Friday, July 18, 2014

RV Travel: the Ultimate Freedom

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 photo courtesy Shasta

RV Furniture
    * Are your dinette cushions looking grotty? Know the exact measurements, then check
the outdoor furniture departments at stores and catalogs where end-of-summer sales at this time mean big savings. Many colors and patterns are available in high quality cushions that are  UV resistant, water shedding and durable. Look for tough construction in fabrics such as Sunbrella and Bella-Dura. I just found 40% off cushions for less money than having the old cushions re-covered.
    * Never again will I order slip covers from a catalog. The covers for our matching
chairs looked great in the picture and they fit like a glove too. Then we sat down and found when we stood up again that the slipcovers had, well, slipped. Now I’ll either have to throw them out or yank, stretch and tuck them back into place every time someone sits in them. I'm totally bummed. 
RV Tools 
    * What tools come in handy when you’re a solo woman in an RV? Here are some to

    * A hatchet and small saw for wood for the campfire (where allowed) and fire pliers for
handling hot logs or coals.
    * A folding shovel is a must for many chores such as digging your wheels out of sand or
snow, digging a gopher hole where allowed and snuffing a campfire by shoveling dirt over it. Trust me, you’ll someday be glad to have a shovel on board. 
    * A clothesline and spring clothespins. Even though many campgrounds prohibit outdoor
clotheslines, rope comes in handy for many things indoors and out. Clothes pins do pinching tasks such as closing the potato chip bag.  Get the old-fashioned wood ones. Plastics break and some fancy designs don’t hold tight in high winds.
    * A manual tire pump or small compressor for bicycle tires and other inflatable items such as an
air mattress or inflatable boat. 
    * A sturdy broom is handy for sweeping the cement pad that comes with most campsites. A short-handle broom made for RV life takes up less room yet is a serious cleaning tool.
    *  If you have room for a metal garden rake  (not a flimsy leaf rake)  , it’s a nice tool for raking out the fire pit and cleaning up the campsite .

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Rainy Day or Sunny, Camping and RV for All Days

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Look at the size of this Spree RV!

RV Fun and Games
copyright Janet Groene 

  Companionable good times are the very essence of camping life. As a solo woman RV-er you value your privacy but there may also be times when you want to invite neighbors over for conversation, cookies, coffee and cards or a board game. 

    Games and toys, like everything else in the RV life, should be compact to stow, durable
for tough wear and fun for all ages. In the travel life one can’t always find bridge partners or someone who plays chess at your level so it’s best to have at least some games that almost anyone knows how to play.  

    Whether you’re a private person who wants the occasional game or an outgoing woman
who organizes all the events at the campground clubhouse, here are some ideas that can work for you indoors or out. 

    * Playing cards have been around for centuries and almost everyone knows at least one
card game.  Serious card players have at least two decks on hand, and spares available for when a deck gets smudged or dog-eared. It’s fun to put your personal stamp on the game by having designer cards. I like these classy metallic silver playing cards and they also make impressive gifts for any age, any gender. 

    * Games that have stood the test of time include chess, dominoes, checkers, Scrabble and Monopoly. Save space with this all-in-one game in its own carry case. 
This bag toss game folds and slides into a storage compartment. Anyone can play including the elderly and handicapped.

    * Bocce (pronounced bah-che)  is an outdoor grame that has thousands of international fans and it doesn’t take up a lot of room to carry or to play. Petanque  (pay TAHNK) is another ball game known more to Europeans than to North Americans. Unlike croquet, both bocce and petanque are easy to set up and put away and they don't require a large space.

    When you’re looking for a useful gift for yourself or other RV-ers, give games a chance. 

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Friday, July 4, 2014

The Cost of RV Life

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Run Away in an RV: The Costs

         Life was simpler when Great-Grandfather brought home his pay and Granny divided it into envelopes for the landlord, grocer, church and a dollar for the insurance collector. 
          Preparing a monthly budget is one of the toughest jobs for RV full-timers to face,
especially with food and fuel inflation eating deeper into our pockets each day. A couple who have a 28-foot gasoline motorhome live on $1,000 a month, at least for now. Another young couple, who travel in their RV and make a living with their videos and personal appearances, spent more than $10,000 in the first quarter of 2014 alone. 

    Here are ways to make  smart guesses.

