Living in the northeast all my life, I learned quite early (from my parents) how to do the snowbird lifestyle. No matter how wonderful or beautiful your home in the northeast is, when the winter rolls around, it’s damn near cold! As you get older, the cold becomes more and more unbearable. One of my mother’s wishes was to buy a condo in Florida but my father would never agree to it.
Instead, he bought a Volks Wagon Van (this was back in the late 50’s, early 60’s) and he remodeled the interior to look like a camper. My sister and I would sleep way in the back over the engine. Dad built a platform and mom had a custom made mattress sewn up. The center of the van had two built in seating benches (with storage underneath) standing opposite from each other. In the center, my dad built a fold-down table that when lowered and filled in with more custom made mattresses, made a nice wide comfy bed. My brother slept in the middle. My mom and dad on either side of him.
My father was an insomniac, so he would drive all night. We would arrive at our destination, dad would then sleep; mom, my brother, sister and I would go out exploring our new location. My parents loved Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach in the winter. If we ever stayed in a hotel, it was always the Fontainebleau at Miami Beach (click here).
It was only natural that when my brother, sister and I grew up, we would fulfill our mother’s dreams and each buy condos in Florida. We all settled in Sarasota but my experience wasn’t as pleasant as my siblings. Condo life and all-year-living in Florida didn’t do right by me. I sorta of loved the way my dad did Florida in the winter. There’s a reason why that man died a multi-millionaire. He just didn’t like to spend his money too loosely. Snowbirding (a group of seasonal travelers, usually retirees, who migrate to areas with warmer climates during the winter months) for him, was the way to go. And after several trials and errors on my part, I tend to agree with my dad. Buying a home in Florida is not an investment. You go to Florida to keep warm. And then you get out.
There are many, many different way to do snowbirding. You can buy/rent a home or condo. You can book a hotel room, AirBNB a studio apartment for either several months or only a few weeks during the cold winter months. These choices, however, are the most expensive ways to go. Rates can run from several hundred dollars per week ($750) to several thousand dollars per month ($3,000)! You can stay with friends or family for a few weeks. Or you can RV. Since the years of my father’s self-made camper, RVing in Florida has become big, big business. The competition to get a spot is keen. You often have to book a site at least 1 to 2 years in advance. Especially the further south you go. And be prepared to be squeezed into a very crowded environment.
Competition is most vicious at Florida State RV Parks. That’s because you can score a site on average for $24 to $34 a night at the park vs $100 to $115 per night at some commercial or privately owned RV Parks. As you can see from this screen shot, if I wanted to book anything in the state of Florida for January, February or March, I’d be out of luck:
Of course, you don’t only have to go to Florida to keep warm. Many retirees travel to Arizona, Georgia and southern California to garner that snowbird lifestyle. In addition, Americans have to compete with the many Canadians who travel down to the warmer winter climes of America to seek solace. The longer you stay, the less expensive the price. Monthly RV rental rates are less expensive than daily or weekly rates. Nonetheless, RVing in Florida as a snowbird ain’t cheap. I’m ALWAYS thinking of new and cheaper ways of wintering in Florida. As time progresses, I’m running out of ideas.
So far, we’ve been fortunate enough to secure affordable, out-of-the-way RV parks, not too far from a beach and void of most amenities as a means to keep our snowbird lifestyle costs down. Once you calculate round trip gas and travel tolls, we spend almost $1,000 just to get to Florida and back! We stay a minimum of two months in Florida with a temporary hold on an additional month (depending on finances). Our main goal is to finally snowbird in Florida for 4-5 consecutive winter months (November, December, January, February, March). The whole snowbird adventure would cost us around $4050 which still is a hell of a lot better than renting a condo for $3,000 to $5,000 just for one month (the Florida rental market IMHO is insane right now, with NO end in sight).
I have it on my own Florida wish list to spend a few nights at the Fountainebleu once again. But at those winter rates ($450+ a night) it seems unlikely that we ever will. Maybe we’ll go there for lunch and take in the sights. I’d like to reminisce of the days my parents would swoosh my brother, sister and I off to Florida. Dad would drive all night and all day and before we knew it, we were swimming in the Florida Keys.
Those were the good old days and the stepping stones for my snowbirding lifestyle today.
This is the actual view from our RV site, overlooking the intercoastal. Our current RV is brand new, super spacious and has a touch of luxury. Give me the snowbird life!