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Don’t Make These 10 Snowbird Mistakes

Category: Snowbirds

January 11, 2022 — Millions of American retirees follow the example of their avian friends – they head south to snowbird when winter temperatures cool. Not all of them fly of course, about three times more drive than fly, and some take the Autotrain. According to a 2018 Topretirements survey of snowbird preferences, almost 60% said they are either “Extremely Likely” or “Likely” to be a snowbird in retirement. So if you are one of those who plans on going south for part of the winter, don’t make these snowbirding mistakes.

Not reserving early enough. This is the starting impediment to becoming a snowbird. The best spots are usually reserved by current renters before they leave in the spring. So if you wait until late in the calendar year before you book, choices will be limited and prices higher.

Using Craigslist without careful vetting. Unfortunately the world is full of scammers. If you are renting, book with a real estate agent or a source you trust like VRBO. Check references and reviews carefully. It’s a good idea to talk with someone on the phone to verify they and the place they are renting are real, before you plunk down any money. Beware of properties that are the market for sale. If they do sell, the new owner might cancel your lease.

Not relying on friends and contacts for leads. People fret about how to find a place to rent. It isn’t easy, but one of the best sources you have are the friends you already have in snowbird land. Ask them where they stay, and how they found it. They will often have friends and neighbors that rent, or a recommendation on a good real estate agent. They might even put up a sign for you on a bulletin board.

Picking the wrong kind of community. Do your research before you commit. Regarding amenities, if you are not a golfer for example, a golf community might be the wrong kind of place. Is the community population significantly older or younger than are looking for?

Not using a spreadsheet to compare and keep track of your options. Our friend Pat is a champion at this. She kept a spreadsheet that compared all of the properties she considered – prices, size and area, amenities, ratings, etc. When it came down to comparing and booking for the next year, Pat always knew which candidate was the best option for her and her husband Joe.

Booking in the wrong place for what you want to do. If you love the beach, make sure is not too far away. Likewise, if you like to bike, do you have to drive somewhere before it is safe to hop on 2 wheels?

Find out what you need in the kitchen. If you book a place for a month and discover there are no sharp knives or other kind of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, you will be unhappy. The same logic goes for bathrooms and bedrooms – is there a lumpy bed or pillows that make you unhappy? You might want to bring some of your own stuff if that is the case.

Don’t forget the home front. While you are away how are you going to get your mail, and who is going to check your home and shovel your sidewalk? There are always options (mail forwarding or a friend sending via flat rate priority mail), but you need to plan ahead to avoid surprises.

Plan for your pets. If you are gone a short while you can probably board your pet(s), or place them with a friend. But if you want to take them with you, planning ahead to find pet-friendly motels on the way and welcoming rentals there, is doubly necessary.

Considering buying – but not right away! Up to this point most of these “mistakes” apply to renters. But another huge mistake is going on one snowbird excursion and buying a property immediately. It is much better to spend a couple of seasons comparing areas and neighborhoods than make an expensive mistake. Pat, the consummate planner we mentioned above, finally did purchase a Florida condo after about 8 years. In her case the hassle of finding an affordable place every year became enough that she and her husband purchased a property. Of course by that time she had extensive knowledge of the best condo building for her needs. And because she could rent it out in the off season, that helped make the economics work even better.

More about snowbirding

Although our survey said that about 60% of our audience was interested in being a snowbird, not that many actually go south for the winter more than a few times or for very long. In other results, the most common length of stay was 2-3 months. Florida, Arizona, the Carolinas, and Nevada were the most popular destinations. People from the Northeast tend to go Florida or the Carolinas, midwesterners are more likely to migrate to Arizona.

Comments by snowbirds!
At the end of our Snowbird article: “How to Find a Great Snowbird Rental for the Winter” there were over 100 amazingly interesting and helpful comments. We recommend you check them out, or add your own to this article.

For further reading:
Most Snowbirds Are Renters: Travel by Car

All Topretirements articles on snowbirding

Posted by Admin on January 10th, 2023


  1. Thanks. Good Tips. Already know/do some of them. But not all!!

    by BillyBogey — January 11, 2023

  2. I’m thinking of reverse-snowbirding, getting out of hellish Texas heat in the summer.

    These are good tips for that, too.

    by Scott Lucado — January 11, 2023

  3. BRRRRR!!! It’s Cold Outside!! Here in “The North”. Know you are a Boarder; so from a Downhiller’s perspective in the East > Laurentains are good for Skiing & NightLife, in the West; Banff/Jasper are good, Whistler ranks. Personally I like Whistler.
    Cold means Snow & you have to Shovel it!!!
    Just some Tips!!

    by BillyBogey — January 12, 2023

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