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Moving Challenges for Snowbirders: Tonka and Yoda Do the Annual Migration

Category: Travel

Travels with Lucy, John, Yoda, and Tonka
May 2, 2016 — The heart of this article was originally posted on by Lucy Burdette, who you might recognize as the better-half of Topretirements. We have appended an additional section at the end on the traveling issues that snowbirders have, with pets or not.

Lucy Burdette: John and I have always been a little smug about
traveling light. I have to admit that if we travel with another couple, it’s possible that we badger them into only bringing carry-on luggage. If I can fit everything into this suitcase (which we call “the mini”) and a backpack, I’m especially pleased.

Which is why some of our friends might get a giggle about our trips between Key West and Connecticut. We jam a Subaru wagon plus the pod strapped on top to the absolute brim. I blame the extra baggage on the animals, John is not so sure. He’s not animal crazy the way I am, so the idea of schlepping a big Australian Shepherd and a cat 2000 miles each way seems a bit absurd to him.

Yoda rides in a carrier and is an exemplary traveler–not a peep after his first outraged meow as he’s zipped into the box. Tonka is a good companion too. Besides them, we also need an enormous sack of their special senior food and medications, and even a bag of ringer IV fluids to treat Yoda’s kidney condition.

Yoda (in carrier) and Tonka enroute

And the litter box… I prefer the Cedarific brand of litter, which is light and smells better. The disadvantage is that he drags it all over whatever room we’re staying in. And you can’t find it in Florida so we drag giant bags of that around with us too. Oh, and did I mention the 3′ tall scratching post that goes back and forth to Florida – Yoda prefers upholstery to anything but this particular one.

Yoda relaxing in the hotel

We stayed in quite a nice hotel in DC this time to visit our son, and of course the first criterion was pet-friendly. (Not that easy with a cat!) As we were leaving, everyone in the lobby exclaimed over the dog. The distracted bellhop was getting ready to sling Yoda’s carrier onto the cart.

“Be careful,” I said, “there’s a cat in there.”

“Of course ma’am,” he said, and tucked the kennel in gently next to the litter box and the massive sack of pet supplies.

Then he picked up the cooler. “Who’s in here, the rabbit?”

We all burst out laughing.
Thanks Lucy!

The challenge for snowbirds
Snowbirds face a twice annual challenge – how to move from one home to another with as little trouble as possible. There are many challenges. One home might not be as well equipped as the other, particularly if you are renting. Not everyone has the room and the budget to outfit two homes with two sets of everything – not just clothes, but computer printer, musical intruments, pet supplies, golf clubs, etc. If you drive, no car is big enough to transport everything. Where will you stay, particularly if traveling with pets, and how many days will you spend traveling? If you fly your baggage is limited, although you can ship some things ahead.

Comments? What are your challenges and success stories, either for traveling with pets, or for handling the daunting test of moving your household from place to place as someone who lives in more than one place. Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.

For further reading:
How to Find a Snowbird Rental for the Winter
Rental Frustrations for Snowbirders and the Buy vs. Rent Dilemma
Snowbirds Leaving for the Winter Checklist

Posted by Admin on May 2nd, 2016


  1. We just retired a month ago and in the fall will begin snowbirding between Wisconsin and Texas with our “daughter”, Bailey ( a miniature schnauzer ). We will rent in Texas. Have been following posts here for quite some time but this may actually pertain to our situation. If you have just been an observer, like me, and have experience in this arena, please consider posting your experiences.

    by Bill — May 3, 2016

  2. I found the migration from Minnesota to Florida to be more than I want to undertake twice a year. Seems that something I want is always at the other house. And the property taxes were getting out of hand in Minnesota. Not to mention the income taxes. So this year I will migrate back to Minnesota, sell my house, and return to full-time status in Florida. Then I can just relax and have fun. Can always fly back to Minnesota to visit.

    by Linda — May 3, 2016

  3. We have been snowbirding for the past 4 winters from Indiana to Orlando. We stay from Jan 1 to April 1. We have a 60# yellow lab mix that accompanies us. Two years ago, we upgraded from a Honda Crv to a Buick Enclave, which has much more room. As most dog owners who travel know, La Quinta Inns are very dog friendly.

