Planning to head south for the winter with your RV? Make sure you tie up any loose ends before you head out! Protect both your home and your home away from home as part of your vacation planning. Migrate without worry with these great tips for the snowbird RVing season.
Taking Care Of Things At Home
You want to protect your home from theft and damage while you’re away. While no one wants to think that anything can happen, prepare for the worst-case scenario. Aside from these tips, make sure to let someone, like a trusted neighbor or family member, know where you’re going and give them reliable contact info. This way if anything does happen, they can get ahold of you. Also, don’t post on social media that you will be gone. Thieves watch these mediums for info just like this so they know where to go!
Clean and Prep Inside
There are a few appliances that you want to think about when you head out. These are things that can make a stinky situation to return home to, so don’t overlook these! Empty the dishwasher and washing machine and leave the door/lid open! This will allow it to air dry and you won’t return to a musty mildew situation on either of them. The refrigerator is another area that can get gross fast. The best way to deal with it is to completely empty it. Leaving food in the fridge means you could come back to something rotting, especially if the power goes out. Once you have it emptied, clean it with bleach to kill any bacteria that may be living on the surfaces inside. Then, just as you did with the dishwasher and washing machine, leave it open.
While you have the bleach out, it’s a good idea to clean the house top to bottom. Take out the trash, sweep under the fridge and stove, and wipe things off the walls, especially by the trashcan to keep from leaving a buffet for insects and furry critters! You would be shocked how long vinegar flies can live on just small splatters on the wall near the trashcan.
Prep the Outside
Take any lawn furniture or ornaments and put them in the garage or shed. These things can blow away or become damaged in a storm or get rusty the winter. You don’t want to come back to find your stuff missing or damaged.
If you have a pool, you may want to drain it or get one of the covers that you can walk on. There have been too many stories of pets and kids falling in the pools of homes when no one is there. And while we agree that parents and pet owners should keep an eye on kids and pets, this doesn’t bring them back in the event that they escape their watchful eye.
Even if you just did it, check all of your smoke detectors to ensure they‘re functional before you leave. Unplug anything that isn’t necessary to have plugged in! This will not only prevent fire hazards, but may save these items in the event of a surge while you’re gone. Add a surge protector to anything you may need to leave plugged in so that if a surge happens you have a line of defense.
Turn the thermostat down but not too far! Keeping it at 60 is a good temp that helps conserve fuel but won’t let the temp get so far down that it puts things at risk. Having a temp like 40 in the house can get so cold that in the event of a power failure you won’t have enough heat to keep things like water lines from freezing before power comes back.
Even if you keep your thermostat up a little, you still need to think about the possibility that it may get so cold that your water lines can burst. If the power goes out you won’t have the heater there to keep things from freezing. Turn the water off to your home, and then turn all the faucets on until water stops running. This way all the water is out of the pipes and there’s nothing to expand and burst them if it happens to get that cold. Drain your water heater while you’re at it as well. If something were to fail within the water heater, you could be looking at a ton of water on the floor causing a lot of damage.
Make it Look Like You’re Home
Get a timer for some of the lights in the house. This will help discourage anyone who’s watching the house to break in. Lights going on and off makes it seem like someone is there and they won’t want to break in.
If you have an alarm system, be sure to turn it on! This seems like a no-brainer but many forget and then the system they’ve invested in is useless. Give the security system company a call as well and let them know you will be gone. This way they can monitor it a little closer and act quickly if there is a problem.
If the home you’re leaving is in an area with snowfall, contract someone to plow and get someone to shovel the walkway. Snow accumulation, especially large amounts like we have here in Michigan, is a dead giveaway that no one is there and hasn’t been for a while!
Check with your local police department and find out if they have a vacation check program. This lets them know the house is vacant and they will keep an eye on it for suspicious activity.
Lastly, stop any delivery service that you may have such as a newspaper or have someone collect these things for you. A pile of newspapers is another sign telling burglars that you’re not home.
Setting Things Up Where You’re Going
Now that you have everything arranged at the place you’re leaving behind, you want to get things prepared for where you will be! Nothing puts a damper on a vacation like not having access to something you need while you’re away. This section will help you get all that set up and ready to go so that you can have a peaceful winter.
Doctors & Prescriptions
Especially if you plan to be gone for the entire winter, you will probably want to have a doctor in the area where you will be. This could be for regular check ups, illnesses, or emergencies. Take a look at your healthcare plan and find one that accepts your insurance. Most insurances will have a page on their website where you can search for a doctor in a specific area. You may even be able to ask your home doctor to refer you to someone in the area you will be. It’s a good thing to get your home doctor involved either way so that they can send copies of medical records to the doctor that you find south. Start this process early. With the Affordable Care Act many doctors are full and it may take a little while to find one that is accepting new patients. If you’re traveling with a pet, you may want to look into a vet in the area for your furry friend as well.
Once you have your doctor set up, find a pharmacy in the area that will be able to fill any prescriptions you may need. If you have prescriptions you take on a regular basis, and you have them set to auto fill at your current pharmacy, you will want to let them know when you’re leavening. This way they don’t continue to fill them. If you use a pharmacy such as Rite Aid or Walgreens that have locations nationwide, they should be able to set up the next refill at the closest location to where you will be.
You want to make sure you get your mail not only so it’s no stacking up at home, but so that you can ensure you get anything important that comes. Setting up online bill pay for everything you can will reduce the amount of mail that will come to the house to begin with and make things easier to get them paid. There are a few options to getting your mail while you’re gone. You can ask someone you trust to collect it for you and send it to you at your summer destination. If you want something more reliable that won’t put others out, you can have your mail forwarded to you. You can do this via the post office by setting up a forward as long as you have an address you’ll be at for the time period. If you’re planning to travel and move around for the summer, a more digital option may be the way to go. Earth Class Mail has a really great system where you will have all your mail sent to them, they send you a scanned copy of the outside of the envelope, and then you tell them what to open and what to trash. They will then open the mail, scan it, and send it to you. The great thing is, you pay per piece of mail that is opened, so you won’t have to pay for junk mail unless you want it opened and sent. You then have the options of having them shred the mail or store it for you until you get back. If it’s something urgent and you need the original, they will send it to an address you provide.
Credit Cards and Insurance
Credit card companies are getting good at monitoring accounts for suspicious activity. If you live in Indiana, and then all of the sudden they start seeing purchases in Florida, they may flag your account as possibly having a stolen card, and then turn the card off. This is a great feature to protect you, but not so great when you’re standing at a gas station with a full tank of gas and a card that won’t work. Give them a call and let them know when you’re leaving and where you’re going. This way they can see that it is you and they won’t shut the card down to protect you.
Insurance is one thing that may not like to travel. This will greatly depend on your insurance company and policy. Check with your agent and make sure that your auto insurance will still cover you where you’re going, and will cover you for things in that area that you may not have back home. For example, if the place you’re going is prone to flooding but your home area isn’t, ensure that your coverage will extend to flood damage in the event that something unfortunate happens while you’re there.
Careful preparation can make a vacation wonderful! Not having to worry about things at home, and ensuring you have everything you need where you’re going, really takes a lot of the stress out of travel! What are some other great tips for the snowbird RVing season that you have?