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Ideal Snowbird Pairings and More: Fascinating Comments from Our Survey

Category: Retirement Planning

December 5, 2018 — This is Part 2 of our report on our recent Snowbird Survey. Part 1, “Florida is Favorite Snowbird Destination“, contained the detailed results on the survey’s first 9 questions. This installment is mostly made up of verbatim comments detailing where people snowbird to, and how they get there. Because these are actual comments from real people on this issue, we think you will find it a great source of ideas and comparisons to your own thoughts and experiences.

This article has three sections: Section 1 will start will overall observations, Section 2 is a sampling of 351 overall comments made to Question 10, “Anything More to Say”, and Section 3 has a link to all 166 comments made to Question 8, “How Hard Was It to Find a Place to Snowbird”.

Section 1: Observations
Driving vs. Flying. More people drive to their snowbird destination than fly; the ratio is about 3 to 1 in favor of driving. Top reasons for driving include: having a car at the destination, more room for stuff, taking pets, and visiting/exploring on the way are . Avoiding a multi-day, long drive is a top reason for flying. Many people who fly either keep a car at the destination, or have the car driven down.

East vs. West snowbirds. As is usually the case with Topretirements surveys, the majority of our audience is east coast based, mostly from the Northeast or Midwest. Although there were some folks who cross the Mississippi to either get away for the winter cold or summer heat, they are the rare exception.

Favorite destinations. In the Western part of the country, Arizona is the top winter snowbird destination. No one town stood out – people go everywhere in the state. In the East, Florida is tops, especially its west coast, but there are plenty of other states that get their share of winter escapees. One state that somewhat surprised us by the number of mentions it got was Alabama and its Gulf Coast. Affordability was mentioned as one reason for its popularity.

Conflicted about being a snowbird
There are a number of people who aren’t sure whether they want to be a snowbird. Their concerns provided interesting food for thought and included items like: concern over the expense of two homes, not being able to maintain a sense of community with a life split into two 6 month periods, wanting to get away from the cold but realizing that that could be relieved by a week or two of winter vacation. Sometimes people pick a place to snowbird and it doesn’t work out as expected, so they move.



Reverse snowbirds. There are more reverse snowbirds than we thought. They escape from places like Arizona and Florida and the Carolinas to enjoy a cooler summer in Maine, Michigan, New York, or even Europe.

International snowbirds. Rare, but they do exist, these folks can take flight in either winter and summer. The Caribbean, Hawaii (still U.S. but pretty far), France, Mexico, the South of Spain are on people’s radar.

Snowbirds who have an RV. There is a significant number of people who do their snowbirding in an RV. Those who do it cite the freedom it gives them to go to different places as well as travel with their home on their back. Low expense is another reason given.

How they find where to snowbird
Research and referrals from friends and family are the main ways people identify where they are going to snowbird. Airbnb, Home Away, and for RVers, RV Park Review are some of sources for ideas. Section 3 has a link to 166 comments on this question.

Section 2: Overall Comments to Question 10 – Anything else to add?
We have included about 60 of the most interesting and representative comments. Even though we would have loved to include all of the Comments, that would be unreadable in a Blog article. Many of the ones chosen mention specific destinations where folks snowbird. The comments are arranged those into different categories to make it easier to find what you are interested in. Those include Snowbird pairings in the East, Snowbird pairings in the West, people interested in spending the winter (or summer) in an RV, comments about driving vs. flying to the destination, input from people who are on the fence about being a snowbird, and reverse snowbird comments and destinations. You can find all 351 comments to this question here

East
Normally we drive, unless it is outside of the US. We are going to look for a home base that is between Michigan and Florida that has more ideal temperatures.

Being from NY- a high tax state- I am looking for a low tax state for permanent residence (e.g SC) and to spend the summers in NY- renting. I also want to be near an airport so I can fly to NY when needed.

Drive from Illinois(near St Louis) to Panama City Beach. Great fun with people from all over the country and Canada.

