Our Trip Checklist For Our Upcoming 5-Month Trip

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We'd be lost without our trip checklist, even though, after 3 previous extended RV trips, we have 'getting ready' down to a science. Well, maybe not an exact science but, as long as we're organized and start at least 6 weeks in advance, there's nothing to panic about at the last minute.

We plan to leave between Christmas and New Year's Eve of this year (2007), and be gone until the end of May or early June! We're very excited!

Before the trip checklist, the first stage is actually the decision and planning of the trip.

The Decisions Stage:

A few months ago, the seed of an idea formed and soon we were asking ourselves:

  • Do we want to get away this winter?

  • Do we have enough money saved to not work for 5 months?

  • Is our RV in good enough shape to make another trip?

  • Are we okay about leaving our parents and loved ones behind right now. Is their health stable?

  • Are all the answers to the above positive? Then it's decided. We'll go.

The Planning Stage:

  • Where will we go?

    Since part of the reason we're going is to avoid our northern winter, it makes sense to head south again. We've got lots of familiar favorite places we'd like to revisit and have some new exploring we'd like to do.

  • When will we leave?

    Since we have no plans for New Year's Eve, we decide to be home with family for Christmas but be somewhere else, perhaps Nashville or somewhere on the beach in Texas, for New Year's Eve.

  • That's the whole plan.

    It's about as much planning as is required at this point. Although we believe in a trip checklist, we we don't believe in having a timetable once the trip starts - preferring to move on when it feels right and change directions as we see fit.

    It's likely we'll be in the southwest states of Texas, Arizona, California, and perhaps touch into Nevada before the weather warms up a bit in late March. Then, gradually head back east through Utah, Southern Colorado, and into New Mexico.

The Southwest States

The Southwest area where we'll be hanging out for the next 5 months

Why do we go for 5 months?

Many snowbirds head home by April, when the weather starts to warm at home. I guess they're anxious to get their gardens planted and their income tax taken care of.

For us, the change in weather usually means it's time to leave the desert where it gets to be too hot but April and May is the perfect time to explore the higher areas of Northern Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. There are, after all, other ways to take care of gardens and taxes.

We'll explore new areas

We've never been to the northern parts of New Mexico. Although we can't resist returning to our favorite spots, we'll explore lots of exciting new areas and, along with them, hopefully discover more scenic frugal camping options to add to the Frugal Shunpiker's Guides.

We'll leave plenty of time to get familiar with and, hopefully, fall in love with New Mexico this year.

Making The Trip Checklist Stage:

Now, to make it all happen will require a bit of work. There's nothing like making a trip checklist or, in this case, a series of them, to keep us organized.

Trip Checklist 1:
Taking Care Of The Details

  • Free ourselves from commitments - tell my employer, giving 4 to 6 weeks notice. (So far, they've always been happy to have me return when we get back.)

  • Randy finishes his promised jobs and takes on no new work.

  • Apply for passports - new since our last visit to the USA, not yet needed for land travel, but just in case we need to fly home and back for any reason.

  • Research rates and purchase extended health insurance - we're now over age 55, and will pay more than on previous trips.

  • Check expiry dates on drivers license, health cards, credit cards

  • Have vehicle emissions tests done if required (every 2 years in Ontario) to renew license plate stickers for car and RV (due in March while we're away).

  • Check calendar- reschedule any appointments.

  • Photocopy all credit cards, passport, id - leave with family member.

  • Check contents of safe or safety deposit box, i.e. insurance papers, wills, jewelry, update/add as needed.

  • First time we'll be taking a laptop. Load it with programs we'll need, test them, see that Wi-Fi Internet connection works.

  • Load the mp3 player with all our favorite driving tunes - they can be played through the RV's stereo system.

  • Email or phone friends about our plans (tied into our Christmas calls).

Trip Checklist 2:
A Health Check

  • Any health issues? Make appointments - visit doctor, dentist, optometrist etc.

  • Prescription drugs - pick up enough plus an extra month's supply to be on the safe side.

  • Supplements- stock up on those we may have trouble finding on the trip.

Trip Checklist 3:
A Financial Check

  • Transfer money into our US dollar travel account.

  • Check that we know all passwords and access codes.

  • Cancel any household services we can. Ask if there's a penalty or reconnection charge. Putting our Internet provider on vacation mode saves $35.00 per month, but Bell Telephone charges a $50.00 reconnection fee and we lose our phone number, so we don't cancel it.

  • Cancel newspaper deliveries (we don't actually have any)

  • Look at income taxes for this year - we'll be away on Apr 30th. In Canada there's no penalty for late filing if you don't owe money. I do a quick once-over of my income and expenses, and then move some savings to RRSPs so that I won't owe any taxes. I'll do my return when we get back next summer.

