Preparing for a life on the road – step by step
Really? Why would you do that? Can you actually give up family/friends/house? Think long and hard before you commit to anything. If completely pulling up your roots sounds too painful, maybe you are better off being a snowbird. For purposes of this article, we’re going to assume you’ve made the decision to sell your home and start your travels. (You can always change your mind at some point, but having the mindset will get you busy cleaning the closets and cupboards – something you’ve being meaning to do anyway!) By the way, we didn’t really give up family and friends, just the house.
The following lists, in chronological order (mostly), what we did to prepare for traveling. Your situation is probably different, but we hope you find something helpful here.
Make lists and more lists. Read books and keep notes of good suggestions; read travel blogs; create a budget; check with your financial planner; start putting travel websites in your favorites; brainstorm with your travel companion. If you are a member of a timeshare club, review your plan and its website.
Financial Planning – Create your budget. Establish a checking account at a national bank with offices and ATMs everywhere. Check for banking locations for your bank. As far as we’ve determined no one bank has physical locations in all 50 states. Go paperless by changing all bank statements and bills to online. Set up online bill pay for all payees. Have Social Security deposited directly into your bank account. Determine which credit card(s) are best suited for your plans, i.e. rewards, fees, interest rates, accepted at most vendors, etc. Visit with your financial planner, if you have questions about your accounts, services, and tax consequences.
Packing & Storing – Start clearing out the house early. Make those hard decisions: take, store, donate or toss. See the suggested packing list for what to take. Store valuable, durable items that will survive storage. (Think about the cost and the possibility of mildew.) Sell things on-line. Have a garage sale or two. (Professionals make money by selling collectibles; you probably won’t.) Don’t wait until the last few weeks as you’ll be busy enough getting the house ready to sell or rent. If clothing is in good condition, donate it. Scan and store important paperwork on disks. Get rid of as much as you can while you still have trash removal service.
Electronics – Get a smartphone with good nationwide service and a laptop for internet connections, navigation, research, bookings, the “cloud”, etc. Learn how to use them to best effect. Do you want to use your phone as a camera or carry a separate camera? Do you want to carry a DVD player and HDMI cable? Should you bring a backup drive? A good GPS is critical for navigation. Consider satellite radio for the car.
Selling/trading in cars – If you currently have multiple cars, consider trading them in for one traveling vehicle. In our case, we decided to rent housing as we go versus driving an RV, trailer or camper. We settled on a mid-size SUV with plenty of room for our two large rolling duffles, two “carry on” size suitcases, two “Sunday bags” for our golf clubs, and four plastic bins (about 10 x 12 inches) for assorted other items such as financial/medical information and travel paperwork; electronics, games, food, laundry, and miscellaneous supplies collected as we go from place to place. We hope to eliminate some of the plastic bins once we get used to being on the road. We currently have the luxury of hauling them in the car until we travel internationally.
Mail forwarding services and address changes – Before you move out, get your personal mail box and receipt from a mailing service. We chose Dakota Post (DP), a highly recommended service located in Sioux Falls.
End house utilities with final bills sent to DP address.
Notify US Post Office of change of address. Notify bill payees and your health care providers of change of address on all accounts. Change address on checking account checks.
Selling the house – Paint, patch, fix up, and sell house. Keep it simple. Don’t spend a lot to pretty it up because you will not get that money back on the sale. If you try a FSBO, it may take a lot longer to sell than you think. Realtors for buyers avoid FSBOs. A good realtor will stage and present the house well enough to get enough money to cover their commission.
Travel websites – During the time between your final decision and closing, start making plans for destinations. Get acquainted with VRBO, HomeAway, hotels.com, RCI, hotwire.com, TripAdvisor.com, GoSeek.com, booking.com, and others. Look for special sales on rentals. Renting during the “shoulder seasons” is much cheaper than prime time. Renting the out in the boonies cabin is much cheaper than the downtown condo.
Changing residency. We went to South Dakota for lots of reasons. Florida and Texas have similar policies and mailing services.
Why establish residency in SD? No state income tax. No personal property tax. Low vehicle insurance rates. Low vehicle license fees. No annual vehicle inspection requirements. 5 year renewals on license plates. Effective mailing service.
Rent a hotel room (or a spot at an RV park) in Sioux Falls and get a receipt with that address. Plan on spending a week to get everything done. Sioux Falls is a nice town with lots to do so take some time to explore it.
Go to DMV to get new drivers license. To get a gold star federally compliant license, you will need a passport, SS card or form 1099, receipts from DP and hotel. Complete residency affidavit while there.
Register vehicle and get new plates at Minnehaha County building downtown. Bring car title, car dealer receipt for outstate taxes paid, SD driver’s license.
Health insurance – Medicare – go to the Social Security office at 5021 S. Nevada Ave. to change your address, tax deduction percent.
Medicare part F covers gaps for travelers (hospitals, doctors) We got Mutual of Omaha.
Medicare part D covers prescription drug coverage. We got Humana. Our agent was very helpful and gave us good advice. Insurance companies will call with questions about you and your medical history. She told us what the questions are and how to answer them. Wrong answers may mean no policy, so be careful what you say.
If you have no physical residence (an RV qualifies as a residence), our agent said to check “other” on application. We got Progressive through our agent. Cancel old policy from the last state.
Miscellaneous Notes: Change prescriptions to national chains like Walmart, Walgreens, Costco, etc.
Optionally, use AAA for trip planning, maps, emergency roadside assistance, and medical emergencies. Their stores have great products for travelers.
Double check on all address changes. About a quarter of the changes you made will not have been actually made, so you have to do it again until the change gets into the system. Things you cancelled will keep appearing.
The junk mail will keep coming, much of it with return addresses that do not disclose who it is from. Keep track of the junk so you can tell your mailing service to toss it.
Many of the places we stay at have TVs with few channels and no program guides. Consider getting Netflix or similar streaming app, along with HDMI cable to connect laptop to TV.