Whether you’re taking a cross country vacation or going on a road trip with no end destination, you need to be prepared. Before I decided to travel full-time with my son I spent hours researching information to figure things out. What I found is that it was not only time consuming, but I also could not find anyone that had a similar situation so a lot of answers to questions that I had weren’t available. The same goes for when I finally got on the road therefore I had to figure out A LOT on my own. Now that we are settled down for a while and renovating our new RV, my goal is to help other travelers save time, money, and stress by sharing information that has helped me carve out a very special unconventional lifestyle with my child. From traveling by plane to traveling in our van, I’m going to show how we do it all!
Have a seat and take notes!
First I’m going to show you how we prepared for our full-time travel lifestyle. Today, I’m going to start with the basic steps and resources needed for preparation, and then over the upcoming days and weeks, I will go into more detail about the “How to’s” and provide additional resources that we used as well as resources from full-time travelers we’ve met. I want you to have the best experience possible so that even when life throws you a curveball, you’ll have peace of mind and be in the moment to enjoy everything around you.
Rule #1 Handle Your Business First!
Control your expenses How low can you go?
Take some time to do an overview of your expenses. Go through all of your bank accounts, credit card statements, and document how much you earn and spend per month right now. Then break it down into categories. What services or subscriptions will you no longer need? Cancel or freeze these memberships. Establish a budget and pay off debt.
Do you have a lease ending soon or a house pending sale?
Start getting rid of stuff while you have enough time to sell it! Get rid of almost everything and when I say almost everything… I mean EVERYTHING! Don’t store or pack a lot or you’ll regret it. TRUST ME! I used a storage company for a few months and experienced nightmares with price increases lost items, and failed attempts to access my personal belongings at my leisure.
What about your car? Where are you going to park it? Are you considering storage or a parking lot? Why not sell it and slash more expenses? I left my BMW at my residence which was at an apartment complex and I left the key under the mat. I decided to figure out my parking situation later because I needed to head to the airport for a one-way flight to Thailand. LOL Thankfully, one of my friends asked about my car a week later and offered to store it in her garage. If you are on a budget or feel comfortable, see if you can store your car or personal things in a friend's unused garage. Be sure to send them some cash or gifts here and there for this space they’re providing for you as a way of saying “Thank You!”
Are You Quitting Your Job?
Do you have a brick in mortar or remote job?
Do you earn at least $2,000 a month?
Do you already work for yourself or want to start a business? If you desire to learn more about how to turn your craft into a small business, I can help you get started.
Do you understand the various educational homeschool programs and laws in the state you’re in? Ask homeschooling parents questions and contact institutions.
Talk to your child about the lifestyle change. Homeschooling and traveling full time is fun, and it's important to address any potential concerns right away and brainstorm alternatives and solutions if your child needs to be settled sometimes for various reasons. The educational program that we use is Connections Academy.
Buy Your Rig
Buy the Vehicle or RV that will best meet your needs and expectations. Shop around for great deals, get it insured, registered, and then make necessary modifications. We purchased our Rv from RVTrader.com for only $4,900!
Become A Digital Nomad
Establish a Physical Mailing Address (This is different from a P.O Box) We use UPS and here is why. Bring proof of your current residence and pay for a mailbox before you move from your residence. Set up free change of address mail forwarding from the USPS, update your address on everything, and keep your address the same on all accounts and documents to avoid verification, registration, shipping conflicts in the future. Most importantly, don’t forget to update your Driver’s License, Auto Insurance, Registration, and all addresses on your billing statements then sign up for e-statements!
Banking Can you cash a check from your cell phone using the bank’s mobile app? How can you deposit cash into your bank if there are no home branches around? Do you know you’re routing and account number for wire transfers? Do your homework by asking the banks these questions until you find the banking relationship that works best for you. When you need to send money or pay a bill online fast, these options matter A LOT! We recommend Capital One Products and Credit Unions.
Have multiple forms of payment. If you lose your card while you’re traveling, you need another one ASAP. If your bank does not have several locations nationwide and offers same-day debit card replacement you will have to wire cash to yourself. Having a second debit card or form of payment attached to your bank account helps while you wait for the bank to mail a new card to your new mailbox.
Keep your current insurance provider even if you leave your job or shop for a cheaper one that meets your current situation. Be sure to keep up with your annual Doctor and Dental appointments where your insurance is accepted. We use Blue Cross Blue Sheild
Apply for a remote position or start an online business.
It has never been so easy to run a business from your cellphone and laptop. Later, I will reveal how I turned $30 into 3k in one month from working out of our van.
Before You Move Into Your Rig
If you’re like me when I first started out and didn’t know what a rig was because I didn’t have a camping background. It’s the vessel that you’ll be traveling in. LOL.
Do you have the following?
Auto insurance? An absolute must! Don’t even put your hands on the wheel if you’re not covered. We use AAA
Roadside Assistance? Be sure to have the right policy or you’ll be stranded and have to pay a fortune!
