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Most Snowbirds Are Renters, Travel by Car

Category: Retirement Planning

October 6, 2021 — The results of last week’s survey on snowbirds are in. Many thanks to the community spirited folks that filled it out! While we can all speculate about snowbird behavior, it is satisfying and interesting to find out what people like you do in the real world. The results are roughly consistent with our 2018 survey on this topic, which had a much larger response rate. You can compare those results as well as find a link to Part 2 of that report, which lists ideal snowbird pairings and many comments from people who snowbird, here.


Most of the people who completed it are snowbirds, which reflects a natural interest in the topic. The results show a great variety of when people leave for the winter and how long they stay. Some of the most interesting results were comments about how people found their winter place, and how Covid has affected their plans. We have summarized the results for each question below, which we hope might be useful in your own snowbirding lives.

  1. Will you go somewhere warm this winter (be a snowbird), and for how long.

Most of the people taking the survey were snowbirds. There were roughly equal numbers who will go away for periods from 1 to six month. One fourth plan on snowbirding for less than a month.

2. When will you leave for the winter.

Most people (55%) will depart in January or February, followed by November or December (20%). Much smaller percentages go earlier or later than those months.

3. Where will you go?

The most frequent snowbird destinations were: Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. But many states had mentions, including write-ins like Tennessee. In our 2018 survey Nevada and California were among the top 5 destinations.

4. Do you rent or own as a snowbird?

More people are renters (50% than own (36%). A few people are looking to buy, have a time share, or own an RV.

5. How will you get there?

Travelling by car is the most popular method at 70%. Flying was next at 23%. Some travel by RV, and one person goes by train (Editor comment: we have several friends who take the autotrain and love the experience!)

6. When did you reserve it?

A third of the people answering this question already own their property. Another third haven’t reserved yet. Of the others, there was an even split between those who found a place to stay last winter, or who reserved this summer or fall.

7. How did you find your place?

The top three methods of finding a place for the winter were personal experience, research, and referrals from friends. Online services like Homeaway, real estate agents, and ads also were used.

There were over a dozen interesting comments on how people found their snowbird home or rental:

One was from a couple that are reverse snowbirds – they live in Florida most of the year and then go to central NY for 4 months in the summer.

Several used airbnb or vrbo to find their rentals, which others were happy to have relied on their own research to buy or rent.

One couple had a familiar story – they wintered in Arizona at a rental, then bought a home while they were there.

Another went to an active community which told them how to find owners who would rent directly. They found
that most rentals were for 4 months so they felt lucky to find one for a shorter amount of time.

A couple who owns a condo in FL usually rents it out now wishes they had rented it out again this year, because rents are almost double what they were a year ago.

Here is a complete list of those comments that you can download:

8. Has Covid affected your plans?

The answers to this complex question were mixed. Most (42%) said no, 32% said somewhat, and 26% claimed that Covid has affected their plans a great deal. There were a number of comments made about how Covid affected their snowbirding plans:

Several didn’t snowbird last year because of concerns, and are watching carefully this year.

Others became snowbirds because they couldn’t stand the idea of being cooped up inside all winter.

The Governor of Florida and Florida’s high case rates were items of concern for several folks.

Using an online service that allowed you to cancel reservations was a comfort.

Some are concerned about people who are not vaccinated.

One is wary of reserving a place and then being put into a lockdown and staring out of the window for 2 months.

Bottom line

Because of the small number of people taking the survey (90) the results are qualitative rather than quantitative. But they give a good flavor about how people go about being a snowbird. The comments made to several of the questions might be useful to you if you are considering going away for the winter. Please add your Comments in the section below.

For further reading and a list of previous surveys:

Posted by Admin on October 5th, 2021


  1. I retired 18 months ago and part of my retirement plan was to leave Massachusetts for 3 months each winter for Florida. I cancelled last winter because of Covid and stayed home awaiting vaccines. Now, even though I’m fully vaccinated, I am holding off on making FL plans for this winter again. I am uneasy heading anywhere where hospitals are overflowing with patients in case—God forbid— I have a health emergency or accident.

    by Carolyn — October 6, 2021

  2. Our first snowbird trip was last year for 3 months. It was kind of spur of the moment and we didn’t really plan too much. This year we will be gone 6 months and are wondering if there is a good list of things to do the close up each house as we leave it empty. And how to handle mail. We weren’t happy with forwarding it last year. Should I do a permanent address change every six months?

    by Ellen — October 6, 2021

  3. Ellen, the mail is a challenge when you go away a long time. I have tried USPS forwarding, both the free and the paid (Xpress Mail) service but wasn’t that happy. Some people I know like it though. We have the person who checks on our house collect it and send it in a flat rate USPS priority mail box every 2 weeks to our snowbird destination. You can also change the address on the most important mail and then change it back. See our Snowbird’s checklist – many people commented on this.

    by John Brady — October 6, 2021

  4. I would like to hear comments from anyone who snowbird in Gulf Co. Fl ( Port St Joe area) or Bay Co. . Fl ( Mexico Bch, Tyndall AFB Area, Panama City ).Especially anyone from Southern NJ ,S Eastern Pa , De or MD. I know Hurricane Michael in 2018 took its toll on area. I lived in Gulf Co. for 2 yrs 1980-82 and know things have changed over the years. Last visit to area was August of 2016. Brought my my family down for the 1st time , stayed at El Governor in Mexico Bch . Great time!

    by Samuel (Sam) Pace — October 6, 2021

  5. Dakota Post is the best mail-forwarding I have used (see link below).

    by Danno — October 7, 2021

  6. We have our mail forward to a friend locally. The only mail we usually get for Jan-Mar is typically tax forms. The rest is junk.

    by Bill — October 7, 2021

  7. We live in MN and have wintered in AZ and FL. We used USPS forwarding without any problems, so maybe anyone having issues might be dealing with some USPS service locations. This winter — Palm Springs. Just bouncing around trying different places.

    by Sierra — October 8, 2021

  8. We just made our drive from upstate NY to our snowbird home in the southwest and have to agree that most snowbirds travel by car and many by RVs. This year unlike last year the rest stops were busy with most parking spots taken and people picnicking. We thought about 50% wore masks like we did because of how busy they were. My personal opinion is there are many more RV drivers this year but not sure they were mostly snowbirds. And my research is just based on the rest stops.

    by Darla — November 3, 2021

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