Each winter, an estimated one million snowbirds motor south in their RVs to enjoy warm southern temperatures in the Sun Belt. Most rent an RV site, while some purchase a site in their desired destination area. Use these tips for your snowbird trip this winter.
It’s not hard to understand why snowbirds make the journey from the northern states during winter. Trading snow-covered streets for palm trees swaying in warm tropical breezes makes a lot of sense. The snowbird cost of living also has some perks, too, because snowbirds don’t have to worry about paying for heating in their domain back home, and many RV parks and resorts offer low prices to beat the competition.
But before hitting the gas, consider all the steps needed to ensure peace of mind as you relax in the southern sun.
1) Stake your snowbird claim
The first thing that must be done is to reserve a site at your intended southern destination. Once you’ve decided the area you want to visit, consult Good Sam’s Find RV Parks & Campgrounds page, which puts over 12,000 RV parks at your fingertips. Enter the state and city you’re visiting, and the search results will give you the park’s name as well as Good Sam’s handy three-number rating. Check the park’s Good Sam rating, and read user reviews, which are found with each park’s listing.
When checking out prospective RV parks, consider your camping preferences. Does the park you’re considering have all the amenities you’re looking for? Are you seeking a vibrant social scene, or do you prefer a staid, outdoorsy environment? Also, consider the conveniences that you expect. Does the park have a store that provides groceries, or will you have to take a trip into town? Study the RV park descriptions carefully.
2) Turn off the water
Shut off the valve supplying water to your northern home. The most common homeowner’s insurance claim involves water damage from failed plumbing or related components. Avoid a midnight call from a neighbor back home complaining about flooding on your property.
3) Get a handle on bills related to your northern domicile
These include electric power, water, sewage, telephone carrier, TV service, etc. Online billing and automatic payments will go a long way in addressing this. Make sure you’re aware of home insurance, property tax and maintenance fees due during your trip.
You’ll also want to keep your home electricity bill under control. Unplug stereos, DVD players and desktop PCs that consume electricity even when they’re idle. Most importantly, unplug modems and routers: In addition to saving energy costs, you’ll avert the threat of hackers tapping into your Wi-Fi while you’re gone.
4) Check your insurance policies
Make sure your vehicle policy provides full coverage in your warm-weather destination’s state and city for the duration of your stay. Also, check your homeowner’s policy to see that it covers extended periods of vacancy. Many policies state that someone must attend to your house at a given frequency.
5) Avoid expiration perspiration
Check the expiration dates on insurance, license, credit cards and vehicle registration. Don’t let lapsed paperwork derail your adventures in the sun.
6) Secure your northern home (and your RV)
Home security is no joke. Look into alarm systems, motion lights, security cameras and other technologies that can keep your empty home safe from robbery. Arrange for someone to remove any papers and fliers that may gather at the front door.
And while you’re reviewing your sticks-and-bricks domicile’s safety, don’t neglect the security of your RV. Fortunately, several products are available to provide security for your vehicle, from motion lights to alarm systems to surveillance cameras. Last but not least, make sure you’ve got protection against breakdowns while on the road.
You’ll need to protect your vulnerabilities on the online front as well. As a snowbird, you’ll be traveling across long distances and might come into circumstances that require you to use public Wi-Fi. If this is the situation, try to avoid doing any banking or bill paying on a public service. Consider using a VPN (a virtual private network), which encrypts your data and scrambles your location. Avoid website URLs that start with “http” and stay only on sites that start with “https” (like this one). The “s” stands for “security.” Consider renting a portable hotspot; some start at $9 per day. Satellite internet connectivity is another option.
7) Arrange mail forwarding
If you’re planning to move around during your southern seasonal vacation, the Good Sam Mail Service will forward your parcels to you. Good Sam offers services like shredding and recycling unwanted mail, and users receive an automatic email that summarizes mail delivered each day. There are no limits on mail or packages you can receive. Also, remember to suspend regular delivery of newspapers, magazines and other periodicals you don’t want to read during your trip.
8) Don’t let anything hinder your spending power
Always make sure you have access to cash. Having at least two separate credit cards is a good idea as well, given that occasional anomalous transactions can sometimes cause account suspensions. And, of course, several apps are available to turn your little smartphone into a wallet.
9) Take care of yourself
Verify that you have adequate medical protection and that any additional plan coverage, if applicable, will be valid at your new location. Check to see what pharmacies are located near your snowbird roost. And while you’re in the Sun Belt, keep those warm temperatures in mind. That means lots of sunscreen and water on hand. Conversely, remember that even the sunniest snowbird states suffer from occasional cold snaps. Pack layers of warmer clothing to prepare for potential chilly weather.
10) Deal with Canada concerns
If you live in Canada, make sure to bring a valid passport for everyone. Obtain U.S. cash before leaving Canada. Exchange service south of the border may not be possible at all banks. Check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a complete list of regulations.
Bonus: More Online Resources
Need help finding your way? Good Sam’s Exclusive Trip Planner maps out travel itineraries and displays locations of Good Sam Parks, Camping World RV & Outdoors locations and Pilot Flying J travel plazas, as well as hundreds of attractions. The planner customizes routes based on travel preferences and RV size.
You also can find a snowbird roost in the palm of your hand. Download the Good Sam Camping app on your Android or Apple iOS device and search RV parks nearby, by city or by state or province. Filter detailed results by park features, distance and ratings. Get directions from your current location.