A Hot Spot. You can buy a hotspot device or call your cell phone carrier and ask about hot spot features. It is handy to also have a second cell phone for tethering and emergencies. The carriers we use are At&t and Verizon.
Helpful Apps Save money and time by accessing helpful information FAST! Download recommended apps and familiarize yourself with them before you need them. I will be sharing all the apps that we have used.recommend
Camping Gear Multi-functional tools are often lightweight, long-lasting lifesavers!
Shop for the right clothes. Quality matters and durable, stylish, and seasonal clothing does not have to be expensive. All you need are 2 weeks of clothing for 6 months then donate or recycle them before you get more from your storage or wherever you buy clothes.
Last minute shopping for essentials. Spare keys.. Key Lockboxes..Pepper spray..Maps.. Chargers.. External power sources.. Water jugs.. Tools..The list goes on. I will be covering the essentials that we purchased that are multi-functional, long-lasting, and kept our van from looking trashy!
Make sure you have good tires for the season and the right tires. We did not realize how much this mattered until we slid off the road like an ice cube at 10 mph. It turns out that our tires were going bald. Please check your tires often.
Fluids Get an oil change and check basic fluids. I recommend getting your oil change anywhere they can top off fluids and also keep the most important fluids in your rig to top them off yourself.
Have your maintenance records in order. A record of service and parts along with a warranty can save your money. Keep your records in a binder somewhere safe or keep pictures of everything and add them to google drive.
Traveling with protection? Know how to use weapons properly and understand your rights across state lines.
Discussions With Family and Friends.
Are you a guardian with shared custody? Everyone has a different relationship with the person they co-parent with. Communicate and agree to structure visitation as desired or court-ordered.
Van life is an unconventional idea that leads people to ask a lot of questions that you may not have figured out yet. Put all your time and energy into preparing for an epic experience and share your excitement. Otherwise, keep your business to yourself. I don’t want you to get cold feet after telling people too much too soon because they have discouraged you. Offering TMI too soon to the people that would never do what you’re about to do can lead to situations involving being denied access, shamed, or even followed. Don’t tell everyone everything, but for safety in the event of emergencies share your location indefinitely with at least 3 people you trust. You can do this by sharing your location using Gmail, iPhone, or the Life 360 App.
When Should You Leave?
The Best Time to Travel is Always When You Feel Like It! (Unless there’s a pandemic) LOL
How van life-friendly is the town where you live?
A good way to warm up to the lifestyle if you have never slept in your van is to camp locally until you feel more comfortable venturing where the resources will vary.
Are there any important events coming up? Weddings or graduations for example. If you are ready to go now and don’t want to wait around, GO! You can always park your rig and fly to the destination instead of driving if you want. Gas can get expensive and it may make more sense to fly in. Calculate all the expenses first. If you break even, fly to save yourself time, wear and tear, and miles on your rig.
Will your rig survive the heat, dry climates, rain, humidity, and snow?
The weather and climate matter when you’re spending long periods of time in a rig.
Regardless of when you take off on your adventure, you need to make sure that your rig is as comfortable as possible for year-round weather.
Beat The Summer Heat!
85 degrees and up daily = A no go without AC! You really don’t want to do van life for a long time somewhere it’s 80 and up daily and I’ll explain why. It’s too hot and gets gross! You’ll be sweaty all the time, flies may come around, your toilet or black tank won’t stay as fresh, and you’ll probably be chasing air conditioning daily and If you have a pet, you’re really going to have a dilemma.
For the love of FALL!
This is my favorite season to camp in. The weather is mild and perfect during the day then it gets cooler at night. Fresh air and campfires are very enjoyable. I recommend launching your van life journey during the fall and going South where it is warmer during the winter.
Waking up in places like beautiful New Mexico and Arizona can have you feeling dry and dehydrated which is no fun. Luckily it gets a lot cooler at night, but having plenty of water and shade during the day is very crucial to your comfort. Good moisturizers and humidifiers are a plus for your skin and sleep!
Avoid spending long periods of time in rainy locations if you do not have a dehumidifier. Sneaky mold forms in hard to reach places and constant wet floors are a thing that will ruin your rig.
Mountains and Snow
Is your rig insulated well? Do you have a heat source and understand the precautions for safety? Do you have a problem with spending long periods of time in your rig? Can you stand up in it? Can you plug your heather or rig up to a house? We did this during the winter months when we would visit friends and family because we preferred to stay in our van and avoid unpacking and going back and forth.
Allergies are a thing for most people. Clean out your gut with a good cleanse and seek local honey at farmer’s markets. Wear a face covering, wash your sheets weekly, and avoid camping under trees.
Crank Up The Engine!
Hit the road when you’re ready according to your situation. Beyond being prepared with the basics for safety and simplicity, there’s no need to plan everything out and you don’t have to travel a long distance at the beginning like you would begin a road trip. Van life can be hard work at first until you find your rhythm. Get excited and be comfortable with adjusting to different situations and towns where resources change.
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