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Florida Top Choice for Snowbirds, But Many Migration Paths Lead to Happiness

Category: Retirement Planning

November 26, 2018 — Thanks to the almost 700 members who generously contributed their insights to last week’s “Snowbird” poll. We appreciate you sharing! As promised, here in Part 1 is our first detailed report on the summary for each question. Part 2 features a compilation of the most popular snowbird pairings (where our Members say they want to snowbird to, and from where), along with how they get there and other details of their migrations.

Your input confirms many of our pre-conceived opinions, along with some surprises. For example, it is not news that the top snowbird destination states are Florida, Arizona, and South Carolina – in that order. But we were surprised by how many people have a reverse migration pattern; they pack up and go somewhere cooler in the summer. One Member called himself a “sweatbird”, “shadebird” might be another handle!

Here are some other highlights from the 10 question poll, with detailed findings for each question below:
– The number of our responding members who expect to be snowbirds(49%) was much higher than we expected. When we asked the question in 2014 that figure was only 15%.
– The majority of snowbirds spend between 2 and 5 months in their seasonal retreats.
– People who live in the Northeast are overwhelmingly likely to snowbird in the Southeast.
– Folks from the Midwest are also more likely to migrate to the Southeast, but a significant number of them will head to the Southwest instead.

Detailed Findings
1. Retirement Status
Over two-thirds (69%) of the respondents to this survey are retired. Some 19% are not retired, and another 12% are partially retired. The results are interesting because this survey shows a much higher percentage of retired people than we have seen in our previous surveys. When we asked this question in a July survey, for example, only 40% said they were retired. The only interpretation we have for that is people who are already retire are more interested in snowbirding.

2. How likely to be a snowbird
We were surprised by the percentage of people who said they were either likely or extremely likely to be snowbirds (59%). In the only other survey where we asking about snowbirding, only 15% chose that option. But the question in that survey was different – the emphasis in that one was would you move in retirement, and where. The number of people who said they were interested in being a reverse snowbird – usually going somewhere cooler in the summertime – was a bit of a surprise.

Extremely likely
Not Sure
Not likely
Extremely unlikely



Here are 49 “Other” responses to the question that provide some additional insight.

3. How long will your snowbird stay be?
Just over half of the survey respondents spend between 2 and 5 months in their snowbird location. Another 28% are at their seasonal migration spots for 5 months or more.

1 month or less
1-2 months
2-3 months
4-5 months
5-6 months
More than 6 mo



4. Over time, do you spend more or less time in your snowbird location?
Our personal experience has been that most people who are snowbirds end up spending more time doing that as time goes on, and that was what we expected to see here. That didn’t turn out to be a huge phenomenon in the survey, however: almost half (48%) said they spend the same amount of time snowbirding, but 44% said their stays are longer.

About the same
More time



5. Where would you go as a snowbird, and where will you migrate from?
We asked survey takers to state what region they live in now, and then pick the region(s) where they might want to snowbird. The left hand column shows the regions they migrate from, in rank order (most people migrate from the Northeast, the fewest from “other”). As expected, the Southeast and Southwest are the preferred retirement destinations.

People who live in the Northeast are overwhelmingly likely to snowbird in the Southeast (70%) Folks from the Midwest are also more likely to migrate to the Southeast (58%), but many will head to the Southwest (34%). If you live in the West or Southwest, you will most likely do your snowbirding in those regions.

Live in Northeast

Snowbird Southeast


Snowbird Southwest


Snowbird West


6. State most likely to snowbird to?
Florida and Arizona were the runaway favorite snowbird destinations. After the Carolinas, all of the remaining states were about the same in terms of popularity, but write-in votes show the tremendous variety of choices that people take as to where to snowbird.

South Carolina
North Carolina




7. Rent or own?
A slightly higher percentage of people rent as snowbirds vs. owning a home (29% vs. 26%). But a sizable percentage (23%) are considering renting and then buying, while another 18% chose “Other”. The many write-in comments show that there are many ways to tackle snowbirding. For example, people who own RVs vary where they go as snowbirds each year, while other folks visit relatives in different places.

Rent/maybe buy
Not sure




8. How difficult is it to find a place to snowbird in?
We asked this question because we hear a lot of anecdotes from people who struggle to find a place to rent. They say availabilities are tight and you are never sure exactly what you are going to get, or if will be available the next year. As it turns out, however, only 18% of our survey respondents say it is difficult or extremely difficult to find a place.

Not difficult
Somewhat diff.



Write-in Comments
There were 161 great comments written in to this question. Here are just a few, but we recommend you click on this link and scan all of them because there are so many good ideas and experiences to learn from:

– Spent two years traversing the country, going back to all our favorite places. Personal experience with the region.
– Wanted to go to Arizona this year everything was locked up could not find place to rent started looking in May 2018 for a place for winter 2019. Was looking in Apache Junction area we do have pets too but it is a very tight market there.
– Our hobby is ballroom dancing. We can only dance one evening a week in the northeast. Being a snowbird will provide dancing in Florida 5 evenings a week. Oh how wonderful!
– Since we are going for 3 to 4 weeks, we’ve used Airbnb successfully.
– We helped our son and family purchase a home in Chula Vista, CA. In exchange for that we now have that as our wintering destination free of costs. We remodeled a section of the house to turn it into our own little sanctuary. Now we can come and go whenever we want, stay as long as we like or not even come if we want to travel to other places we desire to visit. Plus we get to spend time with our grandchild whenever we want.
– Places vary as we are summer “sweat Birds” getting away from the AZ heat. Sometimes Canada, New Zealand in 2019, Colorado mountains etc, any place cooler
– We spent over a year going to and staying various communities to find out what it was like. We believe that you need to spend the time in order to be sure it fits for you.

