Not to be confused with an actual bird, a snowbird is a person who moves to a warmer location during the winter to avoid the cold.
Traditionally, most snowbirds have been retirees; however, younger demographics who have the ability to work remotely have also started to claim the snowbird title.
Snowbirding is about having more freedom over your lifestyle, but it also comes with extra responsibility, usually in the form of a second home, RV, or vacation rental to maintain. That’s why it’s crucial to be prepared.
1. Inspect your insurance. To be a snowbird, you have to think ahead when it comes to your insurance, specifically your homeowner’s insurance.
When insuring your primary residence, second home, or any rental properties, it’s important to be honest about which properties you use for which purposes — and what the safety and insurance concerns are for each one.
Speaking with a trusted insurance professional can help you get the proper coverage for your homes and belongings, no matter where you spend the winter.
2. Downsize your stuff. Before you take flight for the season, downsize as much as possible. Consider where you’re going, what your day-to-day lifestyle will be, and what you’re leaving behind, and then what went right — or wrong — during your past snowbird seasons.
If, for example, you overpacked last winter, you may want to make a list this season. Or if you’re renting your primary residence while you’re gone, you might want to put some of your personal items in storage.
3. Stick to a snowbird budget. Just as with a regular household budget, the key to creating a snowbird budget is to be realistic. The best budget should give you enough freedom to enjoy your winter retreat without blowing your savings.
To determine your ideal budget, work backward. Start by imagining your dream environment; then research costs in the area. Think: average rentals, activity costs, transportation, groceries, and dining out.
Don’t forget to factor in your primary-residence costs as well. Even though you’re technically away from home, you’ll still have to pay your housing costs, as well as utilities, insurance, and upkeep.
Pro tip: Don’t forget travel costs. Whether it’s wear and tear on your vehicle, fuel costs, or plane tickets, travel expenses can eat into your snowbird budget.
4. Plan for proper home maintenance. As a snowbird, you have to be proactive about keeping your various residences in good condition.
If you have a residence in a warm-weather area, you may need to consider landscaping upkeep, pool maintenance, pest control, and mold checks. For cold-weather properties, you have to safeguard your home against harsh weather and freezing temperatures.
Before you leave for the winter — and during your stay — make sure you stay up to date with your home-maintenance checklists.
5. Invest in smart-home devices. Smart-home devices are a simple way to protect and preserve your home, not to mention give you peace of mind. These devices use the latest technology to provide you with security, comfort, and convenience — whether you’re at home or away.
You may want to consider installing leak detectors, smart lighting, programmable thermostats, or a fully monitored home security system. With your smartphone as a control center, you’ll be able to remotely monitor the safety and security of your home(s) at all times.
6. Get packed. Once you’ve chosen the perfect location for your snowbird season, nailed down a budget, and prepared your home, it’s time to get packed. Here’s a quick checklist to get you started:
- Important documents – Gather your ID, insurance policies, contracts, any pertinent medical information, and contacts for utility companies at both your primary and snowbird residences.
- Warm layers – Include light jackets, scarves, sweaters, and a raincoat just in case. As for shoes, don’t rely solely on sandals. Comfortable walking shoes, hiking boots, and a few dress shoes are sure to come in handy.
- Medications and a first aid kit – Along with a first aid kit, pack any medications in a safe and convenient location. It’s also a good idea to let your doctor know you’ll be out of town and ask how you can refill any necessary prescriptions.
- Tech devices – When bringing items like a laptop, tablet, or smartphones, make sure you pack the accompanying chargers, adapters, and batteries.
Pro tip: Consider what other household necessities you might need to bring to your destination. If you’re traveling to a second home, you probably already have a basic idea of what you need to bring.
However, if you’re vacationing somewhere new, it’s smart to ask the right questions ahead of time. For example, will you need towels and linens? What sizes are the beds? What can you buy easily once you arrive? You want to be as prepared as possible without overpacking.
Snowbird in Style
Whether you’re choosing the snowbirding lifestyle for health reasons, adventure, or wanderlust, it’s critical to think proactively about the home you’re traveling to and the one you’re leaving behind.
Andrea Collins is a home insight expert at Hippo Insurance (hippo.com), an InsurTech company that’s reimagining home insurance through the lens of homeowners — building policies with more comprehensive coverage for today’s consumers at up to 20% less than competitors.