay was the first time I had stayed parked in an RV for such an extended time and it worked out just fine. And the roadtrip was paced with several multi-day stop overs. I was gone 111 days and drove over 7,000 miles. It was a long time to be away, but I grew very accustomed to living in the RV. My sons did a fine job of taking care of my house while I was gone, but there was still a lot of work to do upon my return. The RV needed to be unpacked, washed, and re-winterized. Piles of mail had to be culled and gone through. I had to fix a broken dryer, broken screen door closer, a malfunctioning electrical outlet, and get my VOIP phone system working again. Then the cars needed to be washed and cleaned, garage swept out, and two truck loads of trash taken to the dump. Then the taxes needed to get done. I was going non-stop for a week and hadn't even contemplated the yard work. As I was laying in bed one morning thinking about my to do list for the upcoming day, a stark thought entered my headed. When I was living in the RV I didn't have this much work to do. It gave me a pause. Having just worked my butt off for the past 5 days, I began to ponder the simplicity of RV living. I've been RVing for almost 4+ years now. It took a couple years, a couple of RV's, and several major trips to find my groove in how I like to travel. I'm now spending about 6 months out of the year in the RV and have grown accustomed to living in a small mobile space. For me, living in the RV is pretty simple. Here as some comparisons of my home living versus my RV living. Less Space Means Less Stuff At home, I have a closet full of clothes and a bureau full of more clothes. All this stuff needs to be washed and cleaned. With all the space in the house, its easy to accumulate stuff. There are books, DVD's, electronic gadgets, tools, art work, do dads, heirlooms, and toys. Then there's the stuff you don't want to get rid of because you might use it someday like the tennis racket, cross country skis, extra bicycles, camping gear, and spare stuff. With the RV, there's only room for a couple change of clothes and a weeks worth of underwear. I travel with two hats, two coats, a couple pairs of shoes, and two vests. I might travel with a couple books but those get recycled when I'm done and a couple new ones get picked up. There are a few DVD's for rainy days. There's just a few electronic gadgets (laptop, tablet, cameras) and there's no room for art work, heirlooms, or the spare stuff. Just the basic stuff I need to live. There's less clutter and no daunting cleaning chores. The inside of my RV home Less Stuff Means Less Stuff Needs to be Maintained Maintaining my property can sometimes feel like a full time job. It seems like something always needs to be fixed or cleaned. With a house, there's always something that needs painting, a cracked or rotted board that needs replacing, and a gap that needs caulking. There's carpets that need cleaning, floors that need sweeping, windows that need washing, and rooms to be dusted. There's always cars to wash and maintain. And then there's the chests and racks of tools to maintain it all. With the RV, much of this goes away. Cleaning the RV can be done in less than 20 minutes. The single bathroom can be swabbed out in about 3 minutes. I usually use the RV park shower and there's no washer or dryer to worry about. The RV maintenance is pretty easy - checking batteries, flushing tanks, lubing the steps and seals, checking the roof, etc. I carry a simple tool bag because it something major breaks in the RV, I'm not equipped or skilled to fix it and need to bring it to a dealer to get serviced. The RV is much simpler and easy. No Yard Means No Yard Work When living in an RV at an RV park or on road, there's no yard work to be done and no yard machines to maintain. There's no weeding to be done and no leaves to rake. There's no pool to clean and chemicals to check. There's no lawn and patio furniture to clean and have place to store With the RV, all this stuff is provided and maintained by the RV park. Its included in the "rent" and frees up a lot of time. My RV "yard" - no maintenance! Less Work Means More Time for Enjoyment What I found while living in my RV for 4 months, was that I had much more time for creative pursuits and enjoyment. At home, my routine on many days is driven by what I'm going to fix or clean or what project I'm going to start. When I'm in the RV, my routine is more driven by where I want to go for lunch, where to go for a bike ride or hike, is it nice enough to hang out at a beach, is there a activity I'm scheduled for, what happy hour am I going to, or where to go for some picture taking. While I like fixing things, it can become daunting when it piles up. And as I've got older, I'm becoming more interested in enjoyment and less interested in fixing things. J. Dawg kite flying Which brings me to what I've concluded. My RV lifestyle is a much simpler lifestyle and one that I enjoy. It has shown me that my days of owning my big country home are numbered. I'm not ready to chuck it all and go live full time in a RV. I like having a home base with family and my support mechanisms. But, I'm going to want something a lot smaller, with much less maintenance, and something I don't have to worry about while I'm out RVing. Because right now, this Dawg likes being out traveling to different parts of the country and enjoying what they have to offer. Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com
Living in a Small RV - Parked for Two Months
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysOur two months of being parked in our small RV is up and we're moving on to the travel phase of our winter sojourn. We had a very good stay in Fort Myers Beach and it was so nice to avoid the cold winter weather in a nice warm climate. Living in our small RV worked out pretty good. I wrote about my observations after the first month in this post - Living in a Smal RV - Parked for the First Month. Not much changed in the second month. Here are some final conclusions. The small space in our 26 ft motorhome was workable. I can't image doing what we did in anything smaller. One of the key reasons it was able to work was where we were - in a warm tropical climate that allowed us to spend a lot of time outside. We were able to sit outside on most days, cook outside when we wanted, and spend time walking and riding our bikes to places. Had we been in Northern Florida or on the Panhandle with cool temps, staying cooped up in a small RV for 2 months would have probably caused some mental health issues (e.g, stir crazy, severe cabin fever). As I said above the small space was workable, but not ideal. It would have been nice to have more sitting space and a larger cooking area. To get that, I'd have to get a larger motorhome or trailer. Both of these options would make our 2 months of stay put RVing more comfortable but it would drastically change our RV travel lifestyle that we have in the rest of the year. Our Winnebago View is about as large as I want to go in a motorhome. But having a trailer that we'd keep and use just for our FL stays is a viable option. Many of the snowbirds who stayed at the RV park, keep a trailer or 5th wheel in FL and have it put in storage during the summer months. Storing a trailer runs about $40 