As Neil Young once sang, “the summer ends and the winter winds begin to holler all around the bend…”
Yes, it’s that time of year once again when the cooler weather sets in and the truly cold and snowy months of winter loom ever closer on the horizon. Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter’s chill by fleeing to the southern half.
Snowbirds are already preparing for the journey south for the annual escape to the sub-tropical climates in southern states that include Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.
Following are several key tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your journey to gorgeous coastal regions, inland escapes, or breathtaking desert areas.
RV and Tow Vehicle/Toad Preparations
Ensure that your RV and tow vehicle or toad are in top operating condition before leaving for your winter destination by following several practical tips:
- Have a local auto shop inspect your tow vehicle/toad before departing; you never know if you may have missed something and it’s always a good precaution to take
- Have a local RV service center inspect tires, brakes, axle bearings, and other moving parts
- Check the air conditioning to ensure it is working properly. A broken air conditioner in a hotter climate makes for an uncomfortable snowbird experience
- Add tank cleaner to your rig’s waste tanks
Winterize Your Home
Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.
Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires a regular walk-through during your absence and if so, how frequently.
Arrange with a mail forwarding service to have your mail forwarded to your winter destinations.
Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.
Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.
Turn down the thermostat on your heating system.
Unplug lamps, TVs, radios, and all electric appliances.
Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve. Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.
Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.
Finally, lock all windows and doors, and activate the alarm or security system.
Pack the RV
The best way to ensure you have stowed aboard you RV all the essential items is to use a checklist. Following is a starting point for creating your own personal checklist:
- Clothing for all types of weather
- Fully stocked first aid kit
- Tool box (stow on curb side of RV)
- Essential house wares (dishware and utensils, cooking supplies, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, fire extinguisher, batteries, LED flashlights)
- Technology (smart phone, laptop, tablet, ebook reader, printer, camera, batteries, battery chargers)
- Outdoor recreation/hobby items (hiking boots and poles, fishing poles, cameras and camera supplies and equipment, knitting/quilting/sewing supplies)
In addition to all of the usual preparations, Canadian snowbirds must deal with extra details that include:
- Passports and other travel documents
- Extended health care insurance (Don’t leave home without it!)
- Smart phone and internet service
- Buying U.S. dollars/U.S. dollar credit card
I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.