In the process of getting our RV in tip-top shape for sale, we’ve been addressing some of the smaller cosmetic issues that have been “on our list” to repair, but we just never got around to (you know how that goes, right?).
This had been bothering us for a while…
The very top of this list has been the 3M protective shield on the front of our coach. It actually looked fine until around a year ago, when it started deteriorating, and then it looked pretty awful. Lots of little cracks and dark spots (they look like mold) all over the front of our RV. It’s purely cosmetic and doesn’t affect the underlying paint, but it’s just not appealing. It made for poor curb appeal, if you will.
It’s a common problem too.
Many coaches have these sheilds. They are typically made by either 3M or Diamond Shield and their purpose is to add an extra of extra protection on the front of your coach. They serve their purpose OK, but they all eventually deteriorate and once they start, you can’t really stop them. You’ll find long discussions about 3M & Diamond Shield on RV forums, mostly related to folks looking for how to remove them permanently (those who remove them, rarely if ever replace them). It’s a VERY common problem.
Want to See This in Video?? We compiled a ~15 min video of our entire day here. Check it out:
Removal of 3M Protective Clear Shield from Class A RV - YouTube
Removing Them Takes Time, And Patience
Our original thought was actually to remove the shield ourselves. So we started Googling around, and searching YouTube which landed us on a set of detailed DIY Youtube videos from a company called Ugly Shield Removal. The videos were exactly what we were looking for. They offered a slew of “how to’s” on shield removal detailing exactly what equipment to use and how to do it yourself. Plus they had individual tips for different types of film (3M versus Diamond Shield). We were well impressed.
We were impressed by these guys right away
It’s a detailed & laborious process to remove the shield (Wayne at work on Stage 1)
After watching the videos and seeing what a time-consuming project this was likely to be however (especially for us, given that we’re in a time crunch with our move), we decided just to give the guys a call to find out what it would take to get the shield removal done by them in Fort Myers. We were planning to drive up and check out some consignment guys up there anyway, so perhaps it would be an easy thing to get done while we were in the area?
One phone call was all it took to convince us. Wayne answered all our questions without hesitation, confirmed we would be able to stay on-site with the pets, and assured us that he could complete the work in one day. Done!
NOTE/I haveNO affiliation with these guys and did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. Those of you who’ve followed the blog over the years know that I only ever recommend service that has really impressed us (and simply don’t mention service that doesn’t). I think I’ve only ever recommended around 5 places in the 9 years we’ve been on the road. I’m happy to say, these guys definitely make the Wheelingit cut.
Our On-Site Experience
We arrived at Ugly Shield Removal the evening before our appointment. Wayne greeted us at the door, took us around the facility and set us up right outside the shop with a 50A cord (much appreciated due to the heat).
We stayed the night outside the shop, with 50A hookup
We got a good vibe about the business right away. It’s a family-run company (owner, his dad, and son) located just south of Fort Myers in a a spotlessly clean facility next to a pretty lake. They’ve got a very nice interior paw-friendly, full-service lounge, lots of outdoor greenery (another paw thumbs up), and they even offer an on-site dump & water too. The shop itself is at the end of a street inside a quiet industrial area, so it’s surprisingly quiet too.
We spent a very restful night outside the shop and woke up bright and early for our appointment the next day.
The Removal Process
The removal itself is a 2-step process. The first step involves scraping off the shield itself (removing the outer 3M film) while the second step involves scraping off & removing the left-over underlying adhesive.
Step 1 – Removing the Outer 3M Film
Wayne spent the first half of the day removing the outer layer of the shield. It’s a laborious process that involves warming up the film (in this case Wayne took advantage of the fact that we were parked facing the sun), then using a scraper to carefully scrape off the 3M little by little. The shield must be kept warm, and the scraper needs to be resharpened regularly with sand paper (Wayne uses 80 grit, followed by 320 grit) as you go. Plus of course care must be taken not to put any scrapes into the underlying paint. Wayne was meticulous and methodical, as you would expect from an expert.
Step 2 – Removing the Underlying Adhesive
For the second half of our removal process, Wayne took us into the service bay. He first gave us a complimentary wash with RO water (such an unexpected bonus) and then him and his son went to work on removing the underlying adhesive.
Once again this is a super laborious process done bit by bit that involves spraying some chemicals on the adhesive to loosen it up, and then..
With that said, this is going to be another (rather long) post focused exclusively on the moving part of the process. How do you physically get your pets across the ocean? What are the various international transport options, how much do they cost, and what are the correct (and best) pet carriers to use on each option?
Here’s hoping the next ~3,500 words answer most of those questions
The 3 Ways To Travel With Paws Across the Atlantic
Believe it or not there are 3 ways you can get your pets across the Atlantic, and of course we’ve investigated all three.
By Cruise Boat – There is ONE, yes ONE cruiseliner in the USA that takes pets across to Europe.
