Thursday, November 14, 2013

Eight Most Important Records for Vacationers to Bring With Them.

I  have what I call a Florida Book. It could be an Arizona book or a Europe book, depending on where you are traveling to for an extended time. It is a bright-red, soft-covered notebook with clear plastic sheets

I change it every year by inserting the following information: 

1 I scan medical information including hospital stays, medical tests, diagnosis's, a medication list, dates of shots, allergies, eyeglass prescriptions, etc . I have a synopsis typed up with the same things a new doctor would ask you. (Our family doctor finally has a website portal, but there is no information before this year, so it is useless) 

2. I scan purchase receipts and serial numbers of recent devices that we are bringing with us.

3. I update my home phone and address list, making a copy to leave at my primary residence and one to keep in the car that has family & friendsbusiness, and medical numbersThe medical numbers list has card or account numbers. Sometimes along with the phone number, I also copy the buttons to press to get to customer service.

4. Then, I update a list of phone numbers that I used last year at my vacation site. Anytime I make a call that I might repeat in the future, I put it on my list. It might be rental information or business around your vacation home. Much easier than looking it up in a phone-book or the computer again.

5. also have an address list for Christmas cards and a Birthday list. I buy my birthday cards, get well cards, and Christmas Cards before we leave. Facebook doesn't work when your family is not a member.

6. I update my favorite cookbook recipes. All of my recipes are in a file with subsections for main dishes, desserts, etc. No lugging any cookbooks around. I can print out what I need with the printer I am bringing. 

7. I download a map of the area around my vacation home. I find out where all of the nearest hospitals, pharmacies and doctor and dentist offices are. For us this is important, as we rent in different areas each year. 

8. I copy maps and addresses of shopping areas like malls, favorite chain stores like Walmart, Target, Dicks Sporting Goods, and supermarkets. Since thrift store shopping is also a hobby, I copy a list of addresses and phone numbers of nearby thrift shops. I especially like the St Vincent de Paul, and Hospice stores. Goodwill & Salvation Army vary according to the area.

9. I also pack a book of tourist sites & make a list of places that I especially want to visit like all of the Pinellas County Parks. 

10. I copy all of my cards like driver's license, bank, medical, AAA, AARP, supermarket and pharmacy discount. 

I know all of this preparation takes a lot of work, but after it is done, it is easier to get ready to leave next year. 

Top 13 Things to Do to do Before Leaving for your Vacation Home.

A few months before you leave, type up list of things to do. Your to do list should include:

1. forwarding magazines. I have a list of magazines that I subscribe to with accounts numbers, emails or phone numbers for a temporary change of address. The post office will only forward magazines for 2 months. Note: most magazines take two months to change your address. 

2. forwarding mail. I tried to send in the change of address form last year, but that did not work in our case. My son lives at our house up north during with winter. I tried to forward just mine & my husband's mail, but my son was not getting his mail at our house up north. Finally I had to call the postmistress. She contacted the postman and everything was fine. This year I downloaded the change of address form, printed the form twice for me and my husband, and finally dropped it off personally at the post office. Better service as you can't ask qu on the web and for us cheapskates, no $1 fee charged to a credit card if done on the internet.

3. calling the local cable company which is Brighthouse in Pinellas County to get internet and/or cable and/or phone installed, as it is not included in most rentals.  Ask for the specials for new subscribers. You might also cancel the cable in your primary residence if you are gone long enough, but in our case, we have someone living in our house when we are gone.

4. calling the newspaper to subscribe, which in this case is Tampa Bay Times or Tribune. Also cancel the newspaper up north. Search the internet for specials in such places such as Groupon.com in your vacation area.

5. synchronize your desktop with the laptop so you have documents and pictures and latest email addresses and bookmarks from home if you need them. Backing them up in the cloud would work, too, but I prefer the old fashioned external hard drive that I can backup from when the Internet is down.

6. Reserve a motel room between your primary residence and your vacation home, which is our case is our Pinellas County rental. I also print out the address, phone number, directions, cancellation numbers and even search for the same information for nearby restaurants for supper and breakfast. 

7. Schedule doctor & dentist checkups before you leave. 

8. Call AAA for a TripTik with a stopover at your motel, ending at your vacation home or rental. As a senior citizen, AARP or AAA member, always ask if there is a discount at all the chain restaurants and motels.

9. Notify your bank and credit card company of the dates you will be at your vacation home or rental. I give them an address and mobile phone number. We did not do that the first year and our credit card was declined. They had tried to call us, but they called our home phone number and was unable to reach us.  

10. Call the rental manager or caretaker of your vacation home to remind him of the date of your arrival and make sure everything is ready. This might include spraying for insects, dusting, airing out the house, etc. 

11. Likewise, make a list for the person that watches your primary residence of things that need to be done. This could include pet care, plant care, emptying humidifiers, putting out garbage, collecting mail. It is a good idea to have a telephone list of the repairmen, etc that you call in an emergency. 