I live in Connecticut and just bought a house in northern Florida; Amelia Island. I have spent time there over a period of six years. It is a warm temperate climate; not very crowded; ocean and rivers; great old historic downtown (Fernandina
Beach); very relaxed and friendly.

We were very lucky. We knew someone who knew someone who had a place to rent. We drive so we have a car while there and all the things we need that the owners do not have. We also bring items they have that cannot be brought on a plane when they visit off season.

We will go to Maui but can’t go more than 1 month since we miss our dog too much. Then we can drive to a warmer Friday, state for another 2-3 months. I keep hoping the Del Web communities would rent for the season instead of trying to sell houses. There won’t be enough people to buy them when we go to sell! Also hope to see WAY MORE rentals include dogs.

We moved to Florida from the Midwest after retiring. Because FL summers are hot, we decided to spend time in the midwest during summer/fall. We are fairly well settled but believe it is a good idea to keep an open mind and be willing to go with the flow as interests change and life happens.

Fly from Cleveland, Ohio to Naples, Florida.

Snow birding is ideal for now but seeing how quickly things can escalate health wise ( not to mention how awful traffic has gotten almost everywhere) we would like a community where we can “age in place”

Virginia/Florida. Drive

We live in Ky, and currently we drive to Ft. Myers, FL. Long drive, approx. 15 hours that we break up into 2 days. Probably not going this year due to red tide.

Driving is actually more convenient (we live one hour from a regional airport), using our own car on site is easier and saves auto rental expense and allows us to pack more clothes

Usually fly to FL, Dec-May enjoys beautiful weather in SE Fl.

Cape Cod and Vero Beach, FL.

Have driven from Southern Maine to Venice, FL for the past three years

We live in Ohio – drive to Myrtle Beach. Use MB as a base – visit family, Charleston, HHI, Charlotte, and other local sites. Enjoy the area. One day drive is simple. Been going to this location for 25+ years

This is our first winter snowbirding and we are renting until we decide whether to buy or build a house in a 55+ retirement community. We will be taking the auto train down from Virginia. We live in upstate New York and the snow
has begun falling already

We live in Maine and drive to Florida for two months beginning in the middle of January. We began by staying one month but have increased our stay over the last 4 years. We will probably work up to 3 months over the next couple years. At
that point we’ll look to buy a condo.
–We live in the Myrtle Beach area…..for us it’s still not warm enough during the winter! We drive to Florida. We generally in the Kissimmee area due to the abundance of rentals and for the number of reason

We own a place in each location so we can keep duplicates of everything and travel light. We drive so that we can have Tuesday, a car at each location.

Live in Michigan drive to Florida Keys

We drive back and forth in October and May, and we only need one car in Miami Beach because there’s so much public transportation and it’s so walkable. We do fly back and forth for a few weeks in RI at Christmas; we have the flexibility to book cheap flights. Once we decided on Miami Beach, it took us about a year to figure out which condo building we wanted to be in

Our permanent home is in Cincinnati, OH.
We spend 3 months a year in our 2nd home in Hilton Head.
We spend 2 months a year at a resort in the Dominican Republic. We spend 2 months a year at a rental home in Florida (VRBO).
We drive to SC and FL, but fly to the DR.

I reside in Florida and bird in North Carolina for 5 months

Live in Wisconsin– Snowbird in Gulf Shores Alabama for 6 years now. Will be looking for a warmer client next year

We now rent for 4 weeks and stay with family for several weeks. We went from central Florida to Anna Maria to be by the ocean. I enjoyed snowbirding but felt our footprint was too big and the expenses too much. I found we missed being involved in our community when we were gone for 6 months. I think it is good to do if you want to permanently move at a later date

We live in Illinois and snowbird near the Gulf Coast of Alabama.

We live in Wisconsin and drive south. We prefer the Gulf coast. We love the Florida panhandle – the Emerald Coast – but it’s a pricey area. We will be staying in Bay Saint Louis, MS, in the spring – at least 25% cheaper than the Panhandle, great beaches, off the beaten path, so quieter.

