2024 CDC Dog Import Rules Impact RVers Crossing the Border with Dogs

Many RVers camp with their dogs and it has always been pretty easy to take them to Canada or Mexico and back—but not anymore.

Are you and your dog RVing to Alaska this summer? Are you a Canadian who snowbirds with your dog in the U.S. Sunbelt? Or an American RVer who visits Mexico with their dog? A new Dog Import Rule by the Centers for Disease Control is about to make your trip more complicated.

There’s no way around it. If you’re an American, you can’t RV to Alaska without crossing the Canadian border. Thankfully Canada hasn’t changed their rules for taking dogs into Canada. But the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just made the classic RVing bucket list trip a little more complicated for pet parents taking family dogs along for the ride to Alaska.

If your bucket list RV adventure to Alaska starts soon, pay attention. You have a veterinary appointment to make before you hit the Alaska Highway. And if you’re a Canadian snowbird who RVs with dogs in winter or an American who snowbirds in Mexico during winter, at least you have plenty of time to see your vet.

Many RVers camp with their dogs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The CDC just announced new rules for all dogs entering the United States.

Starting August 1, 2024, all U.S.-vaccinated dogs entering the United States by land, air, or sea, must:

  • Be at least 6 months of age at time of entry or return to the United States
  • Have an implanted International Organization for Standardization (ISO)-compatible microchip
  • The microchip number must be documented on all required forms and in all accompanying veterinary records
  • Have a CDC Dog Import Form receipt

This form should be filled out online ideally 2-10 days before arrival. It can also be completed right before travel (even in line at the border crossing) if you have internet access. If the information on the form changes before the dog arrives, you must submit a new form and indicate you are making changes to an existing form. All information including port of entry where the dog is arriving must be correct at time of arrival.

Many RVers camp with their dogs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This form requires you to upload a clear photograph of the dog showing its face and body. Dogs that will be less than one year of age at time of arrival should have the photograph taken within 10 days before arrival.

The CDC is striving to more rigidly enforce dog importation (including animal rescue efforts) from countries with higher risk of rabies transmission. But what the new CDC ruling will also do is make crossing the U.S. border with dogs more complicated and expensive. It doesn’t just impact the average RVing pet parent. It also impacts recreational dog sports participants and those who wish to adopt dogs from other countries.

Want to see this ruling rescinded?
Sign the Change.org petition, “Revise the CDC’s New Import Requirements for Dogs”.

Many RVers camp with their dogs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s different for RVing dogs returning to the United States?

RVing dogs have always needed a rabies vaccination to re-enter the United States. But pet parents with dogs who have been vaccinated in the U.S. will be additionally impacted by two new requirements when crossing the Canadian border and traveling into the U.S.

All dogs must be microchipped. And you must carry documentation of the microchip number. This must have been implanted prior to any required rabies vaccination.

The CDC Dog Import Form is also now required before crossing the border. You can fill it out up to 10 days ahead of crossing. Or, do it online at the CDC website while you’re in line at the border crossing. That’s if you have internet access (some rural border crossing stations favored by RVer lack cellular coverage). The form requires you to upload a full-body photo of your dog too.

And, your veterinarian must complete either a Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccination form or a USDA endorsed export health certificate. Plus, you must carry a printed copy of either form to present to border agents.

Many RVers camp with their dogs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are more rules for dogs returning to the U.S. especially if the dog is coming from a country where rabies is more prevalent. But for the average person going to Alaska with family dogs or the Canadian snowbird headed south in fall, the new CDC rules for RVing with dogs means adding an extra veterinary visit to the trip planning to-do list.

The CDC’s “Requirements for dogs with a current and valid rabies vaccination administered in the United States” has more details.

I agree with others that this is total nonsense (the PG version of what I’m really thinking!) First off, are we having a pandemic of rabies infections running through America? I hadn’t heard of that yet.

Many RVers camp with their dogs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Secondly, I know there have been attempts by puppy mills to smuggle litters in as, “oops, they were born while I was visiting my parents” and yes, I don’t want to see that happening but there may also be a legitimate reason why someone is entering the States with a dog under 6 months old.