Tip: Being gone for 5 months, I'll only work 7 next year, so I'll move this money out of the RRSPs again later in the year without penalty. Since we travel every 2 years, I just move the same money back and forth every other year.

Randy takes all his tax information with him, downloads the tax forms at a library, and mails it in from the road by registered mail.

  • Set up preauthorized payments for all bills wherever possible

  • Look ahead - are any annual payments or bills going to be coming in that we normally pay by cheque? Auto Insurance? Property Insurance? Regular donations to charities? Other renewal dates that we might miss?

    Tip: Look through your checkbook or statements for the last year to see what was paid.

  • Return any movie rentals and library books

    Trip Checklist 4: Getting The RV Ready

    Randy gets the RV in order mechanically by checking:

    • Fluids filled or replaced

    • Battery levels

    • Oil change

    • Tires and tire pressure

    • Lights and electrical system

    • Wiring, hoses and sparkplugs

    Then he checks the RV living quarters side of things:

    • Battery, furnace, propane tanks,

    • Fridge, plumbing, holding tanks, hoses, electrical, inverter

    • Sorts the RV toolbox, adding needed tools.

      Tip Even if we run into a repair he can't handle, we may meet someone on the road who can. We're also prepared to pay it forward and help others out. Having the tools saves us lots of money and also makes us friends and gets us dinner invitations on our trips.

    • Fills propane tank and enough in the gas tank to get us across the border where gas is cheaper.

    • Randy does some upgrades - this year - new stereo speakers, and an added fold down countertop that will double our food-prep space. If you check out the diagrams below, it drops from the closet door (#6) on a hinge and meets the counter top in front of the stove (#3).

      Over the years, he's come up with many great upgrades and alterations to suit our boondocking lifestyle. (I see another potential web page here, don't you?) One day, we should tell Roadtrek about his ideas.

    Now, it's my turn to spend a day in the RV!

    • I go through every area of the RV, clean shelves, review every item that "lives" in the RV full-time, decide whether it goes or stays behind.

    • Clean all RV surfaces

    • Launder all RV linens

      Tip: Two good sleeping bags that zip together act as our comforter. We've got them with us anyway for any backpacking adventures along the way.

    The Packing Stage

    "Will All This Fit Into A Camper Van?"

    We can't load a lot of the items into the RV until we're ready to keep it heated, but now's the time to make decisions and gather up the items that we'll take along.

    Our RV is a 1990 Roadtrek 190 Versatile, a 19-foot camper-van on a Dodge chassis. Here are some pictures of the layout.

    As long as we're organized, we have room for everything we need.

    Roadtrek Livingroom Floor Plan

    This is the floor plan without the beds made up

    Roadtrek Sleeping Floor Plan

    This is the floor plan with beds.



    Built-in storage is over, under and all around the fixtures, which are:

    1: Fridge

    2: Sink

    3: Stove

    4: TV/VCR/DVD (not us - we carry a black & white TV with 5" screen)

    5: Toilet

    6: Wardrobe (we put in shelves here, they hold more)

    7: Privacy Doors

    8: Shower (We don't have this but, in the newer units, it's a drain in the floor, shower head and curtain)

    We leave the double bed at the back set up all the time. It's much easier and allows us to store stuff under the bed such as Randy's guitar and a laundry hamper for his clothes. Mine are nice and handy on shelves in the closet.

    Tip: Use sturdy laundry baskets that slide under the bed for storing loose items. The baskets can easily be pulled forward or out the back door.

    Trip Checklist 5:
    Things To Bring

    With a small camper van, not much decision-making is involved. We know from other trips that we have room for all that we need, plus a few things that we want.

    Items that always stay in the van:

    • Hydraulic jack- spare tire is mounted outside

    • Portable barbecue

    • Heavy extension cord

    • Small electric heater

    • Water hose

    • Tool box, engine oil, various fluids, Hanes mechanics manual

    • Folding table, folding chairs

    • Extra 7 gal water jug

    • Waist packs, hiking poles, backpacks, pup tent, sleeping pads

    • Walkie talkies

    • Compass

    • Flashlights (check batteries)

    • Misty Mate and cooling bandanas- (see my desert hiking page)

    • Umbrellas - we have ones that mount to our chairs for shade - we rarely see rain

    • Propane lamp

    • Candles, lighters, string, wire, misc. screws and fasteners

    • Small sewing kit

    • Dishes, utensils, pots and pans, 2 wine glasses

      Tip: Although it's often just boxed wine, I want my wine from a real wine glass. I mean, I have

      some

      standards! For protection, store glasses in a pair of clean thick wool socks.