    * Most expenses are monthly but others are seasonal (Christmas, seasonal campsite
rental) or annual (insurance,  dues, income tax).  Other costs, such as batteries, tires or engine repairs may occur years apart Add up known bills as close as you can,  then guess at others and divide by 12 to get an idea of what you have to lay aside each month. 
    * Income. Add up known income such as pay checks, pension, alimony, annuities, stock
dividends and year-end distributions from stocks or retirement plans. Then divide by 12. This gives you an idea of how much you can spend monthly and still have your head above water when big bills come due.
    Campsite costs can vary wildly over the year. What was your average last year? If your
habits don’t change, expect the same next year but allow 10% for inflation. If this is your first year, subtract 10% because next year you'll have a better idea of how to shave costs.
    Clothing, linens. What did you spend last year for new clothes, laundry, alterations and
dry cleaning? Here you may also want to list personal grooming outlays such as the hair salon. 
    Communications are personal. Depending on your own needs they can range from the rare long-distance phone call to a big monthly bill for satellite phone and Internet.
    Food costs include supermarkets, the liquor store, drive-through lattes,  produce from the farmer’s market,  fresh bread and milk from  high-priced campground store, restaurants and non-food supplies such as paper products and soap. Keep track, add it up and allow 10% for inflation.
    Fuel costs are easier if you figure them on a yearly basis, especially if you stay put for
long periods and then make long jumps in spring and fall. Don’t forget tolls and fuel for the tow car or boat, stove, furnace and  generator.
    Health costs are skyrocketing in every way from doctor visits to prescriptions. In addition to predictable bills such as everyday drugs, insurance, and regular treatments by the chiropractor or massage therapist, don’t forget irregular or annual visits (eye doctor, checkups),  hearing aid maintenance and new glasses.  In this column you might also list  gym membership or spa treatments. Put away something extra each month for unexpected ills.
    Hobbies, leisure. This category could cost  nothing (for walks at sunset) to many dollars
each month for concert seats or canvas and oil paints. Give yourself a budget for reading material, satellite TV and/or DVD rental, museum admissions, entertaining, and pets.
    Gifts are important to most women’s budgets.  Add up the annual need for birthdays and Christmas plus charity, church and add another 10% to 20% for unpredictable weddings, funeral flowers, graduations, etc.
    Insurances are usually billed once or twice yearly. Avoid surprises by breaking them
down by the month. Budget accordingly. If you have high deductibles, keep a reserve to cover them.
    Maintenance has many predictable costs such as oil changes every so-many miles and
radiator flushes every so-many months. It impossible to guess at other costs, so it’s wise to have a reserve fund. Know what your warranty covers and what co-pays and other costs will be yours. 

Wish your snacks were healthier? Make your own with recipes from

Friday, June 27, 2014

Your RV, Motorhome as a Tax Shelter

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 If you have had that RV too long, it could be money in the bank.

image courtesy RVIA

Donate Your RV
copyright janet groene 
    Do you have an RV that you no longer want? Usually the best deal is to get top value for your RV as a trade-in on a new one, or to sell it outright. However, there is a third choice and that’s to donate the rig and take the tax deduction. It’s quick and carefree and could save you a bundle, especially if this is a year when you have to offset a lot of income. Ask your tax adviser.

    You’ve heard the ads on radio and RV about the  the good things that this or that charity will do with the money received from your donated vehicle. You get the tax deduction and, in most cases the charity will tow the RV away free–even, in some cases, if it won’t run on its own.

    Not so fast. Start with a search locally for charities that accept RV donations.  You can also do a computer search for Donate+RV or Donate+Car. Many charities that accept cars also accept motorhomes, travel trailers and other recreation vehicles. Make a list of those that do. Then check to see if the charity is actually registered with the IRS and donations to it are permitted. (Even so, your deduction may be declined or the value disputed by the IRS.)

    Then dig deeper to learn where the money actually goes. Even at some of the best-known charities, huge chunks of money are siphoned off by high salaries, fund raising, advertising and other hijinks. Sadly, only about a third of Americans bother to investigate yet some charities actually support causes that may be contrary to your personal beliefs.

     Look further so you know if funds are used in a meaningful and effective  way.  What cancer research, where? What children or animals are helped? Where, how and by whom?

    Still interested? Here is what you need to do. Know your vehicle’s year, make, model, approximate mileage and its condition inside and out. Pictures help.  You will need either a title or registration and bill of sale for your RV.  If you no longer have a title, some charities will work with you to get a replacement title. If your RV is an orphan you can also try to connect on line with an owners’ group such as Fan owners. They can tell you where to look for the VIN.