month and having it moved to and from the RV park runs about $40 each trip. Total storage and moving costs run about $500 and it eliminates the need for a towing vehicle. This is something we'll consider for the future. All the appliances in the RV were very sufficient. The 5.3 cu ft frig with a freezer held enough food. The ducted heat pump / AC kept us evenly warm and cool. The two small flat panel TV's were fine and TV reception was sufficient. We used the RV park free wifi for basic web surfing. I love having satellite radio in the RV. I listened to it every morning. Two months with no car also worked out. "Runaround Annie" missed driving around but she made do. We unhooked the RV about once per week. We also rented a car a few times. Most other travel was on bikes or on foot. Our physical shape made this work and the location made this work. The beach and several restaurants were 1 mile away. The grocery store and bank were 2+ miles away. There was also a trolley stop at the RV park and that made it easy to go the the movies and go the the grocery when we needed to lug more food. Again, I believe the location made it work. If we were in a more remote spot (like Quartzsite) we would have had to unhook the RV more and would have felt isolated. I'm not inclined to tow a vehicle so location is key to making it work. The added unplanned benefit of not having a car is that we saved a lot on gas that we would have normally been spending back home. Both of us would easily spend $35 each on gas per week. That's over $500 we saved by not having a car. We also got in a lot of exercise that probably won't have happened if we had a car. While we saved money on gas, we spent more on food. There was no big box store shopping or buying in large quantity of stuff on sale. With the small RV, there's no space for storing large quantities of food so we bought what we needed for the upcoming week (e.g., paper towels by the two pack, toilet paper by the 4 pack.) We also ate out a little more than we would have at home. I didn't track this but my guess is we probably spent $20-$50 more per week on food. The close quarters and fairly constant contact with my spouse was a very good thing. When at home, we sometimes go our separate ways. I spend a lot of time in my office or dubbing around outside and "Runaround Annie" is usually earning her nick name - running around. But with the RV, she and I went everywhere together, ate at the table together, usually watched TV together, and most times where an arms length away. The close quarters would have made it real easy for her to deliver a "dope slap" if I earned one, but we had no fights or disagreements and didn't get on each others nerves The social contact at the RV park was great. We went to many activities and events in the park. There were breakfasts, lunches, a Super Bowl party, and a dance. We met all our neighbors and had chats just about every day. We also made some new friends. You don't get this type contact with a short stay. And, we didn't get this type of social contact when we rented condo's. Its one the key things I like about staying in an RV park. J. Dawg playing in the weekly Corn Hole tournament So that's about it. Living in a small RV worked out and we'll be back in the same spot next year. Let me know if you have any questions. Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com
What is the RV Lifestyle?
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysAs a blogger and blog reader, I read some blogs that write about the RV Lifestyle. Most of these bloggers tend to write about their travels, what they're doing, or what they've learned. And they all write really good stuff. But its mostly practical and not philosophical. Few actually put a definition on what the RV Lifestyle is. One talks about getting out there, seeing the country. Some seem to infer that's its constant traveling in an RV. Some write about how they live full time in a RV. But not many actually write about what the RV Lifestyle actually is. I'm spending the winter in an RV park and I'm surrounded by all types of RVer's. I've got to meet many of these RVer's and see how they are all different. So, I guess this set me up for pondering the question one night, while I sat on the commode, what is the RV Lifestyle? It actually posed itself in the form of a few questions. How would I define the RV Lifestyle? What's my RV Lifestyle? Can someone have an RV Lifestyle and a regular lifestyle? To some, it may be obvious. Once you own and use an RV you automatically have an RV lifestyle. But I think there maybe more to it than that or maybe not. So, it this post, I'll explore what the RV Lifestyle is to me. Let's start with the word lifestyle. It can denote an individuals interests, attitudes, behaviors, and values. It can also denote how you live. So, if you live in an RV you must have an RV Lifestyle? One blogger I read travels in a Class B and he writes a good blog about the small motorhome lifestyle. Perhaps there are different RV Lifestyles based on the type of RV. I have a Class C motorhome, so does that mean I have a medium motorhome lifestyle? I'm not sure my interests, attitudes, behavior, and values are driven by the size of my RV. Some may think the RV Lifestyle entails constant travel and seeing new places with jaw dropping scenery. Is constant travel and adventure a lifestyle? It seems to work for nomads. And, I can see how it could be for some and if you do it in an RV. If that's what you like to do, then constant travel in a RV may be your RV Lifestyle. For some, an RV Lifestyle might be sitting around a crackling campfire boondocking out in a wilderness setting with no other people around. That may work for people who want an escape and need to recharge. But unless you're a hermit, a permanent escape is not much of a lifestyle. But if its temporary or something you do for a vacation or a few times a year, then perhaps that's your RV Lifestyle. Many of the RVer's in the RV park I'm staying at live in their RVs for a few months during the winter and then go back to their sticks and bricks homes. They're not "getting out there and seeing the country". They're just parked. Some may say they don't have much of a RV Lifestyle. But they seem as happy and full filled as people who travel constantly around the country. Perhaps they just have a sedentary RV Lifestyle. The answers to my questions came to me as I observed my wife over the past two months. My wife has traveled with me in our RV but she can only do it for a short time. She likes traveling and seeing new things, but she's not happy always moving from place to place every few days. That's why there are many times I travel alone. Her values and interests are friends, family, routines, familiar things, relationships, religion, and lots of people contact. These things are not always there for her on on a cross country road trip. But while living in our RV for two months in the RV park, she had all these things and was very happy. And that's when it hit me. The answer to my mystery. I once read something that said a person (more specifically, a sane person) can't be two people at the same time. You can't have two personalities or two behaviors. You can't have two sets of values, likes, interests, and attitudes. It takes too much energy for a sane person