SNOWBIRDS: Heading Somewhere Warm This Winter? Before You Do, You Should Review This Checklist

Snowbirds Living the Salt Life
Snowbirds Living the Salt Life

Get Ready. You Have a Lot To Do Before You Go

If you leave your home in the north and head south for the winter, you are definitely a snowbird. If you are, the time is to prepare for your journey to the warmer climates of your winter retreats.has come. If you are like us, you will be leaving a home somewhere near the frozen tundras of the North Country and heading to the tier of Southern States. We head to the Florida Gulf Coast, Pine Island to be specific. To be sure that your home is left protected during the oncoming winter, there are number of steps and hints to consider before you walk out the door and head south. You don't need to return home to any unfortunate mishaps.


Everyone has some sort of departure ritual that they depend on before they leave. Those among us who are doing it for the first time may appreciate the advice. Even those who head south year after year can use a a refresher course. It’s a judgement call on whether you choose to follow all or just a few of these steps. We have done the trip over a dozen times and we still refer to our check list. It depends on how anal you are.

Tell someone where you are headed and how you can be reached in the case of an emergency

  • Advise your dearest and nearest neighbors of your planned departure.
  • Give them your cell phone, land line and email for where they can reach you.
  • Leave them with a list of family members they can reach if an emergency arises that requires immediate attention. You sure don't want to fly home for every minor occurrence. That’s what kids are for.
  • That reminds me, you better tell your kids you’re leaving and tell them where you have hidden a key. Do they know about your safety deposit box, your will, and where you want to be planted or spread if something should happen.? Have you granted anyone limited power of attorney for just that sort of event? Maybe you should do that before departure.
  • Ask someone to pick up papers, packages etc. left to accumulate on your front porch
  • You might ask your local police or sheriff department to do an occasional check of your property.
  • Take along an address book so you can send post cards
  • Bring those books you never had a chance to get to


This may not be in any order but these are things you might consider doing.

  • Just before you depart, set your thermostat so that your furnace will turn on when the inside temperature reaches 50 degrees or so. You don’t want your pipes to freeze, but you don’t want to heat it when there is no one home to keep warm.
  • adjust your water heater to ‘Vacation Mode”
  • If you prefer, shut off the water supply to the heater and turn the ignitor to the off position, Shut off water supply to outside faucets and leave the faucets open for complete drainage.
  • If you have a sump pump, consider installing a back up system to prevent flooding if your power fails.
  • Change the furnace filter
  • Shut off the pilot light for your gas fireplace logs
  • Shut your fireplace damper


Some homeowners drain all their toilets and shut the water main down completely. This may be an overreaction. However, if you live in extremely cold areas of the North Country, it may be advisable to do so.

  • Install motion detectors on some or all of your outdoor light fixtures.
  • Put a couple of your indoor lamps on timers to give the illusion of someone being home.
  • Turn off answering machines unless you plan on montoring them remotely from afar
  • Place your cable TV and phone on vacation mode to save money over the time you are away.
  • If you are a two car family, cancel most of your auto insurance, except for fire and theft damage.
  • Cancel newspaper subscriptions
  • Arrange for snow removal while you are awy.
  • lay poles in side tracks of sliding patio doors to lock in place
  • lock all windows and double lock all entry doors just before you depart


After you accomplish these tasks, someone will inevitably run back ino the house and double check. My wife rechecks everything, especially if the task was my responsibility.

  • Empty refrigerators and freezers. Try to use up the contents before you leave.
  • Distribute frozen meat and fish to relatives or friends unless you can get it to your vacation site before it thaws or spoils.
  • Take whatever condiments that will survive the trip
  • Wash freezer and fridge. Put a box of baking soda in each side and leave doors open
  • Consider making auto-pay arrangements with your bank for utilities and other ongoing household expenses, insurance, etc.
  • Go over the clothes you have packed. Take out half of them. You will probably spend most of your time in shorts and tee shirts, bathing suits and sandals. Leave out most of your fancy duds, unless you are spending your time at a resort or belong to a country club.

  • Finally

    If you don’t have a bank debit card, you may consider getting one, particularly if your bank does not have a branch at your vacation site.
  • Call ahead to your destination (if you own the home) and arrange for cable and other essentials to be turned on before your arrival.


Finally Again

Depending on when you leave, you may encounter a rush of other snowbirds heading south. It might be advisable to make hotel reservations along your drive route to insure a roof over your head. if you are traveling with pets, many hotels and motels allow you to bring your well behaved pet along to share the room. La Quinta, Clarion and comfort Inns are all pet friendly. They are just a few of the many hotels that have recently invited travelers to bring their pooches for a relaxing night’s sleep.

The last bit of advice, I promise

Remember that the days are shorter this time of year, especially when daylight savings time concludes. Our aging eyes are not as receptive as they once were to driving during the evening hours. Fortunately, daylight savings time doesn’t end this year (2012) until November 4.

One more thing
Here’s hoping our tip sheet can offer you a tidbit or more of helpful information. Good luck on your trip south. Drive safely fellow snowbirds. See you on the trail. I’m the guy driving along at the speed limit, while everybody passes us … especially on I-75 near Atlanta. I’m the old guy with the pretty, platinum-blond wife.

What did I miss?

Duh! Important Stuff!

Make a list of your current medications and bring it along. Befor you leave, have any open presriptions filled. Take along the phone numbes of your pharmacists.

You might want to pay a visit to your family doctor to review any issues that you need to take care of before or during your winter away. have him write renewal scripts for the drugs you will be using. Make sure you have the phone numbes for all your physicians and all the insurance cards and medicare/medicaid cards you may need.

Feel free to comment. Why not? … My wife does.

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