           You’ll have to transfer your title with your name filled out in the seller section exactly as it appears on the face of the title. Be sure to get a tax-deductible receipt from the charity so that you can claim your deduction.
Important! Remove your license plates before the RV is picked up.
    Bottom line: (1) Don’t be too quick to give your RV away. Older RV’s are coming back into vogue and are commanding good prices from people who restore them. You may be able to sell it outright.  (2) Find out what percentage of cash income goes to the stated goal (cancer, scholarships, etc.) after overhead is paid. 

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Insuring The Best RV Trip Yet: Mexico

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photo courtesy RVIA

Insuring Your RV for Mexico
copyright janet groene 
    Although we hear much about violent crime in Mexico, many Americans and Canadians
have wonderful RVacations there, especially in winter when the azure waters are warm and the sunshine sparkling. It's one of the most affordable nations on the planet.

For information on RV insurance, which is required by the Mexican government, we went to two experts. Jim LaBelle is with the International Insurance Group, Inc., found at  Mike Nelson at is an expert in Mexico.

    If you don’t get Mexican insurance in place in advance, you’ll be required to buy it at the border, so start early to do your insurance shopping for next winter’s trip.  First, know what Mexican states you plan to visit. Liability requirements vary. Rates also depend on how long you plan to stay. Make sure your coverage will be in place until you’re safely back north of the border. 

    “(Short-term) RV insurance in Mexico  is often double the cost  for an entire year here in the United States,” LaBelle says. “Many RV-ers  have flocked to RV clubs that have partnered with Mexican insurers to get group rates to reduce the cost.”
    However, according to Derek Kartchner at  International Insurance Group, “RVers can
actually get much better coverage and a much cheaper price by purchasing RV insurance from a specialty RV insurance carrier in the USA, one that provides a Mexico Physical Damage Endorsement and couples it with a Liability policy from a Mexican carrier.”  The key, said Kartchner, “is to work with an RV insurance specialist who knows RV insurance in the states and in Mexico, and who can help you  get better coverage at a much better price.”

    Liability insurance requirements are much higher now than a few years ago, warns Mike
Nelson, with upper limits depending on each Mexican state. At the high end are two states that require more than half a million dollars in coverage. If you cause a death you are responsible for funeral expenses and 5,000 days of what the victim would have earned. Carrying $300,000 in insurance is “prudent” and  $500,000 “not excessive” according to Nelson. He says, “It would be foolish not to buy RV, auto or motorcycle insurance from a U.S. agent for a Mexican company before you leave.”  For RV travelers, his advice is also a good reminder that you need policies for all your wheels, not just the motorhome. 

Janet Groene is author of Living Aboard Your RV, 4th Edition. See her RV-ready recipes at

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Stretch Your RV Storage Spaces

blog copyright janet groene, all rights reserved. To inquire about rates for sponsoring a post or placing an ad email

 photo courtesy Coachmen

The Solo Woman’s
RV Space Program

  copyright janet groene

  Your closet at home was never big enough, so don’t expect your RV to be big enough either. Every woman worthy of the name has at least one pair of shoes too many. Here are ways to make small spaces hold more.  

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Find just the right vacuum cleaner for your RV here.  Don't settle for make-do cleaners. See a full line of brand names, sizes, prices, supplies in vacuum cleaners, robots, steam cleaners, hand helds, rechargeables.

    * Add a second shower curtain rod parallel to the existing rod.  The first holds the shower curtain. The second is a drying rack for towels, your swim suit, hand laundry. Spring-tension rods are easy up, easy down. No installation needed.

    * Lighten windows.  Heavy, dark window coverings add to a closed-in feeling. You need privacy, not decorator drama. 

    * Unload the bed. Bedspreads, stuffed animals and throw pillows look good in the showroom but you have to put them somewhere at night. A light quilted or corded cover doubles as a blanket and bedspread. Instead of stuffed pillows use shams or pillow covers you can stuff with spare bedding and coats. 

    * Use  doors. Home stores carry many types of racks,  hooks and covers
to affix to doors. See if any of them will work in your RV. (Warning. RV doors may be thinner and hinges lighter. They may not be able to support added weight.)  To gain a bulletin board, cover one side of a door with sheet cork from a home improvement store.

