How to Live the Snowbird Life

How to Live the Snowbird Life

Sometimes an inclement weather day is exactly what I need to get caught up on computer work and world happenings. Upon opening my computer, I was quickly drawn to the news articles on the weather happenings to the north. Ah, and to think I was a little grumpy about Phoenix, Arizona’s misting rain and 55 degrees Fahrenheit temp (12 celsius) while our neighbors to the north were experiencing temperatures in the minus reading and snow measured in feet. Oh, how I’m glad we snowbird.

The cool, damp, foggy weather felt more like I was camped along the Texas Gulf Coast instead of the desert southwest. It hadn’t rained in weeks and the moisture was very much needed. The desert always feels alive after a rainstorm, and the rain will hopefully aid in a good showing of spring wildflowers. Those blooms should actually start popping up in February, and I assure you, I have my hiking shoes and camera ready.

Spending winters in the southern region of the United States and summers in the north country is a fantastic way to live. I’m sure many can agree that taking a lesson from migrating birds is a great idea. Sure, winters in the north can be beautiful and fun especially when you’re sitting next to a warm fire, wrapped in your favorite blanket, sipping hot cocoa after an enjoyable day spent playing in the snow.

On the other hand, commuting to work in a snowstorm or digging your vehicle out of four feet of snow while wearing three layers of clothing isn’t much fun at all (IMHO). Al and I are enjoying our eighth snowbird season, and although, there are times I miss our winter excursions to the Colorado Rockies, I do not miss the cold and scary driving conditions … nor the shoveling and windshield scraping.

A lone dock at Sunrise across the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.

So what is a snowbird?

Basically, a snowbird is a person who travels from the colder regions of North America to the warmer southern locales during the winter months. These southern locales usually include the Sun Belt region of the United States, along with Mexico and the Caribbean. It used to be, snowbirds were primarily older retired people with plenty of time on their hands. With location independent jobs and work camping opportunities, there has been an increase in all ages living the snowbird life, particularly in the RVing community.

How to start snowbird living – 5 Tips

1. How to pick the best destination. Picking the perfect snowbird destination depends on one’s interests. You’ll want to choose a place that reflects your lifestyle and your interests. You may not want to make a decision based on past vacations. Let’s say your yearly one-week vacation to the beach to chill and relax was something you always looked forward to. That vacation was a break from regular life and being lazy on the beach was exactly what you needed at that time, but the rest of the year your interests and passions are centered around a more physically active lifestyle. If that’s the case, spending 3 to 5 months on a beach in Florida may not fit your active lifestyle. Remember, this isn’t a vacation but a lifestyle. So, if mountain biking and hiking are more to your liking then perhaps Arizona might be a better fit than a coastal location.

Therefore, figure out what kind of activities most reflect the way YOU like to live. Is dining out something that’s important? Then picking a place with a variety of restaurants should be a consideration. Think about how you want to spend your time? What will a typical day look like? If you’re still working, what are the time demands? Choosing a time zone might be important to think about. Do you prefer a lush landscape or are you drawn to the arid desert southwest?

There are so many things to take into consideration. I actually recommend changing things up your first couple of winters and discover what fits best for you? Al and I spent our first several winters as full-time RVers splitting our snowbird winters between the Texas Gulf Coast and the Arizona desert.

A camera on a beach photography a dock at sunset
I enjoy spending my days behind a camera. It doesn’t matter if it’s the beach, the desert, a city, or wilderness, I embrace it all, but no snow, please!

2. Baby steps. Once you have a few destinations in mind, it’s time to test the snowbird lifestyle. I don’t recommend you go all-in on one location the first year. You really won’t know if you love it until you live it and won’t know if you’ve chosen the right spot until you’ve spent several weeks there. So whether you’re RVing, Airbnb-ing, or hoteling, don’t book the entire winter in one place for your first try at snowbirding.

You may find one or two months is plenty of time away from home during that first winter. We know a lot of people who spend the holidays in the north and then head south for only a month or two, usually January and February. They’ve learned what works for them.

Others, especially RVers, start their southerly trajectory at the beginning of November and don’t return north until sometime in April. For RVers with hitch-itch, you may choose to move every week or two trying out different places in the south. You’ll want a snowbird season or two under your belt to figure out what works best for you.

3. Paying bills. Long before you head off on that snowbird venture, you’ll want to go electronic with all your bills. Years ago, it was difficult to keep up with everyday life when you were away from home. Quite often we’d have to implore the help of a neighbor, family member, or friend. Times have changed and as long as you have internet service, there’s a way to keep up with bills.

IbisSince Al and I live in our RV full-time, we use a UPS Store as our mailing address. Technology has made a mobile lifestyle so much easier, and because of that, you don’t even have to be retired to join this flock of warm weather seekers.

4. Friendships. Leaving familiar territory behind can be scary to many. Fears of loneliness and leaving friends behind are a huge concern.

Fear not! With so many communities in the south catering to snowbirds, lots of folks find themselves with a full social schedule. It’s just a matter of saying hi and introducing yourself to neighbors.

Social engagement is extremely easy in the RVing community. It can be a little more challenging for other types of travel, but in general, the choice is yours to be as social or anti-social as you care to be.

I’ve made so many wonderful friends via this blog … RVers and non-RVers alike, and it’s always fun meeting in person.

5. Slow down. If possible, you’ll want to take your time traveling back and forth between your northern and southern locations. By stretching out the drive, you can see sights along the way. Enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

Last spring, Al and I took almost a month to travel from our snowbird home (RV Park) in Arizona to our summer home in northern Wisconsin (family property). To say we took our time might be an understatement. We had a great time visiting friends and taking in sights along the way.

When we are sure that we are on the right road there is no need to plan our journey too far ahead. No need to burden ourselves with doubts and fears as to the obstacles that may bar our progress. We cannot take more than one step at a time. – Orison Swett Marden

The best thing about RV snowbirding

The best thing about being an RV snowbird is our mobility. We’re able to travel as quickly or slowly as we choose, and if we end up somewhere that we’re not thrilled about, we can easily pack things up and move to a new location.

However … with the increasing popularity in RV travel, without a reservation during those peak winter months, you may find yourself with few to no options to park your RV, especially in highly desirable places. Even in the west, we’ve seen a decrease in boondocking options and RV Parks are at capacity during the months of January, February, and March. So, a little extra planning might be in order.

Although Al and I have settled down for the season in an RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona, we didn’t start off doing so during our early snowbird years. Our first snowbird trip lasted only seven weeks due to work obligations. Wanting to take in as many sights as possible, we moved around the desert southwest exploring.

F250 Truck and a Keystone fifth wheel camped near the shores of Lake Powell, Page, Arizona

We traveled similarly during our second winter, but during our third winter, we had become full-time RVers and changed up our travels. We split up our winter in the south between the Texas Gulf Coast and Arizona desert and continued those winter sojourns for the next three years up until Hurricane Harvey struck and severely damaged several of our favorite Texas locations.

Although Texas has recovered, for the most part, Al and I have found an RV community and developed friendships such that we’re content staying stationary at this RV park in Phoenix for the winter… for now, anyway. With that said, I’m not done traveling to the Gulf Coast. So many choices, so little time!

So, where do you spend your winter?

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