Planning Your North-South Snowbird RV Route

Exploring the popular north-to-south Snowbird RV travel routes

Snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year.

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

Tennessee Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the American Northwest and Western Canada tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada, and California; those from the Midwest and Central Canada flock to Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast and Eastern Canada head for Florida.

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?

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choice of route is also subject to your own inclinations. Do you want to 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?

A successful—and stress free—trip requires a little homework before you leave. Regardless of your journey, factor in the drive times and travel expenses.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While you’re at it, be sure to account for the changing weather conditions you’ll encounter on your travels. If you haven’t given yourself enough time to avoid the first winter storm, plan accordingly. Allow yourself sufficient time for cold-weather driving, and bring ample warm-weather clothes to get you through the journey.

Since the Interstate highways in America are generally well-maintained and have priority for snow clearing and sanding, they’re a good bet for safe winter travel.

Kentucky Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With many Interstate highways, the price you pay for fast speed convenience is a lack of variation in the scenery along the route. North-south Interstates are different, partly because they are north-south routes and therefore pass through varying climatic conditions and elevation changes.

I-75 passes near numerous BBQ joints © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interstates 95 and 75 are the two preferred north-south travel routes from the northeast to Florida because they are direct and provide a wide range of service facilities.

“Along Interstate-95” and “Along Interstate-75” are two popular spiral-bound mile-by-mile guidebooks with practical information on these two major north-south routes.

I-75 passes near numerous BBQ joints © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I-95 is the longest north-south interstate in the US, traveling through 15 states. It is the main highway on the East Coast of the U. S., paralleling the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida and serving some of the best-known cities in the country including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Miami.

Every year, I-75 leads millions of snowbirds from Canada and the U.S. Midwest to the warmer South.

I-75 passes near numerous BBQ joints © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I-75 is a perfect sample of America. It starts right at the Canadian border in Sault Ste. Marie, then down to Detroit and into the heart of the Midwest through Michigan and Ohio. From there, it makes its way through Kentucky and Tennessee, stopping near and in cities like Lexington, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, before entering Georgia. I-75 is a main route to Atlanta, and from Atlanta, it continues into Florida.

I-75 passes through Chattanooga, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you cruise the route past Tampa, take some time to enjoy the brief East-West stretch through the Everglades that’s known as Alligator Alley before ending just north of Miami. Whether you’re looking for the fastest route from the Midwest to Florida, or you happen to be enjoying the ride between some of America’s coolest cities, I-75 is loaded with plenty to see and do along the way.

I-75 passes through Kentucky Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along I-75, you can see Civil War, American Indian, and civil rights history. You can sample Southern BBQ and peach cobbler. You pass through crowded cities and shaded valleys, miles of tacky billboards, and pristine horse country.

I-75 passes through Kentucky Bourbon Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky is best known for two things: horse-racing and bourbon. I-75 passes near some distilleries, but if you don’t have the time to spend fully exploring the Bourbon Trail, you can get some classic Kentucky vibes at the Kentucky Horse Park. A ticket gets you access to two super thoroughbred museums (including the Smithsonian’s International Museum of the Horse) and admission to their horse shows throughout the day, some of which feature retired racehorses. You can go for a horseback ride, tour the barns, and visit various halls of fame. Or, just stop in to enjoy the atmosphere and check out the statues of Man O’ War and other famous horses and jockeys.

I-75 passes near Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park protects the land that saw some of the bloodiest, hardest-fought battles that turned the tide of the Civil War. In 1863, the Union and the Confederacy were fighting for control of Chattanooga, a railroad center that was known as the Gateway to the South. The Union Army suffered devastating losses at Chickamauga in Georgia, but ultimately defeated the Confederates and seized control of Chattanooga shortly after.

I-75 passes near Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is the location of the Chickamauga battlefield (all of the battlefields in the area are operated as various units in one park by the National Park Service). The visitor center is at the north end of the battlefield and contains the bookstore, museum exhibits, films, and visitor info that will guide you during your visit.

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

The Snowbird Migration Is Underway

Winter is arriving faster than most of us would like which means it’s time to get in our RVs and fly south to warmer climates

The snowbird migration is underway.

The V-shaped flight pattern of geese heading south for the winter has become a symbolic image of frigid weather approaching. A similar phenomenon takes place with humans as thousands of Northerners flock south seeking refuge from the blistering cold.

Enjoy Oysters Supreme at Stingaree at Crystal Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From scenic views to five star dining and shopping, the US Sunbelt has become a major attraction for snowbirds—and the season is now in full swing.

Fledgling snowbirds often start as vacationers, but most evolve in flocks, following friends and family and regional or social enclaves into migratory communities. Snowbirds of a feather do tend to flock together.

Gila Bend KOA, a new snowbird roost in Southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They are gilded nomads, prosperous enough to at least afford a camper, trailer, or motorhome.

And most of them seem to like company. At journey’s end: Happy reunions and outdoor play under mostly sunny blue skies. That’s a slice of the good life that snowbirds relish. Between golf, pickleball, bocce, hiking and biking, going to the restaurants— and just enjoying the weather: it’s phenomenal.

Hiking at Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The weather is a driving factor in pushing snowbirds from fleeing the falling temperatures and their cold-climate and snowy nests following the first winter blast of the season. Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. That most of all, warm.

The weather is consistently warm in Anza-Borrego State Park in Southern California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climate is a major economic driver for Sunbelt states as winter visitors flee their homes in colder parts of the country. Many snowbirds fill up the RV parks, resulting in millions of dollars being dumped into local economies.

Enjoying Cajun Country at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Time was when snowbirds adhered to the calendar as predictably as swallows return, each March 19, to Capistrano or Monarch butterflies, each October, to Mexico. The Season began on October 15 and ended on April 15.

Snowbirds tend to migrate in waves with the early birds arriving in October, and another flock after Thanksgiving with the final wave following Christmas and New Years. Then, in the shift of seasons, they go again returning north anytime between March and May.

Mesilla Valley near Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Through both journeys, they change the lives of everyone else who comes, for however long, and of everyone who stays. Snowbirds create a demand for goods and services. They create additional jobs. The dollar impact of their presence is anyone’s guess.

Highland Hammocks State Park in Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one tracks snowbirds in Florida. The chambers and tourist bureaus don’t.

It’s been ten years since a study has been done on the economic impact of winter visitors in Arizona, but at that time it was estimated that RV snowbirds injected more than $600 million into Arizona’s economy.

Relax in Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the eyes of many year-round residents, snowbirds are somewhat akin to houseguests: Good to see them arrive, good to see them depart. Snowbird season means greater traffic volume, more crowded supermarket aisles, endless waits to snag a table at a favorite dining spot.

Not everyone loves snowbirds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although year-round residents occasionally whine about more-congested roads, most will agree: Snowbirds inject vitality and dollars into the region. Local businesses will enjoy the economic boost until late March when things really start to heat up in the Sunbelt states and snowbirds start the trek back to their northern homes.

Find perfect winter weather in Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And, snowbirds don’t just play and pay in paradise: Many volunteer. Opportunities for volunteering are available at hospitals and nursing homes, amusement and theme parks, museums and art galleries, visitor information and welcome centers, and other outdoor recreation facilities and attractions. Numerous nonprofit agencies rely on snowbirds to play an important role during the winter months.

Enjoying bird life © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For snowbirds that love recreational activities and enjoy interacting with other people, volunteering offers numerous opportunities for giving back to society.

If you choose to work while you play, enjoy your experience.

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…”

Prepping For Snowbird Travel

Here are a few important things for snowbirds to remember before your trip south

Winter is a time for boots, snow shovels, and icy roads… unless you’re a snowbird who RVs to the Sun Belt. Snowbirds are typically retired seniors who have the desire and financial ability to be away from home for extended periods of time.

Diamond Groove RV Park, Spruce Groove, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The snowbird lifestyle is to our liking because we can take our home with us when the cold weather arrives and snow begins to fall. For us the snowbird lifestyle is the best of both worlds.

But, there is more to leaving home than packing and locking up the doors. It takes planning to secure your home base and belongings and to make sure your abode is as welcoming upon your return as it was before you left.

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

As the annual migration begins, many homeowners set themselves up for potential disaster. Leaving a home unoccupied for an extended period of time can put homeowners at risk. Houses are a lot like teenagers, neither one should be left alone for very long. Snowbirds come home to problems because they failed to properly plan when they left in the fall.

Mount Lemmon Ski Area,Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning.  Before heading south, snowbirds need to take steps to secure and winterize their homes. Creating customized checklists is one way to stay organized when prepping for snowbird season. Consider the following tips as a starting point when creating your winter-ready checklist.

Quail Ridge RV Resort, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re a snowbird, there are certain things you need do to protect your home before you hit the road. To be sure you don’t miss anything on this list of 10 essential ‘home-to-dos’ before you take flight.

Check the expiry dates of all personal identification, travel documents, RV and house insurance, passports, credit and debit cards, and driver’s license. Inform your bank and credit card companies of your departure and how long you’ll be out of the country. Consider setting up online banking and pre-authorized payments for bills.

Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds should make copies of passport ID pages, planned itinerary, campground confirmations, driver’s license, insurance, and credit cards, stored separately from originals.

Place a temporary hold on your newspaper delivery, and arrange with your local postal office to have your mail forwarded to a reliable mail forwarding service or your winter address.

“I don’t do snow!” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Place all stay-at-home valuables in a safe deposit box.

Put indoor and outdoor lights on timers so they will turn on and off at appropriate times.

Pony Express RV Park, Salt Lake City, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You are escaping the snow, but your home is not. Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep sidewalks clear and your home secure.

Ask a friend, trustworthy neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, and be available in emergency situations. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Bridgeview RV Park, Lethbridge, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have someone walk through your house at least once a week while you’re away. Not only is that a prudent thing to do, but your insurance company could void your coverage if you do not arrange for a regular walk-through. Check with your insurance provider to determine the frequency they require. It’s also a good idea to review your home insurance policy to be sure you’re adequately covered while you’re away.

Did someone say SNOW? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Disconnect all appliances and electrical devices, including microwave, washer and dryer, stove, refrigerator, coffee maker, televisions, entertainment centers, and lamps.

Make sure all smoke alarms are properly installed, in working order, and are equipped with fresh batteries.

Diamond Groove RV Park, Spruce Groove, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn down thermostats to 50 degrees. Low heat will prevent a freeze-up.

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.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © 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.

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, pack up the rig and head south.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snowbird life

behind the wheel.