Amazon – We order stuff from Amazon all the time. I highly recommend becoming a Prime member. You get free 2 day delivery, free movies and free Kindle books that can be read on any tablet with the Kindle app. We check with the campground we are at or the next one to make sure we have the correct address for deliveries and add the address to Amazon as Carol Valk c/o campground. Be sure to give them the campground phone number in case they have to call about a delivery. So far, we have only had one shipment that didn’t get to us in time because a USPS truck broke down but after calling Amazon Customer service we were able to get it resolved. Had to ask for a US rep and then a supervisor but she was very nice and helpful and had the item returned to sender, issued us a credit so we could reorder within the hour and upgraded it to 1 day shipment for free. Very happy with their customer service. Now we can get supplies while on the road and have gifts delivered for family birthdays, etc.
Cost $15 to $25 a month depending on what plan you get. Then you pay for the shipping of mail to you and cost is usually about $9 a packing if you do 4 day with tracking. More if you need overnight shipping. They will scan each envelop and put it online so you can see what you have received. You can opt to have it shredded or sent to you. They will hold accumulated mail until you request it to be sent to you. A lot of times, we will check with the next campground to see if we can have mail delivered there and confirm the address and then have the mail sent. Sometimes the mail will get there before we do and they just hold it for us then we will pick it up upon check in.
Note: We changed to Escapees because Traveling Mailbox requires letters to go to one address and packages to go to another. Letters to go a Dallas address and pkgs go to a North Carolina address. Letters are forwarded from the Dallas address to North Carolina where they are scanned so there is a couple of days delays for us to see what we have received. Not a big deal but we’ve decided to change to Escapees anyway especially when our insurance costs went up by $500 a year because of the Dallas zip code.
*Both My Dakota Address and Escapees will help you with vehicle registrations. Traveling Mailbox does not.
There are a lot of places along your path that you can boondock overnight. Walmart, Gander Mountain, ProBass, Cabelas and Cracker Barrel are among those places that allow boondocking in there parking lots. Not all locations but most. Permission should be obtain first so check with the managers before setting up for the night. You can check the Allstays app to confirm that they allow and usually get phone numbers so you can call if you have questions. We’ve even seen dump stations at some Cabelas stores. Cracker Barrel usually cannot accommodate large RV’s especially if you have a tow car.
See Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts on the Clubs and Memberships page.
Allstays – This is an app that you can download to your phone or iPad. You can use it to look ahead for gas stations, rest areas, Walmarts, Cabelas, Gander Mountain, Camping World, Cracker Barrel and campgrounds. It will also show any low bridges on your current route. This is my #1 go-to app!!
Rand McNally RV GPS or equivalent is a must. You can enter your coach information (height, weight, tolls, no tolls, etc.) and it will route your trip and keep you from going on roads that have clearance issues. We use it in conjunction with Google Maps.
Google Maps – We prefer Google Maps over Apple Maps because you can scroll forward to see what’s coming up on your trip. You can see turns, freeways, etc.
Waze – We use this from time to time to see what traffic problems are ahead or to watch for cops and obstacles in the road or on the side of the road.
I would suggest getting a calendar/planner that you can write on so you can jot down the name, location and phone number of the campground, reservation numbers, distances and pertinent notes for all your trips and stops/reservations. I highlight the number of days, the campground, how many miles to get there, how many hours it will take. I also use a notebook when initially making my plans before putting it on the calendar because things change as you are planning. Always use pencil because you WILL make adjustments. It never fails!
We use DirecTV for our satellite service. It works for us. We have 4 TV’s. 2 are hooked to the Genie upfront and 2 are hooked to the Mini Genie in back. Anything tape on any TV is available to watch on any TV. We never have a problem getting a signal unless a tree blocks us or we get bad weather. When that happens, we resort to streaming or use our Over The Air antenna (OAT) for local channels.
The drawback to DirecTV is their price keeps going up. We just had to call them about that and they were able to bring our rate back down below $100 a month. Sound like a lot to some but we live full time in our coach and we like to unwind by watching our shows. We tape most of them and watch at our leisure. I’d rather pass on going out to eat a meal if it means keeping my satellite.
