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Becoming a Snowbird: myth or reality

January 1st, 2014 ernie Posted in Snow Birds 2 Comments »

Becoming a SnowbirdMany people in the northern part of North America dream about becoming a Snowbird when they retire. The fact of the matter is that the majority of these people do not follow through with heading south when the winter arrives.

27% of not yet retired North Americans report that they expect to become snowbirds once they retire. The definition of a snowbird is someone who regularly is going somewhere warm for the winter. In actual fact, only 16% of North Americans actually follow through and become snowbirds.

Becoming a Snowbird

It appears that both men and women are almost equally interested in becoming snowbirds. And over one third of North American pre-retired couples have not talked about what they want to do when they retire with their spouse or partners.

First of all it is very important to discuss your expectations and plans for retirement years with your spouse or partner. This can be a particularly stressful time for some couples who are not used to spending a lot of time together. Once they retire they will be spending 100% of their time with each other. Discussing your plans to become snowbirds or to travel in general is very important.

Since many people do not really know what they were want to do in retirement, the best plan of action is to begin saving for retirement and make sure that they have sufficient funds available to allow them to do whatever they would prefer.

Traveling south to keep warm in the winter, traveling to other countries or staying at home all requires that you have the quality of life that you prefer. Plan now and save for retirement.

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Fairfield Inn, Las Cruces, New Mexico

March 26th, 2013 ernie Posted in Snow Birds No Comments »

Fairfield Inn, Las Cruces, New MexicoWe recently stayed at the Fairfield Inn in Las Cruces New Mexico on our way to California for a three month stay in Palm Springs, California. We have cruised across Texas where the speed limits are 80 miles an hour and were looking for a good place to stay for the night. We decided to try the Farifield Inn for a change.  They are part of the Marriott chain and we enjoy the Marriott hotels so we thought we would try one of their other chains of hotels.

Fairfield Inn – Marriott

The WiFi did not work well. It was slow and unpredictable and pages took a very long time to loan. I used the internet a great deal while traveling and found it totally unsatisfactory. Breakfast was ok. They provide a cold breakfast in the same way that many of their competitors do. It met our needs but was nothing to write home about.

The rooms were clean and comfortable and if you are just stopping for the night, then they meet this need very well. Prices were competitive and for what we were looking for, there was not problem. We went next door to a restaurant called the Unno restaurant, for a couple of beers and something to eat. On a scale of 1 to 10, where a Texas Roadhouse is an 8, this restaurant was around a 5. Met our needs, but not a place I would go back to.

In fact, having stayed in this area. I do not think I will be returning to this particular hotel or to even this chain of hotels. There are better choices at the same prices.

More about locations in New Mexico, click here. Click here for Snow bird articles and posts.

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Rental Condos for Snow Birds

March 7th, 2013 ernie Posted in Snow Birds No Comments »

Rental Condos for Snow BirdsMany people living in the northern US and also in Canada, head south every year to spend the winter months in a warmer climate in the southern US, Mexico and the Caribbean islands. These are the snow birds and there are literally millions of people on the move every winter heading south by airline and driving by car.They book many Rental Condos for Snow Birds

They bring many dollars to economies in the south and they literally transform some cities and towns from sleepy environments to busy places with the restaurants filled and hotels, motels, condos and homes rented for the season.

Rental Condos for Snow Birds

Having been one of these snow birds for many years, we have learned that there are some basic things to take into consideration when you are booking trips and planning to be away for several weeks or months.

Basic Things you Need to Take

Every person should make a checklist of what they want to bring with them. Among the most important items that you must have are your passport, your money, all of your other identification and a place to stay when you arrive wherever you are going.

This may seem pretty elementary, but you would be surprised at how many people forget these simple things when they travel. All of the other stuff can be replaced at some cost which is frustrating but these are minor issues compared to passports and identification items.

Rental Condos for Snow Birds – Staying a Condo

We have stayed in quite a few condos over the years and most have been well equipped and they have been reasonably clean. It is difficult to tell just how clean and how well equipped from pictures. If you can visit the place ahead of time do so to confirm what is there and how clean it is.

Several couples have literally spent the first two days cleaning the carpets and all of the linens and cutlery to get it somewhat clean that they could be satisfied. While this is no a happy situation, sometimes you just have to take it on and clean it yourself. The alternatives are not pleasant when you think about it.

The landlord is not going to do anything and probably cannot get someone in quickly enough even if he was interested in do so fast enough. Beside you would have all of that confrontational stress of dealing with the landlord and trying to persuade them to do something?

One thing for sure you will not return and will not recommend the place to anyone. We have seen places were the pictures looked great. That is because they were taken when the place was new and before it got that used less than clean looking look to it.

Ask for references when you can, about the condo unit and about the owner. Anything at all will help you make a decision. We have found that many people are reluctant to say anything because they do not want to lose their unit to another snow bird.

Book Your Condo in Advance

In fact many people once they find a condo that they are happy with will book it a year in advance.

That’s right we have seen it time and again were someone is staying in a unit and decides that they want to come back the following year, so before they leave they will book the same unit with the owner and provide a down payment and reserve it. If you are looking to change, you do not even have the chance to move because they already have it booked.

Pack your Own Things to Take With You

We are now at the stage where we travel by car and we pack a box of things that we like to have with us when we move into a condo. For example we bring our own coffee maker, frying pan and juicer. The juicer is unique and not many places will have one of these. We are particular about our coffee so we bring our own and this particular condo does not have good frying pans so we just buy some or bring our own.

There are lots of little things like these examples that many snow birds will add to their lists as they travel and become more experienced. Just remember to not fret the small stuff and enjoy what life throws at you.

For more details about snow birds, click here.

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Hurricanes – Irene

August 29th, 2011 ernie Posted in Snow Birds No Comments »

Hurricane - IreneWell it looks like the latest hurricane is over with. Fortunately it did not do the kind of damage that many people were expecting. Still, there are thousands of people without power. Many homes and businesses were damaged from the flooding. The damage from this alone will add up to billions. There were about 10 people killed in this hurricane – Irene,. Some from falling trees and others from simply being in the wrong place.

Hurricanes and tornadoes are fascinating. We love to watch them and if possible get up close to see the power they possess. Unfortunately if you do, you can sometimes be killed or severely injured by flying debris . We just do not realize just how strong 85 to 110 mile an hour wins are. When the authorities tell you to get out of the area or stay in the basement there is good reason for them saying this. You must find protection from the wins and anything flying through the air.

I once thought that getting under a bridge, would be the best place to be. Especially if we encountered a tornado and could not get away. Turns out that this is the worst place to go to ! As the wind tries to get though a small space the speed increases to get all of the air through this space. The spot between the road and bridge is a good example of were the winds can increase dramatically. They can literally tear you away from anything you are holding onto.
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Snow Bird Travel 2011-1

February 20th, 2011 ernie Posted in Snow Birds No Comments »

This is a continuation of our blog about our travels during the winter and spring of 2011. If you missed our first post about Snow Bird Travel, you can review it by clicking here or on Snow Bird Travel. We left off our last post as we were heading to Bisbee, Arizona and Benson.

Snow Bird Travel – Bisbee Arizona

Bisbee is an old historic mining town close to the border with Mexico. A mine still operates there, however the town and businesses have seen better days when the copper mines were running at full tilt. The historic section of Bisbee is now confined to old antique shops, 60’s style hippies and old saloons. There are a few bed and breakfast places as well as hotels in the area.

However there is not a lot to do in the area, other than relax, enjoy a coffee, visit the many art and craft shops . We had lunch at the Savory Spot and did not find it to be the most enjoyable place, however it was very interesting due to the clientele that were having lunch while we had ours. You can read more about snow bird traveling in Bisbee and our lunch experience as well as see several pictures, click here.