Lastly, mandatory microchipping??!! REALLY?! And don’t forget, you need ALL the paperwork to go with all of this. Heaven forbid that they have a microchip scanner and confirm that the chip is registered to the person standing in front of them since it seems to be that important. They’ve gone too far with this one. It’s easier for a human to enter the country illegally!

Worth Pondering…

The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.

―Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome

When Travel Insurance Goes Wrong

Many travelers understand the importance of buying travel insurance. They pay for the premium, receive the policy, and expect they will be covered if something happens which is not always the case.

One of the most popular stories on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news site on Tuesday (February 28, 2023) was an article about travel insurance gone wrong. Louis Lamothe from Saskatchewan and his family are facing up to what is expected to be massive medical bills and the cost of a $56,000 flight home after his claim with Blue Cross was denied following the snowbird’s stroke in Arizona.

“He has forgotten how to talk, how to swallow,” Rebecca Fee told the CBC, talking about her grandfather who she said has been like her father. Fee said her grandparents (Louis and Arlene Lamothe) are avid snowbirds and spend half the year in Yuma, Arizona. On February 3 around 6 a.m., Arlene found Louis on the floor. He had suffered a stroke and was paralyzed on the left side. Louis was airlifted to Banner-University Medical Center in Phoenix.

Historic Downtown Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The next day, Fee drove for 30 hours from Estevan, Saskatchewan, to be with her 80-year-old grandmother.

“He was immediately intubated. He had a lot of heart problems after this,” Fee said. “He was in ICU for two weeks and now his breathing tube has come out.”

With the medical bills piling up, they sold their belongings in Yuma including their RV trailer and shed there.

Blue Cross, Lamothe’s insurer, was unable to comment on the individual case, but Lamothe’s granddaughter told CBC that the claim had been denied because he had not informed the provider that the dosage of prescription cholesterol medication he had been taking had doubled three months before heading south.

Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The family insisted the failure to disclose the dose change was not deliberate. Nevertheless, the mistake has proven costly for Lamothe who could face a bill into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Stories like this aren’t all that unusual—nor are they just a Canadian issue—and can provide a temporary reputational gut punch to the industry and whichever travel insurer happens to be under the microscope.

“My doctor should NEVER have to get permission for anything (other than from me or my care-givers directly) when dealing with emergency and life-altering situations,” said one commenter on the CBC article which had more than 2,000 comments on it at time of writing.

“Any insurer that prevents that is NOT interested in your well-being over their bottom line of profiteering.

Desert wildflowers at Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Paying out IS NOT in their best interest and therefore they will fight it tooth and nail. Last thing I’d ever want to be dealing with during possible terminal-type issues.”

Another said: “Life doesn’t matter to insurance companies. They only exist for profit. We live in a sad world with backwards ethics and morals.”

I’ve wondered for some time how much highly publicized incidents like this do cost the industry in terms of premium income as well as non-customers in terms of cover dearth. Just how many consumers shy away from non-compulsory products thinking they’ll get squeezed at the point of claim? I don’t have an answer.

Yuma hiking trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other CBC commenters did side with the insurer and made the case that it was Lamothe’s responsibility to update his information.

“While this may sound like a small change in medicine when your doctor doubles your dosage, that means something. He should certainly have immediately reported the change to Blue Cross,” said one.

Another said: “We spend the winters in California and there is no fine print, it clearly states or asks if there were any changes to your health in the last 12 months including change of drugs or amount of drugs and you better tell them even if the plan now costs more.”

You do have to consider the human cost in situations like this and you have to feel for Lamothe and his relatives and others who go through similar crises particularly when it may be down to an honest mistake. Even in cases where an insurer may have been deliberately misled, a policyholder may not be thinking about the longer-term consequences when trying to save a quick buck. Maybe they’re buying the policy for someone else’s peace of mind.

Martha’s Gardens date groove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not many people, let alone insurance company and broker staff, want to see a denied claim making front page news especially one that’s putting a family under strain amid an upsetting medical calamity. It’s also probably fair to say that you don’t typically hear about all the cases where travel insurance went right.

