How To Manage Life Details For Full-Time RVers
Embarking on a full-time RV journey is the adventure of a lifetime. Waking up to a new place on a regular basis, hiking in national parks, exploring urban landscapes and living life in a more authentic way… This is what’s kept our family on the road for almost five years now. But it’s also real life, and all real-life things happen every day. You’ll still need to collect mail, visit a doctor, file your taxes, and other things you might not have thought about yet. And of course, full-time RVing has its own set of unique challenges.
So whether you’re getting ready to launch or you’re new to road life, we have tips for how to handle life details.
One of the biggest life details on the road is establishing a domicile. You may be living in a new location every week, but you still need a permanent address. Your domicile serves as the address on your driver’s license, your insurance and loan documents and your taxes. Most full-timers chose to domicile in one of the seven states with no income tax. Texas, South Dakota and Florida make it easy to establish domicile, and are generally accepting of full-time RVers. You’ll want to consider things like homeschool laws, license and plate renewal, vehicle inspections, and insurance rates when choosing where to set your permanent address.
Your domicile choice is not a way to skirt taxes and laws. You cannot legally set up a domicile address in one state and then live year-round in a single campground in another. If you intend to keep your home and rent it out for extra income, you will likely need to domicile in that state. Make sure to read up on all the applicable laws, and set up honest ties in your chosen state. For instance, having a primary care physician or an accountant in that state helps establish your domicile when you travel frequently.
In order to establish domicile, you need an address. Some full-timers use a friend or relative in their chosen state, but most use a mail forwarding service. Mail forwarding services give you a unique physical address to use as your own, and then scan your mail for you to view online. You can request important items to be forwarded to you. Be sure not to use UPS or other mailbox stores to handle these life details. Insurance companies and banks will sometimes reject you, often years later, if they do a standard address review. Popular mail forwarding services include St. Brendan’s Isle, America’s Mailbox and the Escapees organization.
A simple way to handle life details is to go paperless wherever possible. Have bank and credit card statements emailed to you. Set up monthly recurring bill payments. Let what you have left dictate whether you need to pay for a mailing service or not. If you only receive the odd piece of mail, it may not be worth it to pay a monthly or yearly fee. That would be when a relative or friend could come in handy. If you find you still have a decent amount of mail, having it sent to a mail service where they scan it for you makes more sense.
You can’t avoid the life details of paying taxes, even on the road. If you work in multiple states, you are required to pay state income taxes to each of them individually. Remote workers can file taxes in their domicile state alone. But if you do physical jobs or render services in other states, you’ll need to file taxes in each one.
It’s worth it to consult an accountant. They can help you understand issues surrounding your work situation, and make sure that your mobile business is set up correctly.
Healthcare is another big “life details” consideration. Due to the pandemic, tele-health has made doctor visits more accessible than ever before. We now have more choices to stay connected to our healthcare providers while traveling. But insurance can complicate things. Even big insurance companies are established individually in each state. Often insurance plans only cover emergency care out of state, including Medicaid and Medicare. Many people choose a domicile state they can return to easily. They visit their doctors once or twice a year while getting driver’s licenses and plates renewed.
Luckily, tele-health can solve many problems. You set up an appointment with your doctor and visit them over a secure video platform. Many prescription drugs require physical doctor visits, so if you have a health condition that requires regular treatment, consult your doctor to set up a plan. For common ailments, it often makes more sense to head to a local minute clinic and pay out-of-pocket.
If you have kids, you’ll want to sort out the life details of education on the road. Schooling from the road provides numerous educational options. Before you get started, make sure you know your state’s laws, which can vary drastically. Some require regular reporting and testing while others take a hands-off approach. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has created great resources for information.
Once you know your state’s requirements, you can begin planning on the family level. You can choose between online curriculum, physical curriculum books, unschooling and roadschooling, to name a few. Our family picks a little from every educational tree, but we lean towards roadschooling. Our travels build the cornerstone of our children’s educational experience. Each new location creates an opportunity to discover history, science, culture and more.
We also love the National Park Service’s many educational offerings. We utilize them as part of our roadschool education whenever possible. No matter what route you take, let each kid’s own needs be your guide. You have the freedom to tailor the experience to what works best for them. So don’t be afraid to try different things and put together a plan that will work for both of you.
Now Get Out There!
There are a lot of important life details to organize before logging that first mile as a full-time RVer. But with the proper planning, patience and resources you can successfully navigate these (often overwhelming) decisions. Just remember, this life isn’t designed to be a “one size fits all” experience. There are many options out there designed to meet your needs, the needs of your partner, your kids and even your pets. When in doubt, ask your fellow campers how they handle certain situations––the RV community is full of people who love to help out. Just take your journey one day at a time, and always remember that the end goal is a lifestyle that will leave you amazed, humbled and inspired.
Abby Epperson and her family travel in a Heartland Pioneer Travel Trailer.
This article was originally published by THOR Industries.