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RV Living in the 21st Century 

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        UPDATED 4 Oct 04

     RV Travel to USA

Southern Destinations

 

 

    

 

 

CONTENTS

of Tr to USA

 

SPECIAL PAGES

Tips and Hints

Overall Recap

Stay6 month  

Pet Travel

 

 

SPECIFIC  POINTS

General Info

     ---In Touch   

     ---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

 

Customs Allotments

     ---Liquor

      ---Tobacco

      ---Fruits

      ---Vegetables

      ---Duty Free

 

Campground Info

   ---Reservations

   ---Winter Home

   ---Five Star  Resort

  ---Find Southern

                  Stops

                            

        



FIVE STAR RESORTS STORY click here

 Finding Southern Destinations for RVing Snowbirds

       Year after year many RVers return to their favourite utopia in the sunny south. Although for those new to this lifestyle and those of us who like to move around, determining where to go each winter can become a major decision.  The choice is so vast and deciding where to spend three to six months of our valuable RV travel time away from the cold takes some planning.  Yes there are a group of RVers who simply turn the key and point their RV south to no where in particular, however many of us prefer to have some plan in place before we begin our journey.

 

       When you leave Canada in the cold winter weather a number of parks en route will be closed for the season.  Don’t despair there are numerous free places to stop for the night till the days become warmer BUT NOT AT REST AREAS.  The majority of truck stops provide a safe overnight parking spot however the Flying J stations encourage RV’s to park overnight away from the trucks. Call 1 800 438 3537 www.flyingj.com for a brochure listing their North America locations.  (Flying J's and Pilot have merged). These RV friendly truck stops now have locations across Canada. Truck stops of America are also RV friendly plus several others.

    Wal-mart stores (their locations are listed in the back of the Wal-mart atlas). HOWEVER IN ALL CASES ALWAYS ASK IF IT IS OK, some counties have by-laws against overnight parking.  For added security BE SURE TO PARK WITH YOUR COACH DOOR FACING THE CARS AND CAMERAS. These places know most of us will spend money by shopping or have a meal before turning in. One other option RVing friends from the Maritime provinces use is to pull into hotel and motel parking lots---frequently for a small fee they can plug into an electric connection designed for cars to plug into in the winter.  Plugging in is a wise move if you plan to use your furnace during your trip south.

 

 

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Making Reservations

One word of caution, the majority of resorts, private parks, state and national parks in sun country are very busy places from mid January to the end of February.  Yes you possibly can find a campsite in a large park but it may take some looking to find that special place to settle into for a few weeks or longer.  

Texas offers a little more leeway in the reservation end of thing. All parks will not be over booked all winter.

 

Steps to find an enjoyable extended winter home from a distance!

Look for a winter getaway with features that appeal to your desires --- Remember you are shopping from a distance so you must ask questions.

  • Begin your research by deciding on your chosen state or a specific area, then determine your exact destination.

  •  Next, call the toll free number of your choice destination state, if you do not know the number call 1 800 555 1212 and ask for the toll-free tourist bureau number.  Request their travel package and a map; don’t forget to ask for camping information as well.  

  • When you are talking with the travel centres of each state request information on National parks, State parks and BLM (Bureau Land Management) areas too.  Some BLM properties (listed in International Campground Directories) offer a no cost free period where RVers can camp without hook-ups. Longer stays are available for those with a low cost annual permit. 

  • Once you settle on an area, peruse one of the main International Campground Directories such as Trailer Life or Woodall's (available from RV Dealers and book stores).  Find one or more parks that appeal to you. Your preferred destinations may either be a very active resort or a park with limited amenities other than a quiet place in the sun.  Of course costs will be lower at small campgrounds with minimal activities located in laidback areas.

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  • Contact your choice park by phone or through the Internet; ask about the number of available RV sites. Do they have a majority of park models and permanent trailers or are there a number of mobile RV sites as well. Are all the RV’s together near park amenities or are they interspersed throughout the park.  Make sure the RV sites are not in a distant field as an afterthought to park layout. 

  • Request rates for weekly and monthly stays, ask about discounts for three or four month stops.  The longer the stay usually translates into a lower per-month price. Does the park request the full amount be paid in advance or by the month? Also ask if they offer Canadian at Par - many do. 

  • Is electric power metered and at what cost or is it included in the overall seasonal price? Are 30-50 amp electrical connections available?

  • Do park amenities include cable TV hook-ups (at what cost?). Is the resort modem friendly (a place to connect your laptop computer for on line access)?  Are there instant telephone hook-ups available at your campsite?

