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A motor home parked by scenic mountains in the US Southwest.

Snowbirds: Escaping the Cold

November 11, 2016

The winter months are fast approaching, and if hunkering down and hibernating isn’t your thing, consider taking a vacation. And not just any trip, but one with an RV. While RVing is generally considered a fair-weather activity, winter gives you ample opportunity plan a new adventure and hit the open road. You can bet that at the first tinge of fall color, many snowbirds already have their roadmaps out and are scouting where to head to next. With this in mind, here’s a few topics to discuss before you wind up at your next RV campsite.

Should You Rent or Own a RV?

The good life isn’t just for those 55 and older anymore. The RV population continues to grow each year. With many jobs providing a work-from-home option, you get to determine where your home is located. And for those who love to travel the U.S., RVs have become the perfect living choice for them to experience the top 10 National Parks to visit in a RV. For many, living in an RV year round isn’t the optimal experience, but traveling during the winter when the weather at your traditional residence is not so hot, is the best of both worlds. Enter snowbird RV living.

A snowbird trip may last a few weeks to six months away from home. Many dream of owning a secondary home in the sun – whether it be on the beach, next to the golf course, or even beside a lake. But others don’t necessarily want that hassle of a second home that has to be cared for while you are away; they’d rather leave the insurance, taxes, and home maintenance to someone else. That’s where RVs become a great option. If you have determined that winter doesn’t quite suit you anymore but buying a second home requires too much effort, RVs offer the flexibility of escaping colder climates, traveling to multiple destinations, and leaving behind the responsibilities that come with a second home.

If traveling in an RV is for you, you need to determine if you want to rent or own an RV. Ask someone familiar with RVing and each will give their opinion. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. Considering your personality and needs can help you determine whether owning or renting an RV is best for you.

Owning a RV might be ideal for someone’s who fallen in love with a specific destination and wants to commit to traveling year and after year, while renting an RV may appeal more to someone who is more spontaneous and likes to explore different parts of the world each year. Other questions to consider are: are you heading south for the winter each year (owning), or only on occasion (renting)? Will your stay be lengthy (owning), or is your plan to stay on a few weeks or even just a quick weekend getaway (renting)?

If you decide to own an RV, make sure you protect your RV and the valuables stored in your RV. If you rent an RV, talk with the rental company to make sure you are covered. If they aren’t insuring your RV rental for injuries, liability, no-fault coverage, theft, fire, vandalism, collisions or more, you may want to ask your Farm Bureau agent to make sure you're properly covered for whatever may arise.

Before You Head Out in Your RV

As with any snowbird, there are a few housekeeping things to keep in mind before you pull away:

What will you do with your mail?

Can you count on a relative or friend take care of it for you? Or will you use a mail forwarding service?

What about your house?

It’ll need looked after. Do you have a family member or friend who can check in on it? Are you going to winterize your home or leave all systems running and hope for the best?

Now that the housekeeping things are in order, it’s time to turn your eyes to the maintenance of a RV.

Check Your Tires

The average life of an RV tire is six years. Load, the tire’s inflation, sun damage, and your driving speeds are just a few of the factors that can age a tire.

RV Engine Tune-up

When was the last time that you had your belts and hoses checked? Are they old and cracked? Make sure they’re good to go as it could save you a breakdown along the road.

Check Lights and Windshield Wipers

It’s no fun to get a ticket, so make sure that a burnt out tail-light has been addressed. It’s also a safety concern, so make sure the connection is tight and won’t rattle loose as you drive down the road.

Power/Heat

Your power and heat will need to come from propane and/or electricity. If you’re headed out, make sure your generator has a “winter setting,” which will balance the fluctuations that come from your furnace cycle.

Know the Weight

A trailer’s weight, cargo, distribution and tires all play a role in your well-being on the road. If you’re spending a substantial amount of time in your RV, it’s likely it’s slowly getting packed with more and more stuff. And not surprisingly, that “stuff” starts to add up and add weight to the RV. If that’s the case, it might be time to pitch a few things and lighten the load.

Fresh Water

Fresh water is vitally important not just for drinking, it’s key for bathing and flushing. For quick getaways, you may want to purchase a few extra gallons of water for drinking and then make use of the public showers/restrooms that can be found at many RV parks. If you’re planning to park for the season, consider draining your tanks, refilling them with antifreeze, turning off the pump and connecting to public outlets.

Location is Key But RV Park Conditions Should be a Factor

For many, snowbirds head south to spend the winter months in popular destinations like Florida and Georgia, while others travel west to Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Each has its advantages, but it’s important to not select your RV campsite by price alone. Take a look at the campsite environment, the services offered, and if there are any hidden costs. For instance, it’s common for parks to hike up the cost of electricity during peak times.

There are other things to think about in choosing a location like services, activities, pet restrictions, space, campground congestion, challenging parking conditions, ambiance, and privacy. Here is a great example of an added benefit for a RV park: some parks offer social activities that reunite long-time friends who return to the same parks each year. Do you enjoy visiting with others, or is being by yourself in more peace and quiet your ideal experience? Depending on your answer, you may want to research parks to see what may best suit your living desires, not just the perfect location.

So when temperatures start to drop and the snow starts flying in upcoming weeks, remember heading south for the winter isn’t just for the birds! With a little planning, you can ditch the winter blues for an RV adventure. Where will the road take you next?