By Private Plane – Yup, if you can afford it, this is an awesome option (anyone wanna sponsor us??)
By Regular Plane – For the “regular folks” in the world. This is the most common method.
Plan ~10-12 months ahead
Plan ~1-5 months ahead
Plan ~2-3 months ahead
Cost for You
~$1200-$1600 per person
$60,000-$120,000 per plane
Varies (can be FREE with points, or ~$300-$3000 depending on carrier, class & date)
Cost for Paws
$800-$1600 per pet
$200-$400 per pet
Take A Cruise On The Queen Mary II
We first heard about Cunard Cruises around a year ago. We were knocking around ideas to get to Europe (yes, even back then) and they came up in one of our searches. They have ONE boat (the Queen Mary II) that takes pets across the Atlantic. It sails from New York, taking 7 days to make the crossing to Southampton UK, and it operates around once per month from ~mid-April through ~mid-Jan. And frankly, it looks like an AWESOME experience!
Travel in style on the QM2
The QM2 has the only on-board kennels on the ocean!
This is a super luxurious cruise so of course human accommodations are superb, but the pet services look equally appealing too.
Each boat has a completely separate pet management area with pet runs, pet play, and a dedicated full-time pet manager to watch, feed & walk your pets. They have visiting hours, so you can go & sit/play with your pet during the day, but dogs are also walked (an included service) and allowed to play together in the free run area during their stay. For kitties, the newest QM2 even offers a separate kitty area (away from the dogs) for their comfort & enjoyment. It’s a pretty luxurious set-up.
Booking your cruise is a breeze too. Pets are managed by a separate department, but you book everything (cabin for you, kennels for your pets) through a single phonecall. Once you’re booked the pet department sends you a detailed e-mail regarding the timeline & documents required for passage (which are still your responsibility). Then they follow-up regularly right up to cruise time.
The gotchas? There are only ~15 kennels per boat and they are SUPER popular so you have to book around a year ahead to get in. Plus, of course, it isn’t cheap. Kennel costs run $800-$1000 for dogs (more if your dog is larger and requires 2 kennels). Cats require two upper kennels at $1600 each. Also note that that there are size & breed limits. Certain very large dogs (e.g. Afghan, Great Dane, St.Bernard etc) and any banned UK breed (e.g. pit bulls) cannot be accommodated.
The Wheeling Take: We LOVED this idea! If you don’t want your pets to travel in an airplane, then this is literally the best thing since sliced bread. We actually booked a cruise, putting down a deposit for the October transit of 2018 which was the first date we could get for 3 pets. Then of course life happened and our Europe schedule got pulled in (zero earlier sailings available for so many pets) so we won’t be traveling this way. It would have been fun though, don’t you think??!
Charter A Private Plane
Got a few extra $$$$ to spare? Then you may want to look at chartering a private plane to travel across to Europe. The advantages are that everyone (you, your friends, AND your paws) get to travel in-cabin, plus of course you get special boarding privileges and the ultimate luxury that comes with private travel. There are several companies that offer these kinds of flights (e.g PrivateFly,ElJet), but they typically only travel specific routes and of course, they ain’t cheap!!!
THIS would be the stylin’ way to go
Nothing but luxury for your pets too
Just for shits & giggles we actually called up some private jet companies and priced this method out. The cheapest deal we found was ~$60,000 to charter a plane from La Guardia (NY) to Heathrow (UK). That’s the price for the whole plane (not individual seats) so that’s a fixed cost no matter how many people fly. The model we priced could fit ~14 folks, so if we’d gone this route it would have made sense to bring friends & family. Oh, and pets fly for free (at least that’s something, right?)
Occasionally private plane deals do pop up, either for “seat sharing” on an existing flight (for example, if someone charters a flight from Miami to New York, they might look for other passengers to fill out the flight & thus lower individual costs) or for “empty leg flights” (= the return flight of a plane that’s only been chartered in one direction). These tend to be last-minute deals so it’s hard to plan ahead for them, plus there are very, very few cross-ocean flights that pop up, simply because you need a larger (long-haul) plane for that route. Still if you’re patient and flexible, maybe you can score a deal?
The Wheelingit Take: As you can imagine this won’t be the way we’re traveling across, but if we had that kind of “fun money” lying around, we would do this in a heartbeat!
Travel By Regular Airplane The most common way to transport pets is by regular plane
The last viable option for pets to travel across the ocean (unless you own your own boat, of course) is via a regular airplane route. The main advantage of this method is that it’s easy and fast (there are tons of routes flying everyday), and it’s inexpensive, compared to other options. Plus, everything is done and complete in a single day.
But it also has some restrictions.
Not all pets can fly physically with you. In Cabin pets are limited by size/weight (except for service animals) and if your pet is too large In Cargo (underneath the plane, in a separate hold) is the only way to go. Plus, for the latter, some breeds are restricted altogether.