    • Coffee perc, tea kettle

    • Bed sheets, sleeping bags, pillows, towels, washcloths, tea towels

    Trip Checklist 6:
    Packing

    Everything that does not already "live" in the van has to be collected and moved into place. The collection process can take place gradually over several weeks.

    Tip: Start a basket in the house several weeks before departure…instead of writing items on a list, move things to the basket as you think of them. Next to the basket post a list. Write down everything you think of that's still in-use and can't yet go into the basket.

    Besides the household items that are already in the van, for a trip we bring:

    • Blank cds (to burn photos from camera's memory cards).

      Clothes…rolled is better than folded…nothing that needs to hang up.

    • Footwear - sandals, hiking boots, running shoes

      Shoes take up a lot of space. Only bring what you think you really need, and then choose at least one pair to leave behind.

    • Personal hygiene products

    • First aid supplies, sunscreen

    • Haircutting scissors and comb (Yes, that stylish cut you see in our photos is compliments of Randy's mobile salon!)

    • Binoculars

    • Water bottles

    • Sun glasses

    • Reading glasses

    • Battery charger

    • Camera, extra memory

    • Mp3 player with adaptor to play through the van's stereo

    • Cell phone and charger

    • Laptop

    • Map books

    • Camping guidebooks and travel guides

    • Area maps and documents from previous trips - decide which to take along

    • Decide on a few books to bring - reference books such as bird and plant identification books, plus recreational reading

    • Stock up on items we know we have trouble finding or that are more costly across the border eg: olive oil and peanuts

    • Skipping rope, Frisbee, and equipment for a fitness program

      Tip: Heavy elastic bands can substitute for weights in a workout program - watch for a page I'll post soon with the program designed for me by my fitness trainer a few years ago

    • Bicycle rack, and bicycles - we actually stopped bringing them since we don't use them often enough, preferring to hike instead

    • Cleaning supplies

    • Books, puzzle books, writing paper, pens, journals, and any arts, crafts, or hobby supplies

    • Address and phone number book

    Trip Checklist 7:
    Goodbyes To Family

    This shouldn't really require a checklist but, hey, I'm trying to keep it all neatly organized in list form. Could anyone actually be so excited to get away that they forget this step?

  • Get together with family and close friends to say goodbyes.

  • Call others if we can't see them in person - we'll tie it all into our Christmas visits.

  • For the next 5 months staying connected will be through regular emails and phone calls.

    Tip: On a Canadian based cell phone, roaming fees can really add up. Family members have our cell phone number but with instructions not to call unless necessary. We turn the phone on once a day to check messages. If they need us they'll leave a message and we'll call back from a pay phone using a phone card.

    Trip Checklist 8:
    Closing Down The House

    Unless you've rented your home or have a house sitter, you need to prepare to lock it down.

    • Arrange for mail pick up (option to have post office hold it for a fee).

    • Arrange for someone to do a regular house check. (Insurance usually requires it).

    • Arrange for snow removal and/or lawn mowing.

    • Take down all Christmas decorations!!!

    • Go through kitchen cupboards - don't leave any thing that could attract mice or insects.

    • Tip: To save on cupboars space in the RV, repackage food items to take along. Get rid of bulky boxes for all foods such as cereal, pasta etc. - put these into marked sturdy zipper bags.

    • Empty and clean fridge and freezer.

    • Seal and lock windows.

    • Bring plants to my mom who has a green thumb (they'll come back far healthier).

    • Leave spare keys to the house with neighbors in case of emergency.

    • Clean the car to hand over to my daughter.

    Trip Checklist 9:
    The Day Before Departure

    • Check weather forecast for the areas we'll be driving through.

    • Start the fridge and furnace in the RV.

    • Load everything into its proper location in the RV. (Will take most of the day).

      Tip: Everything has to go in it's own place. We try to be consistent so we can remember where things are. For the less-used items that are tucked away the farthest,on the inside of each storage door, tape a list of the contents.

    • Fill the fresh water jug - we won't use the RV's plumbing until we're in the warm weather.

    • Do a last load of laundry - from here on - it's Laudromats.

    • Set light timers.

    • Wash the last dishes.

    • Get rid of all household garbage.

      Trip Checklist 10:
      Departure

    • Enjoy a last long shower with ample hot water.

    • Drain the home water heater and water lines.

    • Turn the gas off to home stove and water heater.

    • Turn the home furnace down to minimum.

    • Move any containers with liquids to the sink or tub, in case they freeze if anything goes wrong with the furnace.

    • Unplug the home fridge and freezer - leaving doors ajar.

    • Unplug the computer, and other appliances.

    • Draw the blinds.

    • A final walk through the house.

    • Every trip checklist item complete?

    • Set alarm.

    • Lock the door.

    And We're Off On Another Big Adventure!




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