Streaming – Everybody has an opinion and a gizmo to stream. Hotspot, Roku, HMDI cable from phone to TV – to each his own. There are many plans that are unlimited but then they throttle you at peak times or after 30 GB. We got lucky and got a Home Base Rural plan with ATT several years where we get 500 GB of date with no throttling for $69 a month. It’s totally separate from our phones and is like a router so several devices can connect to it at the same time and we can take it with us if we have to be out of the coach for repairs or such. Unfortunately, they don’t offer it anymore. We use it to stream Netflix or Hulu using our smart DVD player. We also have the Amazon Firestick. All connect to the internet via the Home Base.
Technomadia is the best sight for everything cell/satellite and connectivity information. Chris and Cherie stay on top of all the new advancements and programs as they are rolled out. We’ve been following them for years. They’ve gone from an RV to a Yacht and back and forth now. Both have similar challenges so you can glean a lot of information from them. I think they have both a free and a paid subscription membership.
We couldn’t full time without our memberships. They save us so much on camping costs. Here are some of the ones we belong to:
TSD Fuel Program – I list this first because it saves us so much money on diesel. Its only for diesel and you have to fill up in the trucker’s lanes in the back of the stations. Diesel pusher and diesel trucks pulling 5th wheels and trailers are eligible to join. TSD negotiates discounted prices from Loves, TA, Petro and various other fuel providers on our behalf. It doesn’t cost anything to join but they get 10% of the savings you get from using them. For instance, if you fill up and save $30 in fuel costs, then they get $3 and you get a $27 discount on your fuel. They use EFS for processing the payment which is the same company that most trucking companies us to handle payments. EFS has an app you download onto your phone that will show you the fueling locations in your area and what the price is. Price varies per station based on contracts negotiated by TSD. TSD has been in business for 40 years. They are a logistics company and just opened this program up to RV’ers in the last couple of years. Initially we were getting 50-60 cents a gallon discount at Loves but with the pandemic, things have changed and discounts aren’t as good it’s still a discount and we love it. They also have a referral program so if you refer anyone, they will give you $25 after they purchase 100 gals. I’d appreciate if you put my name in as your referrer: Carolyn Valk.
Payment for your fuel is automatically deducted from your bank account. A lot of people might have a problem with that but we didn’t. Those that do, have opened up a small checking account and transfer money to it as necessary. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. One you sign up, then download the EFS app and download the fuel station apps such as Pilot/Flying J, Loves, TA, etc. to get reward points for free coffee, soda’s, showers, dumps, etc. With Loves and Pilot/Flying J, you can pay from your cab using their app and not have to go into the store to pay. Makes refueling really quick. Please note – TSD no longer has a discount program with Pilot/Flying J but sometimes you just have to use them because they are the only ones around. We stick to Loves as much as possible when we can.
Here’s the link to the program:
FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) – Provides all kinds of benefits for members. Travel insurance, deep discounts on Michelin tires, has great rallies with lots of educational seminars and vendors, membership includes free FMCA Assist for emergency evacuations, return of dependents or pet or RV/vehicle. They also have a Roadside Assistance program for towing, jump starts, lockouts, tire service, mobile mechanic, etc. Membership also includes a monthly magazine. They also do mail forwarding, tours, etc. Initially, the club was only for Motor Coaches but they have since expanded to include 5th wheels and pull behinds.
Escapees – Fee based online RV community which provides discounts, education, mapping tools, rallies, job boards, support, domicile locations for Texas, Florida and South Dakota, Park discounts, etc. Cost is $39.95 (current price as of 6/24/20) a year. We use Escapees for our mail forwarding and domicile address. Mail forwarding is $95 a year (as of 6/24/20) plus the cost of shipments. Mail scanning is an additional $10 a month. They will scan every envelope and post it online for you to see. You can then decide to have it shredded or have it sent to you in your next mail shipment. We really like using the for mail plus having a domicile address in rural Texas makes our RV and car insurance a cheaper.
RVillage – A Mobile app supported by Escapees RV Club. Many groups are now using them as a platform for social media rather than Facebook. FMCA and Thor Diesel club are among those. It’s free to join.
Note: You can upgrade your membership to Gold for an additional onetime fee of $20 (this may have gone up) and get some great discounts on some of the clubs and items listed in this write up such as Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, TireMinder,etc.
