That familiar fall chill in the air means the holidays are just around
the corner, but it also means it’s time to start thinking about
your trip down south. The life of a snowbird gives you the best of both
worlds — milder northern summers and warm southern winters. But
the lifestyle also comes with extra to-do items when it comes to home
maintenance and preparation. Master seasonal living with our Florida snowbird
checklist to keep both of your homes safe and comfortable.
Leaving Your Northern Home
Once the mercury starts dropping, you’re ready to head for warmer
weather, but your northern home needs some attention first. Think of it
as winterizing your home to prevent damage while you’re away. These
tasks can take some time, so start at least a few weeks before you plan to leave.
Let’s start outside of your home. Move any fragile or loose outdoor
items in storage before you leave. This includes fountains, breakable
garden decorations, grills and patio furniture that might rust or blow
away. Clean up your landscaping before you leave.
Clear your gutters so melting snow can flow freely to prevent ice dams
on your roof. While you’re outside, check weather-stripping and
inspect exterior doors and windows to look for gaps. These openings allow
water, pests and cold air to enter your home. Fix any issues before heading south.
Take care of these indoor household tasks before packing up for the winter:
- Shut off your water: A burst pipe causes major damage. Leaving your water
on while you are gone increases the risk of pipe damage. Shut off the
water at the main valve of your home. Drain the pipes, or hire a plumber
to handle the draining process for you.
- Service your HVAC system: Hire a local HVAC company to perform seasonal
maintenance on your heating system to ensure it works properly. Change
the filter before leaving to allow the furnace to perform well all winter.
Turn your heat down, not off: It may seem silly to pay for heating when
you’re not even home, but keeping the heat running is another way
to keep your pipes intact while you are gone. Lower the thermostat, but
keep your heat set to
at least 55 degrees to prevent freezing within the walls.
- Turn down or shut off your water heater: Your water heater doesn’t
need to run all winter when no one is there to use hot water. Reduce the
temperature as low as it will go, or turn off the breaker that controls
the water heater.
- Shut off utilities: You need your heat and power to stay on while you travel
for the winter, but other services can be suspended with no issue. Check
with your internet and cable provider to determine if you can shut off
the service for the winter without a penalty. Some companies offer a vacation
status option that lets you temporarily pause the service without any
fees or penalties.
- Unplug appliances: Pull the plug on TVs, microwaves and similar appliances
that don’t need to run while you’re gone. These appliances
often still pull electricity even when not in use, so unplugging them
saves you money. You also prevent damage to those items should a power
surge or lightning hit your home.
- Open appliance doors: Your dishwasher and washing machine in particular
need to stay open while you’re gone. This allows the appliances
to dry out and prevents mold growth.
- Close up your fireplace: An open fireplace flue offers an entry point into
your home for all sorts of critters. Close the flue and check the covering
on your chimney before heading out of town. If your chimney doesn’t
have a covering, have one installed before the winter.
- Open interior doors: Leaving your interior doors open — such as the
doors to cupboards, rooms, closets, etc.— helps the air circulate
while you’re gone.
You also have some personal tasks to handle before you can head south.
Take care of these tasks before leaving:
- Make a plan for your mail: Set up mail forwarding for the winter period
so you can still get your mail. Another option is to have someone up north
get your mail for you. Make sure this person knows about any important
mail you might receive to ensure it gets handled properly.
- Stop paper delivery: A pile of unread newspapers is a sure sign to burglars
that no one is home. Suspend paper delivery for the duration of your southern
- Forward calls: If your northern home has a landline phone, contact your
phone service provider to have calls to that number forwarded to your
cell phone. Another option is to use a voicemail system that allows you
to access your messages remotely. If you let your calls ring through to
your northern home, turn off the ringer so potential thieves don’t
hear your phone ringing off the hook. Never change your message to indicate
you are gone for the winter.
