Snowbirds: 5 Tips to Spend the Winter in the U.S. Without Emptying Your Pockets

By:
soNomad.
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If you’re looking to escape Canadian winters, you have likely considered flying off to a sunny destination down in the U.S. Tons of retirees, known as snowbirds, are already doing it year after year. As the days get shorter and the cold air moves in, there is still time to plan your trip to spend the winter in the United States!

Remember that the exchange rate may not always be in your favour. There was a time when the Canadian dollar was worth as much as the American dollar, but unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Having a budget in place before you leave is essential to ensuring a stress-free trip across the border.

These five tips will help you make the most of your time in the United States without emptying your wallet.

1. Choice of Destination

It’s not always easy to pick the best spot to escape Canadian winters. For this reason, it is recommended that you take the time to compare different regions by staying there for a few days. You'll get a better idea of the living expenses, the services provided, the weather, and the activities available. Arizona, California, Texas, and Florida are the most popular states for Canadians migrating to the U.S. during the winter. Still, many other destinations are just as sunny and less touristy.

Certain American towns even offer packages based on the Canadian dollar to encourage Canadians to come back every year. Such is the case in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the goal is to attract as many visitors as possible, despite the sometimes unfavourable exchange rate.

It is worth noting that if you want to save even more, you can always consider spending your winters in Central or South America, where the beach and sun come are synonymous with a lower cost of living. Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico are among the most popular destinations to escape the Canadian cold while saving money.

2. Bank Accounts and Credit Cards

When the time comes to change your currency in anticipation of your trip, you have three options. You can buy American dollars before you leave Canada or get money from an ATM when you get to the US. Alternatively, you can make all of your purchases using your credit card. This last option usually ends up being the most advantageous one, despite the transaction fees of 2 to 3% typically applied by credit card companies.

3. Accommodation

Whether you buy a second home, rent an apartment, or invest in an RV, housing usually makes up the most significant part of your budget. Although it may not appeal to everybody, this last option offers much greater autonomy and flexibility. RVs effectively allow you to travel freely throughout a country without worrying about managing a property or even having to pay rent.

If it happens to be the first time you are venturing stateside, renting a condo may be the best option. Taking this time would allow you to travel around the United States and decide if you want to invest in a vacation property.

Rental prices are determined based on the location of the residence, its size, and the services offered. The advantage of renting a place rather than buying one is that you will save on insurance fees, taxes, and all other costs associated with owning and maintaining a property. In other words, by renting, you don't have to carry the stress of owning a property during your stay in the United States.

A great option is to reserve the same vacation rental year after year by booking ahead of time. By doing this, you will feel right at home as soon as you walk through the door. The following websites are good starting points for booking vacation homes:

● Airbnb  

● TripAdvisor (Vacation Rentals)

● VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner)

4. Transportation

Getting to the United States can be done by plane or car. You will probably end up saving money if you hit the road as gas prices are usually cheaper stateside than they are in Canada. Plus, having your own car will allow you to be more flexible about where you travel in the United States. Before choosing this transportation option, consider the following:

● Get your vehicle checked before you hit the road.

● Call your car insurance company to ensure you are covered when abroad.

● Make sure your driver's license is still valid, and everything is in order regarding roadside assistance, car registration and insurance.

● Have cash on hand for unexpected fees such as rest areas, tolls, vignettes (depending on the accommodation booked), parking, or an international driving permit.

If you prefer not to get behind the wheel, there are more and more affordable options available to make your way to all the sunny destinations in the United States, thanks to all the online deals and budget airlines. A good tip is to choose flights that leave from American airports near the Canadian border, such as Burlington, for example, if you wish to travel to Florida. This option is often less expensive than departures from Montreal or Ottawa.

Don't forget to budget for car rentals or public transportation when planning your trip, especially if you fly to your destination.

5. Travel Insurance

Even if you are healthy, or if you only plan to spend a short time outside of Canada, getting travel insurance should be a top priority before heading to the United States. Medical treatments and services are known to be much more expensive in the United States than they are back home. Because even the slightest injury or incident could cost you a fortune and significantly impact your finances, it's critical that you take steps to ensure that you are fully protected.

Think about getting in touch with your insurance provider as soon as your travel plans are taking form so that you can make the most of your winter getaway with peace of mind. Your agent will help you find the insurance plan that best suits your needs, based on your medical history and the length of your stay. If you have questions about travel insurance for snowbirds, contact a soNomad agent to discuss the best solution for you.

Are you ready to escape winter?

Each year, there are more and more Canadian Snowbirds. Taking on this lifestyle requires a lot of planning and a budget that will allow you to get the most out of your sunny getaway! You can also ask your bank to provide you with a credit card in U.S. dollars. What’s more, several Canadian institutions have branches on the other side of the border, allowing you to open an American account to avoid translation fees. Some banks even offer to transfer funds free of charge from your Canadian and American accounts.