It's almost time for the snow to fly and for snowbirds to fly away.
Whether for a couple of weeks or a few months, many heat-seeking northerners head south during the winter. They are called Snowbirds.
Florida and Arizona are great destinations for solo snowbirds. Mexico, Portugal, and Costa Rica rank highly too.
Any travel requires attention to details outside of one's normal life. But snowbird travel goes farther. Because you'll be away from your home for a while there are more things to consider.
For those considering flying south for more than a week or two, here are your tips.
Tips for Solo Snowbirds
- Manage your finances.
- Use credit cards that have no foreign exchange fees. Financial institutions typically add a fee of 2.5% – 3% on every foreign transaction. This fee is determined by the financial institution that issues the credit card not the credit card company. Choose a card for travel that has a low or no foreign exchange fee. Check out the Home Trust Preferred Visa card. It has no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, 1% cash back with no limits, roadside assist membership, and Visa Auto Rental Collision/Loss Damage Insurance.
- Get the right debit card. Banks charge up to $5 per ATM withdrawal from foreign banks however many financial institutions waive these fees with a premium account. This could save a lot of money over a few months.
- Make sure you have online banking. You never know what can arise while you're away. Make sure you're set up with online banking so you can handle it.
- Arrange for the payment of bills while you're away. The easiest way to do this is to have your bills sent to you via email and then pay them online. Additionally, you can set up automatic pre-authorized payments for your reoccurring bills.
- Protect your health and more. I never go out of the country without travel insurance – I don't think I ever have. I've not used it for health, so far, but I have recovered the cost of lost items and more. I've actually recovered more money than I've spent on insurance. I'm proof that it can be worthwhile. Whether you encounter accidents, illness, missed flights or lost baggage, solo snowbirds can minimize risk with the right plan. I've studied insurance quite extensively and have two posts for you to read.
- Going Alone? Travel Insurance is a Must. This is my most extensive price/benefits comparison of my favorite insurance providers applied across a variety of travel scenarios.
- Travel Insurance for Senior Solo Travelers. I wrote this because insurance for seniors is a bit different and more difficult to get at a reasonable rate.
- With the exception of World Nomads, you need to buy travel insurance before you leave on your trip.
- If you choose to stay away longer than planned some travel insurance providers will allow you to extend your coverage while abroad. Check with your insurance company.
- Check what coverage you already have with your best travel credit card but remember how expensive out-of-country medical care can be. A broken leg can be $11,000. Surgery can be a few hundred thousand. See what you’re already covered for and top up accordingly
- See what your home insurance covers while you're away and whether your auto coverage is good for out of country and/or rentals.
- Disclose all pre-existing health issues. Don't assume what pre-existing means. Make sure you ask. You may be surprised that it has no effect on the cost of your insurance yet would have a significant effect on any claims related to a pre-existing issue if you had not disclosed.
- While healthcare is a priority also look for trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, baggage loss and travel delay in an insurance plan.
- Protect your identity. While away you may be on public WiFi (including hotel, condo complex, coffee shop WiFi) more often than at home. Make sure that you use a VPN on public WiFi to protect your identity. Read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide.
- Arrange to look like you're at home.
- Ask a friend or family member to care for things while you're away. Ask them to check inside your home every couple of days. If you live in a house, their main job is to ensure that the heat is on so that no pipes burst. Your home insurance likely requires such frequent checks.
- Have your mail redirected by the post office for the period of time you’re away. Have a friend pick up mail that is still delivered despite your redirect.
- Arrange for snow clearance to ensure that your place looks lived in.
- Secure your home.
- Consider Smart Technology for your home. Read: The Best Smart Home Devices of 2019.
- An alarm system is likely a good idea for anyone going away for a period of time.
- Install security braces on sliding glass doors as these tend to be the weakest locks.
- Stay in touch.
- Will you have a landline and Wi-Fi where you'll be staying? Know what's available before you go.
- Make sure you understand Skype or WhatsApp for inexpensive ways to stay in touch with family through Wi-Fi.
- Know your mobile provider's charges for calls and data where you're going. Some companies have excellent packages. In other cases, you may want to buy an unlocked phone and SIM card.
- Check out the Canadian Snowbird Association.
- The Canadian Snowbird Association has been around for 25 years and they have everything from a hurricane checklist to Snowbird events.
Go. Get out of the cold. Have fun! Stay safe. And be confident that if something should go wrong you have done the legwork to minimize the hassle.