Benson Arizona

Next we went to Benson, Arizona for the night. Nothing special about Benson, however the hotel we stay at is called the Desert Rose and we consider it one of the nicest places to stay at on our trip. Clean, decorated in desert tones, great value, only $80 per night which includes breakfast and WiFi and close to Bisbee, Tombstone, Tucson, PIMA Museum, the Bone Yard, the Titan Missile Museum and Old Town Tucson to name a few. All are within an hour driving and most are less than 30 minutes drive from the hotel.

Titan Missile Museum

We visited the Titan Missile Museum on this trip and I have to say it is one of the highlights of our trip. For those of you who may not be aware, during the cold war both Russia and the US had many missiles aimed at each other armed with Nuclear weapons.  The Russians located Nuclear war heads in Cuba during the 60’s which precipitated the Bay of Pigs confrontation and lead to the US building these missile sites.

There were 54 missiles located around the US all aimed at various locations in Russia. They could be launched within 1 minute of getting the launch order once Russian missiles were detected. Canada and NORAD played a significant part of the early warning system.

These missiles have been replaced by newer more sophisticated systems, and all were taken out of service in favor of new more sophisticated systems. This site is the only one left and has been converted into a museum. For more information and pictures, click here.

We are also taking advantage of a free rooms offer from the Aquarius hotel while we stay here in Laughlin, Nevada for a few days, also again because of the slot cards that we use. We have had breakfast as well on the comps which was also actually a brunch. There are lots of snow bird traveling deals in the Laughlin area.

We had one of the best omelets we have had on our trip.  If you would like more information about the Aquarius Hotel, click here. For more information about slot cards and why you should always carry and use them when you are playing the slots at any of the hotels, click here. More about locations in New Mexico, click here. Click here for Snow bird articles and posts.

Las Vegas Nevada

On to Vegas and the Mirage hotel.  We ate at the Carnegie Deli at the Mirage today for lunch. We shared a pastrami on rye sandwich which had to be 5 inches tall. There was also a plate of french fries that was more than enough for 4 people. The food is really good. There is lots of it, so if you want to share the restaurant will not mind.

When we stay at the Mirage Hotel we always try to go to Kokomos restaurant. This is stylish contemporary restaurant bordering on the lush tropical jungle. I always order the 8oz fillet .  The pool was closed for maintenance so we did not get a chance to use it. When we are in Vegas, we like to go to all of our favorite places such as the Bellagio, the Mirage and the Wynn hotels. For pictures of the Mirage hotel, and more information about Las Vegas, click here.

Palm Springs California

We arrived in Palm Springs on the 1st of Feb were we will stay for the next month. These are relaxing days spent in the sun, going for coffee, hiking and swimming in the pool at the Deauville (Click Here for Information) were we stay.

The Deauville is a luxury condo that comes with 3 pools and hot tubs, tennis courts. It also has  a gym along with underground parking. It is located in downtown Palm Springs, which allows us to walk to almost everything. One place we went for brunch was a place called Leon’s! This restaurant is located at Indian Canyons Golf course and they offer brunch ordered off a menu with unlimited champagne for $15 per person. Click here for several pictures and a view of one of the cutest golf carts we have seen.

I surprised my wife on Valentines with a trip to Las Vegas, staying at the Wynn Hotel and Casino for two days. We met her girlfriend there, which was another surprise. She won a jackpot on a nickel machine, $5280!

We have included other posts about various topics in and around Palm Springs. They are listed on the right hand side under recent posts. More to come in our next major post about our trip in 2011! We are off to Bullhead Arizona for the month of March, 2011. There are lots of snow bird traveling throughout the US.

