What Is a Snowbird? Everything You Need To Know About Snowbirding

snowbird couple with feet in the warm sand

If you’re into skiing, snowboarding, or other winter sports, living in snowy, frigid winters can be worthwhile. But for many people, the cold weather means outdoor time is minimized, and driving and getting around is exceedingly difficult, so winter can be a dreaded time of year.

That’s why some people go snowbirding. What is a snowbird? According to the Audubon Society, it’s a junco bird with gray or brown upper parts and a white belly. But that’s not what most people mean.

If you aren’t talking about the actual bird, Merriam-Webster defines a snowbird as one who travels to warm climates for the winter. They escape the brutal winter cold in favor of more comfortable weather, allowing them to enjoy more outdoor time.

This article has everything you need to know about snowbirding. We’ll start by going into a bit more detail about what a snowbird is, then mention some of the top locations for snowbirding before wrapping things up with tips to make snowbirding a possibility in your life.

What Is a Snowbird?

The vast majority of snowbirds live in areas with cold winters. This might be a frigid area like Minnesota, certain regions of Canada according to Maricopa County, or northeast states like New York, Vermont, or Maine.

But they aren’t limited to these areas and might be from more moderate climates, such as northern California’s part-year residents.

The main point is that if they stick around their usual home area, they’ll face colder weather than they’d like.

To avoid the cold weather, snowbirds head south for the winter. Like Cornell’s understanding of bird migration, human snowbirds migrate each year away from home in the winter, then back home as the weather warms up.

What is a snowbird? It’s a person who lives in a more northern area and decides to move south for the winter in favor of warmer weather.

What Locations Are Known for Snowbirding?

Some people have specific ideas of where snowbirds are from and where they go. In many cases, they’re exactly right. 

There are mass numbers of people who flee northern US states and regions of Canada to go to Arizona and Florida each year. This movement is likely the most typical snowbird you can find.

beach umbrella in warm sand of Florida

But other snowbirds might push your definition and geographical limits. 

People from Kansas could flee to southern Mexico, as described in one Middle Tennessee State University thesis. Someone from Norway could go practically to the other side of the world in Peru. The migration of humans away from cold weather to warmer weather is what all of these people share.

Let’s talk about the most popular areas so you can get an idea of how they work out. Following the trends has some significant benefits, as well as some disadvantages.

Snowbirding in Florida

Florida is one of the top US retirement destinations, according to FSU, and for a good reason. The weather is moderate through the winter, it has many relatively low-cost areas, and it’s full of fun activities geared toward retirement-age people.

Golfing, fishing, boating, and enjoying sights around Florida’s many amazing places are some of the most popular activities. There are many beautiful beaches to lounge on and plenty of adventures for the whole family.

Retirement communities, like the one described in this blog post from Boston College, can have minimum age requirements, ensuring people of similar age and likely shared hobbies live together. It’s often easy to step out your door and make friends with other snowbirds.

The downside of Snowbirding in Florida is that many people do the same thing. Rates will be at their highest, traffic can be worse, and more people will be on the golf courses and out on the beaches and water.

Snowbirding in Arizona

Arizona is another top snowbirding destination. Like Florida, it is full of outdoor fun even when the temperatures are frigid in other areas. Golfing, hanging out by the poolside, and enjoying the many incredible restaurants are top snowbird activities.

Phoenix and surrounding cities like Scottsdale are perhaps Arizona’s most popular cities for snowbirds. The region is expansive, offering a wide variety of housing options and community amenities. There’s a spot for nearly any budget in Arizona, thanks to projects like this Maricopa County $65 million affordable housing project.

Once again, the downside to snowbirding in Arizona is that it is the high season. It will be at its most expensive and highest population time.

What Type of People Are Snowbirds?

Many different types of people go snowbirding. While you might have a specific idea in mind, a growing world of snowbirds takes advantage of moving to warmer weather in the winter.


As we mentioned above, retirees are typically the most common snowbirds. 

retired couple enjoying snowbirding

Their skiing days might be in the past. Well-founded fears of falling on ice can motivate snowbirding. Or it might just be a desire to enjoy warmer weather and avoid shoveling the driveway.

Remote Workers

But there are some new kids on the block. According to the University of South Florida, the world’s workforce is becoming more mobile, and younger workers have started to develop snowbird habits.

Since many people can now work from anywhere, they can also flee cold weather, as described in this Harvard Business School article. They might not enjoy spending the winter in cold climates.

Some people hold resentment against remote workers. But many remote workers have actual jobs and contribute to society, including many services and products retirees rely on.


Many people might not fit either definition but choose to migrate south for the winter. 

Health issues might make cold weather painful or impossible to deal with the maintenance it requires. Or perhaps they can afford to go where they want and choose to do it.

How Can Snowbirds Manage Costs?

As nearly any homeowner can testify, maintaining one house can be time-consuming, expensive, and challenging. Adding a second one into the mix can increase every difficulty of homeownership.

So how can snowbirds manage costs? There are plenty of ways, some of which can generate significant revenue.

Rent Out Your Home

One of the easiest ways to make snowbirding a possibility is to rent out your home when you are away. This option is very attractive if you live in an area popular with winter tourists, such as ski destinations.

Many organizations can help you rent your home to others, including Airbnb, VRBO, other classified listings, and simple word of mouth. 

CSU Fresno provides some things to consider before doing so. It’s important to follow local rules and regulations, but you can make a decent penny by renting out your home when you’re away.


An alternative to renting out your home is to downsize. Leaving a home you’ve lived in for some time might not be exciting, but if you consider how much it could open up your opportunities, it may be worth doing.

It has the added benefit of potentially reducing your maintenance needs too. If you are of retirement age, it’s worth thinking ahead to a time when dealing with constant physical labor will be very undesirable or impossible. Hiring services to handle it for you can be expensive.

So instead of your large single-family home, perhaps you have two townhomes. Enjoy one during the winter and one in the summer. 

Go to Low-Cost Areas

Another wise idea is to snowbird in low-cost areas. Many people are turning to Mexico, Portugal, Thailand, and other countries that offer a better bang for your buck yet still have nearly everything they need and want.

Don’t limit yourself. Plenty of people take this international route.

Wrap-Up: What Is a Snowbird?

While a snowbird is the name of a specific bird, most people use the term to describe humans who migrate each winter away from colder northern homes to a warmer winter living situation.

Snowbirding in Florida and Arizona is extremely popular. They are top choices for those who want to enjoy golfing, pools, and more. In addition, these locations get you around many others who live the same lifestyle and share similar hobbies.

Snowbirds can be retirees, remote workers, and more. They can manage costs by renting out their homes when away, downsizing, or choosing to go to low-cost areas. 

Are you ready to become a snowbird? The first step is deciding where you want to go. Give it a shot for a season, then decide if you want to commit fully.