There are many ways for Canadian snowbirds to experience the warmth and beauty of the US in the winter, from buying or renting a condo, or purchasing a timeshare. But the option with the greatest flexibility is getting behind the wheel of an RV, says Chris Mahony, executive director of Go RVing Canada.
“The question we get is why do snowbirds prefer RVing as opposed to investing in a condo or second home? What we’ve found is that they want to be by the friends they met at the campground or resort. It’s the active, friendly lifestyle that draws people to RVing,” said Mahony. “Condos can be sleepy communities. Canadian snowbirds often want more action, entertainment and social opportunities that a campground or RV resort can provide. It really is a community feeling when you RV.”
“Whether you are on top of the mountain or parked near the ocean-front, you always feel like you’re going back home at the end of the day. You don’t have to leave important things behind like you might have to do with luggage restrictions on planes or other forms of travel. You also have incredible freedom and flexibility in an RV,” he said.
To snowbirds, renting or buying an RV to travel to the US is ideal because they feel the journey is just as important as the end destination. There are many things to see along the way, including historical sites, museums, national and state parks and other scenic areas. Not only do RV users get to experience all of these things along the way, they do so in a cost-effective manner, according to Mahony.
“It is a much more affordable way to travel. Your RV becomes your hotel, your restaurant, and your air-fare all in one. Owning an RV means that you not only get to travel to the US in the winter but you get to use it in Canada in the summer,” he said. “You can pick up and go whenever you feel like it, and are not constrained to one location for the season. So it becomes a year-round investment and travel opportunity.”
If owning an RV isn’t an option financially, there are also many companies that rent the vehicles both in Canada and the US. Another benefit of renting is that it cuts down on travel time as you can fly to your destination rather than driving all of the way.
“You get the benefit of adventure, flexibility, comforts, community but just in smaller doses. Renting allows snowbirds who may eventually buy to test out certain parks before committing to a certain area,” said Mahony.
If you are trying to decide whether to buy or rent, you have to factor in how much you are going to use the vehicle. If you are only planning on using the RV for a week or two a year, renting is the way to go, according to Mahony. However, if you are going to use it for several weeks or more, buying may make more financial sense.
There are also many options on where RV users decide to stay the night.
“We see a real evolution of Canadian snowbirds who RV. They start out sightseeing and traveling through different areas and often staying at campgrounds for a couple nights here and there. The RV itself is used as their base camp for their vacation, whether they want to use it at a single campground or move from park to park,” said Mahony. “Oftentimes, Canadian snowbirds will travel between different parks to get a feel for different areas. Eventually, however, they will find campgrounds or RV resorts that they especially like, and if they befriend other snowbirds there, as often happens, they will likely go back to the same park again and again. This is also how many snowbirds make the transition from traveling in an RV to investing in a park model.”
Once Canadian snowbirds have seen what they want to see or checked destinations off the list, if they feel they will simply go back to the same resort each winter, they may opt to invest in a park model because it provides more space and more residential type amenities Mahony said.
If you’re planning an RV trip, you can visit GoRVing.ca, which has a trip planner tool that allows you to plug in your destination and it gives you all the campgrounds, RV dealerships and popular RV destinations along your route.
To drive an RV south of the border, Canadians just need a regular driver’s license, unless they are driving a larger Class A with air brakes or looking to tow another vehicle behind it. In both those cases there is a special classification for driver’s license.
Canadians traveling to the US via RV should also make themselves aware of US driving laws and make sure their vehicle is in good working order, Mahony said.