Question for Snowbirds

I live in NW Montana and love the four seasons, including winter, but as I look at retirement I would like to cut the winter months in half by spending 3 months a year in a warm beachy area. Why you ask? Plowing the 1/4 mile driveway 3 days a week and shoveling the sidewalk in -10 degree weather gets old after a while.

While living 3 months a year in Maui would be great, I can’t afford to live there, so I am thinking about the gulf coast somewhere. The western gulf isn’t my cup of tea so I am ruling out Texas and Louisiana for now. I like nice beaches and clean, warm, clear-ish water. I thinks the west coast of Florida or the panhandle area might would work well, but I can’t afford the Florida Keys.

I have started looking at long term rentals and fractionals, but fractionals don’t really work because I want 3 months from mid-January to mid-April every year, and rentals near the beach in Florida can be $500 to $1000 a week, which is a lot of money, so how do snowbirds do it?

Where can I spend the same 3 months a year in a quiet area near a nice beach on the gulf coast at a reasonable price?

Any suggestions?

Cuba? :smiley:

I spent 50 years visiting family in Florida who were surrounded by snowbirds. What I observed was a lot of people living far from the beach, in very stark housing. An uncle and aunt lived in what is called a ‘Park Model’ mobile home. Not much bigger than a medium RV, but it never moved. They can be had for thousands or tens of thousands.

Of course, during a hurricane warning, they had to evacuate because when hit by a storm, they would blow away.

My aunt and uncle are snowbirds (from Canada). They live in a trailer in a snowbird trailer park in Yuma, Arizona. They golf a lot and don’t care about beaches.

That sounds just like my aunt and uncle, too. I’m thinking of San Diego for my snowbirding needs; we really liked it when we visited last summer. I think we will probably do an apartment rental and drive our own car down there so we don’t have to live right on the beach.

Consider Mexico or one of the Caribbean countries.

I think your requirement for beaches is going to be responsible for the majority of your increased cost.

Yeah, they drive their car down as well.

I ain’t a snowbird, but I do live in central Fl :smiley: (I had the A/C on today) All my neighbors are retired. (snowbirds and full time residents)

I live in a mobile home (14x66 3 bed 2 bth) I own my own land (60’x120’). My area could be called a mobile home park, but there are no fee’s, due’s, HOA etc.
So it’s just like owning a real house in suburbia.

When I bought the place in 1999 (with a older trailer on it) it was a good bit less than $20k. Taxes run $300/yr

It ain’t on the beach, it’s 90 mi to Orlando, 70 mi to Sarasota.

Bottom line, cheap, SAFE, warm, quiet!!

If you bought a place like this it would be here for ya when ever you drop in.
Lots of local services are used to snow birds so stopping and starting news papers/cable etc is no prob.

Are you sure that the Keys are out of your price range? Not everything is expensive as Key West.

I have a few friends who own what is effectively a mobile home down in the Keys, and they are there one or two weekends a year. They rent it out sometimes to help make up costs. Lots of people like to spend time down there, so it isn’t too difficult to find renters.

I wish I knew where I could find these kinds of properties. When I Google “rental properties in Florida” I only see high end properties well beyond my price range.

I’ll try to remember to ask one at the office Monday, to see if he has any suggestions. It may not be right on a beach, but it’s likely to be a golf cart ride away. And it’s likely to be very small town-ish (which works for your quiet requirement), but a short car ride into civilization.
Related…lots of people retire to the Naples area, for many of the reasons you mention. That’s west coast of Florida, complete with nice beaches, quiet living, and lower cost of living than the east coast.

We’re thinking about retirement, and one thing we are discussing is whether buying an RV or 5th Wheel would be better for us than renting a house or condo for a few months during winter. Our kids and grandkids are spread around the US so being able to visit them would be nice.

We now live in a tourist area (NW Montana) and I see lots of RVs and 5th Wheels during the summer, mainly Canadians who come across the border for a relatively inexpensive vacation.

So what are the advantages of one over the other?


  1. Easier to drive (you’re not towing something behind you unless you want to take a long a boat or car with you)
  2. More comfortable during the trip (you can wander around the RV and make lunch while it is in motion)
  3. No need to detach something if you want to drive somewhere

5th Wheel:

  1. Cheaper to operate (my full size truck gets much better gas mileage than any RV would)
  2. You can disconnect the trailer and you have a reasonable vehicle to drive into town
  3. Cheaper to buy (RVs are pricey compared to a almost any trailer you find)

So why do people typically choose one over the other?

My inlaws are snowbirds most years, they own a trailer in Texas where they spend winters close to their daughter and youngest grandchildren.

They also spent a few years traveling with a 5th wheel which they choose mainly due to your point 2. They almost went with a motorhome just due to the licensing requirements here. To drive the 5th wheel they needed an A class license (tractor trailer driver) and had to retest every year. They decided it was worth it and initally my MIL was kind of tickled to be in the classes but the yearly medical and license renewal got to be too much of a hassle so they sold the 5th wheel.

If you’re going that point don’t buy new. Find someone like my inlaws who always buy new and change their mind after 18-24 months. Basically a brand new unit with 20% off the price.

Goto sites like:

First thing: You do NOT want to be wandering around inside of a motor home while it’s moving down the highway. It’s a recipe for injury or death. A motor home large enough to live comfortably in means you’ll be towing a car behind you. Disconnecting an RV every time you want to go somewhere is a royal PITA, and a large one is not user-friendly in an urban environment, so staying somewhere for any length of time will require a small car (something that can be towed with all four wheels on the ground, preferably).

For much less money than a comparable length RV, a 5th wheel will generally give you much more living room. Most of the big ones have multiple slide-outs that turn the inside into an apartment-sized living space. Some have king-size beds and a bedroom you can actually stand up in (cheaper ones have lower ceilings). The downside is that if you don’t have at least a 3/4 ton truck with a big diesel and auto tranny, you’re not going to be able to tow the big bastards. There are also 5th wheel toy-haulers. Some have nice living quarters in the front, and the back is a hauling/parking garage for ATVs, golf carts, motorcycles, etc. The large, comfortable ones will likely require a 1-ton truck with a Dura-Max diesel or equivalent. Between the truck cost and trailer cost, you’re really not going to save a hell of a lot of money over a large class ‘A’ motor home.

There are also lots of sites specifically aimed at snowbirds.

Just recently I read an article about the best places to retire - Florida was on the list, but the city was not your usual culprit - they listed St. Petersburg, Florida. Here’s the article I read. That might still be too pricey, but we gotta think outside the box here. :slight_smile:

We have friends who retired to St. Pete last year. They seem to like it, but they travel a lot.

This is our first year as “permanent Snowbirds” although we have spent several years coming to Florida from Ontario. We purchased in a Resident Owned park because the fees are so much lower, we have a BOD and can control our costs, and there is no chance of the property being sold and told that we have to move our unit out. We are south of Orlando and the weather is fine. cool enough for those of used to freezing all winter yet warm enough to golf or do any oth the zillions of things that Florida offers. I’ve been told that the Panhandle is too cold and not very enjoyable. but I haven’t been there so. but Central Florida is very affordable , everyone is nice and these parks are pretty safe and secure. Price is a big factor and there is such a range that you can find something to suit your budget. Rent first and look around. We chose our place because we have friends from Canada here who had rented at few different parks and settled here. come on down, the weathers fine. Cheers