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Snowbirds: How to plan your safe and sunny winter escape

Finally! After a long wait, British Columbians are planning winter escapes south again. Fully vaccinated Canadians are now allowed to enter the US by land or ferry for non-essential reasons, like visiting friends or family and tourism. It will be an adjustment as we navigate our return in a way that’s as safe as possible for all. If you’re planning to join Canadian Geese down south this winter, BCAA can help you plan, research and book your next trip. You can find a wide variety of trip planning tools here, plus keep reading for more helpful tips.


Know how long you can stay

Generally, Canadians can stay in the US for up to six months (182 days) out of a 12-month period. You also don’t want to stay longer than our provincial health insurance plan allows. To remain eligible for Medical Services Plan coverage, you must be physically present in BC for at least six months in a calendar year. In some cases, BC residents who are outside BC for vacation purposes are allowed a total absence of up to seven months in a calendar year. Learn more about leaving BC temporarily.

two golfers playing on fairway of golf course 

Choose your destination

If you’re chasing the sun this winter, the top five US extended stay destinations are Florida, Arizona, California, Texas and Hawaii, all of which have established snowbird communities and a familiar culture. You’ll want to consider several factors like your unique needs, local activities, distance and affordability.

However, an increasing number travellers are heading farther afield and jetting off to Mexico, Central America (Costa Rica and Belize are especially popular) and Southern Europe. Some of these destinations offer you warmer weather and a lower cost of living than you’ll find in the US. Follow YVR Deals and sign up for their alerts to find flight deals out of BC.

Book your accommodations

Have you recently retired and are considering spending winters in a warmer destination? We highly recommend that you rent in a few different destinations before you buy a winter vacation property. This lets you test out different communities and accommodations before you commit to one. Here are a few options:

senior couple relaxing on the porch 

Rental condos and homes

Wherever you roam, you should have tons of rental options, depending on your budget, size needs, and local activities and amenities. Assuming you’re staying for an extended period (4-6 months even), start your search with local apartment rental sites or Airbnb where you can find more cost-effective longer-term rentals.

Hotels and motels

Will you be staying in hotels down south? Don’t forget to book with your BCAA Membership to save at travel Rewards Partners. If you’re travelling without a set itinerary, and you’re about to check out of a hotel chain (e.g., BCAA Members save up to 15% at Best Western, up to 10% at Hilton Hotels & Resorts or 5% at JW Marriott), book your next hotel room with another hotel in the same chain. This way you’ll have a room waiting for you at a discounted price.

camper road trip at monument valley tribal park 

RVs

RVs are popular with BC snowbirds. Before you hit the road, review your BCAA Membership plan to make sure you’ve got RV coverage added and the right towing distance in case of a breakdown. You may want to consider upgrading to a BCAA Premier Membership (with RV coverage added), which provides up to 320 kilometres of towing distance in Canada and the US. We also recommend prepping your RV for your road trip.

Another important thing to check off the list before you head south: insurance. BCAA RV Insurance offers broad protection and flexible coverage, plus BCAA Members can save 10%.

One of the more affordable ways to travel is by staying in RV resorts. You can rent an RV pad with a view, and you’ll often find they come with swimming pools, recreational facilities and social events. Some quick tips on RV resort living:

Now you’re nearly ready to hit the road. Here are a few more important steps before you hit the road or hop on a plane.


Prep your documents and plan for your return home

Ensure that you have reviewed and understand all re-entry requirements before you depart and get your travel documents in order. Make sure your passport is up to date and won’t expire while you’re away. Here’s some helpful info on the Canadian documents you’ll need to travel south, as well as the latest info on proof of vaccination for COVID-19. Whether you are returning to Canada by air or ground travel, you must take a molecular test in the United States within 72 hours of your planned entry into Canada.

Tip: Bring printed and digital copies of all your travel documents. You can find more cross-border travel tips here.


Check the Canadian government’s useful travel toolkit

This travel toolkit gives you tips on travel by planes, trains and automobiles, plus winter driving tips, travelling with pets, travelling with a disability and how to make your journey through security more efficient.


Get your travel insurance

Foreign healthcare can be very costly, especially in the US. Be sure you get travel insurance before you go to have coverage in case the unexpected happens and you need emergency healthcare. BCAA Travel Insurance includes FREE COVID-19 medical coverage, which provides up to $10 million in coverage for COVID-related emergency medical expenses outside of Canada*, plus worldwide virtual care*, 24/7, 365 days a year, that you can access from anywhere in the world. And, whenever possible, we will pay your medical provider directly, so you aren’t out of pocket.

Wherever you go, BCAA has your back

Your first post-pandemic snowbird getaway is sure to be monumental, no matter where you’re going. To make the most of your trip, visit bcaa.com/travel to check travel insurance off your list. To top it all off, BCAA Members save 10%.




*COVID-19 medical coverage included at no additional cost with the purchase of a BCAA Travel Emergency Medical Insurance policy; $10,000,000 CAD limit if you are fully vaccinated; $1,000,000 if you have been administered one dose. Full policy terms and conditions available at bcaa.com/wordings. The availability of virtual care depends on your geographic location, medical emergency and remains subject to the discretion of BCAA Claims Assistance.