    When we are home, our dog, who has separation anxiety, is fine to leave at home …… most of the time. When we travel to Florida, we don’t leave him in the house alone, so he accompanies us everywhere. There are plenty of dog friendly restaurants, etc there, but he will have to stay in the car with the windows partially open sometimes. We always check the temps before leaving him. He is okay with that. Having a dog along cuts down on available properties that we can rent.

    Florida is too hot and humid in the summer, so we will continue to snowbird for the foreseeable future. Rents keep going up, so we might have to look elsewhere for affordable homes to rent.
    Real estate prices have really gone up in central Florida so buying is not an option.

    By the way, we have friends who have started snowbirding who have a full size Collie and a Golden Retriever. They pack them and their belongings into a Honda Crv!! Tight fit!!

    by LocoBill — May 4, 2016

  4. You are my kind of people
    I would be doing the same with my animals. Nice heartwarming animal story

    by Dianne — May 4, 2016

  5. We own in Burnt store Marina which is a 17 hr drive from Maryland. I find that as we grow older, I dread the drive more and more. We use to drive nonstop; now we stop for 1 overnight. It helps but I still find the trip exhausting. Also, when we get into our 70s we may not be able to do this drive at all. If you are renting the property or if you own it but are leaving it to rent it out for those peak months, hauling “stuff” back and forth is no fun. This year we rented our unit out for Jan-March and came down April lst for 6 weeks. This time we flew down and rented a car for a very cheap monthly rate to use and then drive back. (in April there are many rental car agencies who give fantastic deals if you pickup in FL and drop off in the north for the season up there). This really reduces the angst with driving both ways. I don’t dread the drive back so much. Unless you have a small dog for the plane ride, I realize this idea won’t work. Also the majority of residents in our condo bldg. started with the 6 month back and forth and then kept coming back later and finally sold the property up North as Linda mentioned above.

    by Ann — May 4, 2016

  6. We are snowbirds, too, traveling between Kansas and Arizona each October and April and have two small dogs who accompany us. To make our trips more comfortable and flexible, we travel in an RV large enough to provide the space we need for our crew. While RVs come in a huge variety of sizes, price ranges and styles our current RV is 40 ft. long. In the past we also have enjoyed 24 and 36 foot RVs, but we are getting ready to move in to this one full-time, as our “tiny house.” We no longer worry about whether we can find a hotel that accepts dogs or if the room is clean and secure. We have a kitchen with us, as well as a clean bathroom, and having our our own bed at night is more comfort than I can briefly describe. The RV can travel on most roads a car can (height clearances on bridges are the primary concern, and are listed on most internet maps) and is basically the same to drive.
    We are able to get away from home more easily and frequently throughout the year with our RV for weekend trips to a local lake or other attraction. When we lived near the coast we would drive for an hour, set up “camp” in the beach campground, and enjoy the beautiful area for the weekend; returning home wasn’t a problem because we knew we’d be back the next weekend or so.
    Sorry about the length of my letter, but I wanted to share the idea with some of the other readers.

    by susan gerrity — May 4, 2016

  7. We are just beginning this process and, given high cost of car rental in fla and bc we have a cat, are planning to do the drive from NE PA to west palm beach, can anyone suggest good cat friendly hotels around NC? Or any other 1/3 or 1/2 way stopping point? Many thanks

    by Claire — May 4, 2016

  8. “Badgers” people about checking a travel suitcase, and suggests carry-on only (when it’s none of their business). Yet for their own personal driving excursion, vehicle is packed to the brim with garbage.

