Tips and advice

First you have to quit your job. It's best if it's a well paid job. It makes it easier to go on with further plans, although it's difficult at the same time: after all you don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg. In our case the situation in Libya where we worked make the decision easier. Taking two small kids to the country where the civil war ended just months earlier was not the best idea ever, and working Ola from Poland and Pawel in Libia was not an option for us.

Than you have to decide what to do with your wonderfull unemployment. Theoretically, having a mortgage to pay and two smal kids we should find a new job, preferably in corporate world, as quickly as possible and hold on to it until we retire. But as we managed to save some money and school vacation are not a limit yet, let's go for it!

Why the United States? Honestly we don't remember where did we get the idea from. For sure one of the pros was an access to civilized healthcare. In case of shorter trips we would probably not care that much (see taking 3-month-old Kalina to Dominican Republic), but going on a 6-month-long journey and having lots of hospital experience in first 6 months of Maciek's life we wanted to be on the safe side. Besides we've both been here before and we liked it, and until now we didn't have an opportunity to see more here - and there is a lot to see.

In this part of our blog we will add all the notes and advice we found useful before coming here, or we did not know before but we should have. And, as probably the whole journey will be full of new things, this text will be completed after we come back to Poland. And it will get much longer by then...

United States are states, not voivodeships of united counties - thay have different laws, taxes, etc. It's the truth, but not so obvious. When we started thinking about this journey we kind of knew that, but we haven't seen the big picture until we came across a few internet forums gathering "full timers", meaning the people living full time in rvs (recreational vehicles). We were also hit by this truths straight in the face when some insurance agent from Florida said "I don't know what laws do you have there in Illinois, but here in Florida...".

Medical Insurance. It was the first thing after American visas we took care of. For over two years while working on a contract we had a great medical insurance (though our Libyan collegues were constantly complaining). We got a bit spoiled. With 6 months of travelling with tiny Kalina and Maciek who has a huge medical file we considered insurance a necessity. First we rejected Polish insurers right away. Their limit were ridiculous considering American reality. Next we started looking into insurance offered by European underwriters like Bupa or ihi. For example Bupa sells travel insurance through World Nomads. The price is reasonable and it has no limit. Their reviews in internet are not perfect, but on the other hand it's impossible to find one with good opinions. We didn't take it because it was targeted mostly at Brits and Aussies. If we had to deal with their Australian or British office from Poland we would be easy to ignore. After all we took an American insurance (although with European underwriter - Lloyds) from IMG. It's called IMG Patriot Travel Medical Insurance. In our version the limit is 1 000 000 USD, deductible: 250 USD, additionally there is ER deductible 500 USD. Total cost for 4 people for 6 months was almost 1800 USD, 10 USD per day.

While chosing insurance you should consider:

1. Limit. 500 000 USD for the US is the minimum. The easiest surgeries cost tens of thousands USD, and if we had to be evacuated back to Poland we would be in trouble.

2. Deductible, what we pay before the insurer comes in. Not only the amount is important. Cheap insurance often advertise themselves with a really small deductible. But small print says it is for each claim. That is the policy wording of  World Nomads.So, if we go to a doctor and spend 100 euro, World Nomad (after approving our claim) will reimburse only 25 euro. And this 75 euro deductible will be paid by us each and every time. IMG policy wording is different. Deductible is per person per policy period. But in basic version also has a special ER deductible, which World Nomad doesn't have.

3. Copayment. Unfortunately our policy has it. Up to 5000 USD (and after deductible) inurance company will reimburse only 90 percent of medical costs. Policies without copayments are really expensive in the US. Most reasonable are 80/20 or even worse. European policies for backpackers usually don't have a copayment clause and this is their great advantage.

4. Conditions. That's obvious. IMG conditions were pretty clear with not too much small print. Cheaper insurers would use strange language and the very cheap ones are not understandable at all.

5. Simulation. We do not recommend it, as insurance is a way to avoid unpredictable costs, but anyway we did it. We thought about the most probable scenario (Maciek with a cold, Kalina with viral infection and one of us with twisted ankle). It helped us to choose the most suitable offer from IMG (especially copayment/deductible comparing to premium). 

As we wrote before, the US is united states and not one state. When planning a trip depending on a bought car and travel trailer this should be taken into a close consideration. Some of states don't allow at all for someone on a tourist visa to register a vehicle. Some are more liberal when it comes to that. The most liberal state (as they say) is New Mexico, which supposedly allows you even to apply for a driver's license on a tourist visa with a proof of residency in the state (but unfortunately also requires bills for utilities for some period of time). Another thing is taxes. In some states sales tax is more than 10 percent (after adding local ones) and in some it can be 0 percent. In our case it wasn't so important because we did not plan to spend much on a car and a trailer. In some states it is also important whether you buy a vehicle from a company/private party. Usually the first option means paying sales tax when registering a vehicle and the second one means a low flat rate. But it may not be a rule in all states.