to project multiple personalities. My wife was happy living in the RV because she didn't leave or change her lifestyle. She took it with her to the RV park in Florida. My wife doesn't have an RV Lifestyle. She just has here regular lifestyle that she brought with her and re-established in another location. And for me, my lifestyle happens to include being a "sometime" RVer. I like to travel and take long trips. I can go for a couple months at a time, but I need to follow my regular routines, eat my regular diet, and do my regular hobbies. I like exploring, but I need to have familiar things and return to my home base to reconnect, recharge, and get grounded. And I guess that's the answer to my question. For me, there is no RV Lifestyle. There's isn't separate way of living that has a separate set of values, interests, rules, or behaviors. All I have is my regular lifestyle that happens to entail traveling in an RV from time to time. For some, constant travel is their lifestyle, for others boondocking out in the wildness from time to time is part of their lifestyle, and for others going to Florida and parking for the winter is part of their lifestyle. And I think this is key. Your interests, hobbies, routines, habits, diets, family/ friend interaction need to be supported in your RV. You can put your lifestyle on hold if all you want to do is vacation type road trips. But, if you're serious about spending a significant amount of time in an RV, then you need to bring your lifestyle with you in the RV. Which means you need to find an RV that fits your lifestyle not vice versa. If your lifestyle includes cooking big meals, staying put for weeks, and you want lots of comfort, a Class B or small towable may not fit your lifestyle. I guess that may be why lots of folks like big RVs. Its just not for the comfort. Its so they can bring their lifestyle with them. This is exactly what I saw in the RV park. Many had brought their homes and lifestyles with them and set them up in the RV park. And that's J. Dawg's take on the RV Lifestyle. I don't have an RV Lifestyle. I just have my regular lifestyle that happens to include RVing. Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com
Living in a Small RV - Parked for The First Month
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysWe're at San Carlos RV Park in Fort Myers Beach and have just about completed the first month of stay put living in our small RV. Its the longest we've ever stayed parked in one place. In a nut shell, so far so good. We're still married, still mostly sane, still talking, nobody's been hurt, and we're having a pretty good time. It took a little time to find our groove, but we've settled in and developed our routines. I think it's working out. Here's some observations. We are joined by all types of rigs in our RV park - big class A's, class C's, trailers, 5-th wheels, and a couple small class B's. All nice rigs parked like us for the winter. We're all packed in tight and the park is now mostly full. The people are pretty quiet but you can hear your neighbors sneeze and smell what they're cooking. Most everyone is a retired snowbird (like us) from somewhere north. All are super nice folks. I've found this to be a fairly common trait among retired snow birds. They're all happy to be retired, happy to have made it this far in life, and happy to be living their dreams. So far, not having a car is working out ok. We're situated close (1-2 miles) to the beach, restaurants, and stores. I'm biking to most places. I'm usually on the bike a couple times a day. While I haven't done a lot of biking in the past 2-3 years, it all came back easy for this former long distance road biker who used to ride a 100 miles a week. I'm a little unique in this regard. Someone who is out of shape or who can't bike would probably need a vehicle for mobility. When we need to run errands or go sightseeing, we just unhook the RV. It takes 5 mins to unhook and our Winnebago View is small enough to go anywhere. "Runaround Annie" is also making do. She's walking more than biking. She's also linked up with some new friends from a local congregation and is getting rides to her regular meetings. Stay put RVing is a lot different than RV traveling. After the first 10 days, the vacation feel was mostly gone. There's no itinerary or places we have to get to. We do some exploring each week when we unhook the RV, but mostly the RV stays parked for several days at a time. Stay put RVing is not camping. There's no sitting around the campfire singing Cumbaya. There's not the daily adventures and constant new experiences that comes with traditional RV travel. Its RV living and its more like living at home - just on a much smaller simpler scale and the view is different. We're far from bored. There's still plenty to do and see in the area. The summer like weather makes us want to be outside and venture out. When we unhook the RV, we do some exploring like visiting a state park, going to Sanibel Island for the day, visiting a new town, or taking in a movie. "Runaround Annie" had some adjustments to make. She's a self proclaimed socialite and was missing face time with her girl friends. A brief period of loneliness set in. But, once she started connecting with some other females she quickly got her groove back. Texting, email, and Facebook are keeping her connected with friends. She also had friends send her selfies so she could have some pictures. With a small RV, there's not much opportunity for puttering and dubbing around. These are critical guy activities. Dubbing around and puttering fills a good part of some days back home. In the RV park, there's no grass to mow, no yard to clean, no weeds to wack, no pool to clean, no cars to maintain, and no machines to fix. Also, nothings broke that I've had to fix. Its good that's nothing's broke but bad for a Mr. Fixit who likes doing fixit tasks. So, I've had to find things to fill the void left by the lack of dubbing and puttering. I've been doing a lot of writing and photography, shooting video clips, and building a new web site. I guess I'm still dubbing around and puttering, just doing it on the computer and with the cameras. Living in the RV is much more simple than living at home. Like I said above, there's a lot less work to do and you have a lot less stuff. Cleaning up is much quicker in the RV. Its really small so there's not much that can get dirty or cluttered. Also, there's no travel itinerary or travel plans to execute. The simple living has allowed me to pursue more creative pursuits. This has been an unexpected finding and its been a good thing. I've sort of got used to living in the small space. We've got all the creature comforts. The slide out gives us a nice comfortable seating / eating area. The ducted AC has kept the RV nice and evenly cool on hot days and nights. The on- air TV reception has been very good. I love having my satellite radio which gives me all the news, music, and sports that I want. So, its been livable. And when the four small walls get to me, I just go outside for a walk or bike ride. The biggest downside has been the limited cooking space. Breakfast and lunches are easy to do. But, without good counter space, its difficult to cook a full meal (something I normally don't do when traveling). I like to cook from scratch (vs using processed food), so this has been a challenge. I also wish I had a bigger bathroom and a bed with a real mattress. These are things I "make do with" when traveling but have become a desire while staying put. It sort of makes me long for a little larger RV or to buy a good sized travel trailer that I would leave in FL. More on this in the next post. The fairly constant togetherness with my wife has been good. We get along well and like each others company. The small space fosters a stronger bond and I think it amplifies the strengths of our relationship. It could just as easily work the other way for someone who has some bad habits or may have issues with their partner. That's it for now. Before we leave, I'll post some final thoughts on living in a small RV. I'd like to hear from others who have done this to see what you may have learned. Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com
