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Checklist for Snowbirds Heading South

Many Snowbirds look forward to sunshine and warm temperatures in the winter months – it’s a big drawing card for those who have time to leave Canadian winters behind. However, as with any travel plans, you’re wise to consider the financial implications of your decision ahead of time, and then prepare accordingly. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

Medical Insurance

We’ve all heard the horror stories of how much a hospital stay in the States can cost. Don’t underestimate your need for adequate medical insurance coverage before you leave Canada. Carry copies of your documents with you so that you’re prepared if you end up facing a medical emergency.

House Insurance

Review your policy carefully and speak with your insurance agent as some policies are not valid if the house is unoccupied for a period of time. It may even be wise to hire a house-sitter, or ask a trusted friend or family member to use your home while you’re away.

Tax Implications

Depending on how long you’re planning on staying out of Canada, check the Canada Revenue Agency website or speak with a qualified accountant regarding tax considerations both in Canada as well as the United States.

Car Insurance

Along with your personal travel insurance, consider what insurance and road side assistance coverage you need for any vehicles you’re traveling south with. If you’re flying down and buying a car once you get there, investigate what you need in terms of money transfers, exchange rates, and banking or borrowing arrangements. While you may have established relationships and discounted premiums in Canada, without the proper documentation, you may not qualify for comparable coverage in the States.

Take Care of Business

Be sure to have a Power of Attorney in place before you leave, as well as someone to watch over your monthly affairs. Set up online statements, pre-authorized bill payments, automatic deposits and look ahead at any renewals that may come due while you’re away. Notify credit card companies and your bank so that they can spot unauthorized activity more quickly. Leave copies of important paperwork with your Power of Attorney as well as reliable contact details so that they can reach you.

You’ll Be Missed

At first glance, the benefits of being a Snowbird can easily outweigh a cold, damp and dreary Canadian winter. However, consider if you’ll actually be able to stay away as long as you’d like to. Do you have commitments at home that you need to keep up with during the winter months? What about time with grandkids or holiday traditions that you value as much as your family does?

Before you firm up your travel plans, speak candidly with your family so that they know why you’re leaving and aren’t hurt by your absence. Then take advantage of electronic means of communicating while you’re gone – email, Skype, long distance phone cards. This will help bridge the gap while you’re gone and help you all look forward to your return.

Above All Else

Are you financially able to carry two homes and the associated life-styles for a period of several months? Even though you may be renting for your southern stay, you still need to pay for utilities, insurance, possibly some furnishings or maintenance and likely additional entertainment or recreational activities.

Before you migrate south, if your budget looks like it might be too tight to make a long trip comfortable this year, start planning now and look forward to travelling next winter instead.

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