- Contact financial institutions: Call your bank and credit card companies
to let them know you are heading to Florida for the winter. This can prevent
your account from being flagged for suspicious activity in another state.
You can also add a temporary mailing address for the winter months, as
financial documents may not be forwarded with your mail when it is addressed
to your northern address.
- Call your insurance agent: Your long winter away from your primary residence
may affect your homeowners’ insurance coverage. You may need a special
vacant home policy, or you may need to arrange for regular checks on your
home to ensure continued coverage in your absence.
- Plan for bills: You won’t be home to receive your normal bills, and
sometimes forwarded mail gets misdirected. If possible, pay ahead on your
bills before you go so you don’t have to worry about a missed payment.
Another option is to set up automatic payments for your monthly bills.
- Ask medication questions: Medical insurance can get tricky when you travel
out of state. If you take a regular prescription medication, verify that
a Florida pharmacy can fill that specific type of drug. Some insurance
plans require an in-state prescription for certain types of medication.
Bring along any relevant paperwork, including a copy of your prescription
and your health care insurance card to make refilling your medications easier.
- Arrange for houseplant care: If your northern home includes house plants,
arrange for someone to water them regularly. You can also take the plants
with you if you’re driving to Florida.
- Decide on pet care: If you’re lucky, you can take your furry family
member south with you. Some communities in Florida, however, do not allow
pets or enforce breed or size restrictions on pets. If your pet doesn’t
meet the requirements, make arrangements for care while you’re gone.
When possible, ask a friend or family member to take in your pet. If this
isn’t an option, choose a boarding facility that allows for plenty
of time outside the pen.
The security of your home while you are away is also very important. Thieves
target homes that are obviously vacant for extended periods of time, so
you want to give the illusion of being at home even if you aren’t.
Here are some ways to keep your home secure when you are hundreds or thousands
of miles away:
- File with the police: Many police departments offer a form that lets you
alert them of your travel plans. This allows the police to contact you
should anything happen to your home.
- Inform neighbors: Enlist the help of your northern neighbors to keep an
eye on your home while you’re gone. Let them know when you’ll
be gone and whether or not you expect anyone to stop by during that time.
Ask them to contact you if they notice anything unusual or if any problems occur.
- Don’t make your departure public knowledge: Posting about your snowbird
plans on social media or making the news public knowledge can alert potential
burglars of the perfect opportunity to visit your home.
- Use timers: A completely dark house for several weeks or months straight
is a signal that no one is home. Attach lamps to timers set to turn on
and off and various times to make your home look like someone is there.
Alter the days and times certain lights come on so the on-and-off cycle
isn’t the exact same every day.
- Hire snow removal: If your northern home is located in a snowy area, hire
a company to handle the shoveling while you’re gone. Most areas
have shoveling requirements for sidewalks, which can result in a fine
of not handled. Hiring out the task while you’re gone also makes
your home look lived in.
- Secure your valuables: You won’t likely pack up all of your prized
possessions for the journey south. Instead, secure them in a safe or pay
for a safe deposit box at your bank to store your jewelry and other valuable
items while you’re gone.
- Install a security system: If you don’t have one already, consider
installing a security system in your northern home. A monitored alarm
system gives you a hands-off way to keep your home secure. Another option
is to have a security camera installed with remote access so you can see
what’s happening at your house. If you already have a system installed,
be sure to arm the system before you leave.
- Monitor temperatures: A failing HVAC system causes temperatures to quickly
plummet below freezing in a northern home. Use a system that monitors
temperatures to determine if your furnace goes out while you are gone.
- Moisture sensors: Another safeguard is to use moisture sensors to alert
you instantly to a leak in your home. Many monitoring systems integrate
temperature and moisture sensors in one unit.
With your home secure, it’s time to focus on cleaning up and packing
for your trip south. Don’t leave any dirty laundry in your northern
home. Dirty laundry, especially if it is damp, gets musty and may even
mildew. Wash bedding before you leave, too.
