Snowbird Lifestyle – Join the migration of RVers who flee the snow and follow the sun
Just as the autumn season brings on cooler temperatures and a colorful display of foliage, so too it reminds us of the oncoming chill of winter that follows: snow, ice, and bone-chilling cold.
You’re familiar with the drill: dig out the snow shovel, take the snow blower on a test run, and pull out the warm winter sweaters, parkas, mitts, and snow boots. Such are the joys of a northern winter!
To many this is a migratory signal to start packing the RV and begin heading to warmer climates. October marks the beginning of this annual migration of more than a million snowbirds to warm destinations in the U.S. Sunbelt. Snowbirds are typically retired seniors who have the desire and financial ability to be away from home for extended periods of time.
The snowbird lifestyle is to the liking of many RVers since they take their home with them when the cold weather arrives. Veteran snowbirds and full-timers know what to expect—they’ve been down this road before. But for novice snowbirds this is a new adventure that need not be an ordeal.
The first issue for novice snowbirds, and experts alike, is planning the trip south.
Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning.
Before heading south, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes. Creating customized checklists is one way to keep track of your preparations.
Consider the following tips as a starting point when creating your winter-ready checklist:
- Check expiry dates for travel documents, insurance, and credit cards
- Check with your insurance provider to determine how extended absences may affect coverage, if a regular walk-through is required, and if so how frequently
- Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep sidewalks clear and your home secure
- Arrange with your local postal service to have mail forwarded to a mail forwarding address (You may wish to use the Good Sam Mail service)
- Place a temporary hold on your newspaper delivery
- Check to ensure that all smoke alarms are in working order and have fresh batteries
- Unplug all electronics and electrical appliances—microwave, washer and dryer, stove, refrigerator, coffee pot, toaster oven, TVs, audio equipment, radios, and lamps
The available options are unlimited enabling snowbirds to design their winter lifestyle to suit their financial ability and social preferences.
The basic question is WHERE are YOU going to go? Do you prefer the Pacific or Atlantic coast or Gulf of Mexico with their sunny beaches, or the arid desert? Is your preference for dry air or higher humidity? Do you enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, biking, or birding?
Numerous snowbird parks offer a wide variety of activities including swimming, dancing, woodworking, quilting, and lapidary.
Another consideration is finding an RV park that is within your budget. Even with the recent escalation of RV park rates, one can still find a spot for about $400/month in some locations.
The majority of snowbirds migrate straight south from their northern home. As a result most snowbirds from the Northwest tend to winter in Arizona and California; those from the Midwest in Texas; and snowbirds from the Northeast head to Florida. With an RV, you have the freedom to check out places that appeal to you. Experiment before you decide to settle into one place. Or, like us, you may prefer to be “roving gypsies”.
Warm weather hubs such as Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California are tops for their predictable warm weather. But other states are also becoming popular—Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.
The majority of snowbird resorts are centered around Mesa, Apache Junction, Tucson, Yuma, and along the Colorado River. One of the hottest spots in terms of growth is YUMA (Yearly Uncontrolled Migration of the Aged), which doubles in population during winter months. Any discussion of Arizona and snowbirds would be incomplete without mentioning Quartzsite, a rock-hound paradise since the 1960s. Quartzsite has been described as “$400,000 motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for FREE camping”.
Thousands of snow-weary Northerners flock to Texas during winter. In Texas—a state famous for adding its unique flair—migrating snowbirds have been dubbed “Winter Texans”. Most congregate in one of two areas: Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley.
The majority of Winter Texans flock to “The Valley”, an area near the Mexican border that stretches from Brownsville and Harlingen in the east to Mission in the west—a distance of about 65 miles. Winters tend to be mild and a bit breezy. With less expensive living costs, the Valley is arguably the best bargain in the U.S. for wintering in a warm climate.
Think Florida, and you have thoughts of dazzling white beaches, wind-swept palms, endless citrus groves, fresh-from-the-water seafood, delicious key lime pie, Kennedy Space Cen
ter, NASCAR drivers at Daytona International Speedway, well-manicured golf courses, the Everglades, Key West, Disney World, and other Orlando-area theme parks.
Florida is the only state where you can winter anywhere. The further south you go, the warmer the winter temperatures. There are so many choices depending on your interests and budget. The cost of RV parks increases as you travel further south and with proximity to the Atlantic or Gulf Coast.
The majority of snowbirds who make California their winter home, head for the Coachella Valley. This is desert country with an occasional oasis—some natural but mostly man-made. Known world-wide as “the golfer’s paradise”, golf courses abound.
Synonymous with the good life, Palm Springs is a retreat of the rich and famous, the ultimate in resort living. Swimming pools and fairways almost overlap. People who can afford to winter anywhere in the U.S. often do it here where winter weather is close to perfect.
Every fall when I hear the geese honking overhead, something starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose.” Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I pack up the RV and head south to the Sun Belt.