–I will drive from FL to Maine until I feel it is too much for me and then I will fly and keep a car in each place .
28

West
Live in Iowa, snowbird to Loveland CO.

For ten years, I snowbirded from KS to AZ. Now I have a place in AZ White Mountains for Summer and left KS

Live in Ontario Canada and winter in Palm Springs.We drive

Use VRBO. Live in Wisconsin and fly to Arizona. I also fly to spend a week in Ft Myers FL each January while 2 of my brothers play baseball in the Wooden Bat League.

Live in Minnesota and snowbird in Arizona, I would drive- don’t mind the winters but my political preference is more like the Dakota’s not like the Twin Cities, I would hope to establish residency in another state. Summers are great in Minnesota and would build a summer home on a lake! If I end up in Tennessee I might live there year round as long as it is in the eastern part of the state which is cooler in the summer because of the elevation.

We currently live in California and it is becoming crowded and there are high taxes. One cannot beat the weather, but that too could change. We are considering spending 6 months and a day in a state tax free state to take advantage of the savings and declare that state as our primary residence. We would fly back and forth.

We live in the northeast and fly to Arizona.

Live in Texas and summer in Idaho

I fly from Iowa to Arizona.

currently researching info on 55+ communities in Central Florida and in AZ that have houses with garages. But 210,588,570 we are looking for homes under $250,000 in Adult Communities. We love Lk Havasu City in AZ too, but have not found
any Communities there.

Would like to spend the winters in Arizona we currently live in Georgia

12
RVs
Bought and live in a 5th wheel

Live in Seattle now. Hope to sell home and go RV full time. Northwest in summer and fall and different places in South West for winters

We drive from Pa to Oceanside, Ca every year stopping to visit friends on the way. I-40 has few Big Rig Friendly places until you get to Texas. I-10 and I-70 are our preferred routes

We are full time RV’ers and live in our motorhome. We stay 5-6 months per winter in Florida and travel the country during the summer months. We do own our lot in Florida in Webster at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, our little piece
of paradise!

We have also used an RV and traveled around to different areas. There are only so many years left to experience it all, so we keep moving around and experiencing many areas. We do not stay in one place or go back to the same place every year.

We currently live in Ohio and spend our winters in Sarasota, FL. We have a motorhome which gives us the flexibility of trying other areas of the country without committing to home ownership. We have stayed at the same RV park for the
past 6 years and plan to return this winter.

Reverse
Live in St. George, UT. Would drive to Colorado during the hottest month, August.

Live in Wilmington, NC and we return to upstate New York for 3-4 months during the summer. Best of both worlds!

We live in central Texas. We fly to Hawaii for 2-3 weeks each winter to have a break from cold weather. We drive on road trips each Aug or Sept to the Colorado mountains to have a break from hot weather. We also visit family in N
Dakota each summer to have another break from the heat,

Live in Georgia & spend the summer months in a cooler, less humid location.

In the summer we travel to two U.S. destinations for two to three weeks each and spend a month in Europe

On the fence about being a snowbird
Not a snowbird yet, but thinking about how it could work. Not sure we can afford to own homes in two places, and don’t know if that really makes sense when one is “empty” half of the year (don’t particularly like the idea of renting out a personal home during the off-season).

We retired from Seattle to Chicago in 2015. While the cold winters aren’t fun we don’t have to go out since we’re not working. We use the money we don’t spend snowbirding taking trips to places we want to visit–such as Paris for a
month. Trying to escape “bad” weather has never interested us.

A challenge for us is finding a community where we can develop and maintain relationships. We are finding it hard to do that as a renter

Retired to Pueblo, Colorado, and despite all my advance research it has turned out to be hotter in summer and milder in winter than I expected. I dislike hot weather, so may eventually figure out a way to spend summers elsewhere. Cost is
the primary limiting factor. Maybe an RV.

