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RV Travel to USA 

Recap of Overall Info for Heading South

Update September 2010 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS

for Tr to USA

 

SPECIAL PAGES

 

Tips and Hints

Southern

          Getaways

Stay6 month  

Pet Travel

 

 

SPECIFIC  POINTS

General Info 

    ---In Touch   

    ---Message

               Service

    ---Security

    ---Dollar  

            Stretchers

    ---Street-smart

 

Health Care 

    ---Medical

    ---RX drugs

 

Cdn Snowbirds

     can stay for 6

              months 

   ---Time in USA

 

Budget

     ---ATM's

        

Insurances

     ---ERS

     ---Contents

     ---Storing RVs

   

 Pets

  ---Fulltime Pets 

  ---General 

 

Guns   

  ---Human Sprays

 

Travel Allotments

   ---Liquor

  ---Tobacco

  ---Fruits

 ---Vegetables

 ---Duty Free

 

Campground Info

   --Reservations

  --Winter Home

  --Five Star 

               Resort

 --Find Southern

                 Stops

                                    

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 


 

 MEDICAL:

You should never leave home without supplementary Out of Country/Out of Province medical coverage. 

Shop around, a wide choice of companies offer extensive coverage--find one that is beneficial to you.   Competition rules. Many advertise in Seniors newspapers.

I have listed several on the forum ()  Important Things we All should Know

Answer each question honestly. FULLY report ALL pre-existing conditions.  Never stretch the truth or eliminate important medical facts on your application.  NOTE: If you do not understand the question ask a travel-insurance professional to help.

Ask for everything in writing--verbal agreements are worth nothing.

Some companies will cover everything (but a specific pre-existing condition) for a lower policy price.

If you’re healthy with no medical problems – ask if high deductible policies can save you money. With this type of policy you pay all bills within your deductible. The savings may and may not be worth it but it is nice to know it is available. You gamble you will stay healthy and the Insurance knows your initial problems will not cost them.

Another savings are multi-trip policies. Number of trips are unlimited if getaways are within your 30, 60, or 90 day policy. Proof of when you left home such as a toll bridge receipt or a gas receipt may be needed. 

Daily coverage may be more economical for short trips.

A few companies will also allow you to extend your policy from your destination.

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   **** Canadian’s also should have ‘out of province’ medical.  Yes, provinces extend reciprocal agreements to non-residents, however all procedures covered at home may not be covered by your host province.

    UPDATED INFO  Hospital care may be reciprocal but Ontario (OHIP) for instance does not pay for any air ambulance to get you home or to get your vehicle home or if things turn bad, your remains home. Each province have different rules.

      Rates for this coverage can be as low as .55 cents per day. (call 1 888 302 7873  (one of many carriers) for more info)  This company even offers coverage to Americans. 

      Most provinces offer the majority of  services on a reciprocal basis but all procedures and medication may not be covered.  

Be cautious before ‘topping up’ a retirement insurance package or bank ‘Gold’ card coverage. Discuss details with your insurance agent.  NOTE: In some cases a medical problem on the 38th day of an original retirement or bank 40 day policy may not be covered on your topped -up policy because you now have pre-existing condition.

Holders of the 40 day Federal Government insurance can now top up this original coverage from the 500,000 to 5 million for a very low annual fee. For those up to, and including 65 years old the cost to update is approximately $75.00 - $100.00. This is a new service - more info is available from ETTS at  877 832 6025 or contact your Insurance provider to ask if they offer this service.  This 40 days can be topped-up but see the info above for more detail. 

ALWAYS call your carrier BEFORE you authorize any test or procedures. Snowbirds accepting care without permission may have to pay the bill.

Your policy should include Air Ambulance ‘repatriation’ to home– not just to a better hospital. 

NOTE: If your policy does not include Air Ambulance one great option is MASA (Medical Air Services Ass’n) 817-430-4655. FYI - However most out of country/out of province medical coverage includes Air Ambulance coverage.

REMEMBER supplementary policies only assist in emergency care, they are not exactly like the comprehensive coverage we enjoy in Canada.

Out of Country Insurance companies contact info is advertised in Seniors newspapers and travel magazines to find a listing.

MOST IMPORTANT IS TO BE UP-FRONT WHEN APPLYING FOR YOUR POLICY. The company will check up on your medical history before they pay a claim.

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TRANSFERRING PRESCRIPTION DRUGS ACROSS BORDERS

 It is a good idea to keep RX drugs in their original packages. When possible it is also a good idea to carry the written prescription or at least a copy of it.  If you take a lot of drugs getting a written list from your Dr may be helpful but we have never been asked for one.  This is especially true if you use needles such as for Insulin etc.

