Snowbird Tips

The end of fall signals the start of an annual migration of thousands of RVers to the Sunbelt.

Sunrise with mist rising at our campground near Unadilla, Georgia.
Sunrise with mist rising at our campground near Unadilla, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the snow flies, so do the snowbirds who flock to the southern climates for months at a time.

With the cooler weather the south has strong appeal. Snowbirds desire the best weather wherever they are.

When it’s snowing and blowing with freezing temperatures in Canada and the northern U.S. states, snowbirds want to be somewhere where it’s sunny and a pleasant 75 degrees. When Arizona hits 120 degrees in the summer or Florida’s low temperature for the day will be a muggy 95 they want to be in the north country where it’s a pleasant 75 degrees.

Like other snowbirds our goal is to avoid the winter slush and cold.

But to accomplish snowbird status you really need to do some serious planning.

If you want to be a snowbird there truly is more to it than just pointing the RV southward. It is hard to pack it up and leave for 6 months or more. Some travelers have trouble with a 2 week vacation.

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you only want to leave Minnesota during the worst of the winter? Maybe only January and February? Some snowbirds stick it out through the holidays and leave the first of the year to return in April.

Others, like us, head out as soon as the first frost hits the pumpkins in October coming back when the ground begins to thaw.

But first, there are so many decisions to make.

Secure Your Home Base

Leaving means more than packing and locking up your home. It takes planning to secure your home base and belongings and to make sure your abode is as welcoming upon your return as it was before you left.

Snowbirds should make copies of all documents in case of an emergency or if papers are lost or stolen. Leave a copy with a friend or relative at home and carry the other copy, stored separately from originals.

Also make copies of passport ID pages, planned itinerary, campground confirmations, driver’s license, insurance, and credit cards.

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February
Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check the expiry dates of all personal identification, travel documents, RV insurance, passports, and credit cards.

Before you leave, contact your home insurance provider to determine how your absence will affect coverage, and whether semi-regular check-ins are required. If you don’t meet the policy requirements, you may find difficulty obtaining compensation should something happen.

Inform neighbors of your trip, how long you’ll be away, where you’ll be traveling, and how to contact you in the event of an emergency.

Ask a friend, family member, or neighbor to regularly check the perimeter of your house, keep your sidewalks and driveway shoveled, and ensure that your doors and windows are securely fastened.

Disconnect all appliances and electrical devices, including microwave, washer and dryer, stove, refrigerator, coffee maker, televisions, entertainment centers, and lamps.

Make sure all smoke alarms are properly installed, in working order, and are equipped with fresh batteries.

Rockport is known as “The Charm of the Texas Coast” and for good reasons too. It’s a quiet, little town on the coast of Texas just 30 minutes north of Corpus Christi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rockport is known as “The Charm of the Texas Coast” and for good reasons too. It’s a quiet, little town on the coast of Texas just 30 minutes north of Corpus Christi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Place a temporary hold on your newspaper delivery, and arrange with your local postal office to have your mail forwarded to a reliable mail forwarding service.

Don’t leave a message on the answering machine that tells callers you’re out-of-town.  Instead, say you’re away from the phone and you’ll get back to them.

Unplug your automatic garage-door opener and install a lock on the garage door track, so thieves can’t use a crowbar to pry it open.

Turn down thermostats to 50 degrees. Low heat will prevent a freeze-up.

Now, pack up the rig and head south.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day…

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

Read More

Snowbirds Prep For Annual Migration

Migrating birds don’t have much prep work before they fly southward for the winter.

Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel.
Pictured above Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel across I-10 for a Sunbelt park in Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds, on the other hand, must consider how to shut down their residences before taking flight to flee the coming winter’s snow, ice, and bone-chilling cold for southern Sunbelt sunny states.

As the annual migration begins, many homeowners set themselves up for potential disaster.

Leaving a home unoccupied for an extended period of time can put homeowners at risk.

Houses are a lot like teenagers, neither one should be left alone for very long.

Snowbirds come home to problems because they failed to properly plan when they left in the fall.

But simple steps can eliminate the nightmare.

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning.

Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Whether you’re new to the snowbird lifestyle or an experienced RVer, creating your own customized checklist is a great way to keep track of your seasonal preparations.

Remember, it will be much easier to enjoy your winter in the sun if you have taken steps to protect your home while you are away for an extended period of time.

Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world
Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level, tennis courts, spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking trails, and carriage rides. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider the following eight tips when creating your own winter-ready checklist:

Check expiry dates

Well in advance of your departure, check expiry dates for your passport and other travel documents, driver’s license, motor vehicle registration, vehicle insurance, credit cards, and membership cards—and renew if necessary.

Home insurance

Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires regular walk-throughs during your absence and if so, how frequently.

Snow removal
You are escaping the snow, but your home is not. Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.

Contact person
Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Contact information
Provide the contact person and other neighbors, relatives, and friends with pertinent information including cell phone and email address, vehicle and home insurance, security system, furnace repair, description of RV and toad or tow truck and trailer with plate numbers.

Superstition Mountain Museum
To further understand and appreciate the Superstition Mountains area, its legend, history, and intrigue tour the 12.5-acre Superstition Mountain Museum, near Apache Junction, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Notify neighbors

Inform trusted neighbors that you will be away for a specified period of time. You’ll want them to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Ensure they have a list of contact persons, phone numbers, and email addresses.

Water heater
Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve.

Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.

Home security
Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.

Lock windows and doors, and set the security alarm.

Worth Pondering…

Happy Snowbird Travels!

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day …

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

Read More

Flocking South for the Winter? A Home Checklist for Snowbirds

It seems like a bad dream, those thirty-four years when I trudged to work each day.

A major concentration of snowbirds in Ol' Airy Zonie occurs each winter in the Tucson area. Pictured above is Catalina State Park located in the Tucson-Oro Valley area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A major concentration of snowbirds in Ol’ Airy Zonie occurs each winter in the Tucson area. Pictured above is Catalina State Park located in the Tucson-Oro Valley area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter was the worst: Get up with the sky still black; hastily don my suit or sports jacket; struggle into my Parka; pull on winter boots and gloves; and with sub-freezing temperatures trudge to my car in the still-black freezing cold.

The arduous chore of getting the car ready to drive was the next challenge. With luck the lock or doors were not iced shut, so that I could start the heater and defroster. Unplugging the block heater was followed by the chilly task of shoveling tracks from the garage to the back alley while the car heated up.

And then, with a prayer, I was off to work in the darkness, hoping that the snowplows had cleared a path along my route. Upon arriving home in the late afternoon, the sky was already black again.

Such is the life when living in the Great White North!

But now I’m enjoying the snowbird lifestyle.

Now that the month of October has arrived, the official Snowbird season is about to begin. Thousands of snowbirds are preparing their recreational vehicles for travel to Ol’ Airy Zonie, Southern California, Texas, Florida, or another warm southern destination.

The majority of Snowbirds who make Southern California their winter home, head for the Coachella Valley with its 10 desert resort cities—Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs (pictured above), Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Thousand Palms, Indio, and Bermuda Dunes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the annual migration begins, many homeowners set themselves up for potential disaster.

Leaving a home unoccupied for an extended period of time can put homeowners at risk.

Houses are a lot like teenagers, neither one should be left alone for very long.

Snowbirds come home to problems because they failed to properly plan when they left in the fall.

But simple steps can eliminate the nightmare.

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning.

Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Whether you’re new to the snowbird lifestyle or an experienced RVer, creating your own customized checklist is a great way to keep track of your seasonal preparations.

Remember, it will be much easier to enjoy your winter in the sun if you have taken steps to protect your home while you are away for an extended period of time.

Consider the following tips when creating your own winter-ready checklist:

Check expiry dates
Well in advance of your departure, check expiry dates for your passport and other travel documents, driver’s license, motor vehicle registration, vehicle insurance, credit cards, and membership cards—and renew if necessary.

Home insurance

Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires regular walk-throughs during your absence and if so, how frequently.

Snow removal
You are escaping the snow, but your home is not. Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.

Contact person
Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Sometimes called the tree duck for its habit of nesting in trees, the black-bellied whistling duck is a year-round resident of the lower Texas Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contact information
Provide the contact person and other neighbors, relatives, and friends with pertinent information including cell phone and email address, vehicle and home insurance, security system, furnace repair, description of RV and toad or tow truck and trailer with plate numbers.

Notify neighbors

Inform trusted neighbors that you will be away for a specified period of time. You’ll want them to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Ensure they have a list of contact persons, phone numbers, and email addresses.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on snowbird preparations

Part 2: The Iceman Cometh! Are YOU Ready to Flock South?

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snowbird life

behind the wheel.

Read More