Living in a Small RV - My Florida Winter Plan
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysI'm in the process of trying something new - staying put for an extended time living in my small RV. Living in an RV is not something new or novel. Lots of folks do it. Full timers do it all the time. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in RV’s. Over the past few years, I've spent the equivalent of several months away from home living on the road in my RV. But its been living on the road, which involves a lot of traveling, sightseeing, and moving to a new campsite every few days. This winter will be a new experience for me and my wife. We're spending 10+ weeks in Florida parked in one spot and living in our small 25 ft Winnebago View motorhome, which has less than 200 sq ft of living space. We’re doing this in lieu of renting a condo for part of the winter, which has been our usual wintering roosting method for the past several years. We bought a new RV last year and one of the reasons we bought this particular unit (see J. Dawg's RV ) was to use it for our winter stay. So, this winter will be the test to see how my best laid plan works out. Undoubtedly, staying parked and living in such a small space for several weeks will present us with a new set of challenges. Obviously, we won’t have all the conveniences we have at home and we'll be living in very close quarters. I figure it will be somewhat like living on the road (see Living on the Road) but without all the movement and exploring. Here’s some of the things we’ll have to deal with. The only vehicle we’ll have is the RV – there’s no car for 10+ weeks. My wife’s nick name is “Runaround Annie” because of her constant bebopping around in her car to visit friends and shopping. We’ll see how “Runaround” does being grounded with just a bike and an occasional untethering of the RV. We brought bikes so we’re planning to use them, walking, and public transit for much of our getting around. This will be a change for a couple of 60 yr olds used to driving to most places. It should be a good thing for our exercise regime. The RV has all the cooking essentials (stove, microwave) but it doesn’t have an oven or big cooking area. Meals will have to stay simple and hopefully we can do some cooking outside. TV reception will be on air and limited to the basic networks. There’s no cable, no Netflix, and the internet at the RV park can less than high speed. We brought lots of DVD’s and reading material. I figure we made it thru the 70’s and 80’s without a lot of these things so we’ll see how we do going back in time. We could only bring about a week’s worth of clothes. We’ll see how we do wearing the same sets of clothes for weeks on end. At least it will easy to recognize each other. The only “toys” I brought are camera’s, a laptop, a bike, and a mandolin. I can easily entertain myself taking pictures, shooting videos, writing, biking, and learning new songs. Not sure what my wife brought, though non-stop texting, listening to her iPod, playing Farmville, playing Candy Crush and Words with Friends keeps her entertained at home and these should still work while we’re in FL. We need to remember to take some solo downtime. I love my wife, but sometimes I need some male bonding. The good thing about our location is that we’re in the tropical zone and near the ocean. Hopefully, we have warm weather and can spend a lot of time outside. We'll also have lots of neighbors close by to visit with. I’m also hoping we enjoy the closeness and frequent togetherness. Otherwise, I could end up writing a post like "The War of the Roses”. So, stay tuned. I’ll post updates to let you know how it goes and what we learn. Follow more of my journeys at http://jdawgjourneys.com
I'm Not a Camper. I'm an RVer
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysI'm not a camper, I'm and RVer. I heard this phrase recently while listening to a podcast and it struck a chord with me. The person who said it, (Nick Russell of the Gypsy Journal) was talking about what he does while living full time in his motorhome. According to Nick, RVer's don't sit around the camp fire and sing Cumbaya. RVer's are in their motorhomes or trailers cooking, using the internet, and watching TV. I write this article as I sit in my air conditioned RV, listening to satellite radio, and bogging on the internet. Many years ago, I used to be a camper. I started out as a camper spending my vacations living in a tent, enjoying the outside, sitting by a fire, and cooking outside. I owned several tents over the years. But, I'm not a camper anymore. Maybe its the passage of time. Maybe its all the conveniences. Maybe I just got lazy. But, now I'm an RVer. And I'm not alone. More people are buying RV's (sales of these vehicles are increasing) and doing what I'm doing. So, what distinguished me as an RVer? Here's my list. I don't sleep on the ground under the stars. I sleep in a bed under the AC. I don't cook on an open fire. I cook on a stove or in the microwave. I don't watch the stars. I watch TV. I don't set up camp. I park the RV and plug in. I don't bathe in a river or take a cold bucket show. I wash in my shower. I don't look at the sky for the weather. I check my smartphone. I don't swat flies. I surf the web. I don't sit on a log. I sit on a leather couch or recliner. I still get to see many of the same great natural views and see many beautiful places. I still take hikes, sit by lakes, and enjoy the outside. I just do it with an RV near by. Is this all bad? I don't think so. I've been in both worlds. I liked camping and I like RVing. Its just a different way of doing the same thing. I suppose you could be both. But for me, things changed and now I'm an RVer. How about you? Are you a camper or an RVer? Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com
An RVer's Journey Going Paperless