There are 3 specific things I recommend, no matter how your pets are flying:
It’s best to fly direct (non-stop) when traveling with paws
1/ Book A Direct (Non-Stop) Flight – Whenever you travel with pets it’s best to book a direct flight with no layovers, even if you have to drive several hours to another airport to do so. This not only shortens the time you have to spend in the air with your pet, but also avoids any issues that might come up with changing planes along the way (especially important for pets transported in cargo). Flying direct just reduces stress on everyone.
Moving to Europe means bringing our whole family with us, including our paws. This complicates our travels, but our paws are an integral part of who we are, so it’s simply another set of details that need to be worked through.
They complicate our life, but we wouldn’t have it any other way
Thankfully we’re not total noobs at this kind of thing. We’ve had our cats for ~15 years and they are well-seasoned feline nomads. They flew from Florida to California (when they were little kittens), from San Francisco to Hong Kong (around 2004, when we moved there for work) and then from Hong Kong back to the USA (when we returned several years later). The base procedures have changed a tad in the past 10 years, but ultimately the process hasn’t. It involves figuring out how you’re going to transport them, then making sure you have the right vaccinations and certificates completed before you travel. It’s complicated, but honestly it’s not that complicated.
It’s a big topic though, so what I am going to do is split it up into TWO posts that will hopefully cover all the details you’ll need, should you ever decide to travel internationally with your own paws.
Today’s post will cover the paperwork side of the issue, including all the necessary docs & vaccinations that your pet will need before they can travel. My next post will cover transportation options (yes, there’s more than one way!) including details on the best pet carriers & getting your pets as comfortable as possible for their long journey.
So, let’s dig right in…..
Start With The USDA Website
One of the absolute best resources I’ve found for figuring out pet travel requirements from USA to (basically) anywhere is the USDA website, and it’s super easy to use.
The USDA website will tell you exactly what you need to do for each country
Simply click on THIS LINK, chose the country you are planning to travel to from the drop-down menu, and then click on “View Requirements”. You’ll get a nice, detailed list of everything you need to do to take your pet abroad, including timeline & any specific vaccinations or documents that need to be completed before you go. It’s pretty nifty!
The exact requirements vary depending on the type of pet you’re taking, as well as how old they are, how they’re traveling (with you, or separately from you) and which country you’re going to, but as long as you read (and follow) the instructions to a T, you should have no issues.
Personally I think USDA website is pretty darn complete and covers everything you need to know, but it never hurts to cross-check import requirements on the corresponding website for your destination country, just for good measure. For example for UK you can check gov.uk site, and for France there’s THIS site.
What Is Required For Cats & Dogs Traveling To Europe?
As I mentioned above, the first place you should go is the USDA website. Chose your destination country and then follow the exact instructions for the pet you’re planning to transport. Don’t just rely on my blog post (please).
With that said, I read through the requirements for taking cats and dogs to ~10 different European countries and found the procedure to be pretty much identical across the continent. There were a few minor differences (e.g. for UK specifically, dogs must have an additional treatment for tapeworm (Echinococcus) 1-5 days before arrival), but other than this, every country I looked at required the following 3 basic steps:
Rand has been digitized! Getting scanned (after implant) at Oakland Park Animal Hospital in FL
Around A Month Before Departure: Get your pet microchipped with an ISO compliant microchip and THEN vaccinated w/ rabies. A minimum of 21 days must pass AFTER the rabies vaccination before you can travel with your pet, so doing this around a month ahead of time is a safe bet. You can certainly do it earlier (no penalty for this), as long as you make sure the rabies vax is still valid by the time you travel. You can also do it later, as long as at you allow at least 21 days to pass after vaccination beforeyou travel. Either way, don’t leave this one until the last minute!
Within 10 Days of Arrival: Get a health certificate from a USDA certified vet. This certificate must be issued within 10 days of ENTRY into your destination country, so pay close attention to your dates of travel. For example if you’re traveling overnight, you’ll need to make sure your certificate is dated max 10 days before your arrival date in EU (not your departure date from US). Doing the certificates around 7-9 days before departure is a safe bet and give you a bit of leeway in case you encounter delays or other issues en route.
Between 1-10 Days Of Arrival: Once your health certificate is complete you will need to deliver it to the USDA for endorsement either in-person or by overnight mail. The certificate MUST be endorsed before you can travel with your pet.
A “safe” timeline (in days, with padding included) for the required steps to travel internationally with your pet
A Month Before Travel -> Implant An ISO Compliant Microchip
For those of you who are not familiar with a microchip, it’s a permanent method of electronic identification for your pet.
A Datamar ISO compatible implant syringe (on left) plus international-standard scanner (on right)
Rand getting the chip implanted. It goes subcutaneously (just under the skin)
Basically it’s a teeny little RFID device (around the size of a grain of rice) that is implanted subcutaneously (just under the skin) between the shoulder blades at the back of your pet’s neck. Each chip has a unique number that can be detected with a microchip scanner and, as long that number is registered online (you can check where/if your chip is registered in the official AAHA database HERE), it’ll identify the pets owner, as well as your contact info. This is super important in case your pet is ever lost. But it’s also important for international travel too.
