“Snowbird” is a North American term for a person who migrates from the higher latitudes and colder climates of the northern United States and Canada in the southward direction in winter to warmer locales such as Florida, California, Arizona, Texas, or elsewhere along the Sun Belt of the southern United States, Mexico, and areas of the Caribbean. John D. Rockefeller was one of the very first snowbirds. Rockefeller was way ahead of his time and spent the winters in Ormond Beach, Florida beginning in 1914.
A snowbird is a winter traveler also known as a winter Texan or half-back. Usually they fall into one of three categories:
- Northern residents, who leave their permanent home behind and temporarily relocate via RV or park model (think a small vacation home) in a Sun Belt state.
- Full-time RVers who change locals throughout the year to follow weather that’s kinder on their rigs.
- Seasonal Work Kampers who relocate to different KOAs and parks to serve as hired help during busier seasons. Often these snowbirds are retired individuals or couples looking to supplement their income while living as full-time RVers.
Snowbirds are typically retirees who wish to avoid the snow and cold temperatures of northern winter, but maintain ties with family and friends by staying there the rest of the year. In recent years, younger people with jobs tied to seasonal tourists, often migrate southward following the tourist season to southern resorts. Some are also business owners who have a second home in a warmer location or whose business can be easily moved from place to place.
Many families in the United States often spend their Christmas holiday time (up to 2 weeks) at beach resorts in Florida and California. Some are people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder who wish to enjoy the longer daylight hours in the southern latitudes in winter. Some RV snowbirds bring their homes with them, as campers (mounted on bus or truck frames). trailers or 5th wheels, motorhomes, or as boats following the East Coast Intra-coastal waterway southward.
Snowbirds are RVers
A significant portion of the snowbird community is made up of recreational vehicle users (RVers). Many own a motorhome for the sole purpose of traveling south during the winter. Often they go to the same location every year and consider the other RVers that do the same a “second family”. Many RV parks label themselves “RV snowbird friendly” and get the majority of their income from the influx of RVing snowbirds. Several areas in Florida and Arizona have large RV communities that appear and disappear seasonally.
Quartzsite, Arizona, that have been labeled “white city”, because from a bird’s-eye view all the motorhomes cover the landscape in white and then in the summer are gone. While historically Florida and Arizona have been the top RV snowbird locations, other southern U.S. states are experiencing a boom from snowbirds enjoying the southern climate.
Lifestyle of Snowbirds
As colder weather starts to descend on Canada and much of the United States the idea of retreating to a warmer climate might just sound ideal. It might also sound like a dream that unattainable. If you’re an RVer, exchanging the impending snowflakes for warm days and sunshine doesn’t just have to be a fleeting idea. The snowbird lifestyle might just be the perfect solution.
Before settling down for a season, consider trying out a few stops for shorter stays in your preferred region. Since you’ll be staying at your winter getaway for many weeks or months it’s important that the atmosphere feel like home. Remember, for many the snowbird lifestyle is about the community so find the right fit for you.
‘Snowbirds’ eventually ‘Sunbirds’
A sunbird is one who leaves the lower latitudes and hot climates of the southern United States and migrates northward in summer to cooler locales such as the high elevation of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming or elsewhere in the Rocky Mountains. A large number of snowbirds will evolve over time and make their southern home their southern home the permanent residence while travelling back north a few months out of the years.
Snowbird RVer’s ‘white city’
Some RV parks in southern locations are extremely popular snowbird destinations and rely heavily on the revenue they bring in during the winter months. Locations like these are referred to as “white cities” because a view from above reveals a landscape coated in the white tops of motor homes. Quartzsite, Arizona is a well-known “white city”.
Group Publications of Snowbirds
Groups like the Canadian Snowbird Association have annual meetings and events in southern states like Florida and Texas. These events often include informative sessions, fun activities, live entertainment, food and drink, and lots of socializing. Special publications like the Winter Texan Times, Snowbirds RV Traveler Magazine and Snowbirds Gulf Coast Magazine cater to the market by providing useful information for seasonal travelers.
Healthy lifestyle of RV Snowbirds
According to the study “Snowbirds, Sunbirds and Stayers: Seasonal Migration of the elderly in Florida,” more than 63 percent of snowbirds rated their health as “very good” or “excellent.” Those of the same demographic who stayed in one place year round reported themselves as having less desirable health. Between the months of April and October, snowbirds live in their summer residence and some put their winter home on the market for rent. This is prime time for warm weather renters to jump on some great properties.
Working RVing Snowbirds
The assumption that snowbirds are wealthy isn’t always true. Many RVing winter visitors are retired, but they still pick up temporary jobs in order to afford the extra expenses of the snowbird lifestyle. The working snowbirds actually have a name too. They’re called “workampers” and they typically take up seasonal jobs in RV parks, theme parks, lodges, and other tourist attractions in close proximity to their secondary home.
Contribution of Snowbirds in the Economy
Winter visitors don’t just hang out down south and then leave. They actually have a big impact on the area’s economy! They pay real estate taxes, do all their grocery shopping, buy gas from local gas stations, and some even work seasonal jobs or volunteer. Many of these “snowbirds” also use their vacation time to declare permanent residency in low- or no-tax income tax states (where the tax bases are augmented by high tourism taxes), and claim lower non-resident income taxes in their home states.
Canadian snowbirds usually retain residency in Canada in order to retain health benefits. Due to the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act there are now additional implications for Canadian snowbirds in the United States.
Most snowbirds are social butterflies
Snowbirds are lucky to have not just one set of friends, but TWO. Living in two different places throughout the year opens the door to more social encounters and naturally, more neighbors. Most snowbirds travel in husband-wife pairs and inevitably end up flying south alongside thousands of other snowbirds. The southern, “snowbird friendly” RV parks or rental communities are often filled with snowbirds at the same time and it’s not uncommon for snowbird couples to meet and travel together.
Snowbird RVer’s Hobbies
Snowbirds have a host of activities to keep them busy and provide sound exercise. Activities like tennis, hiking, biking, and swimming are activities suited for their age and lifestyle.
Pickleball is a popular game for snowbirds. This game is a blend of ping pong, tennis, and badminton and is played by all ages around the country, but many RV communities in Arizona provide Pickleball leagues for snowbirds looking to stay active. Ever want to know “What is Pickleball?” Read our article on this exciting activities.
Seasoned winter travelers know how important it is to keep up the care of their primary home while being away for months at a time. Nothing says “I’m not home!” like huge piles of newspapers on the lawn and unshoveled snow and ice. Oftentimes, snowbirds will have a trusted neighbor or family member to frequently check up on their home while they’re gone for the winter.