We've decided to cover all the bureaucracy in Illinois, mostly because we have some very supportive family there. We also knew it's possible to register a vehicle there if you're a foreigner (but you have an address in Illinois - an envelope from Amazon will do) and in case of registration from a company sales tax is not that high (6-7 %). Registration was surprisingly easy, maybe because we had Paweł's Social Security Number from more than a decade ago, when he came to States for the summer...

Motorhome or a trailer? For a long time we planned to buy a C-class motorhome. Wherever you get with it, you just stop and you're all set. You don't even have to go outside, you just go in the back and you're at home. But if you settle somewhere it's difficult to go and buy milk, parking is usually more expensive, it's difficult to go to drive-thru. We chose a trailer. Being free to move around was an important reason but what was the main reason was that in Polish driver's license it says you can drive vehicles (or a vehice with a trailer) up to 3,5 tons. We were afraid someone would find it and we would have problems with registration and insurance (at that point we still thought you need to have an insurance for the registration procedure, which for Illinois is not true, even despite that's what we've heard before). 

They say it's more difficult to drive with a trailer. Our set (Jeep GC plus an 18-feet trailer) is about 35-feet long. Sometimes it's not easy but most of the time we have no problem with it. You have to focus when driving on crowded highway, when the wind is strong and when the trucks are passing you by, but otherwise it's so easy that sometimes we forget we tow it! And there is always some good person at the campground who will help you in the beginning with backing into your spot and hooking up whatever you need. Every next time is easier and after a while you can do it yourself in just a few minutes.

Buying a car and a trailer. We used We found both a car and a trailer on it. We also checked autotrader and some websites with rvs only (, etc.).

Car/Trailer Insurance. In Illinois there is no problem to buy an insurance for a car registered and driven by a foreigner on a turist visa. Rates are not much higher than for a person with Illinois driver's license. Our pretty good half year car insurance inlcuding AC was less than 500 USD. Not so easy with a trailer though. We didn't manage to insure it. It's not obligatory and in some state whatever you tow is covered by your vehicle inurance but some (like Illinois) have different law. It is also worthwile to consider a special RV insurance in case it needs towing or some repairs. We decided not to go for it.

At the statelines you'll find Welcome Centers. They have clean toilets, sometimes free Wi-Fi and tons of free maps, brochures and leaflets including coupons for local hotels, restaurants and atractions.

Fuel. We use application called Gas Buddy, it searches for gas stations with the prices. It's not always 100% right but gives an idea where to look for the cheap gas. We will probably write more about it later.

Passport America. At 44 USD per year you can become a member of a club that gives discounts up to 50% for over 1500 campsites across the US, Canada and Mexico.

Private Campgrounds. Maybe it's not a rule but we found it true most of the time. Cheap camping - cheap area (cheap supermarkets, lots of thrift stores with second hand crap, where you can find whatever you need in the beginning of your journey), more expensive camping - more expensive area. It's not true that in a cheaper area it's more dangerous. It can be an issue of the distance to nearest town, highway or local atractions.

Boondocking, camper version of couchsurfing. For 25 USD you can bu an yearly access to where you can find people who are willing to host you at their backyard (driveway or even street in front of the house). You can also stay for free at Walmart camping lot (although not everywhere, so ask first!) and in many other places - we will write about them all.

Cell phone, preferably with internet. Of course it's necessary during a long travel. In the US the competition over getting prepaid customers got more intense lately. It was good news for us, as it was easier to finda better offer. After a long search we picked T-Mobile.

Halfway through 2012 T-Mobile introduced a special offer of unlimited internet (5 GB in 4G), unlimited text and 100 minutes talk (we thought it's a lot, but after a few weeks we know it's not) for 30 USD. To make our lives easier it's WEB&Walmart special offer so you can buy it only on internet or in Walmart. And to make it more funny in an official T-Mobile store they pretend they've never heard of it. To bad, cause it's a good offer.

We bought it in Walmart with a phone (it's possible to buy a smartphone for less than 100 USD). Cheap smartphone is not too much fun but what we needed was to make a hotspot out of it. Theoretically T-Mobile wants 15 USD for such possibility. In practice you can make it for free, losing your phone warranty.

What we found out is that there is no need to make a big deal out of mobile internet. No civilization, no coverage anyway. Civilization - you'll find free Wi-Fi. Most of fast food restaurants, coffee places and sometimes stores have an open net. It's worth considering whether you need internet every day and buy at similar price a plan with unlimited talks.

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