    And I’m sure the hotel staff enjoys vacuuming up your cat litter and cleaning god-knows-what-else these people leave behind in their rooms.

    by Jack — May 4, 2016

  9. We recently retired in Indiana and have taken two trips with our two dogs – one to Lake Arrowhead in Georgia and one down to Florida. Because we only rented for a month we didn’t have to pack a ton but what we did bring required a car carrier since the dog beds took up most of the back of our SUV. We have enjoyed having the time to make multiple stops going both ways since we no longer have limited vacation days to keep track of! And having unlimited time to be able to travel with our 4-legged kids makes us very happy. We are planning to buy a home in Florida where we both have family and are thinking about renting in Indiana during the summer and fall months to enjoy the nice weather up here and be close to our northern family. It seems that most northerners rent for a few months in Florida and seasonal rentals are easier to find. Does anyone have suggestions for seasonal renting up north? Any info/advice would be appreciated.

    by Nancy — May 4, 2016

  10. This is our second year juggling a smaller house in Newport RI and a condo in Miami Beach. After moving out of a bigger house, giving a ton of stuff to the Salvation Army, and still having to stuff belongings into the Newport house, we were determined to live as minimalists in Miami. We bought practically everything at IKEA, easily replaced, and we love having, say, just one pair of scissors and knowing where they always are! The only thing we brought from Newport (besides some summer clothes) was a corkscrew (we had 9 up north). Love living without clutter! We’ll take our summer clothes back north (we drive, not sick of it yet) but that’s it.

    by Pam — May 4, 2016

  11. We are considering retirement to Southern Delaware from CT. Taking a trip next week to look around. Any suggestions or advice? We want a pretty place where we can enjoy nature and water. Golf, tennis, etc not a factor; would rather bike and hike.

    by Deb — May 5, 2016

  12. Claire, Try Drury Inn for your cat. I always stayed there when I traveled with my cat. I don’t know if they have La Quinta in NC but several people have mentioned those as well.

    by Tessa — May 5, 2016

  13. Hi, Deb. I visited the Lewes area last summer and really enjoyed walking around town. I don’t know about hike or bike trails, but you could check with Delaware tourism. Good luck with your search. Elaine

    by Elaine — May 6, 2016

  14. Homewood Suites allows pets. I stayed in one for 6 weeks with my two cats when I was waiting for my house closing. The staff were very accomodating!

    by Barbara — May 6, 2016

  15. We have just purchased an over 55 RV lot with Park Model RV in the Palm Springs area with low HOA fees but great amenities. We kept our Seattle condo. Here is our plan. Leave a car undercover in Palm Springs, leave the heat pump set at 88 degrees, have clothes that suit us in each location. When driving to and from, take a carry-on size bag each and enjoy the beauty of at least two National Parks enroute (stay in lodges).
    Alternatively, when we have had enough with the driving back and forth, ship the second car to/from LA and book an economical repositioning cruise both ways. The LA-Seattle cruise ships depart in May; the Seattle-LA cruise ships depart in October. We will not transport any household goods or foodstuffs. Our carry-on bag holds travel clothes for a week, medicines, healthcare POAs, and I-Pads with library books loaded.
    We live simply. Last year we traveled 12 weeks in Europe with just our carry-on bags. Obviously, we have no pets.

    by Janet Harvey — May 7, 2016

  16. Regarding Lewes DE – When you visit that area take note of the traffic. My sister is building a house in Lewes DE and when they went in February for a progress meeting they were shocked to see heavy traffic even at that time of the year. They expected it in summer but not year round.

    by susan — May 8, 2016

  17. Coachbluey sent this comment in looking for suggestions while traveling with pets:

    Relocating 1000 miles with 2 cats & 1 dog We expect to take 3 days, wondering about lodging, transportation etc.
    Anyone care to share experience with this?


    by Jane at Topretirements — January 21, 2020

  18. We travel quite often with three kitties and always stay at La Quinta hotels. They do not charge for pets, however there might be a limit. (Since they merged with Wyndham check about pet fees) We have a large soft crate that we put all three in with a small kitty box and we use puppy pads for bedding so we have easy clean up for messes. We limit driving to about 6- 7 hours max per day and don’t feed them until we arrive. Safe travels!

    by Carolyn and James — January 21, 2020

  19. Many of the chains have rooms set aside for people with traveling pets. It’s good to reserve the room in advance so you can get one! Here’s a link that lets you enter the route and it shows the pet friendly spots along the way. Also, get a large crate to keep the cats in at all times, even when in the room, there are many cases where the cats dart out of the room and disappear. One, also be sure the pets are microchipped and your contact info at the chip company is up-to-date!

    by jean — January 22, 2020

  20. We travel with our dog, and we always stay at a Best Western. This chain is very pet friendly.

    by Charles — January 22, 2020

  21. Motel 6 locations are pet friendly and most have been upgraded in the last few years and have NO CARPETING. We have show dogs and have had excellent luck with Motel 6 and their convenient and pet friendly accommodations.

    by Deb — January 23, 2020

  22. I agree with all of the above. We have had good luck with Best Western, Motel 6, and Holiday Inn. I also agree with Jean’s comment to reserve in advance, and I would also recommend confirming what the hotel policy for pets is. Some hotel websites state that they are “pet friendly” but upon calling I have discovered their pet friendliness is limited to service dogs. Also, we travel with 3 dogs, 2 of which are large, and some hotels will limit the number or size of dogs. So best to confirm what their policy is ahead of time so you don’t get stuck. One other thing we look for when on the road are fenced in areas where we can let the dogs out to run around and burn off some energy so they aren’t antsy in the car. We always keep a tennis ball in the car to throw for them. Schools and churches will often have fenced in areas, although schools have become more restrictive in allowing dogs on their grounds. We want to be respectful of their areas, so we also always carry plastic bags to clean up after the dogs.

    by Partagas — January 23, 2020

  23. We are snowbirds who decided to drive to Florida in early December. We had an easy drive with an overnight stay at a hotel with our dog and our cat, who fortunately travel okay. Now it is time to make plans for going back in April and I have been calling to get a hotel room but have found things have changed. More hotels that were “pet friendly” are now just “service pet” friendly and the ones that are pet friendly are charging $75.00 or $100.00 for the dog (non-refundable). When I asked one of the major chain hotels why the change he explained during COVID they did waive pet rules but they don’t feel the need anymore so they charge for the dog and he said they will never again accept cats. I know there are pet friendly hotels to find ahead of time but it was nice when many of the chains were pet friendly which they had to do to get business, but not anymore.

    by Goldie — March 20, 2021

  24. LaQuinta, Travelodge, and Red Roof have been our go-tos prior to the pandemic. LaQuinta, Boone, NC, definitely still is dog friendly (have reservations again this week). Days Inn, Best Western are may bes. Holiday Inn has always been a no pets to us.
    Nations Inn was filthy and is no longer considered.

    by RichPB — March 21, 2021

  25. We found the Choice Hotel chain is generally pet friendly

    by GailM — March 21, 2021

  26. Drury Inns & Suites allow dogs and cats. Their web site says they charge an extra fee of $35/night. Still hefty IMO but better than $75 to $100. When I stayed at them years go there wasn’t a fee.

    by Tess — March 22, 2021

  27. Thank you very much for the hotel tips! I called the ones suggested and found I was a little late on trying to reserve. Drury Inns are not available where we wanted to stay in SC, but the others that were suggested were, and only have so many rooms offered for pets and they were taken. I did call Country Inn and Suites and they had a room available with only a $25 fee for our animals, so I took that and we’ll see how it goes. They only allow a couple of rooms for pets. One thing I wanted to warn about is you have to call the hotel desk directly, may be hard to find the phone number, but it is there. Don’t go with the national reservations which you may be automatically directed to. I’ve heard from other travelers who say they booked a room through the 1-800 number and were told pets were allowed only to find out it was not true once they arrived at the hotel.

    by Goldie — April 3, 2021

  28. I will be moving from PA to FL. For various reasons, driving my large dog and two cats is not an option for me. Has anyone used a pet transport company? Moving my furniture, etc. doesn’t worry me. Trusting a company to move my fur babies is terrifying. Any suggestions would be very welcomed. Thank you.

    by Ann Miller — April 11, 2021

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