One thing that concerns Full-Time RVers is communication from family and friends. With modern technology, it is so much easier to know where everyone is and how they are doing.
If you have a cell phone with a great long distance plan and no concerns with roaming, you are all set! If you don’t and are locked into a contract where you can’t change or upgrade, there are other options for you. The first is a pre-paid cell phone such as a TracFone. This service is actually on the rise and you’ll be surprised to find these “throw away” phones have more features than yours! Prices for pre-paid phones start as low as $10 and go up to $50 if you want a camera phone and texting ability. The phones do last a very long time (I know one person who has had one for two years) if you keep them properly charged. The only thing is to remember to “reload” (purchase more minutes) before it gets too low or you get too close to your end date. This is displayed on your phone and you will have plenty of reminders long before that date comes. You have pre-paid for your minutes and can call anytime and anywhere you wish. You can even make international calls. The secret to pre-paid phones is registering them or reloading them when they have specials. Usually these are advertised at their website. You can often double your minutes just by taking advantage of a special. And the cell signal reception in an area will be the same as a contracted cell phone!
Another option to consider is getting a calling program through your personal computer, such as Skype. Most programs are free to download with a minimal charge for the calls. A nice pair of headphones with mic can usually be purchased for under $10. Some instant messaging programs (IMing) even offer free voice and webcam connections through their software program.
A Full-Timer who wants to stay on top of the news, weather and travel information should have a laptop computer. If you don’t have a notebook or netbook computer, then you should consider getting one. Getting online is just as easy today thanks to more businesses, campgrounds, truck stops, cafes and libraries offering free or cheap WiFi access. Being online allows you quick access to family and friends via email, instant messaging and calling.
If you do have a computer and haven’t a clue how to enable WiFi (or even if you have it) – run down to your local computer shop and ask them. If you don’t WiFi capability, as them what it would cost to upgrade. Once you have WiFi enabled, it is very easy to log in to the local access.
Relying on campgrounds with free (or cheap) WiFi access is a good way to stay in touch, but not all campgrounds have the greatest WiFi service. Some have limited range and if you aren’t camped in particular sections you may have no signal at all. There are antennas that can be purchased to help amplify your signal. Those can be found advertised in RV magazines and websites, as well as RV dealers.
However, there are still places on the planet with no WiFi or phone signal (believe me – I know!) and having another means of net access is necessary. Most Full-Timers are purchasing AirCards through their cell phone provider. If you don’t have a cell phone provider, don’t worry! Companies like Verizon will set you up with an AirCard, although you may pay a little more a month since you have no other service (ie. cell phone) with them. The nice thing about having your own means to connect to the internet is that you don’t have to drive all over town in your RV looking for places that offer WiFi.
Mail service is another concern for the Full-Timer. Most people now pay everything electronically, which saves on getting monthly bills received or sent out via regular postal mail. However, not everything is that way. In every RV magazine (ie. Trailer Life, Motorhome Life, etc…) you will find a section in the back devoted to companies that offer Full-Timers mail service. These companies do have a fee (which varies on the “plan” you get) but are good ways to keep the mail coming. Plans can vary from letters-only to limited packages to unlimited packages. Many RV clubs, like the Escapees, will offer a reduced mail service for members. A new feature to mail services is electronic mail, and I mean that literally. They will scan your postal mail and email it to you. You can choose what types of mail they send to you this way. Some services will even look out for certain pieces of mail and call you when it arrives!
If you are a Seasonal RVer, chances are you have a stick-house or place to call “home” for part of the year and your RV to call home the remainder. In this case, you have a physical address to get mail for part of the year. When you are in your RV, you can get mail either temporarily forwarded to the campground you are staying at or a local PO Box.
Many larger campgrounds and RV resorts have mailboxes (free, unless they offer private boxes for a fee) available for extended-stays. The only drawback to this is you have to wait until the campground staff sorts your mail. On a busy day in a busy campground, you may wait several hours. In addition, if it is a generic mailbox arranged alphabetically, you have to wade through a stack of campground mail until you find all of yours. And there is the issue of privacy. We have seen folks look over everyone’s mail, curious to see what they are getting. If it is around a holiday and you have a package from the Swiss Colony, believe me – every Camper within 100 campsites will know before you do! It’s annoying and time-consuming, but is a free service most campgrounds offer.
So there really is no reason not to stay in touch while you are on the road. Let your family and friends know you wish they were there (or not)! 😉