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July 10, 2015 By Trey Copeland
As decisions go, this is a biggie. Sell your house and live full-time in an RV "out there." Where? Wherever you want. Before you swallow all that freedom in a single gulp there are a few things you might want to know.
#1 Make a practice run...or two...or ten.
No one should toss the house keys to the new owner and point their new rig towards the open road without having experienced previously spending time in an RV. Not just a weekend or even a week but ideally an extended period of time. No trial run will exactly duplicate the finality of being without a home base but being on the road will help identify what kind of full-timer you will be. Do you prefer being a "mover" or a "sitter?" Do you prefer the solitude of a campsite alone in the woods or the activities found in a commercial campground? These test runs will also serve to clarify your most important decision before becoming a full-time Rver...
#2 How much house do you need?
There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.
#3 "You don't need that. You won't use that."
Everyone has heard the age-old packing tip for a trip - "pack half the clothes you think you need - and then get rid of half of them." When you are preparing to live on the road you need to amp up those percentages even more, way more. Only you can make the determination of what is truly "essential" but come be prepared to attack your first "must have" list with an arsenal of scissors and black pens.
What to do with the excess? Hold a yard sale. Have fun on eBay for a few months. Invite friends and family to pick through your belongings. Give stuff away. If you absolutely must, rent a storage locker. Beware, though - if you are having difficulty shaving possessions from your life you still may be a few years away from full-time RVing.
#4 You don't have to be a master mechanic but...
Every RV comes with a manual and you two should spend some quality time together. Learn your way around the electrical system and the fuse box. Don't be intimidated by basic plumbing. Be prepared to patch leaks in the roof and around windows and doors with sealants. Establish a routine to perform the annual chores recommended by the manual. These are not onerous tasks, but essential ones to making life easy on the road.
#5 And when bad things happen, be insured.
There are a host of insurance decisions to be made when living on the road, among them accidents, thefts and illnesses. Study the many discounts and options before you leave and you should only need to put yourself through the process once. Two coverages are essential: for the replacement value of your RV should it be damaged or stolen and for personal belongings, much like homeowners insurance. There are many insurers and levels of coverage - select wisely for the insurance to suit your intended lifestyle. Medical insurance is also offered specifically for full-timers.
#6 Get limber to stretch that dollar.
Even for the rare folks who RV full-time with unlimited cash, getting by on less money becomes ingrained in the RV lifestyle. Tracking spending and working from a budget becomes second nature on the road. Before you head out get in the habit of logging daily spending on everything to learn where money goes. And check in with experienced RVers for advice - and get ready to write down ideas fast because every RVer has favorite tips to stretch dollars on the road.
If you are planning to take on seasonal or temporary jobs to help support a full-time RV lifestyle there are many more opportunities than just campgrounds and parks. Before you go, research the opportunities available that sound attractive and prepare a resume and contact information that highlights your range of skills.
And don't forget the discount cards and passes. There are plenty out there and your glovebox should be stuffed with these money-savers before you leave. Tops on that list for any RVer over the age of 62 is the Senior America The Beautiful Pass. For $10 (and an additional $10 processing fee) the Senior Pass provides free lifetime admission to every national park and 2,000 more recreational sites - and that includes up to three other adults in the vehicle.
#7 Stay connected
It is always hard to sell a house and leave family and friends behind but today's technologically rich world makes the parting a much sweeter sorrow. WIFI hotspots are becoming more prevalent around North America, especially for travelers. Many campgrounds and visitor centers are wired for your WIFI-enabled devices. Before you leave check out the many service providers and re-sellers who can keep you online and tapped in to the world while on the move. Your rig can also carry along its own satellite dish, hard-mounted or mobile. You can choose how connected you want to be in your RV.
#8 Where will we "live?"
Even after bidding goodbye to your physical address you will still need to establish a permanent legal address for such dreary souvenirs of your former homebound life as driver's licenses, vehicle inspections, voting registration and bank accounts. There are 50 different sets of rules and regulations and your home state may not be the most accommodating to a nomadic lifestyle. Among the options to consider are taxes, insurance rates, and efficiency of mail forwarding. Three of the most popular domicile states for full-time RVers are South Dakota, Texas and Florida.
#9 Work on a game plan.
Many full-timers follow the weather as they travel, moving to more friendly climes - be they cooler or warmer - through the year. That serves as a fine rough outline but it can be frustrating to arrive in a new area and discover you missed a festival or traditional event by a day or two. Plan ahead and keep travel resources at the ready. But the golden rule of full-time RV travel planning is to stay flexible. Don't be in a rush to head off down the road.
#10 And of course join the Good Sam Club for camping discounts
One of the biggest aids to planning is membership in the Good Sam Club. Not only will you find invaluable destination and campground information but just about everything on this list as well, from insurance plans to maintenance assistance to big-dollar discounts at Camping World.