For travel to Europe, the key thing to know is that your pet should have a 15-digit ISO compliant (11784 and 11785 standard) 134.2 kHz microchip. This is the universal standard for microchips, accepted across the EU (and many other countries in the world too).
Unfortunately if your pet was originally microchipped in the US, you probably don’t have one of these!
The US has lots of different brands & types of microchip, but unfortunately most of them are only 9 or 10 digits long and operate at 125 kHz or 128 kHz, which means they are not ISO 11784/11785 compatible. For example, Polly originally got microchipped by the the rescue organization where we adopted her from in San Diego. Her microchip is fine for use within the US, but it’s only 9 digits long, and functions at 125 kHz, which is not ISO compatible. So, it cannot be read by international-standard (134.2 kHz) scanners and is not compliant for travel to the EU.
How do I know if my pet’s microchip is ISO compliant or not?
Check the number: If it’s 15-digits long it’s ISO compliant. If it’s 9 or 10 digit it’s likely not.
What If My Pet Already Has An ISO Compliant Chip? If your pet already has a 15-digit ISO compliant chip you are GOOD TO GO on this step of the process. No need to get another chip implanted as long as the one you have can be reliably read (get your vet to scan it to double-check).
What If My Pet Doesn’t Have An ISO Compliant Chip? If your pet does not have an ISO compliant microchip, then you can either choose to have a 15-digit pet microchip implanted or you will need to carry your own microchip scanner* on your flight into Europe. If you plan to travel regularly (say, you’re planning to RV across EU) then I feel it’s worth gettin an ISO compliant microchip, even if that means microchipping your pet a second time. It will significantly simplify your travels and ensure your pet can be scanned and identified anywhere in Europe (super important in case your pet gets lost, for example). *NOTE/ Some EU customs posts DO have the ability to scan non-ISO compatible chips. For example the Lufthansa Cargo Animal Lounge in Frankfurt carries Universal Scanners that can scan any type of chip, even non-ISO. So, it depends a bit on exactly where you land and what kind of scanners the customs inspectors have on hand. To be on the safe side however, if your pet has a non-ISO chip it’s best to either carry your own scanner, or get your pet re-implanted with a 15-digit ISO compatible chip before travel.
One of the key aspects for anyone from the US who is going to spend significant time abroad is how to handle your money. How do you get your US$ overseas in a way that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? What’s the best way to bank and use credit cards while you travel? Do you need to open a local account, or can you do everything you need to do while keeping your accounts in the US?
Now we don’t claim to be experts on all this, but in the time we’ve been together we have lived away from the US several times before, both in Europe and Asia so we have *some* experience. Plus the world has improved (banking wise) over the years. These days online banking is offered everywhere, and there are lots of ways to save money on both transfers and cash usage when you travel.
So in case you’re considering a stint abroad, whether it be short-term (or longer term), hopefully this post will give you some ideas for how to do it in the best $$ way.
Fees Involved In Using US$ Abroad
The first thing to be aware of when you travel are fees!
Bahia Honda State Park Campground Review (Post Irma Update) - YouTube
Sale Reminder ->Our Holiday Rambler 2008 40PDQ Is For Sale! If you’re in the market for a new rig, I sincerely hope you’ll consider our superbly maintained, technologically souped-up, high quality rig. She’s a beauty that we believe will make someone a very happy, new home.
It’s Valentine’s Day today, so it’s time to share some looooooooove!
We’ve got lots of serious stuff going on in the Wheelingit camp, so admittedly we aren’t being quite as romantic as we usually would. We’re still knee deep in all the practical stuff of selling the RV and Moving to Europe, and the details are keeping us occupied pretty much everyday. I’ve got at least 4-5 more “Move To Europe” posts in the works, including how we’re going to handle banking (aalmost figured this out), health insurance (we just figured this one out yesterday!), cell coverage (getting closer) and pets (hopefully we’ve got this one covered by now). Lots of research & learning going on, so it’s a day by day thing. It’s a bear of a process, but we’ll get there eventually!
Right between the lines
But back to the love stuff.
In betwixt all this life education we’ve been enjoying an amazing waterfront campsite in one of the most beautiful state parks in Florida, Bahia Honda State Park. Yes, there are a few bugs here (no-seeums are nasty little pests) and yes, Bahia is still recovering from the hurricane (the oceanside part of the park is still completely closed), but we’ve got a HUGE, newly graded site and the water is literally outside our door! So not only do we get to swim everyday from our site, but thanks to our south-facing (bayside) orientation we also get to enjoy sunset right from camp. It’s perhaps one of our nicest sites ever, and we are definitely loving it.
Our site (#14) at Bahia Honda. It may be one of our nicest ever.
