Snowbirds: 23 things to do before heading south

Do you escape to warmer climates in the winter? If so, tie up loose ends a few weeks in advance and take off worry-free. Just follow these steps!

Your home

Because your home is one of your most important assets, make sure it's in good hands before you go.

  1. Ask a friend or relative to stop by once a week and water the plants, pick up the mail--basically, just check that everything's ok.
  2. Install an alarm system and consider connecting certain lights to a timer to make it seem like someone's home.
  3. Let your home/car insurer know you'll be away for a while.
  4. Leave your family and friends your contact details (cellphone number, email address, etc.) so they can reach you in case of an emergency. Remember to check in with them once in a while.
  5. Forward your mail to a P.O. box. Make sure you can take care of the important stuff--like sending and receiving payments--online.
  6. Schedule regular snow removal to keep your parking spot and front door accessible. If you leave before the snow, schedule landscape maintenance, as well.
  7. Shut off the water so you don't risk water damage while you're away.
  8. Disconnect small appliances and electronics to avoid a potential power surge during a storm.
  9. Empty your fridge, cupboards and freezer. Leave as little food as you can so it doesn't go bad in case you lose power.

Your car

  1. Take your car to the mechanic before you store it away for the winter.
  2. If you plan to drive a car or RV, make sure your driver's licence and registration are up to date.
  3. Get an international driver's licence if you drive on U.S. roads, and learn the road safety rules in each state.

Your health

Leaving with complete peace of mind also means getting the facts on your health.

  1. Get a check-up before you leave.
  2. Plan ahead if vaccines are recommended for your destination. Ask your travel insurer if they provide information on vaccines or safety precautions.
  3. If you take medication, make sure you bring enough. Carry it in labelled containers and bring a copy of your prescription with you.
  4. Make sure your travel insurance covers your whole trip in case of an accident or illness. Hospital costs in the U.S. are among the highest in the world, averaging US$8,000 a day.
  5. Make a list of emergency contacts and keep it in your wallet or luggage.

Your finances

Just like your health and your home, your finances deserve a bit of TLC before you take off.

  1. Let your credit card company know you'll be away.
  2. Set up pre-authorized payments for recurring bills such as hydro, TV and internet and make sure you have enough in your account to cover them. Monitor your accounts online from abroad.
  3. Set up a U.S. bank account and get a credit and debit card for your everyday expenses. You can open a bank account - This link will open in a new window. and apply for a credit card online - This link will open in a new window. with Desjardins Bank.
  4. Never carry a large amount of cash--just the bare minimum.
  5. If you cross the border with more than $10,000, report it to customs.
  6. If you plan on buying property in the U.S., make sure your lawyers and accountants have access to all the necessary documents.

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