Clean all surfaces in your home to remove any traces of food, dirt or other
debris that might attract pests or cause mold to form. Dispose of all
trash before heading south.
Your refrigerator also needs a thorough cleaning. Dispose of anything that
will expire before you return from Florida. The shelves will likely look
bare by the time you depart, but that’s what you want. Wipe down
the surfaces to remove any food drips or chunks. You can also completely
empty the refrigerator, clean it well and shut it off. If you go this
route, prop open the refrigerator and freezer doors to prevent mildew growth.
Open the doors on appliances that could potentially grow mold or get smelly
while you’re gone. This includes your dishwasher and your washing machine.
When packing for your winter down south, consider what is available in
your southern home. Is the kitchen fully stocked? Do you have lines there
already? Do you have a selection of clothing that stays there year-round?
These questions help you pack as lightly as possible, taking only what
you need for the trek.
Paperwork is an important aspect of packing and preparing for your trip.
Handle the following paperwork tasks before leaving:
- Check credit and debit card expiration dates to ensure they don’t
expire while you’re gone.
Take tax documents if you won’t return north until after April 15th.
- Pack any relevant health care records and medication documentation.
- Bring your IDs, including your passport if your winter plans include any
travel outside the country.
If you can’t pare down your packing list enough, consider shipping
some of the items to your southern home. Another option is to buy a duplicate
of the item once you arrive in Florida that you just keep there.
Snowbirds who drive need to add car maintenance to the to-do list. Schedule
your vehicle for an oil change and inspection. Check tire pressure. Verify
that you have a copy of your vehicle’s registration and your car
What to Do When You Get to Your Southern Home
Before you connect with your fellow snowbirds and enjoy the Florida sunshine,
take some time to open up shop in your Florida home. After sitting vacant
all summer, your home needs some freshening and checkups to ensure everything
is running properly and safely.
Let’s start with the HVAC system. Even during the winter months in
Florida you’ll likely need your air conditioning on a regular basis.
If you left your air conditioning running all summer, your home should
be comfortable and free of musty, moldy conditions. A Wi-Fi thermostat
lets you monitor and control the air conditioning system while you’re
away. Use this remote system to adjust your thermostat to a lower temperature
just before you arrive so you can walk into a perfectly cooled home.
Once you arrive, perform a few maintenance tasks to the HVAC system. Those
tasks should include:
- Schedule a maintenance call: A yearly HVAC system inspection helps identify
problems early and make certain the system is running properly. Schedule
your maintenance call before you arrive in Florida to ensure you don’t
have to wait too long.
- Filter change: Your HVAC system worked all summer on the same filter. It’s
time to put in a fresh, new filter to maximize airflow through the unit.
The new filter also helps keep the air cleaner in your southern home.
Continue changing your filter each month during your stay in sunny Florida.
- Inspect the system: Take a quick look around the outdoor air conditioning
unit to look for signs of damage or obstructions. Get rid of any leaves
or debris around the unit, and trim back branches or plants that grew
close to it.
- Check the thermostat batteries: A fresh set of batteries in your thermostat
helps the box run efficiently.
- Test the system: If the system isn’t already running, start up the
air conditioning unit to verify it works. If the system doesn’t
work or doesn’t produce cool air, check the thermostat to ensure
it is turned to the cool setting with the fan in the auto position. Next,
check your circuit breaker or fuse box to check for power source problems.
If these solutions don’t fix the problem, call Del-Air to identify
and repair the problem for you.
Now that your air conditioning system is comfortably and efficiently running,
you can focus on your other Florida arrival tasks. That list of tasks includes:
- Notify management company of your arrival: If you live in a condo or gated
community, let security and the property management company know you are
back in Florida. Alert your southern neighbors so they know they can ease
up on the neighborhood watch routine.
- Turn on your water: Head to the main valve of your Florida home to turn
on your water supply. Test all faucets in your home, and watch for leaks.