12. Some people have a Florida or vacation box of things that you bring with you every year. You should put a sewing kit and a first aid kit in it that must be updated every year. Sometimes I add gifts for friends. An unusual item that should be included is a weight scale. Who wants to come home with a suntan, but ten extra pounds for everyone to talk about?

13. Do any maintenance or repairs you have procrastinated on, before you leave. It might lead to bigger problems if you neglect them. That might mean getting the snowblower repaired for the person who is taking care of the driveway , the appliance that works only when you bang it a few times, changing your furnace filters, replacing the vacuum hose, belt or bag, etc.




Sunday, November 10, 2013

Renting or Buying a Mobile Home in Pinellas County.

We find that the senior citizen mobile home communities or condos are very safe places. There are a lot of group activities which you would have to search the community for if you rented an apartment.

When we rented, we had to find a new place to live every year because we either did not like the beds or other accommodations, the owner sold the place, or was moving into it for the winter themselves. Therefore, before we left Florida every year we had to visit the mobile home communities, ask around, answer posts on the bulletin boards or post our own ads to find a place. You could get lucky and the owner will rent to you every year.

When we found a place, I took pictures of it. That way I can review the pictures and see what is included in the cupboards and drawers and rooms, so that we don't take too much stuff from up north. I can usually purchase kitchen things and summer clothing at a thrift store. Just make sure you bring coats, sweaters and long pants. They do have cold spells during the winter, but it is rarely under 50 degrees and it gets cold in the evening.


 If you buy a mobile home in Florida, your packing for winter will be minimal because most things like summer clothing, shoes, hats, toiletries, paper products, and other personal items would stay in the mobile home year round. You know ahead of time, for example, that you have a Dvd player for a Redbox, a working peeler, measuring cups and spoons, etc. 


However the cost of owning a mobile home is not just paying for the lot and trailer. You have several options. The mobile home parks have a $30,000-55,000 or more share fee for the lot and a monthly maintenance fee of $200 or more which usually includes water, sewer, garbage, and basic lawn care. In some communities, you can buy your mobile home, but rent the lot for $500-800/month. Property insurance including hurricane insurance, sinkhole damage, fire and theft might be $1000 a year, so some people get a cheap mobile home without a share included, and just walk away from any hurricane damage including the rent. The park will eventually take ownership. reclaim the land, and rehab the property. In Florida, Citizens, a state run insurance company, covers mobile homes, but they must pass an inspection and be in good condition.

There is year round expenses for a mobile home sticker, just like a yearly car registration sticker. There is also plumbing, heating, electrical and air conditioning repairs, appliances break down and there is pest management costs of $120 a year or more for simple lawn spraying. Palmetto bugs are a fact of life, but spraying does help. If you get termites though, you have to tent the entire mobile home with a cost of $250-500 or more. The bugs, mold and sandy soil means that you need to power wash the siding for $70-80 twice a year.

If you rent the property out during the months you are not in residence, especially, you should have liability insurance. However, I have found that most lawyers won't bother with a claim unless there is liability insurance. All they have to do is negotiate with the insurance company.

I find that the day to day expenses as a snowbird in Pinellas County are cheaper than to live up North, minus the extra housing costs, of course, if you are maintaining two homes, and we spend a lot before we leave. Think doing all of the repairs that you have been putting off, medical, dental and vision visits, and stocking up on your favorite regional wine, condiments, and compounding pharmacy items to last you 4 months in our case.

How could all this happen in month before you leave the North: the microwave starts popping, the fuel system of the snowblower leaks, the 3 year old rocker recliner's arm breaks, past warranty of course, the dentist says you need over 1K of dental work, your eyeglasses break, your car needs not only new plugs and wires, and a tire blows explosively to shreds, but the engine has leaky seals, $$$, etc. etc.?

Don't take your husband shopping with you right before you leave either, or you might be stocking up on comfort foods that will be left at home to perish, instead of eating the leftovers that you have planned to use up.

We eat out twice a week and my husband golfs which is more expensive than up north, but then we also walk and bicycle a lot. Spending time in the Pinellas County parks, we do a lot more walking. I learn about nature, take pictures and work on my website instead of reading and watching TV all  winter.

 We get more fresh fruits and vegetables. Ruskin tomatoes come out in November. The flea markets have Mexican and  Asian vendors who sell mangoes, napol cactus, star fruit, papaya, guava, huge carrots, garlic, etc.Winter Park near Tampa has blueberries in the spring and Plant City grows strawberries..We eat out with friends a lot and there are breakfasts, dinners, and other activities in the park that requires snacks.

 If we are going to spend all that rent money to live in the South to escape the snow and cold temperatures (which forces us to hibernate inside and eat comfort foods), at least we can justify it by living healthier.