      The same policy applies to pet medications.

 

       

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STAYING IN TOUCH - via mail

One winter mail took 21-23 days to travel from Canada to Texas.  Apparently everything was being scanned at the border. International Express Post costs about $16.00 but it only takes 5-7 days. Mail Boxes Etc (UPS STORE) sends our mail south using Express Post once per month. I buy the envelopes.

Canada Post or a friend can forward your mail, however this could become a hassle for extended stays, but a monthly mailing reduces the dimension of the task.

Numerous RVers subscribe to independent USA mail forwarding services advertised in International RV magazines.

Another option is to send mail to a USA mail forwarding system. This way your plans are not held up waiting for mail to arrive if it is delayed coming from Canada. When your US address receives your mail AND YOU PROVIDE AN ADDRESS, they will forward it by Priority (3 day) Post.

Even if you are on the move, a USA mail forwarding service provides an address to receive mail, magazines and info from US clubs; and especially form your new found American friends. It also comes in handy to obtain US credit cards/bank cards; our Verizon  cell phones, or an address to send rebate coupons plus product warranties for US purchases.

Mail Boxes Etc. (now UPS Store) will provide a postal address especially for Canadians (it is not a residence). They forward mail for $2-- $3. plus the cost of shipping. They will also go through your mail with you while you're on the phone to search for a special letter; plus they offer numerous more services.  This is a great alternative for those who prefer not to ask friends and relatives.

VOICE CONTACT

A voice message service is another valued asset. You can add a ‘message service’ to your home and/or cell phone or subscribe to a separate service advertised in International RV magazines --- some companies combine both mail and messaging.

Clubs such as FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association), Escapees, Good Sam etc also provide message services for their members. Since we are FMCA members before we got our USA cell phone we’re only 24 hours (between check-ins) So we were never far away from good or bad voice mail news.  See the RV Club section on RV WebLinks Page. Members of FMCA must own a motorhome.

Many calling cards charge a connect surcharge per call. A more economical alternative is using a card without surcharges or a prepaid calling card. However two to five   or even more units may be required to call Canada and sometimes 5 units per minute while connected.

NOTE  This story relays  the 'How-to of Calling Home'  in detail ***  How do Snowbirds Call Home From The USA ?

With Bell Canada’s ‘Hello Type’ cards, users call to home are at low residential rates.

For safety sake transfer all phones to a voice mail or call forward to another number.  A ringing telephone is a positive signal to burglars that no one is home.

Carrying a cell phone in your vehicle is a must for emergency situations.  However understand your usage plans. AT&T ‘One-rate’ plans are great but they  may still charge $4.00 extra per minute in some locations.  They refer to  this fee as Roaming.  if you are travelling to the USA (cost 250 minutes ---$75.00) It is easy to end up with an extra $1000.00 on your bill. 

In all cell plans expect to pay for minutes used the month the bill arrives at your phone company office,  not the month you made the calls. If you do not keep track it is easy to add many extra minutes that are late arriving at your cell office. Many plans are now a One-Rate plan with generous amount of minutes.

All RVers should have a CB/weather station on board for emergencies.  However a cell phone is more secure when providing your breakdown location but a CB may transmit a stronger signal when in no service cell areas.

Some USA pay phones may charge .25-.35 cents per toll free calls. Charges may show up on your statement or be accessed by coins at the phone receiver.

If you have no toll-free access number on your calling card, it is wise to dial 1800 CALL ATT or Bell Cda' s 1-800-555-1111 before the number your calling - USA & Cda  Independent pay phones can charge exorbitant fees.

  

 

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ATM’s AND BANKING INFO:

Be sure to test your client card in Wal*Marts and grocery stores as a Debit card.  B of M cards work but I am hearing that  many other cards also work at these store cash registers.  By paying for your purchase by Debit and taking cash-back you avoid costly ATM Fees. 

If one (ATM) automatic teller machine will not accept your card try another ATM.

   In the USA/Canada look for 'ATM’s' in banks, shopping malls, grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores etc.  In Canada these are also called ‘debit’ cash’ or ‘Interac’ and frequently are in banks..

Remember your PIN (personal identification number)---do not write it down

If you punch in the wrong number three times some ATM’s will either take your card or rend it inactive.  The machine assumes the card may be stolen.   

Replacing a lost card while in the USA is a frustrating experience. Most Canadian Banks prefer cardholders physically punch in their PIN for new cards at their branch.  

