Travel Tips: Checklist for Snowbirds

by Tom Reed
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Story filed January 19, 2011

Are you one of those migratory creatures called snowbirds, who flee the snow and cold of northeast Ohio for warmer climes? If so, you know the preparations for your getaway can be quite a hassle. If you’re considering it for the first time, you’ll need to prepare a checklist to guide you through the planning.


What goes on the list will depend upon your individual circumstances. To help you get started, here are some of the items on my checklist, based on five years’ experience as a temporary exile in Florida.

  • Turn down the thermostat to 55 or 60 degrees.

  • Shut off the water. To really be on the safe side, flush the toilets and pour some RV antifreeze into the toilet bowls and drains. Be sure to use product made for RV water lines, not the antifreeze you use for your car engine.

  • Leave a key to your home with a family member, neighbor, or friend.

  • Notify police of your absence. They may ask if you’re leaving any cars in the garage or driveway, if you have set up timers for household lights, and whether you’ve left a key with anyone. Remember to let police know when you get back in town.

  • Arrange for mail forwarding. The U.S. Postal Service offers a premium mail forwarding service. It’s costly but, in my opinion, worth it. The fee is $14.75 a week, plus a $15 enrollment fee. But you’ll get all your mail once a week (including magazines, catalogs, etc.) in a neat priority mail box. Your permanent address is not changed, and your temporary address is not provided to mailers. If possible, pay all current bills before you leave, to avoid getting hit with late fees during the time lag before you receive your first mail package.

  • Take important papers with you. What’s important will vary from person to person, but the list might include car title and registration, insurance papers, passports, and the like.

  • Unless you plan on returning home well before April 15, take tax documents with you.

  • Renew your auto registration and/or drivers license if either will expire while you’re gone.

  • Make a list of important numbers for your contacts. Include family members and friends, doctors, utilities, and financial institutions.

  • Renew prescriptions for a longer term if possible. Research medical care facilities in the area you’re visiting.

  • Arrange for care of houseplants. If you turn the water off, this means you’ll probably have to find someone willing to be a plant sitter.
This may not be an exhaustive list, but it will give you a starting point for your planning. Begin your planning well in advance of your departure. You’re bound to think of additional items as you go along, and having a well thought-out checklist will give you peace of mind, as you bask in the sunshine of Florida or whatever tropical paradise you’ve chosen.




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