Unfortunately, though, its instances like this that brokers need to be paying attention to when advising clients—particularly ones who might be struggling to trust the industry and skirting away from non-compulsory products—on their cover requirements.

Colorado River at Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Without travel insurance, seniors and those with health issues who have additional cover needs, may be more at risk and find themselves in a costly and upsetting position. The situation can be the same when adequate cover is not in place, an error (deliberate or otherwise) has been made or circumstances change.

Let’s be honest, many personal insurance clients will not read their insurance policy fine print. Nor will insurance necessarily be the first thing on their mind when they experience an event that leads to, for example, a change in medication.

Colorado River State Historic Park in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To keep more cases like this out of the news and more importantly from happening all together, communication and messaging is key—particularly amid a post-COVID-disruption travel boom.

When outlining the value of travel insurance, the industry needs to make it very clear that a change in circumstance can have a huge impact if it goes undisclosed. And I’m not suggesting Blue Cross or any agent involved necessarily failed on this.

Brokers can be on the front lines here and as horrible as cases like Lamothe’s are, they underscore the importance of quality advice and engagement. They also show the value of having the appropriate travel coverage in place.

Worth Pondering…

Q: What do hospital gowns and insurance policies have in common?

A: You’re never covered as much as you think you are.

Being a Snowbird in the Time of COVID

With COVID-19, will snowbirds still answer the call of warmer weather?

Now is the time when snowbirds flock south.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently announced that fully vaccinated Canadian travelers will be permitted to enter the United States via the land border for non-essential purposes effective November 8, 2021. When entering the United States for tourism purposes, travelers will be required to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, such as their provincial vaccine receipt or QR code.

Goodyear, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It has been confirmed by the Biden Administration that international visitors who received a full course of any WHO-approved vaccine such as Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca will be recognized as fully vaccinated. Further, the U.S. government will also recognize travelers who received mixed doses of any WHO-approved vaccines as fully inoculated against COVID-19.

Palm Springs, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canadian entering the United States at a land crossing will not be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. However, all air passengers arriving in the U.S. from a foreign country are required to get tested for COVID-19 with a viral test no more than 3 days before their flight departs and must present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.

Related: Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle

Laughlin, Nevada is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After a winter spent away from sunnier climates, many fully vaccinated Canadian snowbirds are set to make the trip south this year. But with the Delta variant surging in different parts of North America, some snowbirds are weighing their options as to the best way forward especially with the U.S. land border reopening to Canadians on November 8.

Casa Grande, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey conducted in June by Snowbird Advisor found that 91 percent of snowbirds intend to travel south this winter and two-thirds of them plan to spend more than three months outside of Canada. (A similar survey conducted last November found that only 30 percent of snowbirds had definite travel plans last winter.)

This eagerness to travel to warmer climates in the winter is evident but there’s an element of the snowbird population that’s taking a “wait-and-see” approach as well as some who are planning for a more uncertain future.

Desert Hot Springs, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona and Florida are the ultimate destinations for Canadian Snowbirds. Arizona has become home to many snowbirds during the winter season. Canadians have contributed to Arizona’s economic growth with billions of dollars from tourism and snowbirds.

Related: Ultimate Collection of National Parks Perfect for Snowbirds

In 2020 there was a significant decrease from 1 million snowbirds to 200,000. Now that U.S. borders will open up to Canada in November, Arizona is hoping to see that rise again.

The Colorado River (Arizona/California) is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’re hoping and praying that they come back but it’s not a given. So we keep telling everyone in Arizona I hope you’re marketing to the Canadian tourists and snowbirds because they have choices,” said Glenn Williamson is the CEO and founder of Canada Arizona Business Council. 

As I ponder what it means to be a Canadian snowbird in the time of the COVID pandemic, my mind goes to Anne Murray and her famous song, Snowbird.

Venice, Florida is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the summer of 1970, Anne Murray released Gene MacLellan’s song, Bidin’ My Time. A DJ at a radio station in Cleveland flipped the single and played the B-side, another song by MacLellan called, Snowbird. The track quickly became popular with local listeners and eventually went on to become a surprise hit worldwide. The song sold over one million copies in the United States making Anne Murray the first Canadian female artist to receive a gold record in that country and establishing the careers of both Murray and MacLellan.