To be safe never count your cash at the machine---be mindful of those nearby.  

We no longer go south with a winter supply of cash --- our monthly pensions are direct- deposited; we withdraw what we need.  

When RVers move from place to place, opening a bank account is not an option.  

Ways some RVers access cash flow---

A. Prepaying a credit card each month and withdrawing your own money.

B. American Express Office will cash a no fee personal check for cardholders.

C.  Many US banks will cash a cheque from a Cdn bank (converted of course) if non-residents have two credit cards and photo ID for reference.  

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Additional Tips

    1.      Snowbirds staying in one place should ask their home bank for a ‘Letter of Credit’. It paves the way to access immediate benefits with minimal credit check

      2.      If you open an account at your winter home 

     a.  If the balance is higher than WD amount requested, there should be no waiting.

      b.     If your cheque amount is higher than your account balance expect a two-week waiting period for your cheque to clear.

      c.      Winter visitors should appoint someone at home as a Banking Power of Attorney with access to your banking and checking accounts.  They simply sign a bank form stating they will not take money out if they know you are deceased.

      5.     Our 'next of kin' in the past acted as our ‘P of Attny’,  to deposits cheques, intercedes if is a problem surfaces with our bank, opens official looking mail and pays any unexpected bills. Right now the owner of our UPS store goes through our mail with me on the phone and he deposits our checks. 

      6.      Computer banking is popular but so is telephone banking. Whatever works is easier for RVers on the move, especially if access to computers is limited. We save ‘on-line’ access for more interesting usage. 

      7.  For Tele-banking call an 800# to pay bills, transfer funds, obtain updated statements and more. Transact with a real person or by voice action.  Internet banking is also available and more convenient. Most banks do not charge seniors for this service.

      8.      Expect to pay $300.-$500. per month extra just to be a tourist to buy things.  This is on top of US/Cdn exchange fees.

     9.      During the last 8-10 winters my Bank of Montreal client card has routinely worked as a debit card in Wal*Marts and large grocery stores in the USA.  By taking 'cash-back' funds for spending, I eliminate ATM fees for withdrawals and charges at our Canadian bank. Most bankcards now function as debit cards in US stores. Technology is changing; test yours it is worth a try!

 

 

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BUDGETING

-

Several months ago I had a request by email reference to a budget question. The following will provide several ideas.

 


 

This has been an ongoing conversation about budget costs for fulltiming covering 1-2 years---I am relaying it here for the info of everyone.  

Hi Anne and Henry: Thanks for the update. Many times the 1-2 year start-up turns into 10 plus, but on the other hand we have friends that didn't last a year, they were not happy unless they had a stationary place somewhere. The RV Lifestyle offers something for everyone.

You asked about costs. The general consensus is a minimum of $30,000.00 a year, but that amount is so vague. Your expenses on the road will be the same or higher than they are now. Fulltiming is not a way to live cheap. Your costs will be as a result of personal choices.

We also do not know what country you call home so I will give you figures in US$'s and if you are Canadian you will have to convert it while you are in the USA. Our Cdn dollar is improving but the exchange still fluctuates.  It may or may not be good for those of us who want to travel south. The Canadian dollar continues to be lower but close to par - a real bargain for our US neighbours who take time to explore the friendly country to the north. To convert to Cdn $'s to US$  divide the cost by exchange rate to find the US
price.

There is no set amount required to live on the road fulltime. The following are some of our static costs

1. Camping will be between $300.00 to $800.00+ plus tax depending what state you are in, location to attractions and what camping clubs you belong too and if you pay full price. Most discount camping clubs run between $10.00 to $20.00 plus tax per night. 

2. Groceries cost us between $500.00-$700.00 per month for everything we buy in the grocery store.

3. We eat out about 4 times per month = $20.00 lunches ---(much more for dinners) per time approx $80- $100.

4. A close estimate puts our total living expenditures equal approximately $1000.00 to $1200.00 per month and we frequently travel by discount camping clubs---$300. +tax per month.

5. If you enjoy expensive hobbies such as golf, tennis etc. or you smoke or drink you costs will be much higher.

6. Allowance for gas/fuel costs --- average 10-14 miles per gallon for diesel, less for gas---Costs change per gal. Price will be determined depending on where you plan to drive and how many miles you will accumulate.


7. Propane can be high - some times delivery trucks charge a costly service fee. Cheaper at the pump to fill a portable.

8. You should have access to about $5000.00 in an emergency fund. We do not leave cash sitting around collecting dust, instead we set aside a zero balanced credit card to take care of emergencies --- we will rearrange funds when we return to our
home location in the spring..