    * Steel yourself.   Go around with a small magnet to look for steel surfaces (refrigerator,  washer-dryer,  file cabinet, the stove hood). Find any? If so, shop for magnetic storage pockets,  curtain rods, single and double hooks, clips, even magnetic towel racks. Don’t overload them or they’ll bounce loose on the highway. 

    * Add a window.  If your RV toilet cubicle is so small you hate to close the door, have a carpenter replace part of the door with a frosted window. Let light in without sacrificing privacy.   

 * Raise the bed. With a new, high-tech mattress you can have twice the comfort in half the thickness. Could you gain storage area by raising the mattress? 

    * New TVs are only a few inches thick and hang on the wall like artwork. 

    * Fool the eyes with a trompe l’oeil wall mural. New ones require no glue and can be peeled off without scarring. Shop  for lightweight mirrors and other reflective surfaces to make spaces lighter, seemingly larger.

    * Have curtains made for the cockpit, covering the inside of the windshield and side windows in the cab. The cab then becomes part of your living area without loss of privacy. 

    * Add a room  with a canvas enclosure that folds for storage when you move on. They come in many sizes and types including some that can be used in almost all weather. Easier, light and cheaper is a free standing canopy you can put anywhere on the campsite. 

    *Slides are popular in RV’s because they add living space in the campground. However, they cost storage space and make the RV crowded and perhaps even unusable during highway stops. Don’t buy an RV until you have seen it with all sides in.

Janet Groene’s RV-ready recipes are posted at Camp And RV Cook.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Save Money on an RV Renovation

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In an RV you have everything including the kitchen sink (and a bathroom sink too). 

Why haul around a heavy crock cooker that requires you to brown meat in a skillet first? Get a cooker with a metal pan insert. It weighs less. The pan goes from stovetop to cooker. You won't have to wash a separate skillet AND the metal pan also gives you another pot to use on the stove even when you're not using the slow cooker. 

 Save on an RV Re-Do
copyright Janet Groene

    Nobody knows your camper better than you. When it’s time to renew, up-do or re-do, here are ways to do it without busting your budget.

    * Bring a measuring tape and shop the household market when looking such items as a new sleeper sofa, coffee table, easy chair or mattress. Find a larger choice of colors, styles and sizes, and for less.

    * Damage a built-in sofa or dinette table? Try your RV manufacturer first. It’s possible the company can make a perfect match for the finish, size, color and/or style. 

    * See what’s new at home improvement stores. Pre-primed crown molding sells for only about $1 a foot and can be installed around the top of walls to cover faults or add a decorator statement. Pre-primed baseboard molding is priced at only about $2 per yard. It's probably easier and cheaper to replace baseboards rather than to refinish old ones.

    * Also sold at home improvement stores for about $10 are inexpensive molded plastic medallions that look like expensive plaster.  A medallion might be just the cover-up you need to hide a stain around a ceiling fixture. You may not have to refinish the entire ceiling.

    * Flat black spray paint is heaven’s gift to the fumble-fingered. A light sanding and a couple of light coats  add new life to pieces such as brass-plated light fixtures that have corroded. 

    * Track lighting is a boon to the DIY electrician because existing wiring is used to add lights galore. 

    * If your galley counter is scarred or burned, cut out the bad piece and insert a handsome cutting board.  If your skills or tools aren’t up to the job,  a carpenter can do it for an hour’s labor or less.

    * If you’re refinishing wood paneling, prepare the surface by removing any wax or oils. Then use a primer that’s compatible with both the old surface coating and the new paint. 

    * Consult a professional cleaner-dyer to see if new life can be added to faded upholstery or carpeting at less than the cost of new.  

    * Stove tops take a lot of punishment and soon look scruffy. An RV supplier may be able to order just a new top, knobs, burner liners or other replacements to give the stove a fresh new look. Ditto the front panel on your refrigerator. Many RV refrigerators have a removable front panel that is easily replaced.  

    * Unsightly damage to a large, interior wall?  Buy a big cork board to cover the damage and turn the wall into a bulletin board.

    * Consult an expert about resurfacing a hopelessly dull fiberglass sink or shower.  This isn’t a job for amateurs.

    * If blinds are hopelessly grotty, try soaking them in a bathtub with a mild soap and  bleach.  This cleans cords, slats and all. Rinse well, dry, then decide if they are worth re-installing.