9 travelling tips for fledgling Canadian snowbirds

Most Canadians dream about heading south for the winter. After all, our winters can be brutal and that shorts-and-t-shirt January weather is awfully appealing.

There’s a lot to think about if you’re planning to join the growing flock of southbound Canucks. But seasoned snowbirds say it soon becomes easier — like flying on autopilot.

Here are 9 tips to get you thinking…and dreaming

  1. Destination: Florida, California, Arizona and Texas attract the most Canadians. But think outside the box. A growing number also winter in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Portugal. It’s cheaper and you’re guaranteed great weather.
  2. Length of stay. Start with a few weeks. Try out the destination, meet fellow snowbirds and compare prices and experiences. You’ll learn a lot for next year! And make sure you don’t over-stay. Government health insurance limits out-of-country stays to six months within a 12-month period. The U.S. also has limits before they start considering you a resident.
  3. Buy travel insurance Always a good idea, no matter where you travel. Make sure you have enough coverage.
  4. Foreign exchange. For lowest rates, compare foreign exchange specialists and banks. Also, set up a cross-border bank account, with credit card and no-charge transfers, for longer stays.
  5. Medications. Order more than you’ll need and carry with you if flying. Also bring a list of medications signed by your doctor.
  6. Pause home services. Put phone, TV, car insurance, mail and other services on pause, or redirect. Ask someone to drop in weekly (home insurance usually requires it).
  7. Drive or rent a car? With an average 20-hour drive and three motel stops, it’s generally cheaper to drive to the U.S., if you’re going for a longer period.
  8. Carry documents. Bring bank statements, mortgage payment receipts and/or tax filings to prove you reside in Canada.
  9. Contain costs. To make it more affordable — and ensure it’s annual! — avoid excursions, buy cheaper U.S. groceries and eat in. Seniors’ discounts sometimes start at age 50!

Look for more posts on becoming a snowbird soon!