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Mail can be tricky if you’re full-timing, and there are a few different options.
First things first, you’ll need a permanent address and that means establishing your domicile.
Why you need to establish your domicile
In the US, you need a permanent address for everything—even RV parks will even ask for this info!—which is difficult when you live on wheels and no longer have a “permanent residence.” Having a permanent address is necessary for registration, voting, insurance, taxes (and so on and so forth), which is why you’ll need to set up a domicile before you hit the road.
Domicile: “the country that a person treats as their permanent home, or lives in and has a substantial connection with”
Your domicile is essentially your new home address. There are three key states that make great domiciles: Texas, South Dakota, and Florida.
Picking your domicile state
If you’re already from one of these three RV friendly states, then you’re lucky! That’s how we ended up choosing Texas.
But the state you choose is totally up to you! Since many laws are different from state-to-state, here are a few of the main factors to consider when picking your state:
- Taxes (Income, sales, vehicle, etc.)
- Vehicle inspection and registration laws
- Homeschooling laws (if you have kids on the road!)
- Driver’s license renewals
- Jury duty
- Where you plan to travel
Where you plan to travel is important if the state you choose requires annual visits. We have to visit Texas every year to update our vehicle inspection. This isn’t a big deal since we visit our families at least once a year, but it can be a hassle depending on where you plan on traveling.
A lawyer told me that when picking your domicile, what you really are doing is crafting your story. Maybe your story is that you decided to move to South Dakota until they finally finish the Crazy Horse monument, or maybe you’re snow birding in Florida like all the retirees. Your story is simply a way to tie you back to your new home state.
This story is important in a few instances, like when you get pulled over by the cops for example. I had a cop pull me over earlier this year for a brake light being out in my car. After looking at my ID, he asked why I was in town. I told him I was on way to a film shoot. Because I was so far from “home”, he advised me that it’s illegal to have an out-of-date address on my ID and that I needed to update my address in the next 30 days.
This is why your story is important. There’s nothing illegal about establishing your domicile and traveling full-time. Knowing your story (and the law) is key!
So, how do you actually establish your domicile?
There are services that will set up your domicile for you and I highly recommend this is the way you go! You can use a parent or friend’s address, but it will save you so much long-term hassle if you just set up your own legal domicile once and never worry about it again. (What if your friends decide to move? What if your parents lose your mail? What if they find it annoying that they have to forward your mail to you periodically?) This isn’t a very expensive process either, it just takes a little time.
We recommend using a company called Escapees to establish your domicile because they can set you up in any of those three states, and they do a lot more than just mail forwarding. St Brendan’s Isle is highly recommended for Florida and I formerly recommended My Dakota Address for South Dakota, but they are now closed. I haven’t heard anything or used any other South Dakota address companies, so I would go with Escapees for South Dakota if that is your state of choice.
Once you find a service that you like, getting your mail on the road is extremely easy. For example, Escapees will establish a domicile for you, give you a permanent mailing address, and even forward your mail to you on the road (while filtering out the junk!). They’ve been around for over 40 years so they know what they are doing.
Once your address is set up, you’ll get to go through the super fun process of changing your address on everything. You’ll start with government-related things like your driver’s license, vehicle registration, etc and then move onto bank accounts, bills, insurance, etc.
I highly recommend going through a service, because they have a checklist for helping you through this process. You can read more on how to get started with Escapees here.
Getting your mail in your handsHow do you get mail if you live in an RV? Click To Tweet
After you’ve established your domicile and are moving out of your current home, set up mail forwarding with USPS to your new address. This cost me a $1.05 identity verification fee. But in a super weird and unexpected twist, as a thank you for forwarding my mail, USPS offered me discounts for a list of companies I might be using during my move. This included 10% off Amazon purchases. Since I set up my mail forwarding around Christmas time, this was a great unexpected bonus. So I got my $1.05 back in Christmas shopping savings.
