The Anatomy of a Snowbird
Lots of older adults head to warmer climates during the winter to escape the cold. The migrating families are lovingly referred to as “snowbirds” and there’s a lot to know about this transient lifestyle.
Let’s learn more about what snowbirds are, the benefits of heading to a warmer climate during the summer, and what to consider before you take the leap and become a snowbird yourself.
What is a Snowbird?
A snowbird is someone who heads to a warmer climate during the winter but keeps their permanent home for the rest of the year. While this migratory season used to just be for 2-3 months, usually January and February, more snowbirds are extending their travels to take full advantage of the winter sunshine.
According to John F. Brady, founder of TopRetirements.com, “There is a growing number of people who are becoming snowbirds and who are staying longer. Boomers – a large segment – are tired of winter and the hassles that come with it.” The most common snowbird destinations are Arizona, California, and New Mexico on the West Coast and Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi on the East Coast. Where you decide to spend your winter will depend on your budget, travel requirements or limitations, and personal preferences.
Fun Facts About Snowbirds
Although snowbirds are increasing in popularity, the term has actually been around for almost 100 years! Here are some other fun facts that you likely didn’t know about snowbirds:
- The majority of snowbirds come from Canada. About 10% of snowbirds live in a permanent location outside of the US and 4 out of 5 of those international snowbirds come from Canada.
- Some snowbirds eventually become “sunbirds,” or the opposite of the traditional migration. They make their southern residence their permanent home and travel north for a bit of the year.
- According to the study “Snowbirds, Sunbirds and Stayers: Seasonal Migration of the elderly in Florida,” more than 63% of snowbirds rated their health as “very good” or “excellent.” Those of the same demographic who stayed in one place year-round reported themselves as having less desirable health.
- John D. Rockefeller was one of the very first snowbirds as he migrated to Florida in 1914.
- Snowbirds have a major impact on the economies where they stay
- Many snowbirds spend up to 6 months in their warm-weather homes
- Many snowbirds bring their pets along, too. You could even call them snowdogs and snowcats!
Benefits of Being a Snowbird
There are many health benefits to being a snowbird besides just getting a tan. Here are just a few:
- Because older adults who travel to warmer clients are able to be outside more during the winter, they often stay more active and enjoy outdoor activities like pickleball, tennis, swimming, walking, and yoga.
- In addition to staying physically active, it’s easy for snowbirds to stay socially active as they age, as well. Often, these families will have friends in both their winter and summer homes and enjoy the engagement, community events, and social calendars that come with being in a snowbird community.
Winter can be hard on anyone, but especially adults with limited mobility. While there are plenty of ways to stay safe during the winter, warmer weather means less risk of slipping on ice, running into weather-related emergencies, or getting sick in the cold.
Considerations Before Becoming a Snowbird
There are many benefits of being a snowbird, including more favorable weather and the opportunity to be more physically and socially active, but there are also a lot of logistical considerations to keep in mind. Here are a few:
- Consider the cost. Whether you own two homes, are renting one, or live in an RV that you can travel in, being a snowbird can get expensive if you don’t plan out the details.
- Speaking of cost, you will also pay more taxes by being a snowbird. Your insurance rates for your home and vehicles might increase, as well.
- Make sure you have your mail forwarded to your winter address to avoid missing anything important
- Make sure to look into the terms and conditions of stopping and starting your utility services, including the internet. Sometimes, you have to pay a fee to pause your account.
- You’ll need to winterize your house while your gone and have someone check on it to make sure everything is in order.
- If you’re staying in the US, you can likely bring your pets along but you may need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, especially if you’re flying.
- According to US News & World Report, if you are over 65 and on Medicare, you should be able to obtain medical care wherever you go within the United States. If you use private health insurance, you will need to research whether there are doctors and hospitals at your destination that will be covered by your health care network.
- You’ll need to take your full medical records with you, including prescriptions you take, or see if your primary physician will share your medical records with a doctor at your snowbird destination.
Luckily, with the rise of automatic payments, telehealth, and other electronically-connected systems, you can easily become a snowbird if you want to. While it might not be for everyone, it is a good chance to escape the cold weather, make new friends, and relax at home.