Not All Snowbirds Have Wings

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year

For many, snowbirding isn’t just about having fun—it’s about avoiding the miseries of a northern winter. With the challenge of icy roads, shoveling snow, the cold, and being stormbound, is it any wonder so many of us like to escape winter?

Texas Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More and more snowbirds are now choosing RVing to the Sunbelt over flying to a rented or owned vacation home. RV snowbirding gives you the freedom to travel to different destinations, to leave and return when you want, and to enjoy the comfort of having your own stuff with you all the time. It’s your vacation home on wheels—how great is that?

Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada © 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. A key aspect of this preparation is making sure your home appears occupied.

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re new to the snowbird lifestyle or an experienced RVer, creating your own customized checklist is a great way to keep track of your seasonal preparations.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO? (And how will you get there?)

Selecting a balmy snowbird roost is when all the fun begins. Choice is in rich supply.

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the Northwest tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada, and California; those from the Midwest flock to TexasMississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast head for Florida.

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

Are you planning on heading directly south from your home location? Or will you cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude?

Clermont Golf and RV Resort, Clermont, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choice of route is subject to your own inclinations. Do you want to visit friends or sightsee along the way, or—as might be the case in mid-winter—do you prefer to go hell-bent-for- leather to the Sunbelt?

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

Maybe your plan is to head to a single destination, park there, and treat your RV like a cottage; taking day trips and excursions from one home base. Or maybe your plan is to visit several destinations, spending a few weeks or even a month at each. This is ideal if you’re attending festivals and events, or checking off a bucket list, like your top 10 national parks or roadside attractions.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Either way, experienced RVers know that your first step—after you’re comfortable driving the RV, of course—should be to plan your route and research your overnight stops.

Pro Tips:

Arizona Oasis RV Park, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be realistic about how many hours you can drive in a day.

Reserve your RV parks in advance, based on your route. This guarantees you’ll have a spot to stop each night.

New Green Acres RV Park, Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure the park can accommodate the size of your rig. Plan to get there while it’s still daylight so you can park and set up and have time to relax.

Take holidays and long weekends into account: this will affect availability of camping sites.

Is Rover Roving with You?

Blake Ranch RV Park, Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Furry friends have their own needs when traveling, too.

Make sure your dog is trained, fit, and healthy for the type of travel you plan. Take into account the type of transportation, activities, and living situation. Ensure your dog responds to recall and “leave it” commands for everyone’s safety.

Hill Top RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure your dog is vaccinated.

Worth Pondering…

We have chosen to be reasonably warm year-round, so we are snowbirds. Every year when I hear the honks of the Canada geese overhead at our home in Alberta, something in my genes starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose.” Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I line up the motorhome with that compass pointer and head for the Sun Belt.

On Being a Good Camping Neighbor

There is an old expression, “be the person your dog thinks you are.” In line with that statement, campers should be the neighbor you would like to have.

Camping courtesy (the unwritten rules of campground etiquette) is an easy way to ensure that a group of people living in close proximity together where sounds travel and light can be a disturbance continue to camp together in harmony.

Spending time in a campground requires a certain level of community patience and a willingness to live and let live, there are some basic rules of campground etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.

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

Obey Campground Rules

Follow the campground rules and regulations. These rules usually include speed limits, fire regulations, quiet times, and so on. Adhering to these rules is one of the basics of campground etiquette. Be sure to review and enforce the rules with your children, as well.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Social

A campground or RV park is your temporary home complete with new neighbors. Just like at your permanent home, you should get to know your neighbors. You don’t have to spend your vacation with them, but you should be friendly.

When you travel with kids, it’s especially important to get to know your neighbors. Kids will often play together around the campground or RV park and can form lasting relationships.

Jekyll Island Camoground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Respect Campsite Boundaries

You would never imagine cutting/walking through someone’s backyard to get home. But at a campground, it happens all too often. There are no fences or boundaries letting you know you are entering someone’s living space.

When camping, there is an imaginary boundary surrounding each campsite. It’s assumed the you know that this boundary exists and that you’ll respect it. Children, especially, need to be reminded of the boundary and told to stick to the path instead of walking through someone else’s campsite. Walking through another person’s site may be the easiest, most direct path to the bathroom, but it should be avoided.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clean Up After Yourself

Just like at home, you are expected to pick up after yourself. Bag your trash and throw it away in approved trash bins. Don’t be tempted to throw your trash into the fire. It creates a nasty smell that no one wants to endure. Plastic, especially, is foul smelling and is toxic if inhaled.

For RV owners, ensure that your wastewater is handled properly. Be sure that all your hoses and tanks are in good condition, attached properly, and nothing is leaking.

