Friday, November 27, 2015

Free RV Camping, A Boondocking Update

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Marianne Edwards, right, is the founder of Boondockers Welcome

Free Camping....
Boondockers Welcome, An Update

    Traveling alone has wonderful merits but there are also times when it’s scary to overnight alone in your RV, especially when you need to save money by boondocking (parking overnight, where legal,  without facilities). 

     Thanks to Marianne Edwards, an RV traveler who was featured in an earlier post, boondockers can find a friendly welcome at the end of the day from fellow RV-ers. 

    Boondockers Welcome (BDW)  is an online organization that matches up RV travelers with homeowners who have space to accommodate a self-contained RV overnight. That’s all. The property owners, usually RV-ers themselves,  may offer one or more hook-ups, but it’s assumed that you’ll stop for the night,  have everything you need with you, and move on in the morning.

     If you’re invited into the home at all (and there may not be a house on the site), it may be for a cup of tea or a sundowner,  but you’re not a house guest and this isn’t a campground with  hot showers. Nor is it a place to do repairs, write your novel or hang out the wash. While personal friendships do develop and additional hospitality may be offered, the arrangement is best for travelers who need a night’s sleep before continuing their journey. 

    Take a closer look at  You’ll note that hosts’ names are not shown. As a registered member, however,  you’ll make contact with the host and arrange dates and details, one on one. By the time you arrive you’ll know your hosts’ profile and they will know yours. 

    The website is extremely user friendly. You can search by location, size of your rig, whether you have a pet and what hookups might be available.  While hundreds of hosts are found in the U.S. and Canada, it still takes a lot of homework to plan a route that includes as many BDW sites as possible. 

    Many happy members report they’ve been able to boondock all the way from, say, British Columbia to Southern California, or Toronto to Florida. Some match-ups have been so successful, the same hosts welcomed the traveler on the return trip. A Canadian snowbird boondocked her way to Florida, then  welcomed her southern hosts to boondock at her home the next summer. 

      Membership comes with a money-back guarantee but cost is so modest, and savings so great, BDW is a group you'll take to heart. 

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Savvy Tips for Smart RV Travel

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Savvy RV Tips For Smart RV Chicks
Prevent Towing Thefts
    State Farm Insurance suggests turning the wheels toward the curb and setting the parking brake to prevent thieves from hitching up your RV, truck or car and  towing it away. Ditto this if you must leave a disabled RV. Also watch out for this bizarre scam. You’re dead in the water, call for a tow and are relieved when a tow truck shows up.  Only later do you find out this wasn’t the tow company sent by your emergency service.
    When you call for help, ask the name of the company that will be coming to you.

Debit at the Fuel Pump
    The penalty for going over your debit card limit is $20 or more. Don’t risk using your debit card at the fuel pump unless you keep a generous cushion of cash in the account. Here’s why. With fill-ups costing up to $100 for some RV’s a fuel station may debit your account as much as $100 automatically, before you start pumping, just to make sure there is enough in the account to cover the full cost of a fill-up.
    That “hold” stays there for up to three days, the time it takes for the paper work to go through. You may have pumped only $20-$30 of fuel but, not realizing the $100 debit, you over-spend and get whacked with a penalty. The “hold” practice is common in hotels and may also apply at some high-end camping resorts. If you check in with a credit card, ask. 

      Wells Fargo is one bank that allows consumers to set up "alerts" to tell them if an account falls below a certain level. This can save overdraft or service fees and is also an early warning system for theft or errors. 

Outlet Malls
    RV travelers love the shopping, savings, food and generous parking at the nation’s 225 outlet malls but there are tricks to the trade. The term Factory Store means that the merchandise was made for outlet sale and was probably made to lesser specs than the same item made for better stores. Check websites such as and for outlet news and coupons. It’s also smart to start your mall visit at the Visitor Center or Information Desk. Often they have coupons or a free shopping bag free for the asking.

