20 Tips for Snowbirds Escaping Winter

Every winter, hundreds of thousands of Canadian snowbirds head south to avoid the worst that winter has to offer. By some estimates it’s as many as 500,000 travellers who spend a significant period of time, three to six months, in the United States avoiding the cold. If you’re looking to escape old man winter for a month or two, or maybe more, here are some home, travel, and driving tips to help make sure everything is in order.

Snowbird Home Tips

Before you head south, it's important to ensure your home is protected and stays protected. Your first step in doing this is to let your home insurer know that your home will be empty while you’re away. Ask them what needs to be done in order to ensure your home insurance coverage stays in effect while you're on holiday. They’ll have a to-do list with details.

Outside of what your home insurer will require, the following are some additional tips for around the home.

  1. Arrange to have someone you trust collect any junk mail or flyers that land at your front door.
  2. Winterize your home by having your furnace checked, gutters cleaned, and your roof inspected to make sure it’s in tip top shape and can weather the winter without incident.
  3. Call your telephone, cable, internet and/or satellite provider to temporarily suspend your service. However, make sure this doesn't interfere with your home monitoring system, if you have one.
  4. Store valuables that you’re not taking with you in a safety deposit box.
  5. Cancel any regular deliveries and forward your mail.
  6. Unplug all unnecessary electronics and appliances.
  7. Do not post your travel plans on social media sites. You don't want to publicize that you’re away from the house.
  8. Make it seems as if someone is home. Install timers on indoor and outdoor lights and hire someone to clear snow from your driveway, sidewalk and path after each snowfall.

Snowbird Travel Tips

We’ve all heard how expensive healthcare is in the U.S., and the fact is your provincial health plan may cover nothing or only a very small portion of the costs if you get sick or are injured. That’s why one of the most important items to bring with you is travel insurance.

In addition to getting travel insurance for snowbirds, you’ll also want to:

  1. Pack your passport, but first renew it if it's due to expire during your time away.
  2. Make photocopies of all your documents. This includes the contents of your wallet such as your health card and driver’s licence. Leave one copy with a friend or relative and pack the other separate from where you carry the originals.
  3. Let your bank and credit card companies know that you'll be leaving the country.
  4. Consider purchasing an international phone plan to save on costly roaming fees.
  5. Let family know where you’ll be staying, as well as how you can be reached.
  6. Make sure you have everything you need to enter the U.S. The Government of Canada’s country travel advice and advisories is a great starting resource.

Snowbird Driving Tips

Before hitting the road, reach out to your auto insurance provider. It's important you notify them of your plans and review your coverage options to ensure you're properly protected.

Here are some additional tips to make sure your vehicle is ready for the long drive ahead.

  1. Take your car to a mechanic for a tune-up. It's important your vehicle is prepared for the lengthy drive.
  2. Renew your licence plate, auto insurance, or driver's licence before leaving if they're going to expire while you're away.
  3. Consider joining a roadside assistance program that can help you both in Canada and outside of the country.
  4. Equip your car with a winter driving survival kit which will come in handy in case of an emergency.
  5. Make sure you know where you’re going. Even if you have a GPS to help you with directions, having maps as a backup couldn’t hurt either.
  6. Don’t overdo it. Take frequent breaks from driving, and take your time. A well-rested and alert driver is a safe driver.

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you're leaving the country for an extended period of time. These tips will help make sure all your home, travel, and driving basics are covered. Once everything is taken care of, all that's left is getting to your destination safely. From there you can enjoy the sun and warm weather stress and worry-free.