9. Other things that need covering include
         phone cards
         cell phones
         Internet ISP fees
         mail forwarding
         tax consultants/fees etc
         drivers licence
         insurance
         licensing
         emergency road service
         mortgage payments
       
RX medicines/Health/Air            Ambulance
         dental cost

         clothing upkeep
         Discount club dues and RV Club
     chapter costs
         accumulating house costs while you are away.

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10. I may have missed some things but the above will give you the idea.

         To figure what it will cost YOU---use the above expenses as a guide. We know RVers who fulltime on social security and we have friends who can't exist on $5-$6 K per month. It seems no matter how much John and I have coming into the bank every month, the last week before payday, the money well is extremely low in available cash.

Now it is time to pull out the paper and pencil to determine how much it will cost you to hit the road F/T. Take care---don't worry, the time will fly by. The highway will be your home before long. Take care, RV Living - the Freedom adventure.

 

 

 

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SECURITY

With a few preliminary preparations it is easy to travel secure.   Do not do anything in another country or city that you would not do at home.

 Prepare your home so it looks lived in, have someone check your plumbing plus your house in general every few days---you can ask a friend or hire someone.

 

Do not let your security guard down in a campground either---always lock doors when you leave your unit. Your neighbours may be friends but others may be watching you.

 

 Storage Pod keys are transferable from one unit to another--Your outside storage is not secure unless you change the locks. Neither is the main lock in the handle of your RV door.  Only the dead bolt lock is secure.

 

Always lock car doors in congested traffic situations as well as in parking areas.  Open doors make it easy access for anyone to steal a purse or to become an unwanted passenger.

 

 

TO STREET-SMART YOUR WALLET

     1.  Duplicate important papers such as driver’s licence, Insurance certificate, passports, medical and insurance cards.  If these are lost you will at least have original numbers to assist in replacement.

     2.  Make a list of all wallet contents; keep it in a safe place.

    3.  If you record all credit card numbers there is no need to pay for credit card security services.

    4.  Carry only one credit card each at a time.  Switch periodically if you wish.  If you loose your wallet, you will only be inconvenienced, not incapacitated.  

Extra Ti - Some Repeats for importance

         If stopping for an extended stop choose one of the many truck stops en route rather than rest areas---especially after dark. Most truck stops welcome RVers plus all the activity round the clock makes for a relatively safe stopping spot.  

       Note: RV friendly places like Flying J Truck Stops provide separate parking for RVers---they’re special RV Islands include air pumps, sewer dumps, fresh water, diesel and gas. Flying J’s Advantage Club benefits also include a discount for gas/diesel.  Truck stops of America also offer RV friendly overnight stopping spots.

 Knowing the signal for the International Call for Help may come in handy some day.  It is “beep, beep, beep in quick succession followed with a short silence”. Turn all lights on especially flashing lights. Repeat continuously till help arrives. 

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DOLLAR  STRETCHERS:

Getting away from the cold and snow is a pleasure but sometimes a costly one.  

If you are a Canadian--exchange on each $200.00 US$ can translate to $300.00 Cdn depending on the exchange.  

You can stretch $$ by enjoying low-cost in-park activities, hobbies and functions.  

Living or travelling in an RV is fun. You can ‘shop till you drop’ and leave the store empty handed because you have no space to store stuff. Do not overload.  

Enjoying meals in neat out of the way eateries AT LUNCH adds adventure to any getaway.

Note: Enjoying lunches in fancy restaurants can be economical adventures plus there is no need to dress up. Shorts are acceptable in even the fanciest of restaurants in sun country. Many full-course ‘Early Bird’ specials (at 4 PM) offer yet another big savings.

If you can only get away for a short period consider travelling in the fringe season months of November and April. Weather is good, tourists have gone home and locals want you around so frequently prices are lower.  

Learn to give each other haircuts -- especially if you are retired and you live a relaxed lifestyle.  The difference between a good and bad cut is about 3 days.

Join several ‘Discount Camping Clubs’.  For less than a $100.00 US$ annually you can camp at many resorts for 1/2 price and at others for $10.00 US$ per night. By stretching camping dollars frees up extra funds for other things such as meals out and tours and overall fun.

Many parks offer one night free if you stay a week---the more months you spend in one spot the lower the monthly rate becomes.

Welcome Centers frequently have discount coupon books available behind the counter. However in most cases you must ask for them.

 

The above hints are only a few of the many suggestions covered in my first full-length publication Spirit of the Open Road.  And now more recently RV Living in the 21st Century.

 

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