Planning Your Road Trip

Since we've had so many people email us over the last 7 months with the comment of "You're living my dream", we thought it would be beneficial for many to share those things we've learned the hard way...  

CAMPING CLUBS AND MEMBERSHIPS - If you really want to save money, buy a camping membership. Of course you need to look at their locations to make sure you will be in those areas, but for us, if we would have bought even the basic membership we have now (1 zone of Thousand Trails), we could have saved at least $400. Yes, in just one zone! By the way, Scott bought the first one in his name only. If we wanted another one I would buy it. Seeing that we are currently in the Southwest, it makes no sense at all to buy one. There were a few in Arizona, but they were all 55+. Sorry, not there yet :-) Other camping clubs/memberships that will get you a discount AND are worth their costs: Passport America (50% off); Good Sam (10-20% off).
Auto: you have to have car insurance. It's mandatory and wise. I'll share a little story with you ... we had one of our trucks parked at our farm with just basic coverage on it. Just a couple months ago our tenant called and told us a tree fell on it. My attitude, while probably not all together appropriate, was "who cares. It's insured." We ended up getting more than what we thought it was worth. We ended up with money to buy a replacement BECAUSE we had insurance.  
Health: OK, this one burns my behind! Unless you are of age to have the benefits of medicare, you have limited coverage while traveling out of your home state. Yes, you read that right. I ended up with a mild case of pneumonia on our trip. I had no idea what I had though and so ended up with a trip to the ER. We chose the Emergency Room because we had at least limited coverage (they'll cover as out of network after the deductible was paid). If we would have gone to a local doctor (by the way, if you are from out of town, they won't take you anyway) or an urgent care clinic, it would have been all out of pocket. Not knowing what kinds of tests they would want to perform, we opted for the ER. We checked with other insurance agents in other states and they said the same would apply with their coverages as well. Soooo ... look at your insurance carefully. Figure out what your deductibles will be and what kinds of coverage you have for out of state healthcare needs. I should add that we do have prescription coverage on our plan and that actually DID have coverage. We ended up at a Rite Aid and had only a $10 co-pay there.
GAS PRICES AND MEMBERSHIPS - Costco and Sams Club were the first to offer discounts on fuel to their members if memory serves correctly. Being on the road in an RV, we have absolutely no use for one of their memberships though. I can't even imagine where I would put just one purchase of toilet paper or paper towels! That said, many grocery stores now offer gas discounts. Walk in to the customer service area, apply for a new card and get your discounts (on gas and groceries!). Flying J / Pilot Travel centers have their own card for RV'ers. Boy, I sure wish I found out about this card 26,000 miles ago! Not only do they offer a discount on gas AND diesel but with the card you can also get free drinks! No, not cocktails, but coffee or for me, cocoa. :-)  

BUYING THINGS - I so hate to say this: We buy at Walmart and Best Buy. No, not because we think they have great service, products or even prices, but because if something does go wrong, you can return your purchase anywhere you go. And so we have done. Everything from bicycles and cameras to bakeware and clothing. I love buying local and we try and hit the "local" grocery stores, but for things that can break, we go to the big stores.  

