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What’s An RV Snowbird? Learn the Ropes and Avoid the Snow!

What’s An RV Snowbird? Learn the Ropes and Avoid the Snow!

As winter weather starts getting serious, some people migrate to warmer climates. Looking to avoid cold and snow, these seasonal travelers are known as “snowbirds.” Some, like us, are RV snowbirds who drive their rigs south for a period of time over the winter (or the entire winter). Others may rent or own a second property.

But what do all of them, including RV snowbirds, do about mail, medical care, and other concerns of life in general? How do you choose the best snowbird destination for your interests, how do you know where to RV in the winter, and what does “snowbird friendly” mean?

In this post, we’re covering snowbirding and the ways that northerners relocate to warmer climates in winter and return to cooler locations in summer.

What Is a Snowbird?

“Snowbirds” are people who migrate from colder climates to warmer locations during the winter months. The term “snowbird” once referred primarily to older retirees, but it’s become more and more popular among younger working-age people.

Typically, snowbird migration takes place each autumn and early winter, leaving the northern United States and Canada to head to the southern United States and Mexico, but may also include Hawaii and the Caribbean. Of course, you can’t drive an RV to those particular locations. But no matter where a snowbird chooses to go, the primary purpose is to escape harsh winter weather, allowing us to enjoy a more comfortable climate all year round.

As 20-year full-time RVers, part of our original motivation for hitting the road was to escape winter. Over the past two decades, we’ve spent a pretty small percentage of our time in cold climates. We always say “Winter is a choice!”

What Are the Most Popular Snowbirding Destinations?

Some northern snowbirds start heading south as soon as the brisk fall air starts moving in, with the goal of avoiding cold weather entirely. Others remain in their northern homes through the holidays to be with friends and family, and head for the warm weather once the holiday season ends.

One thing that all snowbirds have in common is that they’re drawn to destinations with mild climates, where they can continue to enjoy the sun, wear lightweight clothing, and participate in outdoor activities throughout the winter. These areas include parts of the U.S. sunbelt and Mexico. Some even fly to Hawaii or the Caribbean.

Two people celebrating warm weather in a beautiful location epitomizes the answer to the question "what is a snowbird?"

Northerners typically choose southern destinations as their snowbirding locations. This may be anywhere along the U.S. sunbelt, Mexico, Hawaii, or even the Caribbean.

Florida, Arizona, southern California, and south Texas are some of the most popular places RVers go to seek respite from the cold, but the entire U.S. sunbelt can attract snowbirds. That includes parts of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, North Carolina, Nevada, and Utah. Hot weather isn’t necessarily a requirement. For many people. the weather just has to be warmer than it is back home!

Personally, we really love warm weather. As a result, we’ve spent most of our winters snowbirding in the Desert SW… mostly Arizona or Southern California. But we’ve also been snowbirding in the southern parts of Florida and Texas, as well as in Mexico.

What Is RV Snowbirding?

While many snowbirds opt for short-term seasonal rentals or second homes, many others, are RV snowbirds. That’s how we snowbird, having driven our motorhome south most winters for the past 20 years.

RV snowbirding is an increasingly popular part of RV living and often involves driving to warmer climates for months at a time to steer clear of cold weather completely. The RV snowbird lifestyle allows travelers to explore without having to deal with snow, ice, and cold weather.

As we mentioned, we’ve mostly been RV snowbirds our entire time on the road. But we’ve also spent time in our RV in cold, snowy areas, so we know what’s involved. Check out our video about one of those winters:

What Are the Benefits of Snowbirding?

In addition to the obvious (staying away from cold weather), there are lots of benefits to snowbirding.

Ability to Remain Active Outdoors

Being a snowbird allows people to stay active outdoors all year long.

For people who love winter sports like skiing, staying north during the winter may be a great choice. But for those whose outdoor life involves hiking, kayaking, pickleball, swimming, or experiencing different golf courses, snowbirding may be the only way to stay active outdoors throughout the year. It’s also the easiest and safest way to spend time outdoors in the winter.

One thing we love about snowbirding is doing laundry. That may sound like a strange “positive” about any particular location, but smaller washing machines on RVs (or none at all, meaning laundromats), means that the larger/thicker/more clothing needed to fight off the cold equals more laundry to do.

Isn’t summer weather great, with just shorts and T-shirts needed? We think so, making our Winter Is A Choice mantra an easy decision: Fly South Little Snowbirds!

Freedom and Flexibility

Snowbirding, (especially RV snowbirding) provides the freedom to choose different destinations with warm climates, allowing travelers to explore new places and cultures at their own pace.

The first year we owned our ’05 Mountain Aire, we spent the entire winter in San Carlos, Mexico. Not only was the weather great, but the incredible sunsets were the best we’ve ever experienced anywhere. Almost. Every. Night.

This typical sunset in San Carlos, MX epitomizes the answer to the question "what is a snowbird?"

The sunsets during the winter we spent snowbirding in San Carlos, Mexico were simply awesome. Almost every night we were treated to a different swirling show of light and color over the Sea of Cortez.

Cost Savings for Snowbirding RVers

While the initial investment in an RV can be considerable, the overall cost of snowbirding in one can be more economical than maintaining a second home or renting a place seasonally. This depends on where you stay, of course.

Many RV resorts offer long-term winter campsite rentals for reasonable fees. But our favorite way to camp, boondocking, is incredibly economical because you rarely have to pay any type of fee unless you’re at a state park or other type of established campground occasionally.

RV Snowbird Community Connections

55+ rental properties, RV parks, campgrounds, and other short-term rental options become hubs for those with similar interests. This can help foster a sense of community among snowbirds. The social aspect of snowbirding makes the annual transition easier and more exciting, especially when you return to spend the winter months with fellow snowbirding friends year after year.