- Do a quick inspection: It’s been a while since you’ve been
in your southern home. Do a walk-through to check for anything that looks
out of place and to identify potential problems. Address those concerns
- Freshen up your home: If you cleaned up and prepped your southern home
properly at the end of the last winter, you shouldn’t need to do
too much cleaning. Wipe down all kitchen surfaces. You may want to launder
your sheets and towels so they smell fresh.
- Plug in appliances: Go through your home to plug in everything you unplugged
last winter. Replace batteries in any battery-operated items. If you unplugged
your refrigerator, set it to the appropriate temperature and wait for
it to get cold before filling it with perishable food items.
- Test your smoke alarm: Put fresh batteries in your smoke alarm. Test the
system to ensure it is working properly.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector: If you don’t already have one
in your Florida home, install a carbon monoxide detector to improve your safety.
Security is also an issue. Even if you’re in a gated community, it’s
important to ensure the safety of your home. A security camera is an easy
way to see who is at your door and to monitor activities taking place
outside your home.
If you have a second vehicle you keep at your Florida home, do a maintenance
check on it. A local mechanic can give the car a quick inspection to ensure
everything is working properly and the vehicle is safe to drive.
With everything up and running smoothly, it’s time to knock on your
neighbors’ doors and start enjoying the Florida winter.
Leaving Your Southern Home for the Summer
Fast forward a few months — your time in Florida is rapidly coming
to an end. To keep your Florida home in tiptop shape, it’s important
to handle a few housekeeping items before you leave. Many of the tasks
are similar to those you performed on your northern home before heading
south, with some slight differences.
Before leaving, hire a home watch service to check in on your southern
home regularly. This is particularly helpful if you only spend a few months
in Florida. Your southern home will sit vacant for many months, and having
someone check in on it once or twice per month ensures it stays secure,
and problems don’t become catastrophes.
If your Florida winter home features any outdoor living space, pack up
your patio furniture and other loose items. This keeps them from blowing
away and potentially causing damage should a hurricane or severe storm
hit the area. Check your hurricane shutters, if your home has them, to
ensure they are working properly.
Plan for landscaping maintenance while you are gone as well if you are
responsible for your lawn and plants. Hiring a landscaper to come regularly
to prune plants, water your landscaping and mow your lawn keeps your home
looking nice even when you’re not around. If you have an irrigation
system, have it tested before leaving to ensure it works properly.
Do an overall inspection of your home to look for any potential problems
before leaving, such as leaky pipes or cracked windows. Repair those issues
so they don’t grow or cause serious damage while you’re back north.
Prep your HVAC system for the summer months. Bump up your thermostat to
around 85 degrees so the air conditioning system still runs, but not as
much. Keeping the system running prevents mold growth. Put in a fresh
filter before you leave. Consider scheduling another seasonal maintenance
appointment with Del-Air if you’ve been in Florida for several months.
This ensures the system is ready to go for the long and hot summer season.
Inside your home, you have several to-do items to complete. Those tasks include:
- Close blinds: Put all of your shades and blinds in the closed position
while you are gone. This prevents sun damage to your interior and keeps
curious passersby from seeing inside your home.
- Clean your kitchen thoroughly: It will likely be several months before
you return south, so don’t leave anything perishable in your refrigerator
or any food remnants that might attract bugs. Clear out your pantry to
avoid a pest infestation. Wipe and clean all kitchen surfaces and appliances,
including small appliances like your toaster.
- Empty all trash cans: Carry all trash to the outdoor trash receptacle to
prevent pests and bad odors.
- Do a purge: If you spend a few months in Florida, you will likely accumulate
new things. Do a purge and declutter session before you leave in the spring.
When you come back next winter, you’ll arrive to a clean, organized home.
- Shut off your water: Since no one will be there for several months, it’s
a good idea to shut off your main water valve to prevent leaks.
- Cover toilets, sinks and drains with plastic cling wrap: Covering those
openings minimizes water evaporation in the trap, which in turn prevents
sewer gases from entering your home.
- Check all appliances to verify they are off: This is particularly important
for your stove or other appliances that generate heat. Unplug any electric
items that don’t need to run while you’re gone.
- Move furniture: Pushing furniture away from walls reduces the risk of mold
and mildew growth.
- Open interior doors: Leaving your interior room and closet doors open keeps
the air flowing through your southern home to minimize the potential for
mold and mildew.
- Lock all entrances: Manually lock your garage door from the inside before
you leave. If possible, disconnect the power source to the garage door
opener to prevent someone from accessing your home through the garage.
Secure sliding glass doors with security bars. Lock all dead bolts and
other locks on doors and windows.
- Engage temperature and moisture monitoring systems: The same type of moisture
and temperature monitoring systems you use in your northern home during
the winter work in your Florida home during the summer months. Use these
systems to find out immediately if water enters your home or the air conditioning fails.
- Arm your alarm: If your southern home has an alarm system installed, engage
it right before you leave.
If your Florida residence is a condo or a home in a gated community, let
the management company know when you are leaving and when you tentatively
plan to come back. The management company should also have a way to access
your residence should something go wrong while you are gone. Leave your
northern contact info with the office, and provide a local contact if possible.
Returning to Your Northern Home
If you wait long enough, you should see signs of spring by the time you
get back to your primary home up north. Before you sit back to enjoy the
sights and sounds of a northern spring, though, take some time to open
your home back up for living.
Get your northern home back up and running with these tips:
- End mail forwarding: If you didn’t already choose an end date for
having your mail forwarded to Florida, take care of this task now. This
ensures your mail gets to you in a timely manner.
- Schedule resumed services: If you shut off your cable, internet or other
services for the winter, call before you head back north to schedule the
services to resume. This ensures you return to all of the services you
are accustomed to having without a delay. Resume paper delivery and other
services you paused.
- Announce your arrival: Let your neighbors and the local police department
know you are home.
- Turn on your water: Open up the main water valve to get the water flowing
through your home. Check for signs of leaks or burst pipes when you first
start the water flow. Signs include water leaking from pipes, moisture
and lower than normal water pressure in faucets. If you shut off your
water heater, turn it back on or turn up the temperature setting.
- Crank up the heat: Since you lowered the heat to save energy, it’s
time to crank up the thermostat. While you’re at it, put in a new filter.
- Test smoke detectors: Pop in some fresh batteries, and give your smoke
detector a test to ensure you are properly protected.
- Use a carbon monoxide detector: Install a carbon monoxide detector to make
sure your home is safe. This is particularly important in colder winter
and spring times because you don’t have windows open. If you have
a carbon monoxide leak, the gas is highly concentrated inside your home
and can be deadly.
- Plug in gadgets: Now that you’re back home, you can plug in all of
those electronic devices you unplugged before leaving.
- Clean up your home: You prepped your home thoroughly before leaving, but
if you’ve been gone for months, you’ll want to do a quick
cleanup when you get home.
Special Tips for RV Travelers
Your snowbird travel list looks a little different if you spend your winters
in an RV. An RV gives you the freedom of checking out multiple warm-weather
locations, but you’ll have a few extra prep activities to tackle.
Before heading south in your RV, complete these tasks:
- Prepping your northern home: All of the same home prep tasks apply when
you winter in your RV. Go through the checklist to ensure your home is
prepared to withstand the winter without you there to maintain it.
- RV maintenance: Make sure your RV is road-ready long before you plan to
depart. Schedule a maintenance appointment to ensure the RV is in excellent
working order. RVs include many components to inspect, including the engine,
holding tanks, exterior lights, interior appliances and plumbing. Complete
any repairs necessary.
- Clean: Give your RV a thorough cleaning before your travel plans, especially
if it hasn’t been used for some time.