Phoenix, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in Springhill, Nova Scotia, the Anne Murray Centre had hoped to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that remarkable accomplishment last year with a live event, but COVID put those plans on hold.

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

With the pandemic still affecting travel and live events, the center decided to present an online celebration—50+ Years of Snowbird—on its Facebook page.

Palm Desert, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anne was a big fan of MacLellan’s songwriting and would end up covering more than half a dozen of his songs. In her book, All of Me, Murray said, “Gene was not only a hugely gifted songwriter but also one of the most naturally soulful singers I’ve ever heard. He was a sweet, shy man of uncommon humanity, with a wonderful sense of humor.”

Gene’s daughter, Catherine MacLellan, took part in this online event.

Tucson, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“It’s a beautiful, broken-hearted love song,” said MacLellan. “It’s a really simple song that for some reason just keeps living on. No matter where I’ve been in the world, from Australia to the U.K. and Europe, people remember and love that song. It fascinates me. It took off in a way no one expected.”

The Alabama Gulf Coast is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The song symbolizes the relationship between her father and Murray, she said, and it’s one she believes her late father was very proud of. She said he was pleased to see Murray receive international acclaim which helped open the lucrative international market to Canadian singers and songwriters.

Yuma, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Anne was really the first Canadian music superstar that made it big across the world,” said MacLellan who is an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right having released seven full-length albums.

She has won multiple East Coast Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, and P.E.I. Music Awards as well as a Juno in 2015 for her album, The Raven’s Sun.

Indio, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2017, Catherine released If It’s Alright With You, a tribute album to her father, and created a stage show by the same name. She also produced an award-winning documentary about him called The Song and the Sorrow.

She will be interviewed by author Charlie Rhindress who has written best-selling books about Rita MacNeil and Stompin’ Tom Connors and is currently working on a book about Nova Scotia’s most accomplished female singers, including Murray.

The Florida Gulf Coast is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I have spent most of my career telling Atlantic Canadian stories and celebrating people from the region, so I am thrilled to talk to Catherine about her father and Snowbird,” Rhindress said. “The year Snowbird swept the Juno Awards, Anne jokingly referred to herself, Gene, and her producer, Brian Ahern, as the Maritime Mafia. That song was instrumental in putting the east coast of Canada on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.”

Corpus Christi, Texas is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The two will discuss the relationship between Anne and Gene as well as the history of Snowbird and some of Gene’s other songs which were covered by Anne including Put Your Hand in the Hand, The Call, and Bidin’ My Time. MacLellan will also discuss her father’s musical legacy and perform some of those songs which Murray recorded.

Related: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

The Anne Murray Centre was not able to open in 2020 due to COVID-19 and had a shortened season this year. To stay connected with its supporters, the center has hosted a series of online events over the past year.

Orlando, Florida is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Beneath this snowy mantle cold and clean
The unborn grass lies waiting
For its coat to turn to green
The snowbird sings the song he always sings
And speaks to me of flowers
That will bloom again in spring
When I was young
My heart was young then, too
Anything that it would tell me
That’s the thing that I would do
But now I feel such emptiness within
For the thing that I want most in life’s
The thing that I can’t win
Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
The one I love forever is untrue
And if I could you know that I would
Fly away with you
The breeze along the river seems to say
That he’ll only break my heart again
Should I decide to stay
So, little snowbird
Take me with you when you go
To that land of gentle breezes
Where the peaceful waters flow
Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
The one I love forever is untrue
And if I could you know that I would
Fly away with you
Yeah, if I could you know that I would
Fl-y-y-y-y away with you

A Year Later and the Land Border Remains Closed to Canadian Snowbirds

Canadians eagerly awaiting the green flag to start their exodus across the U.S./Canadian border still don’t know when they will be allowed to travel south

As with Robert Frost’s two paths diverging in the woods, the COVID pandemic has hit a fork in the road for Canadian snowbirds.

