Why I Won’t be a Snowbird Any Time Soon

Sunshine. Palm trees. White silk beaches. What is not to love? These things are particularly tempting when you live in a colder climate that is mostly cloudy and gray for three months of the year. The snow is beautiful, especially on those rare days when the sun bounces off of it and lights up the sky. And nothing beats a white Christmas. A new puffy coat, boots and mittens are fun to wrap up in at the beginning of the winter season. Then the holidays are over, and the days are long and cold without any punctuation marks in them. This is the time of year that it takes an extra ten minutes to get dressed to go outside and then I can hardly move after I get all of the layers of clothes piled on. It is the time of year that I am ready to run away from shoveling snow, driving in slush and sleet and walking gingerly on icy parking lots so I don’t break a hip. All under gray skies.

So, this winter we dipped our toes in the water. Both literally and figuratively. We boarded a plane in heavy coats and got off in short sleeve shirts in sunny Sarasota, Florida. We were testing the snowbird lifestyle for a full month. It was a wonderful, sunny, refreshing reset. Yet, after about three weeks, we began to miss our life. Our real life. Most of the snowbirds we talked to spend 3-6 months in a sunnier climate and then go back to their northern home for the rest of the year. We have seriously considered buying a condo in Arizona or Florida, to the point that we did some condo tours with a realtor in Scottsdale. But after “practicing” the snowbird life for just one month, we have decided that lifestyle does not fit us at this point in our lives. This decision boils down to four main factors.


Some people move to get away from family and some people move to be closer to family. We are the latter. When Mr. U and I first got married we moved away for several years. He got his first job in another city, and we wanted to experience this new city life together as a married couple. But, about 24 years ago, we moved back to my hometown. My town. A small city where I was born and raised in the same house. My town, where my 96-year-old dad has lived his entire life and five of my six siblings and most of their families still live. Our kids grew up here for the majority of their lives and now three of them still live in the area. There is comfort in knowing you have people that will be there in a minute for you if you really need them.

We did not need to move to follow our grandchildren because all three of them live in the area. I do not take this for granted. Why would I want to leave this for half of the year? And while my dad still lives independently, we help him with some meals, getting to Dr. appointments and just spending time together. Snow birding would be much more tempting if we did not have family near our permanent home. We want to be part of their lives for as long as possible.

And this little pumpkin was carefully instructed not to crawl until we got back home. So, what did she do? Take her first crawling steps while we were gone…of course.


We have visited with some lovely people in Florida. People that we could become good friends with, but friendship takes time. Deep friendship takes years of shared experiences. Trust develops through shared confidences that withstand the test of time. It takes years of sitting with each other through tears of joy and sadness. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it is hard to nurture these new friendships when you are only together a few months of the year. You will make friends, but they are not the deep-rooted friendships that have the mortar of history to hold them together. The kind that you can call in the middle of the night to help you bury the body. I count myself blessed to have my sister as a best friend and another bestie that I have known for over 35 years that both live in my hometown. I miss them, as well as some casual friends that I don’t necessarily see every week.

“Good friends help you bury a body…Great friends bring their own shovel and don’t ask any questions.”


Home & hobbies

Some hobbies are portable, like reading, knitting, blog writing and walking. Others require heavier equipment and space. When I retired, I bought a Cricut and have enjoyed learning to use it. It can etch glass, cut out letters and designs on vinyl for signs, cards, or even to iron on material. And while you could pack it up and take it in a car somewhere, it would be difficult. My heavy Bernina sewing machine is not easy to move. Mr. U has an entire wood shop that is definitely not portable. These are home hobbies, and we would miss not doing them for large parts of the year.

The financials

We always assumed that it would be much less expensive to buy a second home to snowbird in than travel to different sunnier places during the bleak winter months. I am not a financial expert by any means, but when we considered the options, we found it wasn’t as big of difference as we expected.

For the sake of discussion, let’s say you had $300,000 cash that you saved aside to purchase a second home in a sunny place that you could escape to during the cold winter months. You could purchase this home, or you could take that same $300,000 and put it into a CD or money market and make 4% interest per year. That interest would add up to approximately $12,000 extra cash per year that you could use for snowbird travel to go anywhere you wanted. And at the end of all of that travel, you would still have $300,000 tucked away.

Of course, this scenario assumes you will continue to get a minimum of 4% interest a year, which we all know can vary. This scenario also does not take into account the amount that the second home will appreciate over the time you own it. Most likely, you will sell it for more than you paid for it. But neither does it take into account the amount you will pay out every year in taxes, insurance and HOA fees. You could rent the second home out for the months you are not there, to help offset these fees, but that comes with its own set of responsibilities and challenges.

The argument could be made either way on the financials. Saving the money aside and using the interest to travel makes much more sense if you decide you do not want to be gone for long stretches at a time. It also provides the opportunity to travel to a lot of different places, while you are still able to do so comfortably. It could be a different adventure every time. Of course these are just very rough estimates, but you get the idea. What would you do?


I know of several people that snowbird and totally love it. That is partly what makes it so tempting to me. I know that when you snowbird, your small place becomes your second home, but this trip has confirmed that we are just not ready to make that leap.

This is not a forever decision. If one of our kids move to a warmer winter climate, we may end up snow birding there a few months of the year. Or, as we get older and travel becomes more difficult, we may choose to go to the same place for sunnier weather every year. For now, we have decided to experience different places by taking a couple trips to warmer weather for two or three weeks at a time during the winter. It is a little slower type of travel than we have done in the past. That will be enough to get us through the harsh winter months at home, while not being gone for too long of stretches at a time. That is our decision…for now. Because, if there is one thing we have learned about retirement, it is full of the unexpected.

“There’s no place like home.”

Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz

We got home from Florida the first week of March. The feature picture at the top of the post is of the marina we stayed at while we were there. And this (below) is what was waiting for us the next morning when we got home. Hum…I might have to rethink this whole snowbird thing again.