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysGetting mail, paying bills, banking, and getting cash - just some of the tasks of modern life. They're simple enough if you're at home, but if you travel a lot, getting paper mail, paying bills, and getting cash can become an added complexity. But thanks to the Internet and mobile communications, these tasks can be transformed to be less dependent on being at your home location. In this post, I'll share what I've done to turn these tasks into paperless and electronic tasks. Let me first say, that while I have a background working in technology, it took awhile for me to embrace the paperless and electronic / mobile payment technology. It was a big change for this old Dawg. I still liked the security of holding a paper statement and writing a physical check when I wanted. But, over the past 2 years, to make it easier to travel, I slowly migrated to a more paperless and electronic payment process. I did it slowly so I could build my trust, get used to using the tools / services, and establish a workflow process that allowed me to maintain the control and security that I wanted. And now, I much prefer it to what I was doing before. So here's a summary of what I've done. Electronic Statements One of the first things I did was find out what the businesses I use for recurring services like utilities, banking, credit cards, and investments, offered for paperless services. Most offer some form of electronic delivery of statements and bills via email. I signed up for electronic delivery for a select few to see how I liked it. Then I migrated all that I could to electronic delivery. It works great. I get an email or txt message when a bill or statement is ready. Its easy to view the statements or bills on line or from my smartphone. Most vendors store several months of statements so I can go back and review them if I want. This eliminated a lot of paper mail. The only downside it that I had to set up usernames and passwords for each business and had to figure out a way to keep track of and remember them. Electronic Bill Payment Once I went to electronic statements and bills, the next step was setting up electronic payments. My strategy for this was to have my recurring bills, the ones that tend to be the same each month, set up to auto pay on a single credit card. Most businesses offer this as an option and its easy to set up on the businesses web site. This reduces the number of payments I have to physically perform. I just need to pay the credit card bill once per month (which I pay electronically from my bank). The added benefit is that I use a cash back credit card that gives me 1% back on all purchases. Last year, I got back about $250. It sure beats buying stamps and envelopes. You can set up this type of payment process with your bank. If the business can present an ebill to your bank, you can usually send an electronic payment from your bank, but I found the credit card process much easier and it gives me money back. There are a couple businesses that don't take credit card so I set them up with a ACH authorization on a checking account. Mobile Banking and Electronic Payments I maintain bank accounts at two institutions - a local community bank and a nationwide bank. Most of my bill paying (that doesn't go to a credit card) is done from the local bank. Both banks offer mobile and online access to all my accounts. I can check balances and transfer money between accounts all from my smartphone. I have two checking accounts set up for bill paying - one for writing paper checks and debit purchases (for incidentals and food) and one for electronic payments. I wanted to closely manage the funding of the electronic payment account. Each month, when I get emails about bills that are due, I review them, and tally up all the bills, There's only about 3-4 that don't go on a credit card. I electronically transfer just enough money into the electronic payment checking account and then make the payments from that account. Its a once a month process and the account usually only holds money for about a week while payments are being made. I did it this so that in case one of the businesses gets hacked with my bank account info, my account only has a limited amount of funds in it for a brief amount of time. Call me overly paranoid, but this is the only account that I have set up for electronic payments. If I need cash while traveling, I use an ATM or I find a branch office of the nationwide bank where I have an account. I can move money into this account from my smartphone and just walk in and cash a check or use one of their ATM's. Documents There are certain documents that I may need to access while traveling or that I want to maintain a duplicate copy of. Examples of these are things like insurance policies, vehicle titles, vehicle registrations, health care proxy, power of attorney, and copies of credit cards. I also like to keep copies of travel plans and itineraries on line. For paper documents, I use my all-in-one laser printer to scan copies of these documents and upload them to Google Drive. There are several choices for this type of service but I've chosen Google Drive as my electronic file cabinet. If you already have a Google account for Gmail, its easy to set up folders in Drive just like you have on your computer and upload documents to these folders. To keep the info private, make sure you don't set them up as shared. Google offers the first 15GB of storage for free (the equivalent of a typical thumb drive). I have the Google Drive App on my smartphone which keeps everything is sync and lets me access everything from my smartphone. I use Evernote as my electronic tackboard. This is where checklists, to-do lists, shopping lists, idea lists, and reminders go. I also use it for recipes. When I see something that I want to retain (something in print or in a store) it so easy to take a picture of it with my smartphone and upload it to Evernote. I have access to all my notebooks from my desktop, laptop, and smartphone. This is a free service and very handy, once you get in the habit of using it. All this effort has really cut down on my paper mail, the paper I handle, and check writing. I like what I've done and found very good services and capabilities that I can stay with. I can get most of my important mail electronically and pay my bills from anywhere. I think this is key - find out what works for you and then stick with it. For me, going paperless is not about using scanners and equipment to get rid of all the old paper documents. Its about selecting and setting up services and then using these services to get rid of the new paper. Going paperless can make traveling (and your life) so much easier. Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/
Rx for RVing with a Chronic Illness
