We'd be lost without our trip checklist, even though, after 11 extended RV trips in the last twenty years, we have 'getting ready' down to a science. Well, maybe not an exact science but, as long as we're organized and start the process approximately six weeks in advance, there's nothing to panic about at the last minute.
For winter trips we often leave between Christmas and New Year's and don't return until the end of May or early June. A good full five months!
Before we get to the trip checklist, the first stage is actually the decision and planning of the trip.
A few months ago, the seed of an idea formed and soon we were asking ourselves:
Part of the reason for winter RV travel is to avoid our northern winters, so it makes sense to head south again. We've got lots of familiar favorite places we'd like to revisit but there's always additional exploring we want to do.
If we have no plans for New Year's Eve, we stay around home for Christmas with the family but plan to be somewhere else, perhaps Nashville or somewhere on the beach in Texas, for New Year's Eve.
It's about as much planning as is required at this point. Although we believe in a trip checklist, we try to avoid having a schedule or 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 we are familiar with: Texas, Arizona, California, and perhaps touch Nevada before the weather warms up a bit in late March. Then, gradually, we'll head farther north in Arizona, into Utah, Colorado, or New Mexico.
The Southwest area where we'll be hanging out for the next five months
Why Five 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 becomes 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
When in the southwest, we always retrace the route in one or more of my Frugal Shunpiker's Guides so that I can update and revise them. But we leave plenty of time to explore new places and details to add to each guide as well.
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.
We have rental property. We check with our tenants to be sure there aren't issues that need to be addressed in the near future. We let them know our plans, who to contact in our absence, and how to get in touch with us while we are gone.
Tip: It's hard to remember things that only come up annually. Look through your payment statements for this time period last year to see what was paid.
Randy gets the RV in order mechanically by checking:
Tip: Even if we run into a repair he can't handle, we may meet someone on the road who can help if we can provide the tools. We're also prepared to pay it forward and help others out. Having these tools saves money and has often fostered friendships on our travels.
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.
Tip: We use two good sleeping bags that zip together as our comforter. This gives optimal warmth with an option to remove one if we want less.
If it's winter, we can't load some 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.
Here are some pictures of the layout of our 19-feet-long Roadtrek 190 Versatile camper van.
As long as we're organized, we have room for everything we need.
This is the floor plan with beds.
4: TV/VCR/DVD (not us - the laptop doubles as our entertainment center)
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 set up at the back at all times. It's much easier and allows us to store stuff under the bed.
Tip: Sturdy baskets that slide under the bed store smaller loose items. They can be easily pulled forward from inside or out the back door.
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:
Tip: We don't carry much glass but wine deserves the extra effort. We store glasses in a pair of thick socks so they're protected but take up no extra space.
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 and write down everything you think of that you'll need but can't yet go into the basket.
Aside from the household items that are already in the van, we will need to bring:
Clothes. Rolled is better than folded to avoid wrinkles. No clothes that need clothes hangers.
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?
Tip: On a Canadian based cell phone, our-of-country roaming fees can really add up. We each have an unlocked phone and replace the SIM card in one to become a pay-by-the-month USA-based plan. We check for messages on the other phone but don't pick up unless it's urgent.
Unless you've rented your home or have a house sitter, you need to prepare to lock it down.
And we're off for our next adventure!
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