We live in the midwest and have very few sunny days, so our choice is Florida for the winter months. The Carolina’s aren’t warm enough and we want to snowbird for golf and Gulf. Snowbirding seems like the perfect plan when you want to enjoy two places, two climates and two groups of friends. But it does take a lot of planning, packing and organization.

The bifurcation of life in terms of community is an issue with being a snowbird. It’s hard for us to establish or maintain much of a community in either place when you’re only there six months of the year.

I must admit that there is so very much to love about coastal Maine and my home state of NH, I may discover that being here even during our cold and snowy winters is preferable to being a snowbird. A week or two away to a warm, sunny clime during the harshest winters may be all that is needed!

Fly vs Drive
Sometimes we drive and sometimes we fly. We leave a vehicle there all year so we can just fly in if we want to.

Can take more stuff if we drive

I don’t consider myself a “snowbird” but did have my career in Michigan and retired to Florida at age 55 and am a legal resident. I now spend November-April in FL and go to my Lake MI cottage owned for 43 years for portions of May- October BUT freely go back and forth – 5 times back to FL in 2018 – PLUS extensive travel to many other places. I also own property in Montana. And I am just as likely to be in FL on any given date in say, June or Sept., as in MI. I always drive and do not/will not fly – I mean, it’s only 1,850 miles and 2 pleasant days on the road, plus I can take anything I want back and forth not worrying about weight, size, “restricted items” (paint, sharp tools, batteries), etc. This could change as I age (only 69 now) but will deal with that then!

International
Washington state to Mazatlan,MX. Drive

We spend a month in Europe

Florida beaches are now a negative, so considering Southern Spain, Costa Rica or Panama

Section 3: Comments to Question 8, How difficult/how did you find a place to snowbird.
There were 166 great comments on the difficulty of finding a snowbird destination. Many of those included details on how people found those destinations, including where those places where. Here is a very small sample of comments:
—-
We have been snowbirds for 8 years and discovered finding short term rentals ((one month) are hard but eventually we have each year through VRBO. there is a window of time you have to hit at the right week. You can’t book too early because landlords need to hear back from last year renters who have first dibs, you can’t wait too long then everything is taken very quickly. We don’t want the same city each year while we look for a retirement spot so we haven’t been return renters but through persistence and waiting lists we have found places 6 months in advance but nothing after that.

Several years of pre-retirement vacation visits. used a good realtor willing to spend the time visiting properties

Renting from the same people every year. They know us and we know them, no problem in our situation.

Wanted to rent but because we have cats no one would rent to us. We ended up buying a mobile home in an 55+ park. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a new home in case we didn’t like it so we bought an older home. We have been going back and forth now for ten years.

Here is a link to all 166 comments to Q 8

Comments? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Links to Previous Surveys
Snowbirds Leaving for the Winter Checklist
Climate and Weather Drive Where People Retire
Topretirements Members Very Confident About Retirement (2014)
Topretirements Members Report High Degrees of Spousal Compatibility- 2013
Our Members Getting Ready for Big Retirement Moves- 2013
Retirement Living Preferences – 2013
Medicare Survey – 2012
Best and Worst Things About Your Retirement
Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing
Top Concerns about Retirement
Plans for Retirement




Posted by Admin on December 4th, 2018

8 Comments »

  1. There is a lot of good reading here! Love to see how others are deciding where to go and how to get there along with how long they snowbird. Article is great and thanks for the links to all of the comments as they are also very helpful.

    by Jemmie — December 4, 2018

  2. What about single snowbirds?

    by Colleen — December 5, 2018

  3. Great question. Sure there are many other singles in same situation. One friend of mine (male) rents a room every year in the Naples area. Found it on one of those Roomates websites. Works great for him. I did a search of the responses to Q 10 and found 3 people who posted and identified themselves as single.

