Winter is upon us and who wouldn’t like a break?

Snowbirds flying south from winter have it right. Fleeing from the frigid temperatures of Canada, they park themselves in warmth for a few weeks to a few months. There are many possible destinations but with its beautiful beaches, unique culture, delicious food, and even pyramids, Mexico  is Canadians’ top southern destination.

A view of Hacienda Tres Rios in the Riviera Maya, Mexico.

If you’re a solo snowbird and heading south by yourself, the last thing you want to worry about is home and how to make sure the bills are paid and the heat stays on. How does the smart snowbird prepare for an extended period of time away? Here are my top six tips.

  1. Set yourself up to manage your finances from afar. Make sure you have online banking so that you can manage your finances. Get bank and credit cards that don’t charge a currency conversion fee every time you use them. (Read: Manage Money. Avoid Fees. Keep Cards and Cash Safe.) Arrange for the payment of bills while you’re away. The easiest way to do this is to have your bills sent to you via email and pay them online. Alternatively, you could set up automatic pre-authorized payments for your recurring bills.
  2. Protect your health and more. Buy travel insurance that covers health care, missed flights, lost baggage, and, if you like, trip cancellation as well. Make sure you buy it before you leave as you can’t do so when you’re away. Don’t forget to extend your coverage if you decide to extend your trip.
  3. Make your home look lived in. Ask a friend to check inside your home every couple of days. If you live in a house, their main job will be to ensure that the heat is on so that no pipes burst. Your home insurance likely requires such frequent checks. Have your mail redirected by the post office for the period of time you’re away. Have a friend pick up mail that is still delivered despite your redirect. Arrange for snow clearance and put lights on timers to turn on in the early evening and off later.
  4. Secure your home. An alarm system is a good idea for anyone going away for a period of time. If you have sliding glass doors, install security bars as these tend to be the weakest locks and the easiest point of access for anyone wanting to break in. You might also want to consider some of the smart house technology that’s available to monitor everything from movement to heat to moisture.
  5. Stay in touch with family and friends. Will you have a landline? Know what’s available before you go. Get a local cell phone or SIM card for your unlocked phone for while you’re away. Make sure you understand Skype or Google Hangouts for inexpensive ways to stay in touch with family.
  6. Join the club. Check out the Canadian Snowbirds Association and the American Association of Retired Persons. Both have advice and benefits that you may appreciate.

Sun and sand await you. Prepare well so you can relax and enjoy the warmth.

What’s your best snowbird tip? 

What’s your favourite southern destination?

Two and a half hours from San Cristobal, Mexico is the Tonina pyramid.