Snowbirding: What do I need to know?

By | February 23, 2017

After working decades many Canadians embrace the prospect of snow birding during Canada’s cold and wet winter months. Who doesn’t like the idea of regularly spending up to six months in one of the U.S. warm-weather spots such as Nevada Arizona California or Texas? Turns out more than a million Canadians aged 55 and up enjoy the benefits of this snowbird lifestyle. For many of these snowbirds the best way to travel and live down south is in an RV. 

If you’re thinking of snowbirding in your RV this year here’s what you need to know.

#1: Ask for Advice

Before you start up the engine you need to find out everything you can about making your stay in the United States trouble-free. Talk to friends who have experience travelling or living in the U.S. with their RV or call and talk to an organization like the Canadian Snowbird Association . This association has over 70000 members nationwide offers a wealth of information for the snowbird RV-er for a yearly membership rate of $25. It’s definitely worthwhile especially if it’s your first year of snowbirding.

#2: Consider Your Budget

To make an RV road-trip both successful and enjoyable one of the first steps is to consider your budget. Remember that you’ll be paying more in gas as you’ll either be driving or towing your RV. But your accommodation and food expenses will likely be lower since you already have a place to stay where you can cook a nice hot meal.  Still there are travelling costs to consider such as RV park camping fees and perhaps some sight-seeing and ice-cream cones along the way. Here’s a list of cost considerations:

  • Gas
  • Accomodation
  • Vehicle Maintenance 
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Bills At Home
  •  Insurance – including healthcare and for your RV

#3: Sort Out Your Banking

Once you’ve got a rough idea of how much money you’ll need consider how you’ll get access to this money. Setting up an online banking account and downloading your bank’s app to your phone will make your life easier. 

When it comes to currency exchange Barry Choi a travel expert with Moneysense says the best way to avoid currency exchange fees is to withdraw money from an ATM. Choi explains that “Local ATMs will almost always be the cheapest way to exchange money generally charging an extra 2.5% on the transaction.” If you’re not comfortable with carrying a lot of cash another option is to apply for a U.S. credit card. Choi states that a US credit card is a great option for people who want a record of what they spend and don’t want to be charged a transaction fee on top of the exchange rate.

Another option is to open up a US bank account with your bank or one that offers this service. Just be sure you choose the right type of account:

  • A Canadian account that holds US dollars will give you access to your greenbacks without the exchange rate fee but you’ll need to fund that account prior to leaving Canada.
  • A U.S. account that holds American dollars but is affiliated with your Canadian bank can give you access to your cash through ATMs and offers debit Visa options. 
  • Talk to your bank representative to find out what your bank offers and which account is the best choice for you. In any case don’t forget to call and notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans.