Thinking about heading south for the winter, but don’t think traveling can fit in your budget? Whether you’ve been retired for a while or are about to retire, ‘spending the winter months in a warmer climate can be a great option to stay active and healthy. It is also an entirely popular choice among retirees—millions of “snowbirds” spend their summers at home but travel south in the winter. It’s helpful to know the most affordable locations, best destinations, and things to do while you’re there to maximize the experience.
The Most Affordable Cities for Snowbirds
Moving south for the winter doesn’t have to break the bank. There are several locations in southwest Florida with lower costs of living that still offer plenty of warm weather, beach accessibility, and social activities. In fact, the overall cost of living in some of these places is right around the national average. Housing ranks at only 9% above the mean, while health, utilities, and transportation are affordable in southwest Florida than in the rest of the United States.
One favorite getaway for snowbirds is Cape Coral, FL. Cape Coral is on the Gulf of Mexico, west of Fort Myers. It’s nicknamed the “Water Wonderland,” because of its’ over 400 miles of canals throughout the city, as well as the fact that water surrounds it on three sides. Cape Coral was originally a planned community started in the late 1950’s, but it has since grown to become a significant part of the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area. The population, which is steadily increasing is varied—young adults, families, singles, and snowbirds all migrate in Cape Coral. Although named by Forbes Magazine as the 2nd largest growing city in the U.S, you will be surprised to see there are still many wonderful gems. Take a look at my page on Cape Coral Homes for sale for more information.
Fort Myers is directly east of Cape Coral and is also growing due to its prime location and affordable cost of living. Fort Meyers, the capital of Lee County, has been a traditional haven during winter, since the beginning of the 20th century. Inventors and entrepreneurs like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford both had winter residences there.
“Snowbirding” is becoming more and more popular in the Cape Coral-Fort Meyers area. There are a lot of advantages to spending your winters in the warmer weather, and the climate of this area is ideal during the winter months. The prime season for snowbirds in southwest Florida is from January through March, with many visitors staying from October through April. The average temperature during this time is between the high 70’s and low 80’s. To gain the advantages of being a Florida resident, such as tax breaks and social insurance, you must live in Florida at least six months out of the year—many snowbirds, therefore, choose to stay the entire winter.
Live a Fun, But Affordable Lifestyle
How can you make the most of the time away in southwest Florida? There are many sights to see, and things to do that will work within most budgets. With two city beaches, Yacht Club Community Park and Four Freedoms Park, Cape Coral has plenty of easily accessible water sports and activities. A public boat ramp at Yacht Club park is available for boating, and there are fishing opportunities along the pier there as well as in several of the canals in the city. Before fishing, check to make sure you’re adhering to local licensing requirements.
Other beaches and opportunities for water sports abound in the area. You can venture to Estero Island and visit the town of Fort Meyers Beach. They host a variety of events during the winter months, such as the Fort Meyers Beach Christmas Boat Parade and the Fort Meyers Beach Pirate Festival in November.
If golfing is your pastime of choice, the Cape Coral-Fort Meyers metropolitan area is home to many beautiful golf courses. Coral Oaks Golf Course in Cape Coral is an 18-hole golf course that features many natural lakes and stunning scenery. It’s ideal whether you’re a pro or just starting out, and offers an excellent practice range as well. The Eastwood Golf Course of Fort Myers is a city-owned golf course that stretches over 150 acres. There are other great golf courses throughout the area, as well as others in nearby Tampa or Naples.
Whether you’re looking for indoor or outdoor activities, there are plenty of other attractions and festivals throughout the area. For a tranquil nature experience, you can visit the Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly Garden at Rotary Park. The Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library offers an educational experience about the country’s past military endeavors. The area is also rich with local farmers’ markets, wineries, distilleries, and seaside restaurants. The Boathouse Restaurant at the Yacht Club Community Beach is a popular choice for tourists and snowbirds to experience local, fresh cuisine.
Maximizing Your Returns
A good number of retirees who decide to give Southwest Florida a try one winter does end up coming back year after year. Many older adults realize that they experience better overall health when they spend more time in the tropical climate, rather than in the freezing temperatures back home. Warmer climates allow them to devote more time outdoors and stay more active than they would likely be at home. Once they realize that this is something they’d like to make a part of their annual routine, they begin investigating the most affordable and efficient way to make the change.For those ready to make the permanent switch from the cold winters to sunny outdoor living, check out my review on Babcock Ranch Homes for Sale.
It’s beneficial to stay there at least six months out of the year to be considered a Florida resident and get the “best deal” as a snowbird in southwest Florida. It can also be a good idea to rent a condo or apartment the first few years you go. This way you can get an idea of what you like to do, which areas you prefer to spend time in, and whether or not the snowbird lifestyle is for you. Once you decide to make it a more permanent switch, you can consider your options.
Best Snowbird Destinations
Some snowbirds decide to “rough it” a bit more and stay in RV’s or campers during their stay. RV Parks like Tamiami RV Park offers amenities like electricity and water, so you can stay comfortable while getting a rustic experience. Others choose to camp in less populated places for a more secluded getaway.
For those who decide to buy a property, the market in Southwest Florida is much better than in some other favorite snowbird locations. The average home price is around $215,000, with many smaller condos running even more affordable and there is always the option of looking at cape coral retirement communities as well. In other prime locations like southern California or even the opposite coast of Florida, prices could run double that or more. The low real estate prices coupled with the lower cost of living make it entirely feasible to own a second residence in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, or one of the surrounding towns along the beach.
If you decide to purchase a more permanent residence like a condo or house, you’ll have to figure out what you’ll do with your property, during the months when you head back home. Many snowbirds turn this into an investment opportunity. While older retired adults choose to spend their winters in southwest Florida, younger adults and families usually go on vacation in the summer months when school is out. Snowbirds can make quite a big profit by renting out their seasonal residences to vacationers during the summer. This plan can help pay for the mortgage and any maintenance costs that arise, as well as insurance and utility bills.
Whichever way you choose to make your dream of becoming a snowbird a reality, Southwest Florida is a right place to do it. With reasonable prices, exciting attractions, and the perfect climate, more and more retirees are choosing to pass their winter months there, and for a good reason. Contact me for more information on how to turn that snowbird dream into a reality.
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