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Snow Bird Travel 2011

January 27th, 2011 ernie Posted in Snow Birds 2 Comments »

Snow Bird TravelWe left at 5:45am in the morning on Jan 15th. Neither one of us could sleep, so we got up at 5 and were on our way after picking up a coffee at the local Tim Hortons. Two to four inches of snow was forecast for the Ottawa area that day, however we made it all the way to the border at the Thousand Islands crossing from Ottawa Canada  before it started to snow! We usually cross into the US at the Thousand Islands border crossing.

For once crossing the border was a non event. We were the only car in line and the customs agents asked us about 5 questions and then allowed us to proceed. I think they are happy to hear that Canadians are spending their money in the US. Right now they can use all of the extra income they can get.

We passed Syracuse before the snow storm really started and even then it was not that bad. We had to take our time until we got to Buffalo, and then after that there was no problem at all. Roads were clear. I almost put snow tires on the car before leaving, now I am glad I didn’t, since we will spend so much time this year in warm weather.

Love those Texas Road Houses

We stopped the first night in Dickson and went to a Texas style roadhouse called – Long Horns. Great place with really good ribs and steaks. We cannot get over how inexpensive the prices are. Everything in Canada is at least a third again more expensive and then you add the HST!

The next night was in Solon, Ohio. We always stay at Hampton Inns, since we are never disappointed and there is always a great place to eat usually next door. This time the restaurants was called the Farmers Market. They try to use as much local produce as they can. This was a buffet for $9.95, all you could eat, with 4 or 5 different kinds of meat, pastas, salads, Mexican food and great deserts. Going to have to loosen my belt around my waist line!

Tunica – Gold Strike

We stayed in Tunica for two nights at the Gold Strike Casino. We usually stay here, since the rooms are very nice and there are three casinos located within walking distance. With free rooms, free wi-fi,  a free buffet and of course free drinks, what more can you ask for. Oh yeah, win at the slots, well not this time.  Click here for reviews of the Gold Strike Hotel & Casino and also here for the Horseshoe Casino.

Biloxi – Beau Rivage

When we left Tunica, we drove to Biloxi and stayed there for two nights, at the Beau Rivage Casino. Again free nights and $100 free play. We signed up for a slot card at the Hard Rock Cafe and they gave us another $100 in free play on the slots. We had a room looking out on the gulf on a beautiful sunny day. Click here to read about the Roasted Bean at the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi! For pictures and information about the Beau Rivage, click here.

Next stop is Beaumont, Texas at a Hampton Inn of course. We went to another Texas roadhouse and sat at the bar for happy hour and something to eat. We always try to sit at the bar. You do not have to wait in line and you get to meet all kinds of people who are really interested in our travels. For $13.99, we split a plate that came with real mashed potatoes, a bowl of coleslaw, fried onions, a half rack of succulent ribs and an 8 ounce sirloin steak done to perfection. Beer was $3.50 and the wine was $4.50! What a deal!

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is a great place to visit, especially along the River Walk. This is a canal that runs through the downtown area, lined with hotels, outdoor patios and restaurants. A really happening place were thousands stroll along either side of the canal every day. If you have not been here, it is well worth the visit, especially in warm weather when you can sit outside and enjoy the sun and a nice cold beer.

We ended up at Chilli’s for supper and happy hour. Happy hour is at the bar whenever there is a football game on and of course at this time of year there is almost always a football game on. A large draft beer was $3.25 and all appetizers were half price! The Green Bay Packers won and are on the way to the Super Bowl.

A warning about San Antonio. While it is a safe place to walk around, the city applies a hefty tax on rooms. For a room that cost me $116 at the Hampton Inn, there was tax of $18 added to the cost, which I find pretty hefty and much more than many other cities we have stayed in. Click here to see pictures of the River Walk in San Antonio

Driving

We are currently in Benson, Arizona when I write this portion, after driving over 5000 km’s and for the most part it has been uneventful which is exactly what you want. We have had some heavy traffic and some erratic drivers that flip from lane to lane at high speed, but nothing even coming close to a dangerous situation. Last year we had exploding tires and a cracked windshield, however so far all we have had is debris on the road which we missed. Someone lost a bumper and cars and trucks were rolling over it, causing pieces to fly into the air. Fortunately they missed our car!