Thor Diesel Club
Facebook: Thor Diesel Club
Exclusive Club for Thor Diesel owners only but check for your manufacturer. Most have groups you can join. TDC has regional clubs that meet throughout the year. Check for one in your region. They also have an International Rally every year in Goshen that is a lot of fun. Usually it centers around a theme. Past themes have been Pirates, Hawaiian and Out Of This World. 2019 is going to be Team Sports themed. You can also find TDC on RVillage too.
Local Clubs – We are members of a local Texas Club called Texas Boomers and Happy OK Wanderers which we met coming back from Las Vegas. Both are clubs that have rallies in the general areas where we live and get together several times a year or even monthly. Look for clubs to join in your area. Facebook is a good place to start your search.
Good Sam’s Club – Owned by Camping World. Members get a 10% discounts at participating campgrounds. Fee based Membership. They also offer various insurances. Research carefully before buying their insurance. There are lots of pro’s and con’s when it comes to insurances.
Passport America – Fee based membership. 50% discount at participating campgrounds but they can have a lot of restrictions on when they will honor it. Some are only on weekdays not weekends. Some won’t during their peak season. Always check the Allstays App for special requirements and ask when you make the reservations.
Thousand Trails – RVLove.com has all the information you need to decide whether or not a membership with Thousand Trails is a good fit for you. You can buy a Zone pass for $599 (as of 6/24/20) which covers just a section of the United states or an upgraded membership that covers all Zones. They used to have a 2 for 1 Zone Pass option that they offered several times during the year but I haven’t seen them offer that in long awhile but you can add additional Zones for an add on fee of $59 each (as of 6/24/20). You can pay for it in full or by the month. If you do the monthly and have it drafted from your bank automatically you get a discount.
You can say for 2 wks then must be out of the system for a week before going to the next TT park. If you upgrade, for example, to the Elite, you can stay for up to 3 weeks and then go to the next park without having to be out of the system. That means you can go from park to park to park. You have access to over 80 TT parks and discounts at Encore parks. Do not buy an upgraded membership from Thousand Trails. Buy a used one from a broker. You will save thousands of dollars. We almost bought a new one from TT. They wanted $5600. Then we talked to a broker and got the same thing by buying a used membership for $3600. We have been traveling for almost over a year now since we bought it and have found it to be invaluable. It paid for itself in the first 3 month.
We also added the Trails Collection which adds 1000 more campgrounds which allows us to stay 2 wks at their upper end Encore parks for $20 a night. The Trails Collection is now $299 (as of 6/24/20). You must be out of the Trails Collection for a week before you can book another Trails Collection park.
Note: some parks are really nice. Some are just so-so. None have been unbearable. Read all you can at RVLove.com to be as informed as possible before making a decision. Some parks also charge $5 or so additionally for 50 amp service and even $1-$5 per package if you have packages delivered while you are there. Other parks won’t accept mail at all. If your planning on having mail/pkgs delivered to your next park, call ahead to see if they allow it. Some have even accepted them for us before we got there and just held them until our arrival.
Annual Membership required. Cost is $50 a year (as of 6/24/20). These are people that have room on their driveway or on their property that host members for free. Usually they do not provide hookups but occasionally some will. If you get in a pinch and can’t find a campground in your area, you can log on and find a host close by that will let you stay at their place. We have used them several times and found them to be a great resource. We met a nice couple in PA that we stayed with for 5 years now and we have become fast friends. The length of the stay is determined by the host but members are reminded not to overstay their welcome. Please negotiate up front.
Membership required. $79 a year (1092 locations) or $119 if you add golf courses (1448 locations). Prices are current as of 6/24/20. Hosts have wineries, farms, museums and breweries/distilleries that allow you to boondock on their property. Members are encouraged to support the Hosts but it’s not a requirement. One night stay unless the host offers to extend. We have stayed at several wineries, a car museum and a farm. We have camped in the middle of a vineyard and in the middle of an apple orchard. We highly recommend joining as we have stayed at some amazing places.
Here is our referral link to save 15% off membership costs:
The Elide Fire Ball is a scientifically-proven and effective self-activating fire extinguishing solution for virtually any situation where there is the possibility of an accidental fire. It can be in the home, the office, car, factory, boat, restaurant, RV …in fact, it can be anywhere! The balls come in 2 sizes – 4” and 6” and can be mounted under the hood of your tow car, in your engine bay, in your electric bay, strategically placed inside your coach, etc. It’s a passive system which means it will activate even if you are not home at the time. Safe for humans and pets and can only be activated by an open flame. You must watch the videos of it in action. They are quite impressive.
