Is Snowbirding Right for You?

snowbirdSnowbirding is attractive for obvious reasons – most notably, getting out of the cold and into a more comfortable environment. But the decision to snowbird is not always an easy one, particularly if you have strong personal connections in your current location. So how do you choose between staying near family full-time and enjoying a better locale in your retirement?

Viv Chapleo, editor and cofounder of WAVE Journey, a women’s online travel magazine, explores the issues involved in the decision to divide your time between your current home and a new place in a warmer climate.

Snowbird Questions to Consider

Key issues involved in the decision to become a snowbird, says Chapleo, are health and finances. To get the ball rolling, she recommends asking yourself questions like these:

  • Am I healthy enough to travel and spend extended periods of time away from my primary home?
  • Is the climate I live in suitable for the lifestyle I want?
  • Are activities available year-round where I currently live?
  • Can I stay with family and reduce living costs?
  • If I travel outside the United States, will I be able to take enough of my prescription medication with me or obtain it in my destination?

Pros and Cons of Snowbirding

Once you’ve reviewed these snowbird basics, it’s time to review the pros and cons. There are drawbacks to the life of a snowbird, particularly when you consider the additional cost of housing.

“An RV, rental, or vacation home can quickly start to dwindle finances and put a stress on your budget, which is likely quite fixed,” says Chapleo.

Plus, it might be difficult to separate from your loved ones for months at a time, especially if you’re accustomed to spending a lot of time with your children and grandchildren: “Leaving family, friends, and health care practitioners for a few months can be stressful and lonely,” she says.

On the other hand, many seniors consider becoming snowbirds so they can reap the physical and emotional benefits of spending more time in the sun. Additional benefits of snow birding, says Chapleo, include meeting new people, experiencing new places and ways of life, and enjoying life to the fullest throughout the year.

“Many seniors are enjoying very active retirements and want to spend all year doing the things they love – not hibernating for the winter,” she says.

Best Snowbird Destinations

Obviously, a key consideration in the snowbirding decision is where you’d like to go. In the United States, Chapleo cites Arizona, Nevada, Southern California, Texas, and Florida as top snowbird destinations.

Of course, you don’t have to stay stateside when you snowbird. If you’re looking for an international experience, Chapleo recommends Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam as excellent locations. She also suggests snowbirding overseas for as long as you’re financially able.

“The cost of medical travel insurance gets higher as we age, so go to destinations farther away at the earliest opportunity,” she says. “Then do the closer-to-home journeys as the cost of insurance rises and makes overseas trips unaffordable.”

And no one ever said that snowbirds must be stationary. For a truly unforgettable experience, Chapleo recommends taking an extended cruise.

“Being a snowbird on a cruise ship for a few months at a time is a fantastic way to see the world and be taken care of in a safe and fun environment,” she says. “Watching the world go by from the balcony of a ship as it sails through the Suez Canal on its way from Europe to South Africa sure beats sitting at home watching TV while there are 2 inches of snow on the ground.”

CHIME IN: What made you decide to become a snowbird?

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