The first question people always ask when they learn I live in an RV is always incredibly boring: “How do you get mail if you live in an RV?“
Mail can be tricky if you’re full-timing, and there are 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 Because I was so far from “home”, he advised me that it’s illegal to have an out-of-date address on my ID and that I needed to update my address in the next 30 days.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?
I remember the hassle of changing my last name to Padgett. All the offices, all the forms, yuck. Changing your address can be equally frustrating.
There are many services that will help you establish your domicile. Our favorite is Escapees because they can set you up in any of the three states, and they do a lot more than just mail forwarding. St Brendan’s Isle is highly recommended for Florida and My Dakota Address for South Dakota.
Escapees will give you a permanent mailing address (most of our friends live on Rainbow Road in Livingston, Texas) and even forward your mail to you on the road (while filtering out the junk!). Once you find a service that you like, getting your mail on the road is extremely easy.
Once your address is set up, you’ll get to go through the super fun process of changing your address on everything. Driver’s license, bank accounts, bills, insurance, etc.
I highly recommend going through a service, because they can easily walk you through all these steps. You can read more on how to get started with Escapees here.
This blog post is an excerpt from our free guide, Everything You Need to Know Before You Start RVing. Download your free copy:
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.