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The Frugal RV Traveler Newsletter, Issue #013 - That Time of Year
November 20, 2015

The Snowbirds are Poised for Takeoff

But Some Canadian Birds Have Cold Feet!

With an exchange rate on the US dollar almost 30% higher than this time last year, and El Nino promising a mild winter, some Canadian RVers are debating whether to go south this year or not.

Reviewing our own trip expenses over the years, I notice that when we started RVing (in 2000) the exchange rate was much higher than it is currently. On our next major trip (in 2004) it was also higher. Funny how we thought at that time that traveling in the US was a bargain, much cheaper than RVing in Canada. Could it be that Canadians have been spoiled by rates closer to par over the last 10 years? Factor in substantially lower fuel and camping costs, which are, after all, the major expenses of traveling by RV, and I think we still come out ahead south of the border.

Plus, let's face it, the real reason we go south is for the weather. Thankfully, that's one aspect that will never be affected by the dollar!

As for El Nino, the Weather Network predicts the pattern of milder-than-usual temperatures that we're experiencing now will not persist. We will have a real winter – perhaps just a little shorter than last year (making it, what? Four months instead of five?).

Update on Border Tracking Program

The border tracking program many Canadians have been dreading is still on hold and without an official date of implementation but Canadian Snowbirds are advised to complete a new 8840 form regardless. You should do this every year and file it with the USA Internal Revenue Service and also carry a copy of each year's form with you as you cross the border.

Many Canadians think this form only applies to those who are in the USA for 6 months of the year but, in fact, the algorithm for determining whether you need to complete the form is more complicated than that. We are generally only in The States every two years and for only 5 months at a time, however, when making the calculation, it appears we will need to file the form. The Canadian Snowbird Association provides all the information you need as well as the downloadable 8840 form.

Updated List of Prohibited Items for Border Crossing

Another useful link is the official US customs list of prohibited items when crossing the border. The list has changed from last year and there are several items on it I would never have thought of. A few examples: all handicraft items made of straw (your hat, maybe?) must be declared and any product containing dog or cat fur (weird but, who am I to say?) is prohibited as are items that may be souvenirs from certain countries.

While all food items might be questioned, we always recommend no fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat. For some reason, meat restrictions are listed under the heading for “Haitian Animal Hide Drums”. Confiscation is always at the discretion of the border guard you happen to get and we’ve heard of cases where canned meats and pet food were taken. At the very least, you should declare it if you’re bringing any. You might still lose it but that may avoid being fined on top of it.

Have You Received Your Free Updated Guides?

Our 2015 RV travels included two months revisiting our favorite destinations and adding a few new ones in New Mexico. My Frugal Shunpiker's Guide for Boondocking in New Mexico was completely revised based on those exploits. In September, I sent out hundreds of free updates to anyone who had purchased the guide from me in the past. If that includes you and you did not get your free update, please contact me. I'll need the name plus the email address you used when you made your original purchase.

Although we spent less time in other states, my Frugal Shunpiker's Guides for Arizona and the California Desert were also updated and free revised copies were mailed to all previous purchasers.

French versions of these updated guides will be sent out as soon as they're ready. Rachel is working on translating them right now - from her RV, somewhere down in the sunny southwest!

What's New at Boondockers Welcome?

Boondockers Welcome continues to grow with roughly 1000 hosts participating and many recommendations between happy members posted daily.

An alliance with the largest international Home Exchange club now gives members who are intersted a free one-year membership ($150.00 value) in case they'd like to try out another type of frugal travel.

Boondockers Welcome has also had some great press lately, including a recent video release by The RV Geeks with a contest offering five prizes, each for a 3-year membership. The draw is Nov 22 so, if you're interested, don’t delay. Watch the short video and enter today!.

Our Winter Plan: Costa Rica!

Randy and will be snowbirds of a different feather this year. We're heading south but – for the first time in years – without the RV! We'll be in Costa Rica for two months (Feb and Mar) where we've rented a “casita” and hope to "live like a local". I'm even learning to speak Spanish! Why Costa Rica? We looked at a lot of options before deciding. To be considered, a country had to offer a good winter climate; interesting hiking opportunities; be considered relatively safe and affordable; and offer some hope of us getting by in English (just in case I’m not always by Randy’s side – he’s not learning Spanish.)

It will be strange to be without the RV and we don't plan to rent a car either, except perhaps occasionally. We hope to rely on local buses and do a lot of walking. Our home base is in a small town, on Lake Arenal, only a 10-minute walk from basic supplies and ½ hour-walk from additional shops and restaurants. Most importantly, we’ll be surrounded by an amazing diversity of natural attractions and hiking opportunities.

Although not about RV travel, I do plan to blog about our experience in case, like us, you’d like to explore the idea of another type of affordable adventure. I hope you'll follow along on my blog. I’ll be tracking our costs there. To start you off and give you an idea of how affordable it can be, I can tell you that so far, we’re in for Can $680.00 (equal to US $510.00) per person for return airfare (non-stop from Toronto on Air Canada). Our fully-equipped 2-bedroom house comes with all utilities and wi-fi included at a cost of US $600.00 per month.

Frugal Finds:

WeatherTAB provides long range weather forecasts as far as 18 months in advance using a previously private system developed 50 years ago. It has recently become a free public service. A great tool to help you plan trips, hikes, and other outings, well in advance.

The RV Geeks: Self-proclaimed "do-it-yourselfers" and fulltime RVers with so many tips to share that they put most of them on video. They are rated the most-watched RV-specific videos on YouTube! These guys are worth following if only to get in on their regular valuable prize giveaways!

Campendium: An excellent database of campgrounds. Search by categories including: Free Camping, National Park campgrounds, RV Parks, State Parks, etc. Dump stations are also listed. An easy-to-navigate web site!.

Go Pet Friendly Pet-friendly RV travel advice and an extensive list of pet-friendly destinations created and updated by the site's followers.

Inspiring People:

New favorites on my blogroll include:

Life Unscripted Peter writes in thought-provoking detail about the full time RV lifestyle and everyday situations - not glorifying the good or masking the bad. I love every word he writes!

Winnie Views After her mom died in 2013, Lynn knew it was finally time to quit her soul-sucking corporate job and start living a life of her own full intentions. She ran off to discover Mexico for the winter and gave full-time RVing a final test-run. By August, 2014 she had sold her Chicago home and became a full-time RVer.

Ardent Camper This young couple work full time while traveling all around the country. Today's technology and telecommuting make it all very possible.

Wishing you safe travels and a happy holiday season!

Deseo para usted un viaje seguro y unas felices fiestas!


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