Are the thoughts of another year braving freezing temperatures and towering mounds of snow giving you the jitters? Retirees like yourself living in such areas may be tempted to go south for the winter in search of warmer weather while chasing the sun.
There are several things you should consider as a first-time snowbird, before embarking on a vacation of this nature.
1- Set up your yearly health checkup.
Inform your physician that you will be planning an extended trip and get a complete medical checkup to make sure you are in good health to travel. You and your doctor can work out a strategy for getting your medication renewed and stocked up before you leave.
Always keep your medical records handy in case you need emergency medical attention while you're traveling.
2- Verify the validity of your documents and organize your finances
Check if your identification documents (such as your driver's licence, passport, healthcare card, and vehicle registration) are still valid. Be sure to renew any such documentation well in advance of your trip. All travel documentation should be valid for at least six months after your return date.
Have your itinerary, destination address, insurance certificates, medicines, etc., printed and readily available in a folder, as these may be requested by border agents.
It is also recommended that you make electronic backups of all-important documents. You can simply save them to your Drive (or Dropbox) or even send them to yourself via email. Additional copies should also be printed and shared with a trusted family member or friend.
Despite being gone, you still have financial obligations, so move your bill-paying and other money management online. Pre-authorized payments, electronic statement delivery, and online bill payment can all be easily set up.
3- Determine the best travel insurance plan for your needs.
If you're thinking about becoming a snowbird, make it a priority to talk to a travel insurance agent about your specific situation so you can get the best possible policy.
The stability period of your insurer is something you should know about when it comes to medical travel insurance. The sooner you contact your travel insurance company, the better to ensure that you will be covered during the required stability period for any pre-existing medical conditions.
It's important to note that your travel insurance policy should represent your health as of the policy's effective date, not when you subscribed.
Speak to a soNomad agent now.
4- Book your accommodation in advance.
Finding accommodation during the peak season is best accomplished with as much advanced notice as possible. You snooze, you lose! Getting your hands on available rental units can be challenging because many seasonal residents and snowbirds will tend to renew their annual leases.
Properties available for long-term leases in snowbird hot spots like Florida, Texas, and California command high prices. People frequently book their apartments a year in advance while already living in them for the winter!
Talk to people you know who are snowbirds or who may know someone who is and see what leads up. Contact former coworkers, join relevant Facebook groups, talk to a real estate agent from the area, or even hire a rental agency.
Check out some websites that cater specifically to the vacation rental industry, such as:
● VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner)
● TripAdvisor (Vacation Rentals)
Finally, before choosing a place, find out if there are nearby services like hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores, and community centers.
5- Consider your means of transportation
Driving or flying down south… That is the question!
If you must travel by plane, the cheapest time to book a flight is typically within the last three months before departure. Checked baggage fees should also be considered if you fly a budget airline. Don't forget that you'll need to rent a car or use the public transit system if you're flying there.
You may have more independence if you drive to your location, but you should verify your insurance policy's coverage limits to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Keep in mind that you should get an international driver's licence before you leave since this is a requirement in some countries.
Lastly, if you plan on driving, get your car checked out by a mechanic before you hit the road.
6- Get your house ready for the winter months.
To maintain coverage from your home insurance policy while you're away, some insurers stipulate that your home must be inspected or visited periodically. During your absence, have a friend, relative, or trustworthy neighbor keep an eye on your house for you and make sure items like these are taken care of:
● Mail & newspapers: Hold your mail with Canada Post or arrange for regular pickup from a trusted friend or neighbor. Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
● Snow: Hire a snow removal service to clean your driveway and front door.
● Pipes: Water damage and frozen pipes can be avoided if you drain your pipes and turn off the main water valve before you leave.
● Presence in the house: Recruit a helper to tend to your plants. Put the inside and outdoor lights on timers. You may even suggest that your next-door neighbor use your driveway.
● Electricity: Major appliances and devices should be unplugged to maintain power outage safety. Do not risk food spoiling in the refrigerator or freezer; remove all perishables before leaving.
7- Write a Checklist of Items to Pack
As a final step, make a list of what you need to bring. It will help you pack light and not forget anything crucial. You won't have to rush or worry about running out of time to find the things you need. The same holds true for snowbirds needing travel insurance; now is the time to contact a travel insurance agent about your specific needs. When it is time for you to begin your adventure, you will do so without any apprehension.
Hundreds of thousands of your fellow Canadians are making the same journey south of the border as you are this winter. Make the most of this first vacation and set the stage for many more to come!