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysIf you are healthy, living pain free and disease free, you are one lucky person. I just read a statistic that almost 50% of adults in the US have at least one chronic illness and it gets worse for older adults. Over 70% of us over age 50 have at least one chronic illness. A chronic illness is one for which there's usually no cure and requires constant treatment. These illnesses are things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pulmonary conditions, diabetes, autoimmune illness, chronic pain, heart disease, depression, etc. The good news is that, due to new treatments and therapies, these illnesses aren't killing us like they used to. The bad news, more of us are getting afflicted with them. Having a chronic illness can put a real dent into a RV travel lifestyle. I know because I have one of these. My chronic illness is ulcerative colitis. I won't go into to the details, but having colitis means I go #2 more often than the average cowboy and sometimes when I don't want to. Having this illness requires me to cope and deal with my symptoms when they're active. It can affect how and when I travel and it places some limits on what I feel I can do. It also means having to be treated which involves taking prescribed drugs and supplements for the rest if my life and having to be monitored a few times a year by my doctors. Based on the statistics I mentioned above, I'm guessing there's a lot of RVer's dealing with one or more of these. And while a chronic illness can have some impacts on your lifestyle, it may not mean that you have to stop everything. It may just mean making changes, putting limits of yourself, adjusting how and when you do things, and adding in new procedures and logistics. So, I thought I'd share some of the things I've changed, things I do, and how its affected my RV travel. How I Travel I find the RV mode of travel can be very accommodating for someone with a chronic illness. There are things we need that an RV supports very well, like having a bathroom, a place to change, room to store supplies, a frig, and a place to rest. My illness can sometimes make it necessary to be near a bathroom. In my RV, there's one right behind my drivers seat. I also think choosing the right RV is important if you have a chronic illness. A small nimble motor home is best for me because I want my bathroom with me at all times. A travel trailer might not be right for a person with chronic pain and back problems. Having a frig to keep medications might be necessary. And some may need reliable constant power for medical devices. When I Travel I need to see my doctors at least 2-3 times per year. This is one reason I keep a permanent residence and do "sometiming" RV travel versus "full timing". I schedule most of my appointments for the late fall (right before I go to FL) and for the early spring. I like to get checked out before I leave on big trips. This leaves winter, summer, and fall for when I do most of my RVing. I also tend to limit trip durations to 2-3 months at the most and not try to do big extended trips. I can see a lot in several 2 month trips. Also, I know when (during the day) that my symptoms tend to be more active and I plan my day and activities accordingly. Maintain Contact With My Doctors I'm very fortunate. I near Boston and have access to some of the best medical care in the world. I have some great doctors who have treated me for several years. Its important for me to maintain contact with them because they know me, they know I travel, and they know my disease. I let them know when I'm traveling and I have access to them via email and phone. This has been very handy when I'm having a problem and need advice. Also, my doctors and I know what's needed when I have flare up and what drugs I need to settle things down. This is such an important thing. I don't want to have to deal with an unknown doctor at an urgent care clinic or emergency room in some city that doesn't know my condition or treatments, unless its an emergency. Know What I Need to Take with Me Some one once asked me if I wear briefs or boxers. My answer used to be briefs. But now my answer is - It Depends. Thats right folks. Its rare, but sometimes this old cowboy might have an "accident". I travel with a supply of Depends and use them if things flare up. I always travel with a good supply of anti diarrhea pills and always have some on me along with some tissue. I also carry a small knapsack with me when I venture out that has a change of clothes, extra underwear, paper towels, baby wipes, and plastic trash bag. I've learned that "ya gotta do what ya gotta do". It took me awhile to get my head around this. But, I decided that I didn't want to worry about what might happen. Instead, I just stay prepared, have what I need handy, venture out, and deal with it when and if it happens. Ensure I Can Get My Prescriptions My doctors can electronically send prescriptions pretty much any where in the country. They can also fax them if needed. My health insurance drug plan supports a nationwide network of pharmacies (CVS). So when I need a refill, I email my doctor and give him/her the pharmacy name and address. I've had my doctors send prescription refills to places like FL and TX and I can pick them up the next day and pay my normal insurance copays just like I do at home. This has worked great for normal oral medications. I don't need to get infusions so I don't know how that would work. Know What I Can Do / Know What I Can't Do / Reduce Stress I don't feel comfortable doing major multi-mile hikes or big bike rides anymore. But I can do short ones. I can do the scenic drives. I can get out and sit by a lake or scenic spot. Long days take their toll on me. I can't do late nights anymore. And I need downtime. I've taken up some new things, like writing and photography. I've hiked lots of big mountains, ridden a bike all over this country, seen most of the big cities, and sunned myself on the best beaches. I don't feel I'm missing out on too much. Now, I know what I can do and don't fret about what I can't do. Eat Properly When traveling, its so easy to go off a diet and start eating fast food or lots of processed foods. Its important for me to stay on a diet with foods that I know I do best with. I've got a frig and kitchen in my RV, so there's no excuse not to each right. I might eat out more when traveling, but I try to eat healthy. I think travel and the RV lifestyle can be pretty good therapy for someone with a chronic illness. I wrote a blog article about it this summer called The RV Lifestyle - A Chronic Disease Therapy. It can give you purpose and be a source of happiness. When you've got a chronic illness, there can be days when there are no wine and roses. But it won't always be that way. Living and traveling with one of these means having to make adjustments, accepting what you can and cannot do, and finding joy in things you can do. Also know, you're not alone. Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/
The RV Lifestyle - Wintering in a Florida RV Park
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysIt might be a bit early, but I'm already thinking about my winter in Florida. One of the reasons I bought my current RV was so I could use it to escape New England winters. I love summers in New England. I love traveling across the country in the spring and fall. But I really look forward to going to Florida for the winter. I don't do winter activities and I'd much rather be sitting on the beach in January or riding my bike instead of the being stuck inside and complaining about the cold. Spending the winter living in an RV is a different type of RV travel. You can drive to a warm place like Florida or Arizona and do a some road tripping for a several weeks. I've done that, driving and exploring various parts of Florida for about a month. But now, I do my RV road tripping in the spring and fall and like to find a nice place to stay put for most of winter. For me, it's the drive-the-rig-south-and-park-it-for-three-months type of RVing. Its a stationary version of RVing and lots of folks do it. Some like to go to the southern Arizona desert in places like Quartzsite and park out in the desert for little or no cost. I've been to Quartzsite and it's not for me. I prefer finding a nice RV park that has amenities, activities, and has an attraction nearby like a beach. After spending the past six years wintering on Florida, my favorite winter roost is the Fort Myers area. Its has a nice tropical climate and its right near the ocean. I found I like the west coast of Florida much more that the Atlantic side. Things seem to be a little less expensive and its more laid back. Spending the winter in an RV park is big change from where I normally live. I reside in a small town in a very rural part of New England. My neighbors are trees, cows, and corn stalks. The only sounds at night are the coyotes yipping. When I go to Florida, its a dramatic change of habitat and pace. While I like rural living, I like being able to make a change for a few months to be closer to people and urban conveniences. It makes me appreciate both types of living. Walking Fort Myers Beach At the RV park, I give up my three acres and spacious country home for a parking spot with a concrete pad. We're packed in pretty close together with neighbors just few feet away. You can't help but meet and interact with people. I'm there for an extended time (not just a short vacation) so it helps if there are activities in the park or things to do nearby. I like the group breakfasts / dinners and sporting activities that they have in the RV park. They're things I don't get to do at home. I also like bicycling, reading, and going to the beach (nice things to be able to do in the winter). Waterfront sites at San Carlos RV Park The big rigs parked for the winter So, what's a typical day like. Here's a sample of things that happen on a typical day. I often wake up smelling bacon wafting into the RV from a neighbor cooking breakfast outside. I say high or stop and chat with 2-3 people on my way to take a shower. People in the RV park are super friendly. I usually see a half dozen more people by noon. These impromptu chats happen often and through out the day in the RV park. I get on the Internet to write, check the news, and keep in touch with my family. I take a nice long walk or bike ride just about every day. I go to an activity if there's one I signed up for or run some errands, if needed. Two to three times a week I ride down to the local fish market and get fresh-off-the-boat seafood. Sometimes we go out for a drive and explore the area. Almost every day is a beach day and I either ride my bike or take the bus to the beach. Its only a mile away. Many restaurants have free live music at happy hours so I may go to one that's near by or just go to the daily happy hour in the RV park. You don't have to drink alcohol or spend a lot of money to enjoy a happy hour. Its a great chance to meet other snowbirds and enjoy some free entertainment. We eat out more when in Florida. Everything is so close - we can walk to many restaurants. Its definitely the easy life. However, after 2-3 months of this easy life, I'm ready to work my way back home where there's more space and more work to do. The cost to stay at an RV park can be all over the place. At the place I stay, its about $3,900 for a three month stay. For that I get water, electric, sewer, a pool, showers, laundry, and free wifi. That averages out to be about $44 per day. I used to pay around $2,900 to rent an ocean side condo for a month so for me the RV park is a good deal. There are cheaper places to stay, but I like being close to the ocean and for that I'm paying a little bit of a premium. Also, many places in southern Florida fill up quickly for the winter season. I made my reservations in May for my winter stay. Most of the state parks in southern Florida are booked solid a year in advance for the winter months. Its best to make reservations well in advance if you're planning for an extended stay during the winter. Northern Florida is different. There's plenty of places with availability but its a lot colder and they can get some nights with freezing temps. The RV park lifestyle is not for everyone. But I like it. I think is fairly economical and its sure beats staying home and looking at the snow and counting the days until it goes away. With my RV, its so easy to make it go away with just a couple days of driving. Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/
The RV Lifestyle - A Chronic Disease Therapy
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysEveryday, I try to remind myself how fortunate I am. I'm safe and secure. I'm not in want of food or shelter. I'm mobile and can travel. I have a great supportive family. But, I also struggle living with an incurable disease that at times causes me a certain amount of suffering. Four years ago, I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Its a disease of the large intestine that causes frequent and urgent loose bowel movements, cramping, discomfort, and bloody diarrhea. Its a disease that has no known cause and has no cure. About 2/3 of the people with colitis can manage the symptoms with a life long regiment of drugs. For the other 1/3, things never settle down. I'm in between these two groups - most of the mainstream drugs haven't worked for me. But most of the time my symptoms are moderate and at times, if I'm really strict with my diet, things settle down on their own for a short time. So, by now you may ask - what does this have to do with the RV lifestyle? Well, recently I was at a checkup with one of my doctors (I see four on a regular basis). He asked me what I had been doing for the past six months and I told him about all my travel and places I'd been this year. So far this year, I've traveled over 18,000 miles, been away from home for over 17 weeks, spent the winter in Florida, went to Daytona Speedweek, been out to the Rocky Mountains twice, went to Mexico, and have seen some spectacular country. He marveled at my all travels and was impressed with all that I'd done given my active colitis symptoms. J. Dawg in Mexico in March J. Dawg in Dayton in February I told him that since I'd been diagnosed, I had to give up a lot of what I liked to do and limit some other activities. Things like playing golf, long distance bike riding, hiking, and mountain climbing. But, I told him that RV travel was something I could do because everywhere I go, I've got a bathroom just a few feet behind the driver seat of my RV. He told me he was glad that I found something I could do and enjoy and mitigate the limits that colitis can place on me. With a chronic disease, it's so easy just to stay home where it's easier to deal with symptoms and discomfort. But, having a motor home has allowed me to stay active and get out and go places. Its become my second home. With my colitis, there can be can some days where I need to stay close to a bathroom. But, with my motor home, I've always got one with me. When I'm on the road, if an urge hits me, I just pull over. When camped, there's no late night running to the bathhouse or porta-john. At an event, my rig's usually close by. And, if my symptoms flare up for a few days, I can just take a break from the road and rest for a few days in the motor home. One of the things I've learned from suffering and living with a chronic disease, is that it makes you appreciate more the simple things many take for granted. A good day when you can get out, move and do something familiar. Going someplace and seeing a favorite spot or experiencing something new. Having a day without worry or pain. It also makes you crave for the feeling of normal. Traveling in my motor home helps me attain these simple things. I have several friends in my age range that are still very active, healthy, and vital. But, I know others that have suffered in silence with ailments. Some that are afraid to get out and travel or do something new. And some that think sitting on a bar stool is the best way to cope with a problem. For me, I'm grateful that I found the RV lifestyle. It's been a great therapy for helping me deal with a chronic disease. It's allowed me to get out, stay active, and continue to live my dreams. Follow more of my travels at http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/
