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
- 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.
- 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.
- Buy travel insurance Always a good idea, no matter where you travel. Make sure you have enough coverage.
- 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.
- Medications. Order more than you’ll need and carry with you if flying. Also bring a list of medications signed by your doctor.
- 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).
- 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.
- Carry documents. Bring bank statements, mortgage payment receipts and/or tax filings to prove you reside in Canada.
- 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!