If you’re considering flying (or driving) south for the winter, you’ve probably thought about whether to rent or buy, and how you’ll get to your warm-weather getaway. Another thing to consider: what to bring with you and how to pack it all. These practical packing tips for snowbirds include what to think about before you pack and what you absolutely mustn’t forget.
1. Bring Important Documents
Packing important documents is essential in case of emergency or simply to help clear up any of those little life problems that can arise anywhere. This includes insurance policies (health, car, home, rental, and any other insurance you have), medical history, and prescriptions (pharmacies may not fill those from unknown doctors, but having a copy will speed up the process if you seek local medical care). It also means anything relating to your home and your home away from home, including leases and utility company information.
Also make sure you have your bank cards and checkbook. If you’re traveling out of the country, don’t forget your passport, visa (if applicable), or other required ID. And don’t forget to jot down the contact information for important people (e.g. your landlord, handyman, neighbors, doctor and dentist) in your winter location as well as back home.
2. Don’t Forget Chargers
Phones, laptops, cameras, and the like are obviously important, but in the bustle of packing, don’t neglect the chargers, cords, extra batteries, and, if traveling internationally, adapters, that keep your electronics going. Yes, you can almost certainly buy replacements for these things, but it’s easier to avoid the inconvenience (and cost) by packing them in the first place.
3. Know What’s Included
If you’re renting a house or condo, make sure you’re fully aware of what’s included before you show up. “Furnished” can mean different things to different people. Does your winter abode come with a coffee maker, a radio, cookware, and bedding? Is there a washer and dryer in the unit, or in the apartment complex? If not, you’ll probably want to pack more clothing to extend the time between laundry days.
4. Consider the Culture
Especially when packing clothes, it matters whether you’re wintering in a very casual area, the sort of place where people walk around barefoot all day, or a place where most social events take place at upscale resort hotels. It’s also important to think about how you’re realistically going to spend your time. At the beach, attending concerts and plays, out to dinner, on nature walks?
If you’re leaving your home country for the winter, think about how the locals typically dress. You may or may not want to stand out as foreign, and there may be different standards for what’s appropriate on various occasions. Even within the United States, your home state’s summer uniform may not look right in your new winter home, even if the temperatures are the same.
5. Consider the Weather
All heat is not created equal. Whether you’re heading for humid Florida or dry Arizona, research the average weather patterns of your destination to find out whether the high temperatures drop low at night (meaning you’ll want a sweater), or whether afternoon downpours will demand rubber boots and a sturdy umbrella.
6. Remember Your Travel Essentials
If you’re getting to your destination by car or RV, all the rules of a road trip apply. Pack little travel necessities like plastic bags (for dirty laundry, trash, protecting delicate items from the rain, and separating wet shoes from dry items in your luggage).
Also pack basic first aid items like bandages and painkillers. And add anything else that you personally require for a comfortable journey, such as antiseptic hand wipes, a neck pillow, or a shawl.
7. Make a List
Start keeping a running list at least a few weeks before you leave, if not a month or more. On it, jot down anything that comes to your mind when you’re consciously or unconsciously thinking about your winter home. This way, when the time comes to pack, you’ll already have done most of the mental preparation and packing will simply be a matter of collecting everything you need.
8. Plane, Car, or RV?
Obviously, your method of travel will greatly affect what you bring. If you’re driving your own car, you can bring as much as will fit, although packing light will make your trip easier. If you’re spending the winter in your RV, of course, you’ll need to pack everything that comprises a mini-household.
Here’s a tip if you’re planning to drive. Before you head to your snow-free save haven, check in with your auto insurer. You might need to update your address while you’re away so that you don’t miss any important information from your insurance company.
Flying limits the amount you can take with you, unless you’re willing to pay extra or planning to ship boxes to yourself. If you’re bringing a lot of clothes or linens, look into vacuum sealed storage bags, which can greatly reduce the space bulky items take up.
And, if you will be gone for more than 30 days–and will not be driving your vehicle–consider suspending your collision coverage to save money. Remember to keep your comprehensive coverage so that your vehicle is protected while you’re away. If you’re a Hartford policyholder, you can go online to change your mailing address and to suspend coverage on your vehicles.
9. Research Shopping Options
Before you leave, find out what you can and cannot purchase near your new place. The list of toiletries, food, and everyday supplies you need to bring with you will vary widely depending on whether you’ll be staying on a remote island or in an urban area with many drugstores and supermarkets. If there are any rare or locally produced items you can’t live without, you may have to bring them too.
10. Pack Up Your Hobbies
Whether you’ll be passing your time in the same ways you do at home, or using your new location as an opportunity to try out different hobbies and entertainment options, figure out what supplies you’ll need to bring with you. It may be that equipment can be easily rented or bought where you’re heading, but if not, you’ll have to pack your own.
Also think about whether you’ll want specific books (or an e-reader), or if what’s available at the local bookstore or library will suffice. The same goes for art or craft supplies and kitchen gadgets.
In a sense, living a snowbird lifestyle combines the best and worst aspects of both moving and traveling. Being prepared when you start to pack will allow you to fully enjoy the change of scenery and the warmth of your winter home.
Keep Reading: 8 Nasties for Snowbirds to Avoid While Away