Living on the Road
italo posted a blog entry in J. Dawg JourneysI've learned a lot about RV travel from others - people I met on the road and from reading other people's travel blogs. Most of the info is about places to see, places to stay, places to eat, roads to travel. But, I've found little out there about living on the road. I'm sure there are books and blogs about being a full time RVer, but I'm in between. I guess you'd call me a "sometimer." I'm still tethered to a home, a hometown, and local family, but I spend about 4-6 months of the year traveling on the road. Living on the road is different from taking a long vacation. When you take a vacation, its a temporary break from your normal life. Its easy to put things on hold and deal with the bills, mail, appointments, routines, and conveniences when you get home. When you're on an extended road trip, you're away from your home, friends, conveniences, familiar places, and routines for an extended time and its not possible to put everything on hold. Living on the road is not like living at home and its not like taking a long vacation. Over the past three years, I've slowly developed some practices and routines to help me cope and make it easier to be away for an extended time. I thought I'd share them here so that others may benefit from them. Everyone is different and what works for me may not work for others and vice versa. Stay Connected with Family - I communicate almost daily with my family. Technology makes it really easy. Text messages, emails, and Skype calls make it easier to stay in touch with family and friends. It also helps them keep track of me. I also blog about my travels to share with them. This is a priority for me. Go Mobile and Paperless - I've gone paperless on most bills and use electronic banking to pay bills. I can check balances, pay bills, and move money right from my smart phone. There's very little paper mail that I need and can go a few weeks without getting any paper mail. Have a Bank Account from a Big Country Wide Bank - I do most of my banking with a local community bank, but I maintain an account with a big countrywide bank that has branches all over the country. I can move money to this bank and I can get cash all over the country. Have a Full Power of Attorney - I have a Power of Attorney that gives my son (who is back home) full ability to sign my name and act on my behalf. My wife sometimes travels with me so I needed someone else back home who could do this. This has come in real handy when I've been traveling and needed someone to sign a document for me or act on my behalf. Carry Copies of Key Documents - I have a Health Care Proxy that allows my son to make medical decisions for me if I become incapacitated or unable to make decisions. I carry a copy in my RV. I also have photo copy of all credit cards and my ID's. I have two wallets while traveling - one on me and one that stays in the RV in case I loose the one I'm carrying. I split up my credit cards between the two and keep about $200 in the spare wallet. I also keep a photo ID in the spare wallet. I also carry a copy of my RV Title and RV insurance declaration page with me. Have a Doctor that Communicates Electronically - Stuff happens on the road and I let my doctors know when I'm traveling. I can communicate with all my doctors with email and all my medical records are on-line. If somethings happens, its easy to contact them and they can send prescriptions electronically to most pharmacies. Don't Drive Everyday - I plan a route and itinerary for every trip. Then I choose destinations to visit and have found that its best for me to stay 2-4 days at a destination. I can't be going every day. I need downtime. Time to do the things I would do at home like read, play my mandolin, read the news, watch some TV. I also need to get out and move. And need time to soak up the local flavors. I don't like to hurry. To get to a destination, I usually limit it to a two day drive. Build in Extra Days - When I plan a trip, I add in an extra day every couple of weeks with no itinerary. This comes in handy when I want to stay longer, do chores, or go off route. Only Make the Most Important Reservations - I only make advance reservations at places where it may be tough get a spot. Places like popular national or state park during busy periods. For everything else, I take it day by day. I don't want to have to juggle a collection of reservations and have to be someplace at a certain time just because of a reservation. So far this has worked out for me. Limit Driving Miles / Day - Back in the day when I was working and only had a few weeks vacation, I could drive 600 to 800 miles per day. Now, being retired, why hurry? I try to limit my daily driving to a max of 400 miles. My preference is to do around 200 to 250 miles. It gives you time to take breaks, smell the roses, take some pictures, and arrive at a place before sunset. Eat Like You Would at Home - On a vacation it is so easy to go off your diet and eat convenience foods or to eat out more than often. Because of my colitis, I need to stick to a special diet or else the "s--t will hit the fan." Whenever I can, I try to eat the same foods I would eat at home. I shop at local grocery and health food stores whenever I can and cook simple meals. I keep my favorite recipes on Evernote. But I do like to sample local foods at each destination. I just don't over do it. Have an RV You Can Make into a Home - I started out with a Class B van. It was great and I loved it for solo traveling, but for me, it was a tough place for 2 people to live for and extended time (2-3 months). It felt like a van vs a home and I found it was tough to sit parked in it for days when the weather was lousy. I recently traded up for a small Class C with a slide out and I love it. It feels like a home. It has a separate bathroom with a full shower, a separate bedroom that you don't have to make up each day, and a separate living/dining/kitchen area. I think this is key decision question when selecting an RV for extended traveling - can you live in it for an extended time? Take the Road Less Traveled - Interstates are great for getting from place to place, but I like to get off and log some miles on local roads so I can see the country side. That's were the best stuff to see is. I usually plan to do this on each destination drive. That's my list of the stuff so far. Next week, next month, next year they'll be some more stuff I learn. Follow more of my travels at http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com