  • Are the sites large enough for big rigs and for slide outs?   Are they full service (EWS), pull through or back in?

  • Are pets welcome? Is there a restriction on number allowed and size?

  • Is there an on-site store and laundry facilities? Are grocery stores and other conveniences located nearby?

  • Is there a large pool for lap swimming (indoor and/or outdoor), hot tub, tennis courts, billiard room, shuffleboard courts, exercise rooms and physical functions such as dancercise or floor activities?

  • Are the roads paved for morning and evening exercise walking?

  • Do weekly dances, dance lessons or floor exercises have a place on the monthly activity program?

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  • Inquire about park amenities, does the park teach craft classes such as stain glass or woodcarving?

  • What extra charges may be incurred over the winter such as for games, entertainment, craft classes etc?

  • Does the park host periodic craft shows, flea markets, card nights, potluck dinners, evening entertainment and more in their overall calendar? 

  • Are there golf courses in the area, is fishing or boating possible?

  • Are interesting tourist attractions located nearby? Does the park contract bus tours and other excursions leaving from the resort?

  • If you are happy with the initial facts, request the park mail you a promo package.  The campground may also have a webpage to answer your questions. NOTE: Non-RVers can also find a rental winter home by following the above suggestions. Ask if the park/resort has rental units for non-RVing customers.

  • RVers who expect kids and grandkids to visit over the winter should determine if young visitors are allowed in a park designed as ‘Adults Only’.

The above tips cover most questions RVers need to know for long-term stops, but if you have any other concerns ask them up front.  This way you will not arrive at your park faced with several surprises. 

NOTE: If moving around is your preferred form of travel then staying at membership parks or camping clubs is an economical option.

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FIVE STAR RESORTS

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This is an interesting rewrite of a story I wrote about Five Star Campgrounds---I used a park in Rio Grande Valley in Texas as an example but resorts such as this punctuate many locations in the sunny south. 

  MANY OF THE ABOVE SUGGESTIONS ARE PART OF THIS STORY

     Campground designs appeal to a wide variety of interest groups. Provincial, State and National Parks along with Conservation areas feature natural outdoor atmosphere.  In one Canadian province, gravel pits are popular no cost stopping spots and in others no cost isolated camping utopias near beautiful lakes or mountains or beaches are the getaway of choice. Numerous RVers enjoy extended dry camping in the Arizona Dessert and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) destinations scattered throughout the USA--- low cost permits are available in the vicinity. On the other hand a variety of private campgrounds, elaborate membership resorts, cost saving camping clubs and intimate RV parks add even more camping choices. These days every RVer has a perfect opportunity to find a place to suit their budget, their wishes and their desires to a ‘T’.

Overall we have found that the Ultimate RV Getaways are the popular full service RV Resorts scattered throughout southern sun country. It is mind-boggling to see the abundant activities offered at these parks simply for the pleasure of their visitors who are wintering away from those dear to them, time simply won’t allow participation in everything. Yes, many quality parks located in Canada and Northern USA also promote an extensive calendar featuring a variety of fun things to do but the mindset of the RVing population is different in south.  In the North the majority of long-term summer residents consider their RV a home or cottage where they are comfortable near family and friends. This usually translates as less participation in park activities for seasonal residents although overnight guests still enjoy being pampered.  

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At many Five Star Resorts, permanent ‘park model homes ’ and less elaborate stationary ‘park trailers’ intertwine with all types of units on the move from faraway places. Spacious streets and manicured grounds enhance the overall appearance. Although some resorts include on-site rental units as part of their amenities, in most parks when an owner can’t use their unit, the office staff will frequently make it available as a winter rental.  To find one of these elaborate winter paradises, peruse the International RV directories such as Trailer Life or Woodall's. Locate a place you want to spend a few months and call several resorts to request a package that includes rates, rental availability, activity schedules etc.

 Expect the schedule to be busy in the larger parks but this may also translate into higher monthly rent. Central and south Florida, Rio Grande Valley in Texas, southern Arizona and California are the most popular winter destinations however over the years we found monthly campground costs in south Texas to be the most reasonable.   It goes without saying that the climate in the parks located in the northern portion of these states and their neighbouring states on the same horizontal plain could have cooler temperatures from mid December to late February. Although these parks generally offer many amenities, they may be smaller and more relaxed with lower monthly rates. Remember the further south you go, the more appealing the weather should be, although no one can guarantee a perfect climate

  Note: Expect rates to decrease the longer you call the park home. For example, fees for one month stops are usually higher than the per month rate of a four month stay---each park will have different rates. During the 99/00 season we spent the winter at a park in the Rio Grande Valley with1000+ sites, rent for four months was $1185.00 US$, our friends paid $1100.00 US$ for a spot in a similar park in another area.  However during our travels we found several smaller intimate (150 sites) resorts nearby with scaled down calendars that only charged $700.00 US$ for the same time frame. One winter we went to a park where our friends spend the winter and cost is $200.00 per month plus electric.  There are also several parks in the south, especially Texas, that  may offer Canadian at Par rates.  Reservations are important; nevertheless empty sites may be available January to March at elaborate and immense parks but frequently smaller ones will be booked by mid November.  

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Amenities at our park were diverse including most of what is mentioned below but the same type of events happens at RV parks everywhere. They could include tennis and shuffleboard courts, volleyball, horseshoe pits, table tennis, billiard/pool hall, large pool(s)--some with open roofs, immense hot-tub(s), exercise room(s), library, card rooms and much more. Competition between parks adds intrigue.

Ø At many parks a fulltime Activity Director juggles the numerous events and functions that dot their monthly calendar from fitness to dance lessons to card games to inexpensive evening entertainment to computer clubs to Spanish classes to a singles club to bike clubs and so much more.

Ø Many of the winter visitors became proficient in stainglass (I made a window for our coach door), ceramics, wood chipping, woodcarving, woodworking, quilting, crocheting and knitting. Group sewing projects included 100’s of bandanas for cancer patients, blankets for the needy, and Christmas stockings for families adopted by the resort. We were all so proud of our achievements.  

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Ø The full service carpenter shop came in very handy for many home projects — experienced monitors wintering in the park were on hand to serve as a guide for do-it yourselfers.

Ø   Periodic half-day craft sessions in tole painting, photo memories, writing memoirs, ribbon embroidery and quilted t-shirts brought additional hidden talents to life.

 Ø Those who crafted many projects sold them at monthly craft shows that were open to visitors.  In south Texas at least one craft show was ‘happening’ every weekend.  

 Ø Creating decorations for extravagant dinner shows such as the  Mexican Fiesta, Western Days, Casino Night, Luau, and Christmas Celebrations encouraged yet another facet of togetherness.

Ø    Restaurant car pool excursions promoted one more form of special camaraderie. Ice cream socials, soup nights, potlucks, pancake breakfasts along with special event dinner theatres added another dimension. A ladies luncheon complete with entertainment provided a touch of class while groups celebrating Canadian Days, various state gatherings, pioneer days (honouring the parks first residents) and 50th Anniversaries also congregated around a decadent potluck meal.  

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Ø   Inexpensive live performances by professional ‘Name Entertainers’ each week open yet another dimension to park life.

Ø   Jamming for big band musicians, gospel participants and the Rio Grande Valley Concert Band consisting of 60 retired musicians from across North America, along with choral groups provide abundant musical interludes.

Ø   These parks are in reality mini-cities. This included non-denominational church services extraordinaire complete with a joint choir, a special chorus plus a bible study to enhance inspiration.

Snowbird parks also care about your health. In the Rio Grande Valley and several other snowbird locations, a motorhome converted into fully staffed walk-in Medical Clinic makes weekly visits to each park. The ‘Mobile Clinic’ becomes much more convenient than visiting a doctor or hospital for non-critical procedures. Weekly blood pressure screenings, heart attack warning services and health-wise seminars were a regular part of the activity schedule.  

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             Although much of the above activities were part of the schedule at our park in the Rio Grande Valley, John and I found similar amenities at large parks everywhere throughout sun country. For instance in Arizona a few years ago our park hosted several mega parties from December to April. Christmas wagon rides, gift exchange, RV decorating contests, dances, extra special family style dinners and New Years dances were seasonal highlights but the Spring Fling Fashion Show, St Patrick Party, Pet Parade also added variety to the calendar.  Each spring the park owners sponsored a visitor appreciation day in the form of a Mexican Fiesta Extravaganza extraordinaire.  What a party, the owners even added an extra large tent for the occasion. The entire event including drinks and a tasty meal was a no cost day for all park visitors. The joys of this wonderful RV lifestyle never cease to amaze me.

             Wherever your travels take you, enjoy the journey; with a little planning you too can have a fantastic Ultimate Winter Getaway.

 

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