Get a Gofer
    You’re happily hooked up in the campground and don’t want to budge for a while. Yet you need a package mailed or some other errand run. Thanks to the Internet, help is at hand at very modest rates. Go to sites such as,  where jacks and jills-of-all trades can be found almost anywhere to do almost anything.
    New food delivery services such as and BlueApron,com deliver the makings of a complete menu, right down to small packets of herbs and spices. These are from-scratch meals, not ready to eat, a way to let your inner chef shine. Prepared meals are delivered from services such as and, for dieters, from  BistroMD, Jenny Craig and SouthBeachDiet.

Allergy Smarts
    Not sure which direction to drive today? Check with for an air quality alert and for allergy reports. Find out where there are pollen bursts, fungus blooms, forest fires,  industrial pollution and so on. A few miles difference can put you in a campground that is downwind of the bad air. 

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Friday, November 13, 2015

What Price Paradise? The Cost of RV Life

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Can you afford to live and travel in an RV?
Copyright Janet Groene, all rights reserved

    The answer may surprise you.
    If someone asked  how much it would cost to live in a Maine farmhouse or a condo in San Francisco, you’d think it was a a stupid question. After all, lifestyles come in all price ranges. However,   being a nice girl, you’d smile patiently and reply, “Well, what kind of life are we talking about?”

    The same is true when people ask me what it costs to live full-time in an RV
    Here are questions to ask yourself: 

    Do I buy only organic foods at a high-priced supermarket? Play the slots?  Have weekly spa treatments or $100 haircuts? Buy season tickets for the opera? There are no easy answers. For more information see my book based on 10 years of full-timing, earning along the way as a travel writer. Order it here.

    The RV itself is just part of the budget for women who want to live on the go. Life in the same RV could cost twice as much for one woman as for another depending on personal preferences, your skills as a smart manager, and just plain luck. There are hundreds of variables and unknowns, but let’s start with what you know now because  many expenses will remain the same after you take off in your RV. 

    The hard part is to make your own list, not just for a month or season but for at least a year.

Expenses That Won’t Change
When you live in an RV you will probably spend the about the same annually as you do now for:

$  Banking, brokerage, other financial services
$ Phone, ISP, domain
$  Child support, eldercare or alimony, if any
$ Debt service (credit cards, car/RV payment, student loans)
$ Dues, church, charity
$ Entertainment (movies, books, downloads, concert tickets)
$ Food including restaurants

$  Non-food supermarket purchases ( greeting cards, magazines)
$ Gifts
$ Health needs such as dental and eye care, vitamins, birth control, memberships (gym, associations, Weight Watchers)
$ Insurances
$  Personal care (toiletries, cosmetics, hair salon, bling)
$  Pet care
$  Retirement fund contributions
$  Soft goods (wardrobe, shoes, sheets, towels)
$ Sports and hobbies (lift tickets, greens fees, court time)
$ Subscriptions, publications   
$ Other     

    Go through your receipts and bills for the past year to get a ballpark figure. Be honest about where cash dribbles away, such as a daily $4 latte or $5 in weekly lottery tickets. No matter how good your resolutions,  these small indulgences will probably go with you. 

Expenses That May Change or Stop
    Now that you know where your money goes, start a new list of expenses that will change or cease when you leave your present life. Later, this total will be subtracted from your full-timing budget.       

$  Bus fare, commuting, uniforms, other cost related to your present job
$  Rent or mortgage, homeowner association fees
$  Utilities, home maintenance, yard care
$  Other

New Expenses in the RV Life
    Now you’re entering unknown territory but it’s possible to make an educated guess even if you don’t own the RV yet. Look into monthly payments for a rig costing X dollars, paid for over Y months. Get a couple of insurance quotes for your theoretical RV. Depending on the life you envision,  get a handle on nightly campground costs. They range from free (at the job site or when boondocking)  to almost $100 a night at a full-service RV resort.  Aim high the first year until you get the hang of it. Boondocking may not be for you. On the road you'll also learn about do's and don'ts, wrinkles and dodges, campground memberships, good and bad parking options. 

$ RV payments
$ Insurances for the RV, other vehicle, personal liability, personal possessions
$ RV parking
$ Routine maintenance
$ Fuel including propane
$ Emergency fund (and there WILL be emergencies)

    There are still many question marks but you’ll see now where many expenses stay the same, such as food,  entertainment and your gift list. You still don't have a bottom line, but it IS a starting point. 

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