Canadian snowbird checklist
By Jill Wykes – Snowbirdadvisor.ca
Top tips before you leave for the winter. Find more tips and tools for Canadian snowbirds at SnowbirdAdvisor.ca
Experienced snowbirds know how much preparation there is before you hop in your RV to head south for the winter. Planning ahead and having a checklist can help you avoid all sorts of problems in the months to come.
Here’s our suggested checklist of items you will want to take care of. If you are new to the snowbird lifestyle and will be going away for the first time this winter, this checklist will be particularly helpful.
First things first
Preparing your RV & tow car: Make sure your RV and your tow car or any other vehicles have been serviced, have up-to-date licenses that won’t expire before you return, and are ready for the trip south.
Check your insurance to make sure you are covered for travelling to the U.S. (and beyond if you’re heading further south) and any time limits that may apply to your coverage for being out of Canada.
Travel insurance: It is critical for every Canadian snowbird to get travel medical insurance. Accidents and illness can occur and the consequences of not having sufficient travel insurance can be catastrophic.
Make sure you find travel insurance that fits your specific needs and travel plans. There are many companies offering travel insurance for snowbirds and it pays to have a broker search for you or do your own research to find the best deal and the right policy for you.
Know the rules: Make sure you know what foods and liquids you can bring across the border into the United States. You may get searched, so it’s important to know the U.S. Customs rules and abide by them to avoid trouble. Many people avoid this issue by going grocery shopping for food, beer and wine once they have crossed the border.
As we’ve mentioned, there’s a lot of preparation required when you are going away for several months in the winter. Take a look at this list and try to do as much as possible in advance to avoid a last minute panic and lots of running around. Here’s our list of things to do:
- Medication: Order enough of the prescription medication you need for the duration of your stay outside Canada. Make sure all of your medication is clearly identified with its original labels and keep your receipts to ensure you don’t run into trouble at the border.
- Driver’s License and Health Card: Check your provincial health card and driver’s license to make sure they don’t expire before you return and renew them if need be before you leave
- Travel Documents: Make sure your passport and/or Nexus card doesn’t expire until well after you return. While the U.S. has waived the “valid for 6 months after you return rule” many other countries require this, so if you are travelling into Mexico or beyond, be sure to check their requirements.
- Insurance Policy & Emergency Contact Card: Bring a copy of your travel medical insurance policy and the emergency contact card your insurer provides you with for everyone travelling with you.
- Power of Attorney: it is always a good idea to have a Power of Attorney in place in case anything should happen while you are away that prevents you from dealing with your affairs.
- Banking: Make sure your credit cards don’t expire while you’re away and renew them if necessary. If you haven’t already, set up online banking and bill payment and arrange to receive your bills electronically so you can stay up to date and pay them online while you’re away, including hydro, gas, water, sanitation, property taxes, rent and mortgage payments, among others. You may also want to consider setting up cross border banking to save money and make things more convenient while you’re away. Learn more about cross border banking for snowbirds.
- Pet Preparation: If you plan on taking your pet with you, make sure they have all the right documentation to travel. Check out our snowbird guide on traveling to the U.S. with pets.
- Duplicate Documents: Create photocopies or scan all of your important documents to your computer and keep them in one easy to access place in case your original documents are lost or stolen (ie. insurance, vehicle registration, driver’s license, health card, passport, NEXUS card, etc). Also, consider giving a copy to a family member or friend at home in case your backup is lost or stolen as well.
- Handicap Parking Permits: If you have a Canadian issued handicap parking permit, some U.S. states will honour it, but only if it’s still valid in Canada. If it’s going to expire while you’re away, be sure to renew it.
- Customs Forms: If you’re driving down with personal belongings, fill out a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Form 3299 – Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles that accurately lists all of the personal items you are bringing with you, as well as Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Form E-15: Certificate of Destruction/Exportation to avoid paying duty and taxes on your personal items when you return to Canada.
Preparing your home
- Home Insurance: Check your home insurance for requirements when you are away from your home. Most policies require frequent inspections by someone while you are away.
- Inspections: Arrange for a service, friend, family member or neighbour to inspect your home regularly while you’re away to meet insurance requirements, check for frozen pipes, ensure snow & ice clearance, etc.
- Mail: Make arrangements for your mail at home – either have it held at the Post Office, or forwarded to your winter address, or arrange for someone to collect and sort it for you.
- Newspapers: Suspend your subscription starting on the date you intend to leave or arrange for digital access while you are away.
- Fridge: Clean out your fridge and freezer of all perishables and empty the freezer in case of a power interruption – or, empty them entirely and turn off, leaving the door propped open.
- Service Suspension: Make arrangements to suspend services like your land line, cable and internet to save money.
- Water: Consider shutting off your water and draining all pipes if appropriate for your home
- Lights: If possible, set some lights on timers to deter break-ins
- Condos: If you live in a condo, see if you can shut off water into your unit – or make sure someone is checking your unit according to your insurance requirements. Often the superintendent or concierge can perform these duties in their spare time for a fee.
- Vehicles: If you are leaving a vehicle at home, ask your insurance company if you can get any credit for the vehicle not being used for a number of months. Consider putting a cover on it to keep dust off.
The drive south
- Plan your route ahead of time. You will want to have enough U.S. cash for the journey and any unexpected emergencies, such as speeding tickets that must be paid in cash.
- Make sure your vehicle ownership and insurance certificates are in the vehicle
- Make sure your passport and NEXUS cards are handy for crossing the border and not packed.
- Be sure to declare any food that you are taking across the border. Banned foods will be confiscated.
- Pack light! Most of us take lots of clothes we never use and you will have laundry facilities where you’re going.
- Remember that it can be cold some of the time, so take a light jacket and sweaters. Pack blankets, duvets or comforters.
- Remember to take all your chargers for phones, kindle, tablet, laptop, shaver, etc.
- Don’t forget beach towels
- Pack any sports equipment such as golf clubs, tennis racquets, etc.
About Snowbird Advisor