Staying Warm in the Winter

Since this snowbirding benefit is the most obvious, we left it for last… but of course, we can’t leave it out. From our years of experience hanging out with thousands of other weather-motivated RVers, we know we’re far from the only ones who hate the cold. We loved winter as kids, but now staying warm far exceeds any benefits a cold and snowy winter might offer. Want to see beautiful snowy landscapes? That’s what TV is for!

Tips for Becoming a Snowbird

There are several things to consider before committing to becoming a snowbird. Here are some tips to make the snowbirding experience more seamless and less stressful:

Secure Your Northern Home

Assuming you’re not a full-timer (the majority of RVers aren’t), before you leave your northern home for an extended period, you’ll need to make sure it’s well-prepared for the cold weather.

Depending on where you live, this may mean arranging for automatic oil deliveries to keep the house reasonably warm to prevent damage from frozen and burst pipes, arranging to have your driveway plowed, and finding either a house-sitter or a friend or family member who is willing to check on the house periodically while you’re away.

Confirm Health Insurance Reliability

When you spend an extended period away from your primary residence, it’s important to consider your current and potential healthcare needs.

Confirm with your insurance provider that you’ll be covered in the event of a medical event. Plan in advance of your travels so that if you require medical care while you’re away, you’ll know who to call and where to go. Also, confirm that your health insurance will cover major costs in the areas you’ll be traveling.

If you’re Canadian, we don’t need to tell you how important it is to purchase travel medical insurance before crossing the border. This is where joining a supportive organization like the Canadian Snowbird Association can provide valuable resources.

Confirm Pet Care

Snowbirds who own pets may want to scope out available veterinary or grooming options in the areas they’ll be visiting. Plan in advance for where your pet will receive any necessary medical care and any other services they may need, including any special foods, medications, vaccinations, etc.

A veterinarian checking the ear of a cat

Be sure to have a plan for how your pet will receive medical care in the event of an emergency, illness, or even just routine pet care needs.

Tend to Mail-Forwarding

If you’ll be away for several weeks or months, you’ll want to have your mail forwarded so that your home mailbox doesn’t overflow and so that you can keep up with bills and correspondence.

For snowbirds who own or rent a second home in a warmer climate for the winter, this may only require contacting your local post office to have them forward your mail to your southern home for the duration of your stay.

For RVers who anticipate traveling throughout warmer areas during the winter months, one of the RV mail forwarding services may be the answer. Many RV parks are great about receiving mail for RVers staying with them for a while.

Plan to Stay Connected

Invest in reliable communication tools and internet options to stay connected with family and friends and to access important information while you’re away. This may simply mean making sure there’s reliable WiFi in the static home where you’ll be spending the winter months.
For RVers who plan to travel during the winter season, this may require a bit more thought and consideration of options such as portable satellite internet, cellular boosting, or something similar.
Canadians heading south will need to be sure their cellular plan works in the US or Mexico. Fortunately, Canadian cell plans have improved dramatically over recent years, with many offering great services for international travelers.

Tips for RV Snowbirds

RV snowbirds have some specific things to consider that are unique to the RV lifestyle.

Choose the Right RV

If you’re going to be living in your RV for several months, it’s important to choose an RV that will comfortably accommodate you. If you’re traveling with a partner or with your family, space is always a consideration, as are various amenities and features.

A family around a fire with their travel trailer in the background

Whether you’re a solo RV snowbird, a couple, or an entire family, having an RV with enough living space is important if you’re planning to live on board for extended periods. Of course, this might be easiest for full-timers, since we want to have enough space all year long, wherever we travel.

Plan Your Travel Route

Before heading south for the winter and back north for the summer, research and plan your travel route. Take into consideration any destinations you want to include and any needs you may have along the way, just as you would plan any extensive RV trip. See our post on our top RV trip planners for some helpful information.

Weather Considerations

Keep an eye on weather patterns and adjust your travel plans accordingly. Being flexible with your plan not only helps to avoid extreme conditions but also is a great stress reliever. Be especially mindful of high elevations, since rain can quickly turn to snow or ice when climbing into the mountains.

Budget Wisely

Establish a reasonable budget for your RV snowbirding adventure, including fuel costs, campground fees, and potential maintenance and repair expenses. Consider joining RV clubs for campground and fuel discounts, important educational features, social features, and more.

A great thing about spending longer periods in one spot is the ability to take advantage of lower RV park and campground rates for monthly stays.

Stay Connected

Internet options are different when you’re living on the road in an RV. You can’t just plan on campground Wi-Fi. You need to be able to stay connected to family and friends, and many people (like us) need solid, reliable RV Internet options to continue working from wherever we are.

Snowbirding Summary

Snowbirding, whether in an RV, a rental, or a second home, offers a great way to escape winter cold and keep people active (and warm) throughout the winter months. It can also provide the opportunity to explore new places and create lasting memories with old and new friends alike.

As weather conditions across the globe become more and more extreme and unpredictable in both winter and summer months, it’s likely that more and more people will chase weather for both comfort and health.

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John S.

Friday 8th of December 2023

Very good summary of items to check/do if planning the snowbird lifestyle.

Speaking of snowbirding, are you going to be in Arizona, specifically the Quartzsite area, in January, 2024? We're planning on going to the desert a week before the show then staying until the first day to check the big tent.


Tuesday 12th of December 2023

Thanks, John! Unfortunately, no... not traveling south this year... we still don't have an RV! 😉 Soak up some sun for us, and enjoy your trip!

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