When you set up your mail forwarding you can schedule your start and end dates for forwarding. I chose my start date as a couple of days before I moved out (so I could be sure I wouldn’t lose any mail during the mess that is moving into an RV) and declared my move as permanent so my mail would forward forever. It takes around 24 hours for your mail forwarding request to be processed and confirmed. After that, your mail starts forwarding to your domicile address.
Once you’ve changed your address with all the government agencies, your bank, any subscriptions you have mailed to you, any companies that might send you tax forms, and you’ve set up your mail forwarding from your old address
Now that you have a domicile and you’ve forwarded your mail, double-check that you’ve updated your address everywhere. Your bank, your insurances, any companies who may send you tax forms, any subscriptions you use, and maybe even go old school and send an email to all your friends and family giving out your new legal address. Your mail will be forwarded, but you’ll want to make sure you maintain a current address, especially with banks, insurance companies, and employers.
Once you have an address for all your mail to go to, you’re free to travel the country! Now you just need to find a way to access your mail when you’re boondocking in Grand Teton National Park.
Looking specifically at Escapees mail service, for around a $100/year (plus set up fees), you have a few options:
- Call in and have your mail opened and read to you
- Mail scanning — Your envelope is scanned and emailed to you and you can decide if you would like the mail forwarded to you or not.
- Mail forwarding — Give your current address and have it mailed to you. You can even set this up to happen automatically if you’ll be in one place for a longer period of time.
You might be thinking “what if I’m not at a current address long enough to receive my mail?” I’ll cover that in just a second.
The actual process of changing your address and establishing your legal domicile is long and bureaucratic, what with trying to figure out every single place where you need to update your address and filling out the appropriate paperwork. (Though you’d have to do all of that even if you moved down the block.) But actually getting your mail is easy. Someone can literally read it to you. Or forward it to you. Or scan it and email it. So many options!
Receiving packages on the road
Amazon Prime is the best invention of the decade and an RVer’s best friend. We often have packages sent to RV parks, and with two-day shipping guaranteed, we’ve never had any issues!
If you’re trying to receive any type of package on the road, the easiest way to do so. We usually let the campground know ahead of time that we are expecting a package. They will accept the mail for you and call you when it’s in (in our experience).
This is incredibly common and easy. Just make sure your address label looks something like this:
Name of Campground
C/o Alyssa Padgett Site #52
City, ST Zip
Including your name is important for both USPS and the campground receiving your package. Don’t forget this step!
If you’re boondocking or not staying in a campground, you can have your package shipped to the post office or a UPS store. I had to pay $5 to pick up a box from the UPS store while we were camping in the Tetons. The fee is annoying, but it’s a good option if you don’t have a physical address to ship to.
If you choose to ship to a post office, you’ll want to send your mail “general delivery.” Or like this:
City, ST Zip
I personally prefer to send all mail and packages directly to our campground so there’s less of a chance it gets lost in the shuffle. Like I said before, we use Amazon frequently on the road and so far (knock on wood) we’ve never had a package get lost or miss us on the road.
Receiving checks and payment on the road
There’s only one thing I won’t send directly to a campground and that’s a check. Mostly because checks always seem to take three times as long to arrive in your mailbox as any other type of mail, don’t they?
For all the old school companies and clients we take on that only pay by paper check, we give my parents’ address as a mailing address. That way we don’t have to worry about waiting around an RV park for the check to arrive or waiting on mail-forwarding to finally get paid. My mom deposits checks into our account for us once or twice a month.
We encourage all of our clients to pay us via Paypal, Cash app, or Venmo for this reason. Plus, then we can be paid instantly, instead of waiting 2-4 weeks for the mail. Cash and Venmo will deposit the money directly into my bank account, which I love. But since Paypal is the most popular and most reputable service, most of our clients choose Paypal. With Paypal there is typically a small fee, but in my mind, it’s completely worth it to avoid the hassle of waiting for payment.
All in all, getting mail on the road isn’t difficult. Getting packages and getting paid is even easier.
Thinking about living in an RV? You might like this post:
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