- Pack wisely: You have more space in an RV than you do in a car, but you
still want to pack wisely. Consider what you really need and how it will
fit into your RV.
- Prepare additional vehicle: If you plan to tow a vehicle behind the RV,
perform any necessary maintenance on that vehicle. Ensure your tow trailer
is properly installed and ready to go. Test all connections before your
planned departure date.
Checklist for Seasonal Living
Prepping for your snowbird escape isn’t as simple as packing a suitcase
and hitting the road, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or
complicated. Refer to this quick snowbird checklist so you don’t
forget the important prep tasks.
Before leaving your northern home, perform these tasks:
- Move outdoor items inside.
- Clean up your landscaping.
- Shut off your water.
- Service your HVAC system.
- Lower your thermostat.
- Turn off your water heater.
- Turn off your internet, cable and similar services.
- Unplug appliances.
- Close your fireplace flue.
- Set up mail forwarding.
- Suspend newspaper delivery.
- Forward calls made to your northern landline.
- Notify financial institutions and insurance agents.
- Pay bills or arrange for automatic payments.
- Address medication and medical issues.
- Arrange for houseplant care.
- Arrange for pet care.
- File a form with police to let them know you will be gone.
- Let your neighbors know about your travel plans.
- Set lights on timers.
- Hire a snow removal service.
- Secure valuable items.
- Install or set a security system.
- Monitor temperature and moisture levels remotely.
- Clean your home, laundry and kitchen thoroughly.
- Organize paperwork.
- Perform vehicle maintenance.
- Pack the essentials.
- Ship larger items to Florida.
Once you arrive at your Florida winter home, take care of these tasks:
- Schedule an HVAC maintenance appointment
- Change your HVAC filter.
- Test your HVAC system.
- Alert property management that you are in town.
- Turn water on, and check for leaks.
- Inspect your home to spot problems.
- Clean and freshen your home.
- Plug in appliances.
- Check smoke detectors and replace batteries.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- Install a security system or camera.
- Schedule maintenance on vehicles that stay in Florida year-round.
Once your time is winding down, don’t head back north until you do
- Hire a home watch service to monitor your Florida home during the summer.
- Pack up outdoor items for storage.
- Inspect hurricane shutters.
- Schedule landscape maintenance if you handle landscaping yourself.
- Have your irrigation system inspected and tested.
- Adjust your thermostat to a higher temperature.
- Replace your HVAC filter.
- Schedule seasonal HVAC maintenance before you leave.
- Close blinds.
- Clean your home thoroughly, including getting rid of food that could spoil.
- Remove trash.
- Purge unneeded items.
- Shut off your water.
- Cover toilets, sinks and floor drains with plastic cling wrap.
- Shut off and unplug appliances.
- Move furniture away from walls.
- Lock entrances.
- Engage moisture and temperature monitoring systems.
- Arm your alarm system.
- Notify the property manager that you are leaving and when you will be back.
- Alert neighbors of your departure.
Back at your northern residence, get ready for warmer weather with these tasks:
- Have mail sent to your northern address again.
- Resume any utilities and services you paused while you were gone.
- Let people know you are back.
- Turn on your water.
- Turn up the heat.
- Replace your HVAC filter and perform any necessary maintenance.
- Test smoke alarms and use carbon monoxide detectors.
- Plug in anything you unplugged before you left.
- Clean up and freshen your home.
If you spend your winters in your RV, complete these tasks:
- Perform necessary northern home winterizing before leaving.
- Perform an RV inspection and maintenance.
- Clean your RV.
- Pack your RV strategically to minimize weight and clutter.
- Prepare your vehicle for towing.
Feel Comfortable and Safe
Let Del-Air help you cross items off your southern home to-do list.
Contact us to schedule your seasonal HVAC maintenance, install a Nest thermostat
or service your HVAC system so you can enjoy the comforts of the snowbird
life without the headaches.