Snowbirding in the age of Airbnb

Enjoying a few winter months in the sun is easier than ever, as long as you follow these tips

About 40 million people flock to Florida and Arizona each winter, according to AARP, drawn to warmer temperatures and the outdoor lifestyle. Previously, these so-called snowbirds had to commit to buying a second home or paying astronomical hotel costs to escape the snow and ice of winter.

But with the advent of home rental services like Airbnb and VRBO in addition to location-specific vacation home rental companies, the options have expanded, making snowbirding a possibility for more people – like me. Last year I went snowbirding in Florida for the first time and I can’t wait to go back this year.

Home rental services like Airbnb have expanded the options, making snowbirding a possibility for more people | Credit: Getty

The benefits of the situation are many: “Snowbirding through Airbnb/VRBO can be a great way to experience different parts of the state each year, rather than being tied to one location because you own a home there,” reports Ryan Erisman, author of The Florida Retirement Handbookwhich it updates every year.

“It was cheaper to rent on Airbnb than to stay in a hotel and eat out all the time.”

“Airbnb/VRBO single family rentals are also more likely to be located in residential areas, which gives you a much better idea of ​​what it’s like to live like a local,” he adds, “so that hotels are usually located in more commercial areas.” You can also try different types of houses – apartments, ranches, townhouses, etc. – to see if they suit you, and you can often bring your dogs and even cats.

Other pros mention that you’ll be in a home equipped with everything you need for an extended stay, including linens, towels, utensils, and pots and pans, and that you’ll have more than one bedroom and therefore more privacy than in a hotel. .

What to expect (and inspect)

“I was thrilled with the townhouse I rented in Delray Beach, Florida for three weeks last year from Airbnb,” says Denise Sokolsky, 69, an American living in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. . “It was very accessible to main thoroughfares but in a quiet area, and I could walk to the beach and shopping areas.

“It had a nice patio, lots of private space, and a well-equipped kitchen. And it turned out that it was cheaper to rent on Airbnb than to stay in a hotel and eat out all the time. “

But there are also disadvantages. “The main downside for me was that I wasn’t sure what I was going to walk into,” says Sokolsky. “You can read the description and look at the pictures, but I had an experience where I stayed in a house that was clean but very shabby, so I was a little suspicious.”

This can also be a problem with hotels, of course, and your best recourse will be to contact the owner or Airbnb/VRBO to rectify the problem.

Basic principles of snowbird practice

Here are some other considerations to keep in mind when renting as a snowbird:

  • Book as soon as possible. Rentals in the hottest areas for snowbirds like Florida and Arizona are going fast.
  • Read the fine print. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy and rules and regulations, and keep a copy for your records.
  • Know what you want. Do you prefer to be near a beach or in the mountains? Do the places you are considering offer activities that you enjoy? It is important to research activities in each destination you are considering, researching the availability and costs of sports facilities, museums, concerts, bicycles, hikes and visits. Are there places of worship in the neighborhood? You want to find activities you enjoy so you don’t feel lonely and bored.
  • Check locations carefully. This is especially important if you are traveling alone. I booked a lovely garage apartment in historic St. homeless had set up camp in an abandoned house around the corner. It made me nervous when walking my dog ​​in the early morning and evening. “Do as much research as you can,” recommends Sokolsky, including asking your friends if they know the location and if it’s safe.
  • Ask the owner. If you use the Airbnb or VRBO websites, feel free to ask the owners questions. I found a rental on the beach but noticed it was on the first floor of a two story building. I’m sensitive to noise so I asked the owner if the place upstairs was rented out and if the residents had kids or dogs. It turned out that the person renting the upstairs unit had a large dog, which made it a no-no for me.

Make sure you can bring a pet if you have a dog or cat you want to travel with.

  • Pre-clean your pets. Make sure you can bring a pet if you have a dog or cat you want to travel with. Many more places than ever allow pets, although owners may ask you to pay an additional fee or post a damage deposit.
  • Learn the cleaning policy. Most rentals now display one. This is more important than ever with COVID. Email the owner if you need more details on how deep and when the unit will be cleaned. A couple I know rented a place in an exclusive community in Georgia for five weeks, but were disappointed by the dustiness of the place — and the sleep lost struggling with queen sheets left for a king-size bed.
  • Think about logistics. If you’re traveling by plane rather than by car to your destination, airline baggage limits may make it easier to ship some of your essentials and supplies separately to the rental home.
  • Know your medical options. Make sure you know directions to nearby urgent care centers, hospitals, pharmacies and dentists, just in case.

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