Water damage is so detrimental to RV’s! Sometimes leaks take weeks to make themselves known, in the mean time they do irreparable, costly damage. I found these online at Amazon and really like them.
Govee Wi-Fi Water Leak Sensor delivers reliable performance. It notifies you of a potential water leak before the issue becomes too serious, preventing costly water damage and helping you keep your RV safe.
Download the Govee Wi-fi Water Leak Detector Smart APP Leak Alert and monitor the water leakage on your phone!
With completely waterproof and compact design, you can place the water sensors anywhere you’d like to detect the water leakage, name each Wi-fi water sensor with its location on the cellphone APP like Sinks, Refrigerators, Dish Washers, Toilets, Washing Machine, Sump Pumps, Water Heaters, etc. Plug in the gateway into an electric socket, connect the gateway with Wi-fi (Note: 5G WIFI NOT SUPPORTED) and you will get an email notification and an alert on your smartphone whether you’re at home or on the GO when the water leakage happens. And the leakage record will be kept on the app for you to check anytime.
Pets are our ‘fur babies’ and we love them dearly. Here are a couple safety pointers for having pets.
1. Get a sign or a sticker to put on your front door to let people know you have a pet inside in case of an emergency. Be sure to include what kind of pet, how many, their name and your phone number. Ours is bright red and yellow and says: In Case of Emergency, please rescue our dog Bella and has our phone number on it.
2. Get a temperature monitor for pets so you can be alerted if the temperature inside your RV gets too hot while you are away sightseeing which can happen if power goes out while you are gone. I can’t recommend one because we use our AGS (Auto Generator Start) to automatically start our generator based on a power outage or high temperatures. There are plenty of temperature monitors out there to choose from though. Most require Wi-Fi to be able to notify you of a problem while you are out.
We have been stuck in Houston since the end of Feb. We came back to watch our grandkids while our daughter and her husband went to Italy to celebrate their upcoming 10th Anniversary. Needless to say, with the virus hitting, their plans had to be postponed. Then Houston issued a ‘Stay at Home’ order and here we still are. Boy life sure changed thanks to the virus. Masks, business shut downs, RV parks closed, rallies and metal detecting events were cancelled or postponed to a date TBA and our beloved NASCAR had to switch to iRacing electronically. We had stocked up on ‘survival foods’ (things that were non perishable, hand sanitizer, wet wipes and of course the elusive toilet paper) and we had a freezer full of food so we were ok and didn’t have to venture out to the stores where the lines were long just to get in and the shelves were bare. When we did have to finally order food we either ordered online and picked up our order at Walmart staying away from the attendants as they loaded the car and of course we wore masks or we ordered from Shipt for delivery. Then of course once we got home everything had to be wiped down with disinfectant wet wipes before putting away. Life sure has changed since the virus – did I mention that all ready? We miss not being able to travel and while it’s nice to be close to family it’s not the same. We are not able to visit like we did in the pre-virus days. Can’t hug the grandkids – we elbow bump instead. Can’t go out to eat like before. Birthdays and Holidays weren’t celebrated like we normally would. No big parties, no big celebrations. The days pass slowly by uneventfully. So sad. Things are starting to open up but COVID is on the rise again – maybe because of opening up, maybe not. Who knows? It’s been a scary time for everyone. And now we have the protests complete with rioters and looters that have infiltrated what were intended to be peaceful demonstrations. Innocent people hurt and businesses were wiped out by looters or by fires being set. I feel like we just made it to Level 7 of Jumanji! Who knows what’s in store for us next. Oh wait – a possible hurricane! Just great. That’s all we need on top of everything else. Glad we have a good stock of wine on hand. Can you say Hurricane Party? Ha! Looking forward to seeing what the ‘New Normal’ will look like. NASCAR started back up but without the fans. Cars are on the track but the stands are empty and fans watch on TV from home. Hey it’s not the best but it does lend us a little diversion. We sit outside our coach in the evening and watch the race like we are at a drive-in theater – you remember them, right? It’s not the same but at lease it’s something to get our minds of everything else for a couple of hours.
Hope you all stay safe and healthy. Till the next time…….