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Snowbirds’ Guide to Flying Away for Winter

Tips for retirees who wish for warmer winters away from the Northeast.

snowbirds

If you’re one of the many snowbirds that head south for the winter, you’ve already decided you had enough of the brutally cold Northeast winters and want to head somewhere much, much warmer in your retirement. But, how do you prepare? Where should you go? Good news: we’re here to help!

From checklists for preparing to leave and return to our picks for top warm weather retirement destinations, here are a few tips to make the most out of being a snowbird.

Checklists for snowbirds

Preparing

  • Schedule a check-up with your primary doctor prior to leaving.
  • Make sure your prescriptions will also be accessible in your winter home.
  • Alert your bank and your insurance company about your relocation.
  • Sign up for online banking to track finances and pay bills easily.
  • Check with your provider about pausing or paying reduced rates for cable and internet services .
  • Make sure you pack for the weather! Your destination might be warm or even hot during the day, but it might be cool at night and early morning.
  • Bring all valuable documents such as passport, driver’s license and medical, insurance and tax documents

RV tips

  • Have your tow vehicle and RV inspected prior to your trip.
  • Add tank cleaner to RV’s waste tanks.
  • In addition to the trip essentials like clothing and toiletries, be sure to pack:
    • first-aid kit
    • emergency roadside kit
    • paper maps
    • medical records/prescription information
    • RV and tow vehicle insurance
    • tool kit
    • extra chargers/batteries for devices

Car insurance

Be sure to check car registration and insurance requirements in your winter home, as they vary from state to state. A AAA insurance agent can help you with any questions you may have.

Health insurance

Make sure you have consistent health coverage wherever you go. If you have a Medigap supplement or are enrolled in a lower-cost Medicare Advantage plan, be sure to check the specifics, as these vary by region. If you’re traveling outside the country, be sure to look into the country’s health insurance requirements.

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Home care tips for snowbirds – before you leave

Plumbing

  • Turn off your water supply so that the pipes don’t leak or burst.
  • Contact a professional about turning off the water supply for older heating systems.
  • Drain water from pipes so that they don’t freeze.
  • Drain and shut off all water faucets.

Maintenance

  • Unplug all appliances, such as toasters and lamps.
  • Empty your fridge and unplug it.
  • Remove dead trees or limbs.
  • Have roof and gutters inspected.
  • Clean your home so you don’t attract pests.

Protect your home from thieves

  • Make sure your alarms have been activated and are working.
  • Store valuables in a secure location.
  • Lock external doors and windows with locks, hinges or frames that can’t be broken apart.
  • Don’t post vacation plans to social media.
  • Check out these security tips for when you are away.

Make your home look occupied 

  • Have someone remove snow from your property after snowstorms.
  • Have mail forwarded to your snowbirds residence and stop newspaper delivery.
  • Ask a friend or a relative to pick up any flyers or other papers from your front door.
  • Have exterior and interior lights come on at certain times.

In case of emergencies

  • Notify the police department well in advance of your departure and give emergency notification numbers.
  • Give a trusted friend, a neighbor or a relative access to your home to monitor all systems and to be available for emergency situations.
  • Also give them your contact information and a list of local contractors in case repairs are needed.

Home care tips for snowbirds – when you return

Plumbing

  • Turn on the water.
  • Turn on the heat.
  • Check for signs of leaks or pipe damage.

Maintenance

  • End mail forwarding.
  • Resume any utilities and services you paused or ended while you were gone.
  • Clean up the house.
  • Raise the house temperature and put in a new filter.
  • Test smoke detectors.
  • Use a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Let neighbors and the police department know of your return.

snowbirds

Where to go

Now that you know the nitty-gritty of setting up the snowbirds lifestyle, you’ll need a place to snowbird to.

What to think about 

To narrow your location search, here are some questions you should answer:

  • How long are you staying?
  • How are you getting to your destination?
  • What type of climate do you prefer?
  • Will you rent or buy your winter home? Or will you use an RV?
  • Are you bringing your pets with you?
  • Do you want to be close to family or are you willing to travel farther for warmer weather?
  • What do you want to do at your destination?

Here are our top picks for snowbird retirement.

In the Southeast

South Carolina

The Golf Capitol of the South, with its 380-plus award-winning courses, also offers so much more than golf. Enjoy the scenic views of lakes, hills and mountain streams and eat up local treats such as Oyster roasts and Frogmore stew as well as cuisine from all parts of the world. Our top cities:

  • Myrtle Beach
  • Pawley’s Island
  • Hilton Head

Florida

Florida cities take the top spots of almost every single “top destinations for snowbirds” list there is, and it’s not hard to guess why. From pleasant temperatures in the winter and pristine beaches to natural sites, amusement parks and lively city scenes, snowbirds will find no shortage of things to do while staying warm in the winter. Our top cities:

  • Orlando
  • Hollywood Beach
  • Winter Park

Georgia

This state is known for much more than its peaches. Providing a getaway from the hectic city life, Georgia boasts beautiful and quiet beaches along the Atlantic shore and gorgeous oaks as well as charming fishing villages. There are opportunities for hiking beautiful trails, taking in the mountain air, camping by wildlife refuges, fishing in deep saltwater and more! Our top cities:

  • Brunswick
  • Jekyll Island
  • Kingsland

In the Southwest

Texas

So many snowbirds visit the Lone Star State that it has a special name for them: Winter Texans. With temperatures easily in the 60s and 70s during the winter months, tons of activities and tons of food you just can’t get enough of (especially the Tex-Mex and barbecue!), it’s no wonder so many snowbirds from as far north as Canada make their way to the state every year. Our top cities:

  • Austin
  • Fredericksburg
  • Galveston

Arizona

If you want to spend your winter somewhere in a snowbirds desert paradise, Arizona is the state for you. From a thriving entertainment and arts district to baseball spring training sites, Arizona is a desert paradise for snowbirds. Our top cities:

  • Glendale
  • Yuma
  • Tuscon

To the West

Nevada

Feeling lucky? It might be unusual to think of this casino-famous state as a big snowbird spot. But, the gorgeous scenery, many sunshine days, tons of entertainment, affordable meals and outdoor opportunities make Nevada attractive for many snowbirds each year. Our top cities:

  • Overton
  • Laughlin
  • Las Vegas

California

Whether it’s soaking up the sun at one or many of the gorgeous white-sand beaches, enjoying the vibrant arts scene or partying it up at the many cultural festivals, snowbirds will have no problem making the most of their time in sunny California. Our top cities:

  • Palm Springs
  • Santa Barbara
  • Cathedral City & Rancho Mirage

Top RV snowbird destinations

  • Florida – 71 RV parks
  • Arizona – 49 RV parks
  • Texas – 42 RV parks
  • California – 24 RV parks

Top international destinations

Want to snowbird somewhere outside the United States and its territories? Here are our top picks, based on safety, low cost of living and, of course, how warm they get in the winter:

  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • San Isidro, Costa Rica
  • Las Tablas, Panama
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Do you have tips for snowbirds that we missed? Any other locations you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments!

To find out how AAA can help you save for all your life changes and milestones, visit AAA.com/Financial. 

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