    My snowbird destination is in Gulf Shores, AL. Alabama wasn’t listed on your choices of states, so I chose Florida, which is the closest alternate. I drive from Illinois. I am a single female, therefore don’t have a lot of money to spend. The Gulf Shores is very affordable. I have done research into going a little farther south into Florida, but the prices are out of my budget.

    Because I’m single AND have a small dog, it’s been next to impossible to find a place to go for the winter..I’m 61,female,retired and live in Buffalo NY… Myrtle Beach is a possibility ..but not that warm and looks to be very wet this winter, but I would have had to book way before now… If I had a travel partner, it would be more doable on many levels. As in driving or flying together…Splitting the rent..knowing someone ect…But I don’t have one..I have seen a website on


    I live in Iowa and am considering NC or FL. Scary for me. because I am single and African American. My children will come with (yep we all get along and could live together). Climate of hate in the world is scary. No one really addresses that. So even though I do not like cold at least I feel somewhat safe.

    by Admin — December 5, 2018

  4. To escape Chicago winters for a while, without being a complete snowbird. I spent 4 or 5 days in Las Vegas or Palm Springs in January, then a week at baseball Spring Training in Florida in March. Works pretty good, and breaks the winter!

    by Paul — December 6, 2018

  5. The first year after I retired the wife and I spent about 3 weeks on the way to, in, and coming back from South Florida. We had both agreed we wanted to get away for the winter. The next year we rented a place for a month, and spent another 2 weeks coming and going. At the end of that we bought a condo, but we couldn’t move into until the next year. The next year we spent 2 months in FL and rented it out when we weren’t. That became 3 months, 4 months, and finally we were out of our New England state long enough (more than 6 months) to become Florida residents. In our experience that is a fairly familiar snowbird path.

    by Nick — December 8, 2018

  6. Nick, yes that is nearly the same path my Aunt took. She lived in Indiana on a lovely spring fed lake. Trips to Florida originated with two week vacations, then progressed to a month then eventually when she retired six months, they now have become full time residents of Florida and it does have its ups and downs. She lives in a gated golf course community in Naples and has noticed that since the community has been turned over to the residents by the builder. It is mixed age, but really only older people seem to have enough money to live there. They are still dependent on a car to get around.

    by Jennifer — December 9, 2018

  7. To the African American person from Iowa who was concerned about NC or FL: The greater Miami area (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties) is diverse, with large representations of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Russians, South Americans, etc. The three counties are by far the “bluest” in Florida. You might want to consider this area by giving it a test run in the winter sometime. It’s very sad that because of race, a person might not have the full range of retirement opportunities. I’m Caucasian and very much appreciate the diversity of people I find in the Miami area. Best wishes to you!

    by Clyde — December 10, 2018

  8. To the African American poster who expressed fears for moving to the South: unfortunately hate exists exists everywhere whether hidden or not. I honestly don’t expect you’ll find more hate in the South. In general, you would be at least as safe in the South as in any of the northern areas that have reported hate brutality and murder. As Clyde stated, most areas are very diverse and racial acceptance is the norm. I’m also Caucasian which has at times “let me in” to the hidden hate. It’s shocking and depressing, but it exists everywhere. But acceptance, love and friendship exist everywhere also. My hope is that the scariness we see in the world is an expression of the unveiling of hate and can lead to understanding and acceptance. The backlash we have seen to hate crimes has not been an expression of simply black or hispanic or LGBT feelings, but an across the spectrum expression of human hurt, indignation and outrage.

    Editor’s note: This and the previous comment are very thoughtful and important. However we are deviating from the avowed topic, which is favorite snowbird pairings. We will let this comment stand but urge everyone to get back to snowbird destinations, while we consider if there is another blog where this might fit better. We do have Blog on “Can a Yankee Find Happiness in the South” in 2 parts, but we had to close comments to those because it became too repetitive with everyone trying to get the last word in. See https://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/can-a-yankee-find-retirement-happiness-in-the-south.html/

    by RichPB — December 11, 2018

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