Every winter, millions of people who live in cooler climates head south. The majority of these seasonal travelers are retirees looking to have the best of both worlds—they stay in their more northern states when the weather there is beautiful, but enjoy warm winters in the south when at home they’d otherwise be freezing. Whether you’re considering becoming a “snowbird” yourself, or you know others who live this lifestyle, and you’re trying to understand more about it, here are some things you probably didn’t know about them.
1. The term “snowbird” refers to a person, not an animal.
Although there’s a type of bird also nicknamed the “snowbird,” the term, in this case, is used to refer to a group of people who choose to spend their winters in the warmer, southern parts of the United States. Many of these people are baby boomer retirees. Although many people think of Florida when they hear the term “snowbird,” snowbirds can be found in other southern states as well.
2. Technically, people call them “winter visitors,” (if you don’t want to offend anyone).
The politically correct way to refer to snowbirds is winter visitors. Sometimes, when natives of the warmer states hear the term “snowbird,” they think of overly crowded beaches and restaurants. Saying “winter visitors” instead doesn’t carry such a negative reputation.
3. “Snowbirds” are nothing new.
People have been working or vacationing in the south during colder times of year for over 100 years. The term first was used to refer to farm workers who found work in warmer climates during the winter but shifted to refer to retiree tourists by the later part of the 20th century.
4. They aren’t just Americans.
Although most snowbirds are U.S. residents, quite a few come from other northerly countries. The most non-U.S. based winter tourists come from Canada. In Canada, there’s even a group called the Canadian Snowbird Association that aims to defend the rights of Canadians who travel or live abroad for extended periods of time.
5. Many end up just staying.
Quite a few snowbirds begin seasonal travel to the south with the intention of living the majority of the time in their hometowns. A lot end up falling in love with their new temporary home, however, and end up establishing residency in that state.
6. Snowbirds have a big to-do list before they leave.
If you’re heading out for a long weekend, you don’t have to pack much, and it’s probably OK if you forget something. Going away for a whole season, however, requires a lot of prep time beforehand. Snowbirds have to be prepared to be away for several months and must pack enough clothes, meds, insurance information, and other necessities. They also have to settle anything pending at home and set up house/pet care in many cases.
7. Without snowbirds, some businesses would be in trouble.
Places like RV parks and campgrounds in southern states depend on their annual snowbird visitors to meet their revenue goals. If northern visitors didn’t come in such high numbers, some of these seasonal tourism businesses could suffer.
8. Snowbird “white cities” are a standard aerial view during the winter in some states.
In these RV parks where snowbirds flock, a sea of white is visible from the air—this is the tops of their RV’s and motor homes.
9. Whole periodicals dedicate their issues to snowbirds.
A lot of magazines—Snowbirds Gulf Coast Magazine (http://snowbirdsgulfcoast.com/), for example, can be found down south. They fill their pages with resources for annual visitors.
10. Avoiding winter has health benefits for snow birds.
Many snowbirds are older than the regular tourists. As people age, strenuous tasks like shoveling snow can be dangerous work than before. Also, fitness routines like walking or bike riding can decline during the colder months. By going south, snowbirds can avoid the hazards of winter while maintaining proper exercise.
11. You won’t find many snowbirds just laying around all day.
Most winter travels are quite active and head south as much for the social events as they do for the warm weather. Many communities organize special events and activities specifically for this group.
12. Some states don’t use the term “snowbird.”
In some parts of the U.S., people refer to winter travelers by different names. In Texas, they’re called “winter Texans.”
13. Many turn their southern residences into rental properties during the summer.
A lot of snowbirds return home when the weather’s nicer there. Many families, however, are looking to visit states down south during the summer when they have more time. A lot of snowbirds rent out their condos or homes until they return the next winter.
14. Snowbirds are healthier than their friends who stayed home.
Statistically, older adults from northern states who don’t travel report more health problems than those who migrate south.
15. Snowbirds go more places than just Florida.
Plenty of winter travelers go to warmer states like California, Arizona, and Texas. Some even opt to go outside the U.S., to places like Costa Rica and Mexico.
16. Many celebrities or prominent individuals have been snowbirds.
Famous “pioneer snowbirds” have included John D. Rockefeller, who traveled to Florida each winter in the early part of the 20th century.
17. The real estate market has flourished in SW Florida because of snowbirds.
Since travel was easier after the 1970’s, when plane rides became more affordable, more snowbirds began heading south. There weren’t enough places for them to stay, and housing needed to be established quickly. Because of this boom in SW Florida real estate, especially with the amount of homes for sale in Cape Coral Florida. South West Florid has quickly become the #1 destination for snow birds from all walks of the globe.
18. Not all snowbirds are wealthy.
Many end up staying in a cheap housing, such as RV’s or campers and look for seasonal work while they’re there.
19. Working snowbirds are called “workampers.”
This name comes from “work” + “campers.” These travelers usually can be found working in seasonal tourist attractions.
20. Snowbirds have to worry about their home when they’re away.
Many snowbirds will pay services to do lawn care, snow removal, or newspaper pick-ups while they’re gone.
21. Snowbirds bring much-needed business to many areas of the economy of the states they visit.
Without their dollars paying for taxes, groceries, gas, and more, the economy of these states could take a hit.
22. Some snowbirds like to “rough it” a bit more than others.
Certain snowbirds can be found staying in RV’s in more remote places, getting a full camping experience.
23. Snowbirds are changing Florida’s population spread.
The proportion of elderly residents compared to everyone else in much higher in Florida than in other states. This number is primarily due to the seasonal travelers.
24. Pickleball is the game of choice for many snowbirds.
Especially in Arizona, this game—which combines ping pong, badminton, and tennis—is played by many vacationers and locals alike.
25. Most snowbirds are baby boomers.
Most winter travelers are between age 50-69. These baby boomers usually adapt well to the snowbird lifestyle, too—they have the financial means to maintain a comfortable way of life, and are more active than previous generations. If you are a snow bird looking for a place in SW Florida to kick back and relax, I would love to hear from you. Fill out the contact form below and I will get back to you with as soon as possible.
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