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Captaingary

Extended Cruising

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My wife and I are planning our first extended cruise across America that we anticipate to last nine to 10 months. We own a home in California and plan to keep it vacant. We would appreciate any advice on what to do about things like mail forwarding, phone forwarding, utilities (turn off or leave on) or anything else we should be looking at.

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Hi captaingary,

Welcome to the FMCA forum. From one Gary to another, here's my suggestions. I do not full time. I 1/2 time.

1. Get a lawn service to maintain the outside of the stick house.

2. Turn the water off at the meter. Put a cinder block weight on the cover of each toilet seat. When not used sewer varmints can work their way into your house via the toilet.

3. Pour water down all sink, shower and tub drains to ensure the traps are full of water. Add a cup of bleach or pool chlorine to the each drain. This keeps the ants to a minimum.

4. Forward your mail to who ever you trust or a mail forwarding service. FMCA has a mail forwarding service. Tell whoever is going to get the mail to forward you anything from a government, attorney, etc. The IRS tends to start its' audits in May. (Don't even ask how I know this.)

5. Set up Internet banking with your bank. For all fixed expenses, set up auto bill pay from the billing party. Once a month, you should go into these accounts to audit the bills. But have them paid automatically (utilities, CC, mortgages, loans, etc. everything to be paid automatically.) I host seminars on keeping ones finances in order while on the road. One of my charts is a blank chart. I tell the attendees that this is what I must do each month to pay bills.........nothing. This subject can be very troubling for those not used to using the Internet as a tool.

6. If the house will need A/C or heat, leave those utilities on. A/C is almost a must due to mold gaining a foot hold if there is no air movement or humidity reduction.

7. Put timers on various lights around the house.

8. A trusted person should visit the house every week or so.

9. Make sure trusted people have the number you can be contacted at. This number should have voice mail capability Forget about providing an itinerary. We are RVers and while the overall plan is set the details always seem to change (for the better).

10. Leave your house telephone on (you might be able to get a discounted rate for incoming calls only). The house number should have voice mail capability. Check the voice mail once every evening.

11. Clean out the refrigerator and turn it off. Unplug all the appliances (TVs Microwaves, Ovens/Stoves, ). Turn off the hot water heater.

12. I have an all electric house. I do not have a recommendation for homes with propane or natural gas appliances.

Good luck and safe travels,

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To add a little to the excellent advice that Gary(kd) has given you...

Be very careful where you post information about your travels. You don't want anyone connecting your home address with your travel posts. We are full time and don't have a house to worry about so can talk more freely but if your address can be connected to information that you are in Wyoming headed for Minnesota, it is like telling people your house is unattended for the foreseeable future.

With mail forwarding services, you can generally have your mail forwarded to: Your Names, General Delivery, Anytown, AnyState, Zip. We use the USPS web site to find the post office we where want to pick up the mail, you can search by town and get the nearest four or five post offices. Pick a small town if at all possible - it is much easier to find the post office. The USPS web site has maps that will help you find a particular post office. Not every post office in large communities handle general delivery mail. In towns with multiple post offices, there will be one main post office that handles general delivery mail. That is where you want to pick up your mail in larger communities. We usually plan to have the mail there several days before we arrive. General delivery mail will be held for several weeks. You will need an ID (drivers license) to pick up your mail. We have a mailing service that will forward our mail every Monday and we pay for Priority Mail which costs between 5 and 10 dollars each week depending on how much mail we have. If you are in a remote part of the country, the 2 to 3 day Priority Mail claim of the Post Office is meaningless. The mail will get there when it gets there. All of Texas is remote... add a day or two to the delivery time there (we are there now). Alaska is a whole different world for mail delivery! Holidays add a day or two to the delivery times and the Christmas season will add as much as a week to the normal delivery times. By the way, the USPS has its own definition of priority, it turns out to be somewhere between first and third class mail. Given all the above, we've only had to delay departure from a location several times waiting for mail to arrive. If you use a commercial service like FMCA, Escapees, Mail Boxes, Etc. and you ask the mail to be sent every Monday it should go out like clockwork. If you use a friend or relative, you'll have to live with their lapses in memory and adjust your schedule for it. Also if your friend or relative doesn't pick up your mail every day the mail could be sitting in the mailbox overnight occasionally. I would file a permanent change of address with the US Post Office since the seasonal forwarding they do is good for six months or less. When you return, you can file another permanent change of address to have mail returned to your home address. I find the on-line change of address form to be unfriendly to people who are on the road. Some of the information they ask for won't work for us so we get the paper form from the post office and file it. You can ask to be certain but I think that first class mail is forwarded for one year. You'll likely have to change your address directly with magazines to have them forwarded to your mail forwarding service. Put your name on the no-mail list for catalogs (the junk mail kind) and put your phone number on the no-call list for phone calls before you leave.

I would suggest possibly putting antifreeze in the drains and toilets when you leave home. This should slow evaporation and keep pests out without the corrosive effect of chlorine bleach. If you add a little oil (corn oil, etc.) to this mixture it will form a barrier on top of the water/antifreeze which will retard evaporation. You should be able to keep water in the drains and stools for the duration of your travels. If you are worried about staining stools, you may want to just use the oil.

You can pick up messages from your answering machine with a cell or other phone. If your answering machine or phone service doesn't have this capability get an answering machine or add that service with your phone company. Try it out before you leave home. Don't leave a message that says you are out of town or indicate anything about your travels as that is another tip off to strangers that you are gone. We use a cell phone for all our phone calls and all our relatives have that phone number so we can always be contacted. You can give your trusted business connections (attorney, bank, broker, etc.) your cell phone number and instruct them to use that to contact you until you have them change back to the home number. We use e-mail for the bulk of our communications with children. That way they can read about our exploits and then we can discuss more important matters when we are on the phone.

Stop paper delivery and if you get a free paper that is delivered to everyone, have a neighbor pick up those for you preferably on the day they are delivered. Nothing says empty house louder than a pile of newspapers on the driveway or lawn. By the way, your neighbors will know you are gone before you leave so you won't be giving up any secrets there. You don't have to let them know how long you plan to be gone.

We have all our bills paid by automatic charge to our credit card (a few by direct charge to our checking account) and then reconcile our credit card account with the statement we access on the internet and pay that via the internet. That way there are no utility or credit card bills in the mail. If the mail is delivered late, you won't miss any bills or payments. I keep a record of the closing date for the credit card and the billing date for each of the utilities, insurance payments, etc on my computer calendar. I can go to the credit card web site and check to see what the payment amount is for each item as my way of seeing that charges are as expected.

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Guest Wayne77590

I have call forwarding and find it a very beneficial service. Even though my Son is staying at our stick house, I still forward the phone. He uses his cell phone. It's very convenient getting forwarded calls, and the caller does not know if we are there or not, they just suppose we are, and we just may be.

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In traveling to the countless parks both state and national how hard is it to get a coach in to them 40' and over? My wife are in the looking stage now while we build our barn-a-minimum when we're not traveling. We defiantly want at least a 40' if for nothing else for the room. Going from a house to a MH is going to be trying enough living in close quarters. Any and all comments are appreciated.

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Guest BillAdams

We have been traveling in a 40' RV since 2000 (living in one full-time since '97) and we have never had any problems finding a good camping site during our travels. That doesn't mean that we can park anywhere, but finding somewhere to park has always been very easy. With that information in mind, we have stayed in many campgrounds (and especially State parks) where if we were any longer we would not have had a place to park. I don't know why the pivot point seems to be 40', but once you move to a coach longer than that you will find that many of the sites you might have liked to visit are unavailable to you. Even knowing that, if we ever do trade our coach it will be for a 45' unit for the added space (again, we are full-timers) and we will just have to figure out how to do what we like to do. That might mean that we have to use dry-camping options more often but I promise you that it will never include choosing the Outdoor Resort, Great Outdoors, Motorcoach Resorts or any of those "stuffed shirt" parks as a place to stay!

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I will be going full time with in a month or so. I have what is called Yahoo Voice it is a phone for my computer has it's own number answering service. I was in an area where i couldn't get phone service and it came in handy all i did was use my air card and i still had phone service. It costs 2.99 a month and you can load your minutes at $10.00 or $25.00. It was a life saver. Might be something to think about. You pick your own area code and phone number depending what is still available. You only get charged for phone calls you make, so no cost for receiving incoming calls, that helps too.

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Gary, There is a service your land line provider has that is very helpful when you are away from home. If you have an answering machine, they can automatically forward you incoming call to your cell phone after X number of rings. You can set the number of rings. Just give them a call and they can set it up for you. Many phone companies have call forwarding, however you only have to turn off your machine when you leave for an extended time.

Gary (garykd), you make a very good list. People going on a trip could make a copy for a check list. :)

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If you are only going to be gone for a year you can give the post office a TEMPORARY forwarding address to a mail forwarding service.

The UPS Stores offer mail forwarding service and a lot of people use them.

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