We are off to Bisbee, Arizona and Laughlin , Nevada before hitting Vegas at the end of the month. Watch for our next post about these locations. For more posts about snow birds and their travels, click here.

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San Antonio, Texas

January 27th, 2011 ernie Posted in Snow Birds 1 Comment »

San AntonioSan Antonio is a great place to visit, especially along the historic  River Walk. This canal is actually part of the San Antonio river that the city has taken and turned into  a canal that runs through the downtown area of the city. It is  lined with hotels that back onto the canal and has been named the River Walk, there are numerous outdoor patios and restaurants, as well as boat rides with tour guides that you can even book your supper on. A really happening place were thousands stroll along either side of the canal every day. If you have not been here, it is well worth the visit, especially in warm weather when you can sit outside and enjoy the sun and a nice cold beer.

Some restaurants will also have music in the evening for everyone to enjoy. On cool nights many will also place heaters at strategic points to keep diners warm while they enjoy their dinner. There is definitely a Mexican influence in this part of the United States. There are many Mexican restaurants and so we had our first Mexican meal of the trip.  Very enjoyable! You can stroll along both sides of the canal for perhaps half a mile review the restaurants and then decide which one you want to return to for your dinner or lunch. There is not much open for breakfast.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn, downtown off Bowie street. The Hampton Inn has free parking, free wifi and free breakfast included with the price of the hotel which is a good deal, especially for downtown hotels. It is also with easy walking distance to all of the major downtown attractions.  The Hampton Inns are always clean and always dependable.

The Alamo

You cannot visit San Antonio, without visiting the Alamo.  The Hampton Inn downtown is about two blocks from the River Walk and also two blocks  from the Alamo, one of the most historic places in Texas. On past trips we have toured the Alamo and seen the movie that depicts the story of the last stand at the Alamo as the Texans tried to with stand Santa Anna’s Mexican armies onslaught! It is a really moving piece and well worth seeing by everyone!

You can picture yourself being there facing over whelming odds knowing that help is not going to get to you in time. Every man is willing to fight to the last man standing because Santa Anna has promised the sword to every Texan in the fort.  The story is compelling and exciting and memorable. It brought tears to our eyes as we pictured how patriotic these frontiersman were. Although Sam Houston did not reach the fort in time to save the Texans, he did defeat the Mexican army and retake the Alamo from the Mexicans, setting up the situation for Texas to become a US state.

Historic District

On the morning of our second day we went for a long walk into the historic district of downtown San Antonio. This is an area were homes were built-in the late 1800’s and most are mansions with grand pillars supporting upstairs balconies on grounds that are well manicured. There is a historical society which authenticates and ensure standards are followed in the maintenance of the homes along with any changes that may be considered by the owners. Some are open for tours, although on Sunday when we visited they were all closed. There are also a few that operate as bed and breakfast accommodations, which would be really neat to stay at.

Chilli’s on the River Walk

We ended up at Chilli’s for supper on our second night and it turned out that it was happy hour. Happy hour in Chillis is for patrons sitting at the bar whenever there is a football game on and of course at this time of year there is almost always a football game playing. A large draft was $3.25 and all appetizers were half price! The Green Bay Packers won and are on the way to the Super Bowl!

This last picture on the left was included to show how beautiful the area is. It is not related to Chillis.

A warning about San Antonio. While it is a safe place to walk around, the city applies a hefty tax on rooms. For a room that cost me $116 at the Hampton Inn, there was tax of $18 added to the cost, which I find pretty hefty and much more than many other cities we have stayed in. I guess the money is used to fund the River Walk maintenance etc.

For more places to visit in the US as snow birds, click here.

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