If you’re a northerner who’s recently purchased a second home, timeshare, or are planning to rent a place to spend the colder months down south, you’re not alone. Each year, millions of people, mostly retirees, pack their bags and head for warmer weather, staying anywhere from a couple of months to half the year or more. Florida is the most popular destination, with snowbirds increasing the state’s population by over 5% for the duration of their stay.
Whether you’ve vacationed in Florida your whole life or are headed down to the beach for the first time, here are some tips for a smooth transition and information to help you make the most of your time in the Sunshine State.
Research the area
Before choosing which Florida city to make your part-time residence, you should think about what type of environment suits your lifestyle. For example, if you’re looking for quiet relaxation, you might want to avoid party destinations like South Beach or Panama City in favor of somewhere quieter like Sanibel.
Address changes and services
Though there are plenty of people who just have their mail forwarded while they’re in Florida, it’s a good idea to provide your new address to anyone who may need to send you important mail. Some types of mail, such as credit/debit cards, prescriptions, and some sensitive documents, aren’t eligible for forwarding, and it’s much easier to take care of this ahead of time.
You may also want to cancel your trash service and any subscriptions you won’t be using while you’re gone, such as internet and cable.
Find a house sitter
When leaving home for the winter, it’s crucial to have someone who can check in every now and then to make sure everything is running smoothly. Though it’s always a good idea to bring your valuables with you, having someone keep an eye on things can also help deter potential home invaders. Also in a colder climate, things such as untended thermostats and dormant water pipes can spell disaster. Just having a friend or neighbor stop in for a few minutes every few days can help avoid expensive home repairs and preserve your peace of mind.
Prepare for your pets
If you’re bringing pets along for the trip, make sure and plan ahead to bring things like medications, vet records, leashes, bowls, and food. You may also want to bring familiar items such as their bed from home to help them adjust to their new environment.
Make time for friendship
Living in two different places can take a toll on your social life if you’re not a naturally outgoing person, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, you have the opportunity to make twice as many friends as you travel between your two homes. Make an effort to stay connected to your friends and loved ones back home, and don’t be afraid to interact with new people during your travels.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune
Many snowbirds make their lifestyle work on a budget. You might consider renting out the home you’re not currently using, cutting costs by choosing inexpensive activities, packing lunches for afternoons at the beach, and choosing to cook at home rather than dining at expensive tourist spots.
Adding a second residence is an exciting new chapter, and Florida is full of beautiful destinations with something for everyone. With a little preparation and a lot of sunscreen, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your new lifestyle.