There’s family too! We’ve enjoyed at least a week of this goodness with Paul’s dad and stepmom. We’ve been caravaning off and on with these guys for over 2 years now, and were lucky enough to get two campsites here for this last trip. It’s been a really special way to end our time RVing together in the US, and we’ve truly cherished it. Time with family is always time with love.
Paul, his dad and Ana (site #16). Time with family is always time with love.
We’ve had our fair share of food and beverage love too.
Of course there’s happy hour by the water (always a Wheelingit favorite), but we’ve also eaten tons of good food at local joints like Geiger Key Restaurant (best fish sandwiches!),No Name Pub (an iconic place for pizza and beer) Burdine’s (a super chill place to eat by the water), and Keys Fisheries (great, fresh fish). And to top it all off, we’ve enjoyed a more-than-average quantity of Cuban Coffees from nearby La Niña Restaurant & Cuba Coffee. The stuff is liquid gold, and we always go a tad crazy when we find a good source, but it’s life changing goodness. Not to be missed, I tell you!
And then of course there’s the nature love.
The Keys are a gorgeous place and Bahia Honda is a gem in its own right. From its pristine white sand beaches, to its psychedelic sunsets, and the ever-present warm ocean breeze, all of it is simply soul-enriching stuff. On the days that I stress out too much, this is what soothes me and brings back my heart back into a regular beat. It’s a really special place.
A psychedelic sunset from our campsite
And finally there’s the ultimate love of all.
I’m fortunate enough to travel with my soul-mate of 21 years and our 3 beloved paws, each of which hold a permanent piece of my heart. No matter where I am or what I do, they are the core of my family and my love. I’m deeply grateful that I get to share this time with them, and couldn’t imagine this life adventure without them. Love like that is the stuff of novels, and I’m a very, very lucky gal to have it.
So those are the few thoughts that I wanted to share with you today. All my loves, all in one place, all in one post, shared with a touch of nature, a smidgen of color, and a burst of final sunlight. Valentine’s Day is not the only day to cherish all this of course, but it’s a fine remembrance and that’s something worth sharing with others.
Our sale listing is finally up! It’s take a while to put together video and photos (all fresh, taken over last few weeks) for our rig, but it’s finally done. We’ve listed on RV Trader, and RVT and we’ve got TWO videos, a short 10-min overview video (for initial interest) and a longer 33-min in-depth video (for folks who are serious and want to see more).
Original MSRP : $266,270 Asking Price: $117,000* (negotiable) Rig Location: South Florida *Our tow car is also for sale & a package deal can be arranged for both
Engine: Cummins ISL 400 HP turbo diesel engine with only 47,897 miles (serviced yearly). Our engine is pre-DEF (so no need to carry DEF as you travel around).
Transmission: Allison 3000-MH 6-speed transmission with Transynd.
Chassis & Suspension: RR8R Roadmaster Chassis (8 airbags, 8 shocks) with cushion air glide suspension and anti-lock brakes, ATC (automatic traction control).
40PDQ floor plan. We have King Size bed, but otherwise this is accurate
We have done significant upgrades totaling ~$25,000 since we’ve owned the rig:
Solar Upgrade: 1500 Watts of solar panels (on roof), 600AH of lithium batteries, Magnum 3000 Hybrid inverter. Our solar system is state-of-the-art and can run everything, including our front A/C. Hybrid function allows you to run the coach off a regular house power-cord.
Our 1500 watts of solar panels
We upgraded our surge protector & ATS last year
Extra Goodies: We also have plenty of additional goodies which will go with the rig to the new owners including tire covers, awning shade cloth, Lynx leveling blocks, Reflectix covers (sized for all windows), air hose attachment (for inflating tires), propane extention (for grill), 100ft of water hose, external LED lights (rope lighting), decor lights, extra fluids & protectants etc.
We are the original owners and have all the manuals and can provide detailed service records. As my blog readers know, we are selling because we are moving from USA to Europe and cannot bring our beautiful rig with us. The rig has been extremely well maintained, and everything is well used, and in working order, but she does have some cosmetic wear and tear that we are happy to detail to potential buyers.
Please feel free to send around this listing to anyone who might be interested. As a reminder, I am offering a $150 bounty to any blog reader who refers the final buyer. Also feel free to contact us for more info.
Full 33-min Video Overview:
RV For Sale 2008 Holiday Rambler 40PDQ! - YouTube
Our rig is 4-slide, 40 foot (measuring 41.6′ end-to-end). New tires were installed 2013 & 2014.
Site Quality = 4.5/5 This is a teeny campground with only 28 sites, and pretty much every site is lovely. All sites were completely re-graded after Hurricane Irma and new electric pedestals were installed so they are large, flat, firm gravel-base sites with excellent power and water (50A/water only. No sewer here). The sites are arranged in a single circle by the beach, separated from the main day-use area by a coded entry gate. All sites are back-in and each site has a nice “sitting area” with brand new picnic tables, grill and poles (to hang lanterns or a clothes line). Pad sizes are large (~45 to 70 foot long), and nicely angled to the main road, making them easily accessible for bigger rigs. Fifteen of the sites have a separate area beside the main pad to pitch a tent (#1-9, #20, #22-25, #27) and around eleven sites (#8,9,11,13,15,16,17,19,21,22,23) have full water views out the rear/side. Beach access is a small path between sites #13 & #15. The only minor ding? Hurricane Irma ripped away most the vegetation in camp so there is only limited privacy between sites, and since this is often a windy area (it’s a popular kite-surfing location), this also means there is limited protection from the wind. On plus side, the low-lying vegetation has opened up full water views to all sites on the beach side.
Facilities = 4.5/5 Good facilities here. They include flush toilets & large, individual walk-in shower stalls with benches for your clothes. The shower water took a while to warm up, but pressure was decent and they were spacious and wonderfully clean while we were there. On-site dump station by the exit across from campsite #26. NO laundry facilities.
Location = 5/5 Location is fabulous here, with just one very minor ding. Curry Hammock is located at MM 56 on it’s own little key (Little Crawl Key), making it the perfect spot to visit just about everything in the Middle Keys. It’s just ~5 mins drive from Marathon which has all the shopping, groceries, & eating you could want. Plus there are several great sightseeing options close-by (Turtle Hospital, Crane Point, 7-Mile Bridge, Dolphin Discovery Center). In addition the main bike trail into town is accessible right across Hwy 1 which means you can bike (separately from the road) all the way to 7-mile Bridge. Lastly within camp there is plenty to keep you busy including 1/2 mile of beautiful beach as well as water activities such as kayaking & kite-surfing (it is a popular kite-surfing spot). The only slight ding? It’s just a 1/2 mile down from Hwy 1 so you do get *some* road noise in camp on calm days. However it’s mostly quiet and relaxed, and if the wind blows (which it often does here) you don’t hear the road at all.
Pet Friendliness = 3.5/5 Pets are welcome in camp and on the short trail behind sites #2-8, but unfortunately (like most FL state parks) they are NOT allowed anywhere on the beach or in the water. So, sadly there is no-where you can take doggie for a water dip near camp. For the best doggie play drive south to Sombrero Beach (off MM47) where you can happily swim & hang with doggie all day long. Also MANY of the restaurants and bars around the area accept dogs in their outdoor areas, so feel free to bring them along for outings to eat and drink. Poo bags are provided in-camp.
Overall Rating = 4.4 BONUS ALERT = Camp right by a beautiful beach in the FL Keys
Curry Hammock State Park Campground Review - YouTube
Summary: What a great little park! Curry Hammock is a beautiful park located on it’s own key (Little Curry Key) right smack in the Middle Keys. The campground is teeny, a small circle of only 28 sites located right by the beach (Atlantic Ocean side), and it’s just lovely. Sites were completely re-graded, and new power pedestals were installed right after hurricane Irma, so when we stayed here in Jan, 2018 everything looked brand new. The sites are all large, firm, gravel-base back-ins with nice sitting areas containing picnic table, grill & poles (for lantern & clothes line). Not much vegetation around (unfortunately the hurricane ripped most of it out), but this also means full water views have opened up to all the sites on the beach side (#8,9,11,13,15,16,17,19,21,22,23). The beach is accessible right between sites 13 & 15 and is just gorgeous (it’s a great place to catch the sunset every night), plus there’s a wonderful bike trail located right across Hwy 1 (by the exit) that goes all the way to 7-Mile Bridge. Very little day-use traffic here too, so it’s generally a superbly relaxed place to hang out. The only slight dings? You are only 1/2 mile from Hwy 1 so on calm days you do hear *some* road noise. Also this is a popular kite-surfing area which means you OFTEN get wind here, and since most of the campground vegetation is gone this means there is not really any protection from the wind in camp. Lastly, like most FL State Parks dogs are not allowed on the beach itself. There is a short doggie trail behind sites #5-8, plus you can walk around camp, into the day-use area and across from the entrance on the bike trail, but you cannot bring doggie onto the beach or into the water. However all these are minor inconveniences for a fabulously relaxed and superbly beautiful location! We found this to be the MOST relaxed campground we’ve stayed at in FL Keys and absolutely loved it. We totally dug our water-view site (despite a few windy, rocky days), absolutely loved the beautiful beach (I took tons of sunset shots), totally enjoyed the next-door bike-trail and really loved the great Middle Keys location. A beautiful little park well worth staying at if you can snag a reservation.
NOTE/ If you want to stay here reserve WELL AHEAD! Reservations open 11 months ahead and sell out seconds after 8AM EST open each day. So, be persistent and look for last-minute cancellations.
Extra Info: Good cell signal (2-3 bars LTE for both Verizon & ATT), plus T-Mobile worked great (Binge On worked). Total 28 sites, of which 25 are reservable on-line. All sites are water/electric only (NO sewer) and cost $38.50/night. On-site dump station.
VIew of beginning of campground loop. Site #1 on right.
Site #5 on left with #4, #2 behind
Site #8 on left with #7, #6 behind
Site #13 on left with #11, #9 behind. These all have full water-views out the back
Site #14 with #12 behind. These have slices of water view out the front.
Our site #19 on left with #17, #16, #15 behind. All have water-views our the back.
Believe it or not we’ve only got 55 days to go before we leave the US of A!!
Textures and shapes on a cloudy day at Curry Hammock
It’s gorgeous here
Lots of busy business going on here at the Wheelingit camp, so I’m not blogging as often as I should, but be assured that things ARE moving along. The good news is that, despite going a tad crazy with organizational stuff, we’re in a reeeeeeally relaxed place.
For the past two weeks we’ve been in the Florida Keys, lounging in our absolute favorite place (Middle Keys) at several superbly gorgeous State Parks. We scored these incredible sites thanks (yet again) to a blog reader who couldn’t make it down this year and offered to transfer them through a cancellation/re-book. So we decided to snag them and make this our last hurrah in “the beast”. It’s bittersweet stuff all around, but it’s giving us an incredible place to just hang & enjoy this final time in our home before we move out.
I think these will be good memories to carry with us to Europe.
Missed my Key’s Posts from last year? We spent 6 weeks here in Feb & Mar enjoying the whole chain from Upper, to Middle and Lower keys. Here’s my 4-post series on the best sightseeing, eating & dog-friendly spots in each of those areas:
Many of you might be wandering what the Keys look like after Hurricane Irma.
At Curry Hammock much of the vegetation is gone, but the sites have all been re-graded and look great
The beaches are as beautiful as ever
They weathered the heart of the storm, so there was plenty of damage here, especially in the Middle Keys (around Marathon), but the recovery efforts have been amazing. Most of the debris is gone, and apart from a some piles of branches along Hwy 1, it looks really good. You can certainly still see the scars from the Hurricane (e.g. houses missing roofs, destroyed RVs & trailers), but lots has been cleaned up, and almost everything is open including most of the private RV parks and pretty much all the local businesses. The Keys were badly hurt, but not defeated and they are humming again.
As far as the State Parks go, Curry Hammock, Bahia Honda & Pennekamp are all back up & running again (Long Key is the only campground still closed), and we’re planning to hit them all before we leave.
Our first 10 days were spent in Curry Hammock State Park (full review coming) and now we’re in Bahia Honda State Park for 2 weeks. Both campgrounds have newly graded sites with brand-new power pedestals, so they’re looking really good. Sadly, most of the thick vegetation is gone, ripped out by massive winds, so there’s not as much site privacy as there used to be. But there’s still some ground-covering and smaller trees, and of course the ocean views are as amazing as ever. The beach at Curry Hammock actually looks fabulous, but Bahia Honda still has a long way to go and most of the park (including all ocean-side beaches, Sandspur Camping Area and the marina) is still closed off for damage control. It’s going to take a long time for them to finish the repairs here.
Entrance of Bahia Honda Campground last year versus this year (site 34 on right)
Sites 16 (front) & 15 (rear) at Bahia Honda State Park last year versus this year
But is still soooooo pretty here! We are just ecstatic to be spending these weeks here and are totally digging our water views and that southern beach tiki-hut kinda vibe. It may not look exactly as it did last year, but it’s still amazing. The Keys are always a special place.
One of the first questions for anyone traveling abroad for extended periods of time is how to do it legally, without over-stepping visa limits, and it’s a most important one. If you travel to Europe and over-stay your visa limits you can be fined, or even blocked from entering EU again for multiple years, and that’s not something you want to mess with.
How do you travel long-term in EU with this?
Paul and I are lucky in that I’m a European by birth (Danish) and carry a Danish Passport, so I have the ability to travel, live and work anywhere in the EU (including UK, at least until Brexit is formally enacted on 29th March, 2019). By extension, Paul can apply for a visa to stay/live with me in those countries too.
But what if you’re a US citizen and you don’t happen to be married to a European passport holder like me, THEN what do you do?
Well, there are actually several options for US citizens, and once you understand the basic rules they are actually fairly easy to work around. Those are the details I hope to go through today.
Important Disclaimer: I’m not an immigration lawyer, so what follows below should not in any way be considered formal or legal advice. It’s simply my layman’s view of the matter.
It’s All About The Schengen Area
At the core of any travel to Europe is something called the Schengen agreement. Originally signed in 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg (thus the name) it comprises a set of 26 countries that all have agreed to allow free movement of their citizens within their borders. As a traveler that means that once you’re inside the area, you can freely travel throughout the 26 Schengen-member countries without any additional passport controls or border checks (kind of like the same way you’d travel across multiple states in the US).
However, there’s a really important caveat to this -> if you’re not a European passport holder there are limits to how long you can do this!
For US citizens your stay limits within the Schengen Area are a max of 90 days out every 180 days (unless you get a special visa*)
So, if you’re a US citizen your passport will get stamped when you enter the Schengen area and then you’ll get 3 months from that date to freely travel around the Schengen countries. Once those 3 months are up you have to be OUT of the Area for a full 3 months before you can go back in again. The 90 days are cumulative, so you can be in Schengen for 10 days, leave the area for a while and then come back into Schengen for another 20 days (that’ll be 30 days total), but once you reach 90 days in total (within 180 day period) you’re done.
The blue and green areas are all part of the official Schengen Area. The red and orange areas are not.
Note1/ When you enter the Schengen Area, you may be asked for proof that you intend to leave within 3 months, especially if you flew in on a one-way ticket. So, when you arrive it’s a good idea to have some kind of ticket or reservation (e.g. campsite reservation) out of the Area dated right before your 3 months are up. You may never get asked for this, but IMO it’s better to be prepared.
Note2/ For US passport holders there’s one additional requirement that you should take note of, and that is your passport expiry date. You need to make sure your passport does not expire until 90 days after you plan to leave the area. So, anyone planing to stay the full 3 months should make sure they have at least 6 months validity on their passport before they go.
The UK Is NOT Part Of Schengen
The other important thing to note about the Schengen Area is that the UK (which comprises England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) is not officially part of it. This has nothing to do with Brexit (they’ve never been part of Schengen), and simply means they have their own travel rules and stay limits.
For US citizens your max stay limit in the UK is 180 days (unless you get a special visa*)
Gov.uk is the official website for all things UK
So as a US citizen, once enter the UK, you can stay up to a total of 180 days before you have to be out again.
What about after that? Or what if you travel into and out of the UK multiple times? This is where the rules get a bit fuzzy. Technically the 180 day limit is per visit. So, you might think it would be possible to enter the UK, stay for 3-6 months, go out again, come back in again, and get another 180 day pass? Yes, technically possible, but NOT likely.
If you try to spend too much time in the UK then it looks suspiciously like you’re trying to “live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits“. This is a no-no and UK immigration will very likely deny you entry and (maybe) even ban you from future visits. So, although it’s not specifically written down anywhere, the general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t attempt to spend anymore than 6 months out of 12 in the UK on a tourist visa. If you do more than that, red flags will start to go up.
From the gov.uk site. That’s British speak for “just don’t do it”.
Oh yeah, I could spend summer here (Cornwall, UK)
Also keep in mind that getting 6 months stay when you enter the UK is not “guaranteed”. It’s ultimately up to the UK immigration officer who stamps your passport whether they give you the full 180 days or not. Again, if they suspect suspicious immigration activity they could shorten this or deny you.
So, when you enter the country be prepared to show that you are a genuine visitor, and do not have intentions to stay long-term. Good supporting documents for this are bank statements (= proof of funds to support yourself) and a reservation or ticket back out of the country after the end of your planned stay. As I mentioned above, you may never get asked for any of these, but IMO it’s better to be prepared.
The Republic Of Ireland, Romania, Croatia and Other Are Non-Schengen TooThe Republic of Ireland is not part of Schengen (and it’s not part of UK either)
If you look closely at the map you might also note that the Republic of Ireland is not part of the Schengen Area. It’s not part of the UK either (in case you didn’t know, only Northern Ireland is) so they have their own, separate rules about stay limits. The same goes for several of the Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Romania and Croatia. They each have their own rules, visa and stay limits, that are separate from the Schengen Area. Here’s an overview of those stay limits for US citizens:
Republic of Ireland — 90 days
Romania — 90 days
Croatia — 90 days
Ukraine — 90 days
Of course I haven’t even mentioned places like North Africa which are popular winter travel destinations for European RVers, and (obviously) not part of Schengen either. The possibilities are endless…
What Does This Mean For US Travelers Wanting to RV/Caravan Around Europe?
If you come on a US passport to Europe without any special visas it’s pretty simple. You just have to plan your travel around the various legal stay limits.
What a year of travel might look like in Europe without any special visas. Spring in France, Summer in UK, Fall in Germany and Winter in Croatia. Not bad, right?!
Another option for a year. Spring in Scandinavia, Summer/Fall in UK/Ireland and Winter in South of Spain.
That means you can travel for 3 months in the Schengen Area, and then you have to be OUT of the Area for the next 3 months. Where you go after that will just depend on the stay limits for that particular country.
The good news is that there are lots of options, and if you plan them right you can travel a whole year (following the weather too) without any hassle at all.
For example you could start off your travels in Spring with 3 months in Italy/France (Schengen), then you could travel to UK (non-Schengen) for next 3 months during summer, then over to Germany/Austria (Schengen) for 3 months of fall, then finally down to Eastern Europe (say, the coast of Croatia, non-Schengen) for the final 3 months of winter. Perfection!
Alternatively, you could start with 3 months of Spring in..
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