All the leaves are changing, the temperature is falling, and the sky is gray… well, not yet. I’m just mentally preparing for fall. I love the crispness in the air perhaps because it triggers a snowbird response that tells me it’s time to start packing the RV for travel to warmer climes. Georgia O’Keefe said, “I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again,” and while that’s not really the whole story of what I did this summer (I’m guessing Georgia O’Keefe wasn’t dealing with back-to-back years of a pandemic), it’s pretty close!

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in Arizona. Pictured above is Canyon Vista RV Resort in Gold Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world has changed tremendously since our last winter in the U.S. Sunbelt which seems like so long ago. If you had told me that the land border to the United States would be closed for not just one winter but for two, I would have told you that was a bad joke. As it turns out…NOT!

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens have been able to travel to Canada for non-essential purposes for more than a month now. But the American side of the border remains closed to Canadians wanting to enter the U.S.

Though the closure has been ongoing for 18 months—since March 2020—the ban doesn’t apply to air travel. Absolute frustration is what it is. The biggest problem for snowbirds is why are you allowed to fly with 300 other people in a plane but you can’t drive in your own vehicle?

Many Canadian snowbirds winter on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. Pictured above is Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bull Head City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

News of the land border restrictions for Canadians being extended came on the same day that the White House announced its plans to begin opening air travel for all vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. Since more than one million Canadians make the trek down south every year and 70 percent of snowbirds travel to the U.S. with their vehicles, the majority of Canadian Snowbirds are impacted. For some reason, Canadians with an RV are in a different situation; they usually spend about $20,000 when they winter in the U.S.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Coachella Valley (California). Pictured above is Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA in Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it still isn’t clear if, or when, Canadian citizens will be allowed to travel across the border. The prohibition on non-essential travel from Canada has been extended until at least October 21. The bottom line is those who want to leave prior to this day are not going anywhere and they must wait for another 30 days and see what happens then. Snowbirds had held off booking winter reservations in Canada (mostly the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, the Okanagan, and Vancouver Island) in hopes that the U.S. would finally ease border restrictions that have been in place since the start of COVID-19 in March 2020. But with the White House announcing that restrictions at the land border on non-essential travel by Canadians will be extended another month, snowbirds are concerned that it will not open in time to drive south.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter along the Texas Coastal Bend. Pictured above is Sea Breeze RV Resort in Portland (near Corpus Christi) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Waiting another month or two to see whether the land border will open means dealing with winter driving conditions, or at worst, spending winter on the frigid prairies or snow-bound Ontario.

My confusion, and that of most other snowbirds, is trying to understand why I can fly, but not drive. And that is still my frustration! Driving seems to be much safer than going in and out of busy airports.

I’ll soon be basking in the sunshine (not likely) as we prep ourselves for a second winter in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. We’ll spend the winter in a campground at Fort Langley, less than 50 miles east of Vancouver.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Rio Grande Valley. Pictured above is Bentsen Palm Village in Mission © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Camping has been running a winter program for a decade but last winter they had a bunch of new people come from the Prairies and as far east as Ontario and Quebec who would normally drive their RV to the U.S. Sunbelt.

The Lower Mainland of British Columbia may not be the best place for old people. For weeks on end, it was cloudy and rained incessantly. Decades ago research in Holland found a strong relationship between hours of sunlight in winter and the mortality rate among seniors: The more sunlight, the lower the death rate, and vice versa.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it has two meritorious features: The campground sits on an island in the Fraser River with numerous walking paths and hiking trails both inside the campground and on the outer reaches of the island on the Tavistock Trail. And the campground is within easy walking distance of the Village (Fort Langley) with its unique shops, boutiques, and sidewalk cafes. I welcome the variety of choices.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

Canadian Snowbirds Change Migration Patterns

Pandemic changes migration patterns of Canadians who head south for the sun

Canadians who travel south have changed their migration pattern dramatically this winter. In a normal year, more than one million Canadians head south to the U.S. Sunbelt states. The COVID-19 pandemic has clipped their wings and forced most to stay in Canada this winter.

