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7 Steps on How to Be a Successful Snowbird

Category: Home and Garden

September 24, 2019 — The skies are starting to get busy with birds and butterflies headed south on their winter migrations. And soon Interstates like 25, 75, 95 will be crowded with baby boomers on their way to similar retirement destinations. To help you get ready for those trips we re-publish our popular “Snowbird’s Leaving for the Winter” Checklist every year. This year we also have a new article with tips for making your snowbird experience as wonderful as possible. Note that most of these tips will apply even if you are one of the many counter-snowbirds: folks who live north in the winter and elsewhere the rest of the year.

Anyone who has had the snowbird experience quickly learns it leads to a very different lifestyle than what they experience living in only one place. Your snowbird life will be a little more complicated, probably a bit more expensive, and if done right – more enjoyable. Here are some things to consider as you embark on this lifestyle.

Start early. Finding a place to rent as a snowbird is not that easy, which means you have to start early and be willing to work at it. For example, in many active communities and towns that are popular with snowbirds, most of the desirable rentals for the next winter season are already booked by March. So if you start looking in October for the following January, the inventory will be picked over. Over the years one of the most frequent questions we get is “how to find a snowbird rental for the winter”. To help with that, you might find How to Find a Snowbird Rental for the Winter” and the 117 comments it generated useful.

Network. Ask baby boomers who spend the winter in a warm place how they chose that destination and the odds are at least 50-50 that they will say their friends or relatives already lived there. So if you ask enough people where they go, you will start to get an idea of the popular choices, the various reasons for their choices, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Keep notes or a spreadsheet on these conversations, and pretty soon you will have a great starting place for your search.

Scout around. Armed with your notes, along with articles and reviews from sites like Topretirements, you can come up with a list of snowbird destinations you would like to explore. The best way to do that is before you retire, making scouting trips part of your work or vacation travel plans. A very pleasant way to do this a road trip. If you go down I 95, for example, you can branch off and experience all kinds of east coast destinations from Virginia to Florida, taking small sections at a time. Likewise on other routes you can do the same for the western parts of the Carolinas, Georgia, and the Gulf Coast of Florida. Out west you can make similar trips to Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. After you make a few of these scouting explorations you will have a much better of where you might want to rent for a month or a season.

Look for lifestyle. Knowing what activities you like will help narrow the search. For example if boating is your passion, there are many towns and communities that make that activity easy. There are communities that focus on almost every type of activity or sport – golf…tennis…horses…stargazing…RVs…flying, etc. If non-stop activities of all sorts are your thing, you might be interested in a very large active adult community like The Villages, On Top of the World, or California’s Laguna Woods Village. There are active communities with every kind of amenity and activity, so there is sure to be many to fit your needs. You can use our “Advanced Search” to drill down on those. Likewise, perhaps you are looking for a college town, mid-size city, or a small town where you can walk to anything, be part of the community, and have a rich cultural life.

Rent first – and be flexible. In our opinion, anyone who is interested in the snowbird lifestyle should rent first. This involves the least risk and has only a modest expense attached to it. The beauty of renting is that even in one season you could check out several places. If you like what you see, you can back again to further test the waters. Or you can move on to the next states, towns, and communities on your list. If a hurricane destroys your rental house, it won’t be your problem as a renter. Even a month in one place is probably not a long enough time to get an idea of what it would be like to live in a community for months on end, year after year. Our advice is to shop around and experience different locales. You might decide to buy a place at some point (some people make that choice just to eliminate the hassle of renting), but you don’t have to.

Enjoy the process. Finding a place for the winter where you can pursue all of your favorite activities can be very interesting and rejuvenating. You’ll explore places you have never been. Meet all kinds of interesting people and enjoy fun experiences you might never get a chance to have. Maybe it won’t be for you, but you probably won’t regret trying it. If you do find you like being a snowbird, we recommend trying to simplify your life. See if you can negotiate a deal to keep some of your stuff over the summer so you don’t have to cart it all down and back every year – maybe even renting a small storage unit. You can hire someone to drive your car (and your stuff) down south while you fly – or in the East you can take Amtrak’s Auto Train. You can also downsize your existing home up north, get rid of a lot of stuff, and save money – now that you only live there for part of the year.