BIGGEST RIG YOU CAN AFFORD - This was advice we heard after we were already on the road. It wouldn't have mattered, as that was what we did. We purchased a used, 30' 5th wheel with one slide and rear bunks. Although there are fancier models out there as well as bigger ones that our truck would have pulled, this one fit the bill for us. Motor home vs travel trailer/5th wheel: For us, with two trucks (and a prior motor home), a fifth wheel was the way to go. We had the two vehicle already and didn't really have any interest in towing one of our big trucks. Besides, we couldn't find a motor home in our price range with the options that we wanted...we did look! One of the most amazing creations to come out of the mid 2000 rigs is the rear bunks! Oh my goodness are they ever amazing. We found one with a double bunk  - a "room" for each of the boys. One more note - a full size spare tire is essential! 'Nuf said.
CELL PHONE PROVIDER, INTERNET and TV - OK, this may seem trivial, but it SO is not! Phone: If you want great service everywhere, go with Verizon. AT&;T, who we have is a very close second. T-Mobile? Nope. You'll be very limited with service in many areas. Sure there are lots of others and ALL of them claim they have "Nationwide" service, but the plain truth is, they have limited coverage across our great nation. Internet: We have had very good service, although slower at times, creating a hotspot from our phone and that's with a 3G iPhone. We've also had campgrounds with free WIFI (do NOT use the WIFI that you have to pay for at the campgrounds! It's horrible service IF you can get connected. There is no one that has written a good review about their service and good luck trying to get ahold of customer service). We've also used the free WIFI at Starbucks and other restaurants. If you are driving through Texas, their super-sized, super spectacular rest stops have free WIFI. There are lots of options out there, and we're not streaming any videos, so our phone has been good for us. TV: We weren't big TV watchers to begin with, so I'm not sure that we are the right people to ask, but there are a few options out there for you. For the basic of basics, go with an antenna. We use a round, omni-directional antenna that we connect up to our camper's antenna. Even though it's supposed to be able to get signals from any direction, we do notice a HUGE difference if we point towards the large city. We've had anywhere from 5 channels to 60+ channels on our digital TVs. Remember why you are doing this lifestyle - it's not for the TV watching experience. We paid $60 for it and that is our total expense for TV. Some of the campgrounds offer free cable and we'll hook up. Guess what the boys end up doing way too much of? Yep, TV watching. Without the "boob tube" as my folks used to call it, kids get the oppourtunity to explore their own creativity. Hmmm, sounds like a topic for another post.

SELL OR LEASE YOUR CURRENT HOME - a no brainer if you are now renting, but what if you own your home? For us, we tried selling our home. In a down market. Dropping the price more than $75K finally got to us and we opted to rent it out. We also have a farm, so we added into the lease agreement that we can come at any time without notice and stay in a specific area that we reserved. We also have family and friends that drive by occasionally to check on the place and so far so good. We also have really good tenants that have us their payment before the first of each month.  Coming from a family that was raised with rental properties, I knew a few things going into the process, but of course, you never have a 100% guarantee. You also need to make sure that you can rent out your home for a rate that is comfortable for you. It may be less than your payment, but you may be financially and emotionally OK with that to know that you do have a home to come back to eventually.  For others, the thought of renting out their most valuable possession just isn't even an option. In that case, find a VERY good Realtor and go with their assessment of a price. You can name your own price, but the value of a home is only as much as someone else is willing to pay for it.

I can't believe all the things that we headed out without even knowing. Truly, we thank God each day for His grace and mercy on our trip!

OK all you full timers - add in your two cents worth. I know I certainly haven't gotten it all right in here and I'm certain that there is a lot more information to be heard. Speak up and share!


  1. Anonymous1/21/2012

    What about carrying weapons from state to state? Do you have to do declare your weapons in the more communist-like states? ;-)

    1. Great question!
      So there seems to be the rule that a 5th wheel is a trailer and also your home. You are not in it while driving, therefore it can be loaded and at your ready 24/7.
      A motorhome on the other hand, while still your home, is also your vehicle. You must keep your guns and ammo separate while you are driving. Unless you have a CWP/CPL for your state (and the reciprocating states as well). Definitely look into the new Utah Concealed weapons permit. It go much further than any other state and if I remember correctly, has 30 some states that are reciprocating.
      There are, of course community states, that allow no one to own a gun without registration...New York for example. Oops - scratch that. If you are illegal or a gangster, you can own one, you just don't tell anyone you have it and then throw it in the east river when your "done" with it. (I'm not picking on NY. There are quite a few states that are HIGHLY restrictive).
      This is by no means a comprehensive answer to your question, but at least a start. For more information, I highly recommend the NRA www.nra.org or www.usacarry.com Both these websites will give you plenty of information.