Galveston State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Mindful of the Noise

Sound pollution is a real thing and it can be cause for a bad camping experience. Be mindful of the noise you create and keep the volume down whenever possible.

Yes, you’re camping, but that doesn’t mean the family next to you wants to hear your generator running at 1 a.m. or a kid’s movie blaring on an outdoor television.

Most parks and campgrounds have “quiet hours” in the evening to keep noise to a minimum. Power down at night; shut off your generator and dim the lights. Respect those quiet hours. They are there for a reason. Your camping neighbors will thank you for it.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pick Up After Your Pets

Be a responsible pet owner. Keep dogs on leashes whenever they are outside so they are not bothering your neighbors and discourage them from barking. Never leave a dog that barks or howls unattended.

It’s great to have a furry friend as a camping companion, but make sure your pet isn’t leaving any surprises behind. When taking your dog for a walk, always pick up all pet waste. Many campgrounds provide pet waste collection bags to make clean up easy and convenient.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a good neighbor, make a new friend. Enjoy!

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

3 Tips for Pet-Friendly RV Travel

One of the primary benefits of RV travel is that your pets can enjoy the great outdoors all day and always sleep in the same space at night

More and more RVers are traveling with their beloved pets and finding it makes the experience even more enjoyable. RV travel and pets are, in most cases, a good mix.

More RVers are traveling with their pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV travel with your pets can be rewarding for you and your family’s pet but the key to a successful camping trip or any mode of vacation travel is advanced planning and preparation, common sense, and sometimes a dose of creativity.

Most dogs and cats can adapt to the RVing lifestyle by following these three tips for a pet-friendly RV travel.

More RVers are traveling with their pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make the RV Their Home Too

When you travel without your favorite pillow, don’t you feel just a little lost at night? Cats and dogs also feel the same way when they go places without their familiar stuff. Animals rely so much more on their sense of smell than we do so when they go to places that lack odors from their most familiar objects, their world becomes confusing.

More RVers are traveling with their pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can help your pet adapt to your home on wheels in several ways:

Spend quality time together inside the RV during the days leading up to your departure

More RVers are traveling with their pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take along their favorite bedding, toys, and even a rug

Create a pleasant environment with their favorite treats

Practice leaving your pet alone inside the RV well in advance of your departure gradually increasing length of time

Some RV parks host pet parades © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If your dog is crate trained, use it―if not, consider using a baby gate to keep your dog confined to a small interior area

Keep the Routine

As humans, we love the refreshing routine change that RV vacations bring into our life, but it can cause confusion for pets. Minimize their mental chaos by sticking to daily routines during RV travel.

Some RV parks host pet parades © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sleeping in is nice, but your pets will thank you when you awake as close to your usual hour as possible.

Keep morning rituals the same: walk, potty, eat breakfast.

Stick to their usual eating pattern.

Some RV parks host pet parades © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take your dog on that last potty walk of the day at the usual bedtime.

When traveling cross-country and switching time zones, sticking to pet care routines is even more important. In his blog post about helping pets adjust to time changes, Dr. Ernie Ward says “For most pets, these changes are abrupt, unexpected, and challenging. They may ponder, ‘Why am I eating now? Why do I have to get up so early?’”

Some RV parks host pet parades © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wherever you go, RV parks will expect your dog to be on a leash at all times. If your dog isn’t used to eliminating on-leash, you’ll need to train him how to do so long before your departure date.

Some RV parks host pet parades © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Prepared

Nobody expects to get sick or injured while traveling, but things do happen. Be prepared for pet-related emergencies.

Some RV parks host pet parades © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Always travel with a digital or paper copy of your pet’s most important medical records, including vaccination history and contact information for your veterinary clinic. A good working relationship between a pet owner and their veterinarian is the best bet to ensure the overall health of any animal.

Carry a Pet First Aid Kit; don’t rely on ones made for humans. There are numerous pre-packaged first aid kits that you can buy online or at sporting stores.

Some RV parks host pet parades © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alternatively, ask your veterinarian to help you build a good kit. Your vet knows the specific needs of your pet and can help you find items to include in your kit specifically for your dog or cat, and the RV activities you are planning.

Some RV parks host pet parades © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If your pet is on a prescription be sure to pack an adequate supply for the entire journey. Backup medicines for fleas, worms, and other common illnesses are also recommended.

Some RV parks offer dog wash stations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More RV parks than ever are laying out the welcome mat for pets. Creating a safe, nurturing environment inside your home-on-wheels ensures that everyone stays happy no matter where the road takes leads.

Even toy dogs do their thing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.
―Mark Twain