Looking for ideas on where to go? Topretirements’ Members have had a great time talking about their ideal snowbird pairings – what winter and summer towns seem be ideal combinations. Snowbirding opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities for new places to experience. See “Your Ideal Snowbird Pairings“, an article full of tips and Member suggestions.

Comments? What are your concerns about being a snowbird? If you already are one, what are the best and worst things about this lifestyle.

For further reading:
Snowbird’s Leaving for the Winter Checklist
Why Your Best Place to Retire Might Be 2 Places
How to Find a Great Snowbird Rental for the Winter

Posted by Admin on September 24th, 2019

9 Comments »

  1. My wife and I love being snowbirds. One of the big advantages is the richness that comes from living in 2 different communities and all of the different experiences and friendships that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. On the drawback side, it is harder, although not impossible, to work or be a volunteer if you live in two places. We had both been on different volunteer boards before, but it is extremely difficult to be an effective board member if you are away 6 months at a time. So we have to find different opportunities, like being on a condo board or help on some committees that are not active all year long. We have snowbird friends with good volunteer jobs as literacy or ESL coaches, or as docents at museums and such.

    by Ken — September 27, 2019

  2. Great article and I can relate to Ken’s comment but in a different way, although it is true it is hard to sign up for things when you are gone 6 months a year, I honestly used that as a good excuse not to get signed up for some organizations. But what I find as soon as I arrive back at my home base or my snowbird residence I am hit with “it’s your turn to host the Mahjong group” “it’s your turn to plan the women’s golf luncheon this month”, and “we’ve been waiting for you to start subbing as an usher at church” . I’m not complaining really, I could not join any of these groups but that’s not me and I like to keep busy and enjoy my friends. I just want a week to unpack my suitcase in settle in. And I love having two seperate communities who make me feel welcome and needed!

    by BarbaraB — September 29, 2019

  3. Just took re-look at our 2018 Member Survey on snowbirding. Some 59% of survey takers said they were very likely or likely to become snowbirds. Most people said they would be snowbirds for 2-3 months a year. The Southeast was by far most population region. Florida was #1 choice, Arizona #2, South Carolina #3. How would you agree with these snowbird choices – let us know!

    by Admin — October 3, 2019

  4. We “snowbird” 6-7 months per year in West Central Florida, September – April. We own a lot in a Motorcoach Resort and live in our motorhome full time.

    The other months of the year we travel visiting family in the Northeast. We love this part of rural “old” Florida. Very peaceful here.

    by Frances — October 4, 2019

  5. Your survey looks about right 🙂 As for hubs and me, we have no interest in owning a second home for a number of reasons (like to visit different places, too lazy to deal with a second home, etc.) but we do plan on heading south in the Winter. Having lived in SC for one mild winter and one brutally cold winter, we decided to wait until January to decide where to go; if the forecast at that point is for a relatively mild winter in SC, that’s were we will go but if it shows a colder weather pattern then we’ll head to Fl. As for rentals, in the Grand Strand area there will be no problem finding a monthly rental and when we go to Fl we usually spend a week or so in a number of different areas since we have friends and family all over that state. We have found suite hotels/extended stay hotels, and even time-share resorts usually have availability and the units include a small kitchen, separate bedroom, and often even a stacked washer/drier.

    by jean — October 4, 2019

  6. Frances, Where / town in west Florida? Thank you.

    by KT — October 4, 2019

  7. We stay in Webster at the Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort. Webster is said to have the oldest and longest running flea market in Florida. It is on every Monday year round.

    by Frances — October 5, 2019

  8. Frances, thank you. I’m looking at panhandle Pensacola and east for now.

    by KT — October 5, 2019

  9. Because we didn’t plan ahead for this winter the only rental we could find started in October which was much sooner than we wanted but we decided to go for it as it would give us even more time to look for a Florida retirement spot. It turned out to be an eye-opener as we have a middle townhome unit which I guess I never thought about but we only get light from the front and the back of the condo, and I do have to have the light on in the kitchen during the day. And it took me awhile to get use to not having windows all around. Probably better for some for keeping the hot sun out or looking across at another building. But renting did help me in realizing if I live in a condominium community I need an end unit so I am glad we are renting and it may help narrow the what type of home list as the time goes on here. So I agree with this blog that renting is worth it for awhile.

    by BarbT — October 15, 2019

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