Penticton and Skaha Lake in the South Okanagan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of those who are traveling, most are driving west to RV parks and campgrounds in British Columbia—the South Okanagan, Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island. There is no place in Canada from the East Coast all the way to this area that doesn’t have winter. So, there’s no escape until you come here. These three regions in British Columbia appear to be the perfect destinations for snowbirds who want to forget about the snow and the worst of the freezing cold.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

British Columbia is the place to be in Canada during the winter. Whether snowbirds look at minimum and maximum temperatures or number of snow days these three areas are the best option. Plus, with fewer than five days with snowfall, whichever BC region that snowbirds choose will allow them to escape the worst of the weather conditions they dread the most: snow, wind, and frigid winter days.

Fortunately, Canadian snowbirds can still make the most of a bad situation. Although replicating the conditions of a Texan winter in Canada is not possible, spending the tougher months in balmier climate within the country’s borders is for many.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the Canadian Camping and RV Council at least 50,000 full-time users of recreational vehicles who usually spend their winters in the US Sunbelt had to find a site north of the border. Thousands of those snowbirds have converged on southern BC, packing full-service campgrounds to wait out the winter, say tourism and lodging groups in the province.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the B.C. Lodging and Campgrounds Association, about 100 private-sector campgrounds are open year-round most of them in southern BC. Full-time RVers have been wintering here for years. The difference this year is snowbirds have nowhere else to go. By mid-July, numerous RV parks reported 100 people on their winter wait-list. They’re from everywhere in the country that’s cold.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a small island in British Columbia’s Fraser River is a campground packed with Canadian snowbirds who found refuge when the border with the United States was shut. Unlike other years, all 118 full-service sites at Fort Camping in Langley are occupied.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It started in March, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians around the world to come home. Taking no chance on the border reopening, many booked Fort Camping for the winter. They sensed that they would to be in deep trouble come winter with the border closed and nowhere to go. At Fort Camping most have satellite TV and whatever they need nearby and numerous walking paths and hiking trails. They have wonderful internet service here.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Canadian Snowbird Association says Florida is the most popular winter destination for Canadians who routinely head south for the season with around half a million of them visiting the state in a normal year. They estimate around 3.5 million Canadians including non-snowbirds visit the state each year and spend around $6.5 billion. The second most popular destination is Arizona. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, around 964,000 Canadian visitors were responsible for $1 billion of the $26.5 billion in tourism spending last year. This past September, visitors spent $752 million overall, but that’s down 60 percent from the $1.9 billion expected in a normal year.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was prime parka weather in northern Alberta on Friday morning—a crisp -35 Celsius (-17 Fahrenheit) degrees which reminded me that I had planned to spend time in southern Arizona this winter. I could start my day with a hike at Catalina State Park, revel in the dry heat, and hang out with all my cacti friends. 

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is the first winter in 20+ years that we haven’t driven our RV to the US Sunbelt—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. But not this year! It’s a lifestyle as opposed to vacationing for two weeks. If you told me a year ago that I would spend the winter of 2020-21 in the Great White North, I’d surely wonder which one of us was crazier.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I look at the positives—it could be a lot worse. We’ve got a nice warm home-on-wheels, we’ve got pleasant neighbors, we’re in a beautiful area of the country, and spring comes early. Would I like to be down south, oh you bet!

And, while these alternative destinations within the country’s borders might not be as sunny as their usual winter destinations, these regions in British Columbia could be the ideal solution for snowbirds in a less-than-ideal year.

On a hopeful note, the one-year absence has not diminished Canadian snowbirds’ enthusiasm for their winter homes. We’ll be back next winter. I certainly hope so!

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Together again someday

“We’ll Meet Again” was a popular song—and saying—during World War II among Americans and Canadians alike. Then, both countries were united against one enemy, just like during this pandemic. So expect friendly border crossings again. The border will open…

Just pack your toque—that’s Canuck for beanie—eh?

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

What Happens to ‘Stay Home’ When the Home Is on Wheels?

Not only do RVs provide a sense of distance from other campers, they also provide a sense of containment

First of all, the good news is that most RVers are prepared for national emergencies such as the the COVID-19 (coronavirus). That said we know the wave after wave of news updates, stricter camping and travel guidelines rolling out across the U.S. and Canada, and the associated stress are not things we often encounter as RVers.

The Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in Jackson, California is closed and that includes its RV park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When national, state (and in Canada, provincial), and local governments issued stay-at-home orders shutting down many private and public campgrounds and public lands an estimated one million to two million full-time RVers were potentially left homeless. Across Facebook full-time RVer groups the sense of fear and panic was obvious. 

The 12 Tribal Casino Resort in Omak, Washington is closed and that includes its RV park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Full-time RVers consist of thousands of construction, energy, and medical workers, living mobile out of necessity for their jobs, as well as seniors and folks who sold their “sticks-and-bricks” homes to live a nomadic lifestyle.

The 7 Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Oregon is closed but its RV park remains open. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A week after inviting RVs to camp in Winton Woods, Great Parks of Hamilton County (Ohio) ordered them gone by Thursday (April 2). No exceptions. Great Parks made this call Sunday afternoon to match moves the state made last week: closing all campgrounds to slow the spread of coronavirus. Great Parks had shut down campground cabins and bathrooms more than a week earlier but allowed self-contained RVs to stay. Until they didn’t! That put people in RVs in limbo again, some for the second or third time. Private RV parks like nearby Lebanon KOA are limiting space while wondering how long before the governor shuts them down, too.

The Gila Bend KOA in Gila Bend, Arizona is open and accepting reservations for one night only. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the challenges full-timers face in securing a camping site is the lack of clear and uniform directives between states and within localities. For example, some campgrounds can accept long-term visitors while others, depending on the municipality, cannot. 

Hacienda RV Resort in La Cruces, New Mexico is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virtual communities also have taken up the cause in connecting full-timers with open campgrounds.

Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And many Canadian snowbirds are finding they have no place to land. The early return because of coronavirus fears has left thousands of RVers stranded. The snowbirds were heeding the federal government’s call for Canadians to return home from the U.S. and self-isolate themselves for 14 days in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency.

Nk’Mip RV Park in Osoyoos, British Columbia is open but is not accepting any new registrations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But as they neared the border one problem became increasingly clear: They had nowhere to go. Thousands of stranded RVers many who have no brick-and-mortar residences have been calling RV parks and campgrounds all around the country looking for vacancies. Either they’re not open or they’re open and they’re already full or not accepting new RVers due to the fear of further spreading the virus.

Waltons Beach RV Resort in Osoyoos, British Columbia has delayed opening and is not accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part of the problem is that the vast majority of Ontario’s 420 or so private campgrounds are prohibited by municipal statute from opening the season until May. And the few that do operate year round have not been listed as essential services by the province so it’s unclear whether they’d be allowed to take in new RVers.

Hilltop RV Park in Fort Stockton, Texas is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National and provincial parks—another potential refuge for returning snowbirds—are closed until April 30 at the earliest. The mandatory isolation order and the parks not being open are terrifying for many. 

Whispering Oaks RV Resort in Weimar, Texas is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We found ourselves in a similar situation when the RV Park at which we had made reservations informed us that they had cancelled our reservation. We were left scrambling as we contacted dozens of parks. Finally due to a recent cancellation an RV park was willing to accept us.

Frog City RV Park in Duson, Louisiana is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While tenting is still the primary form of camping for most people, the data reveals that 24 percent (or 1.8 million individuals) camp in an RV. They come into outdoor settings bringing their own living quarters with them which are fully self-contained units that house everything they need to sustain life including their living rooms, kitchen, bedrooms, and their own bathroom, and hopefully in present days…their own toilet paper.

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie

Southward Ho! Snowbird RV Tips for Migrating South

Learn the basics of RV snowbirding

As Neil Young once sang, “the summer ends and the winter winds begin to holler all around the bend…”

The snow doth fly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Quail Ridge RV Park near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Palm Springs Joshua Tree KOA, Desert Hot Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn down the thermostat on your heating system.

Unplug lamps, TVs, radios, and all electric appliances.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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
  • Toiletries
  • 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)

Canadian Snowbirds

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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
Casa Grande RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous