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Please share your snowbird budget with me!
Old 07-16-2020, 01:24 PM   #1
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Please share your snowbird budget with me!

DW and I are trying to develop our post-retirement budget, and would like your help as we try to estimate our expected snowbirding costs. I have tried to estimate “from the bottom up,” but I am sure there are hidden costs that I am not considering. (But I don’t know what I don’t know! ) I would be grateful if you could share your experiences with snowbirding costs with me.

I realize the answer to this question will vary widely with circumstances, but I believe the range of answers will provide valuable insight.

In our case, we would like to spend 4 or 5 mos. in a warm spot. I am envisioning a comfortable, but not totally upscale location. We are not settled on location, but perhaps in coastal Florida. I suspect we would be on the mainland (like, say, Sarasota on the Gulf side, or, say, on the mainland side of the Intracoastal Waterway on the Space Coast or Treasure Coast). We are not set on Fla., but just throwing those locations out there for some specificity.

Rental accommodations could be in a 1 or 2 BR apt., condo, or SFH. Not planning anything too luxurious. We like to cook, so we’d eat out maybe 2x a week dinner, 2x week lunch? We would drive our own car there and back from/to Wisconsin.

Activities are an important and variable budget item, I am sure. We plan to mostly hike, explore, stroll, rent a kayak once in a while, visit museums, beach-bum, snorkel, read.

I searched, but found surprisingly little info on this topic. I do recognize that my scenario is “underspecified,” but I hope I can from your experiences.

Thank you!!
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Old 07-16-2020, 02:46 PM   #2
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Everybody's snowbird location is going to have different costs for renting a place - you will find considerable variation even in the same town. Only thing I can recommend is looking at VRBO, Travelocity, etc. in a place that you've chosen to research. If you want a place this winter - start looking now.

If you like the beach, consider springing for a cottage or small condo on a barrier island, where you can walk to the beach, either a public beach, or a beach access which your building can use. That'll save you the cost of a public beach sticker for your car, as well as hunting for a parking place. These types of rentals are often taken a year in advance by people who stay there over and over. I have no idea if fear of COVID-19 will have made a difference along those lines.

On the Treasure Coast, where I live, figure your usual costs for groceries and eating out. Add 20% if you're used to flyover-country prices.

Make sure your health insurance is portable and will work in your chosen location.

The cost of the activities you mention should be quite reasonable, if not free in many cases.
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Old 07-16-2020, 03:14 PM   #3
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I suggest you peruse VRBO and AirBnB to get a good idea of the cost of rentals. It varies widely depending how far south you want to be, and how close to the beach you want to be. That will be your single biggest cost of snowbirding.

For one tiny data point:

We spent the month of February in Naples, 1.5 miles from the closest beach, with 2 more beaches only a little further away. It was a 3br, 3ba SFH with a private pool. The cost was just under $7k for the month. We got more house than we needed, because several friends said they would come down for part of the time. Their contributions brought our cost down to less than $5k.

We ate out far more than at home, probably averaging 1.5 meals a day, and at pricier places. If we were there alone, and for 4-5 months, I am sure this would have been cut in half, or more.

Other than that, our expenses were not much different than at home. We did have to pay to park at the beaches ($8/day).

Hope this helps. I know there are many folks here who snowbird yearly and for a longer time. They probably have better data.
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Old 07-16-2020, 04:10 PM   #4
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We own, so not really comparable. However, a couple friends rent and I think they pay ~$11-12k for 4 months (Jan-Apr) for 2-3 bdrm condo about 13 miles/27 min from Lido Key Beach and 15.5 miles/33 minutes from Siesta Key Beach.

Our other costs are comparable to summer at home in normal times in that we golf about the same and go out to dinner about the same.
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Old 07-16-2020, 06:03 PM   #5
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Consider Mexico. We spend 2 mos/year there. 85 degrees and sunny every day. Our rental is ocean front luxury on a beautiful sand beach, 2 BR, 2 BA, with large outdoor deck in a gated community, for $5,000/mo. All English speaking US/Canadian snowbirds. After rental costs, other expenses are much less than if staying home for the same period.
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Old 07-16-2020, 06:36 PM   #6
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We spend a month near Cancun at an all inclusive resort. Total cost is about $5,500. This includes unlimited food and drinks and round trip airfare from Seattle.
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Old 07-16-2020, 06:54 PM   #7
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I think this would be easier if you had a figure in your mind as to how much money would fit your budget. If you can throw out a number it would be easier to pick a location for a realistic budget.

These things vary so much as to location (state), proximity to water and other things.

AZ would most likely be a little cheaper then FL... Even cheaper would be someplace in the Southern Utah / Nevada/ AZ borders. We go to southern Utah. ie St George it's not Florida weather but sure beats MN weather. I have family in SLC which makes the area very appealing for snowbirding..

An advantage to renting is that you can do a leaner non Florida beach trip one year and a more ocean/sand trip the next year.

I never book more then 30 days ahead of leaving but some Florida people will tell you that booking has to be done many months in advance and you have to put money down and hope for the best.

An SGU budget in a private new condo/townhouse with 3 to 4 bedrooms most of them with heated pools and such would probably run anywhere from 2 to 2.5 K a month. This would include all utilities, wi-fi, cable and taxes. (wouldn't be any taxes on any rental over 30 days) Activities national park pass, Utah park pass and there you go.
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Old 07-16-2020, 06:58 PM   #8
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We have some frineds who winter at Myrtle Beach because it is very affordable at thtat time of year. Weather can vary from close to winter weather when they get a cold spell to "sweater" weather to shorts and t-shirt weather from what I understand.
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Old 07-16-2020, 08:07 PM   #9
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We spend a month near Cancun at an all inclusive resort. Total cost is about $5,500. This includes unlimited food and drinks and round trip airfare from Seattle.
DH and I would love to know the area 'near Cancun' you are talking about. We went for a week to an all-inclusive in Cancun last January. We've talked a lot about going back for a longer stay. I'd appreciate any info you can give us. We are mid-westerners who would like to skip some of the snow and ice that we typically get in January and/or February.

Thanks for any info you can share.
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Old 07-17-2020, 04:31 AM   #10
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We purchased a beach condo in Costa Rica to snowbird once we retire, which we rent it out in the meantime. Typical rentals for 2BR/2 Bath in our area (Tamarindo, CR) run $1500-$1800/ week, with a discount for longer stays. Condos and houses further from the beach are less expensive. For us, the cost will be around $570 each for r/t airfare and airport shuttle. Since everything in town is in walking distance, we don't need a car. Restaurant and food prices are equivalent to US. With all in utilities included, I'd estimate $6400/month including dining out and cervezas on the beach. This is less than our friends pay in Naples FL, where they need to drive to the beach. Fortunately, Costa Rica has contained Covid exceptionally well, so we are looking forward to visiting this winter!
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Old 07-17-2020, 05:15 AM   #11
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We have some frineds who winter at Myrtle Beach because it is very affordable at thtat time of year. Weather can vary from close to winter weather when they get a cold spell to "sweater" weather to shorts and t-shirt weather from what I understand.
We have rented 2 BR (pet friendly) ocean front condos at MB for ~$1200/month. Weather is as PB described, mostly pleasant with a few cold snaps.

Numerous flags from Canada and many northern states hang from the balconies. We vacay there not for the weather, but to stay at a huge, uncrowded beach that is very sparsely populated. And yeah, all costs are very reasonable.
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Old 07-17-2020, 05:29 AM   #12
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We rent a SFH 3 br, 2 ba on a canal in Port Charlotte Florida for January and February. We pay $3000/mo. The average for that area is closer to $3500. If you're looking for warm weather in Florida I would be south of Tampa.
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Old 07-17-2020, 07:21 AM   #13
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We spend a month near Cancun at an all inclusive resort. Total cost is about $5,500. This includes unlimited food and drinks and round trip airfare from Seattle.
Would like to hear more about that...didn't know the all inclusives offered such long term deals?
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Old 07-17-2020, 07:25 AM   #14
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We rent a SFH 3 br, 2 ba on a canal in Port Charlotte Florida for January and February. We pay $3000/mo. The average for that area is closer to $3500. If you're looking for warm weather in Florida I would be south of Tampa.
+1 Tampa seems to be the warm weather line.... even with a cold spell frosts south of Tampa are rare.
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Old 07-17-2020, 08:36 AM   #15
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I would like to thank everyone who has responded so far. I appreciate your input.

As I mentioned, I attempted to guesstimate the additional costs “from the bottom up.” I chose
Rent = $2400/month * 5 months = $12000
Travel to/from plus additional travel at location = $3000
Dining out = $2100 (I just doubled what I might normally spend eating out.)
Activities = $1600
(I didn’t include groceries in the budget, as I am pretty sure that I will eat food regardless of where I am! )

Total = $18.7k

As I said, I don’t know what I don’t know, so I may be missing some spending categories. My medical and dental insurance will cover emergencies out of state, but not routine care. I am simply planning to go to appointments before and after the trip, and hope for the best.

We won’t be going this winter. I am planning this to be my last winter w*rking! Budget exercise is to help me avoid OMY Syndrome.

Thanks for the thoughts so far.
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Old 07-17-2020, 08:43 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Out-to-Lunch View Post
I would like to thank everyone who has responded so far. I appreciate your input.

As I mentioned, I attempted to guesstimate the additional costs “from the bottom up.” I chose
Rent = $2400/month * 5 months = $12000
Travel to/from plus additional travel at location = $3000
Dining out = $2100 (I just doubled what I might normally spend eating out.)
Activities = $1600
(I didn’t include groceries in the budget, as I am pretty sure that I will eat food regardless of where I am! )

Total = $18.7k

As I said, I don’t know what I don’t know, so I may be missing some spending categories. My medical and dental insurance will cover emergencies out of state, but not routine care. I am simply planning to go to appointments before and after the trip, and hope for the best.

We won’t be going this winter. I am planning this to be my last winter w*rking! Budget exercise is to help me avoid OMY Syndrome.

Thanks for the thoughts so far.
Your travel might be a tad high. We go 1500 miles and 2 nights each way. That generally costs around 500 plus gas. You would normally travel a little at home right so maybe use your monthly gas bill for the majority of the time.

You might be a bit low on the rent side. That 5 month timeframes puts you firmly into spring break area which can drive up the costs.
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Old 07-17-2020, 09:48 AM   #17
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Exactly what I was thinking... rent might be a bit low (depending on where you are going) and travel looked high.

For us travel is 1,500 miles/20 mpg * $2/gal = $150 for gas plus one or two nights in a hotel at $125-150 or so a night.... so less than $500.
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Old 07-17-2020, 10:03 AM   #18
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We have been to Mexico many times on shorter trips. Puerto Vallarta, Cancun/Puerto Morales/Playa. Independent and AI's.

Last winter we spent 8 weeks bouncing around Mexico on our our. Prior winters were spent in SE Asia, Oz, or Central America.

We really enjoyed our Mexican travel. The point was to have a good look around. We are getting tired of the 23 hours that it takes to get to Thailand or Oz. We flew into Cancun, spent time int he area, then flew to Huatulco and made our way up the Pacific coast. Really enjoyed Zihuatanejo. We easily spend a month there beside Playa La Ropa. We plan to do this again as we found many interesting and enjoyable places. Accommodation....we spent anywhere from $35 CAD to $250. CAD per night.
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Old 07-17-2020, 10:09 AM   #19
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You should be able to have some small savings on your home expenses, lower utilities and can shut off some services like garbage pickup or streaming/cable type services. You might also stop internet unless you need it to keep tabs on the home. If you have more than one vehicle, you can get savings on the ones left back home if you leave them inside garaged and notify your insurance they are not being driven. These savings are not going to offset your snowbirding expenses, but they can help a little in the overall budget.
I agree that you are best to stay south of I-4 (Tampa-Orlando-Jacksonville) to ensure the warmest temps. Further south is warmer, but also more cost. Just like closer to the beach is more than inland.
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Old 07-17-2020, 02:39 PM   #20
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We rent a 2B2B SFH in Key Largo, FL that includes access to the HOA private beach and marina for January - April. Rent is $3,100 per month plus tax is 12.5% and there is a one time $100 cleaning fee. Our grocery, dining out, and entertainment costs are not significantly different from what we spend at home so we don't budget anything extra. We are "living" not "vacationing". It's not like when we were working and would go to a Caribbean island for 2 weeks; eating out every meal and doing excursions most days. We drive to/from WI. I haven't tracked it but gas, meals and 2 nights in hotels is probably ~$500 each way.

As important as cost in picking a location is the weather and access to activities you want. Many of our WI friends stay in the FL panhandle for the golf, beaches, extensive entertainment options, and affordable condos. We prefer to stay in the Keys where the weather is warmer and much more consistent. We've thought of trying Arizona but we love water activities. We've also thought of trying Texas but one year I monitored their weather and it was much more consistent with the FL panhandle than the Keys.

Our health insurance also only covers emergency services outside of WI. In our 4 years of snow birding, we have done what you are planning to do. The urgent care facilities in our area post the prices for their services on their websites should you need them. We haven't had to use them yet. I have used the virtual visit option offered through my insurance once. However, the coronavirus makes me nervous from both a health and a financial perspective. So I plan to investigate what options we might have to reduce our financial risk if one us was hospitalized in FL this winter.
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