Every year, many people choose to trade the colder regions of the United States and Canada for the warmer and sunnier climates of Florida and Arizona. They are called snowbirds and enjoy a seasonal lifestyle that provides the advantages of both worlds. They can maintain connections with family, friends, and familiar places while relishing a change of scenery and escaping the cold winter weather. However, before embarking on this lifestyle, it is crucial to examine its benefits and challenges.
One advantage of being a snowbird is the ability to escape harsh winters, particularly for older individuals who may find cold weather more challenging. Slippery surfaces can pose a higher risk of injury, and physically demanding tasks like shoveling snow become more taxing as we age. By migrating to warmer regions, snowbirds can mitigate these risks and engage in outdoor activities such as golf, tennis, and walking, which promote better health and overall well-being.
However, along with its benefits, the snowbird lifestyle has several considerations and additional expenses. The cost factor plays a significant role, as snowbirds need to account for various expenditures. Financial planning is essential whether purchasing a second home, renting a property or owning an RV. Additional costs include insuring both homes, potential increases in insurance rates for unoccupied properties, travel expenses, and the need for local transportation at the destination.
Taxes can also become more complex for snowbirds. Owning a snowbird home may require paying property taxes in both locations and depending on the time spent in each state, income taxes might need to be paid in multiple states. Residency rules and estate and inheritance taxes vary among states, adding another layer of consideration when evaluating the snowbird lifestyle.
Mail management poses another challenge. While most communication and bill payments can be handled through email and online services, certain items still arrive via traditional mail. Snowbirds must explore options for mail forwarding, such as USPS forwarding, third-party mail services, or relying on neighbors or relatives to send batches of mail periodically. Factors like the duration of stay and changing destinations influence the choice of the most suitable mail forwarding method.
Utilities and home maintenance require careful attention as well. Snowbirds need to consider suspending services like cable, internet, and phone during their absence and inquire about hibernation options with their utility providers. Home maintenance entails securing reliable house sitters or arranging regular check-ups to ensure the property remains in good condition. Climate-dependent factors, such as freezing pipes, require proper precautions, such as adjusting heat settings or draining pipes.
For snowbirds with pets, additional arrangements are necessary. While dogs and cats can often accompany their owners, the selection of rental places may be limited. For other pets like birds, fish, or turtles, finding caretakers or foster homes becomes crucial during extended absences.
Access to medical care is vital for snowbirds, especially regarding insurance coverage and medical records. Medicare recipients generally have flexibility in receiving medical care across the United States. However, individuals with private health insurance must research and ensure that their destination has doctors and hospitals within their network. Carrying complete medical records and securing prescription refills are also important aspects to address.
For those considering the snowbird lifestyle, it is advisable to try renting in various locations before committing to a permanent second home—numerous resources, including websites like VRBO.com and Airbnb.com, aid in finding suitable rentals. Active adult communities often have real estate agents and community bulletin boards dedicated to the rental market. Starting the search early for long-term rentals (three months or more) increases the chances of finding suitable options.
While the snowbird lifestyle is achievable, it is crucial to recognize that it requires careful planning and consideration of various factors. Despite its challenges, the snowbird lifestyle has been embraced by millions of people for many years, thanks to the connectivity of the modern world.