9. How did/would you find a place to stay for your snowbirding?
Survey respondents primarily seem to use research, referrals from family and friends, and their personal experience to find the places to stay where they choose to snowbird (the lower the number on the chart below, the higher the ranking).

Personal exper.
Online site




10. Tell us about your snowbird pairing preferences (where you go and where you come from), plus how you get there, and any other comments.

We will report on the results from this question next week. There were 342 write-in responses (wow)! That report will include a pdf of all responses as well as a tabulation of the most popular snowbird pairings, among other details.

Bottom Line
Thank you Topretirements members! Your input was great. We know your fellow members will find it useful. Please share your reactions in the Comments section below!

Links to Previous Surveys

Posted by Admin on November 26th, 2018


  1. We’ve tried to get away for a Jan/Feb week or two in Florida most winters, but now plan to make a more dedicated attempt to snowbird a couple of months “somewhere south”. Difficulty finding a place and other complications kind of put us off this year, but now we’re thinking a smaller RV may work better than the constant hunt for a rental. Useful other times of the year also. Look forward to seeing all those poll comments. Suggestions and recommendations always welcome! :<)

    by RichPB — November 27, 2018

  2. To RichPB…..we have an RV and it is extremely difficult to find openings at RV parks in Florida for the winter. The further south you go, the harder to find and the more expensive. It isn’t unusual to be $500-$700 per week for a spot. The longer you stay, the lower the daily cost.

    by Glen Simmonds — November 28, 2018

  3. Those that stated it was not difficult to find a place to snowbird; when was the last time they searched. Most snowbirds stay at the same place year after year. So 10 years ago, it may of been easy-peasey. I doubt today it would be so easy.

    by Carl J — November 28, 2018

  4. My wife and I are retired and just returned to Texas after a three month trip to states including the S. Carolina and other South Eastern States. I understand Florida, and S. Carolina and Arizona making the list of locations people choose to be snowbirds, one state I believe should be included is Texas. I believe your survey failed to reach reach a large number of snowbirds. We live about half of the year in a motorhome and have enjoyed Arizona in the winter. I believe if you check you find that a great number of people have for years also go to southern locations in Texas to be winter Texans. Some stay in Rv’s and some own park models.

    by Stan S — November 28, 2018

  5. Reply to Stan: any RV park names and locations tbat you know in South Texas? Especially Park Model Resorts. Also would like south Arizona. Many thanks.

    by Paul — November 29, 2018

  6. Gene Simmons, thanks for that observation. The farther South the better, but those are difficult facts. On a budget, knowing how to spend your time searching is helpful.

    by RichPB — November 29, 2018

  7. I mentioned Harvest Hosts which are sites like farms, wineries and museums which offer free site for one night.
    Harvest Hosts have sites all over the country and are small businesses that want to attract RV ers to their sites. There are etiquette and cleanliness rules–common sense and just good manners for one free over night stay per venue. Check out the link below as there is a map on their website with all the places in the USA once can visit.

    Editor’s note: Jennifer posted a similar comment a few days ago and we moved it and some related comments over to a Blog post about Van Living in our RV series. If you have comments pertaining to RVs please make them on that blog post.


    by Jennifer — November 29, 2018

  8. We prefer St. Simon Island, GA…… is great as well as the beaches and restaurants.

    by Susan — January 3, 2019

  9. Just found your web site. We are retired living in a small Colo. town in summer and Las Cruces, NM in winter. We have an RV & parked on private property for years.. Three years ago we bought an investment house keeping us busy. We love Las Cruces, what it offers, seen the growth & enjoy their winters. We are lucky to be Western Snowbirds.

    by Carol — January 4, 2019

  10. We are snowbirds and are thinking of flying back to Florida from the northeast this year. We have no pets to transport and it seems about equally risky to fly vs. stop at restaurants, service plazas, and motels for 3 days. Does anyone have any tips for the best way to get our car down there, or is it better to buy or rent one there. Love to hear the pros and cons.

    by Admin — September 10, 2020

  11. Great Blog everyone!!! I enjoyed reading all the conversations. Is anyone still reading this? We are planning on splitting the year up between Florida and New England. We currently rent and am torn between renting or buying in Florida.

    by Jimmy G — February 26, 2021

  12. Jimmy G
    To us renting in Florida would be ideal so that we can snowbird but have found finding short term rentals in Florida takes a lot of work and pictures on the internet can be deceiving as to exact location and neighborhood. They are hard to find but I understand it can be done if you get on it early. Now would be the time to find one for next year. I think this site had a blog about this topic last year.

    by Alex86 — February 26, 2021

  13. Alex86 you are right, we did have a Blog article a few years back, but is still pertinent today concerning snowbirds finding rentals : How to Find a Great Snowbird Rental for the Winter:
    There are also over 100 interesting comments from members at the end of the article.

    Another interesting one from 2017: Should snowbirds Rent or Buy Irma Provides Ample Lessons
    You can add comments or ask questions at the end of this Blog also.

    by Jane at Topretirements — February 27, 2021

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