Snowbirds: The Complete Checklist to Winterize your Residence

With a winter that never seems to end, many retirees are contemplating a snowbird lifestyle for upcoming years. However, as with any long-term travel, planning a winter escape requires a thorough process. There are several considerations to take for your first trip as a snowbird, one of them is making sure your house is prepared for your extended absence.

Here is a complete checklist of things you should do before your departure:

o Snow removal
To give an appearance that your home is inhabited, hire a snow removal company to keep your driveway and entrance cleared. You can even ask a neighbour if they would mind parking their vehicle in your driveway while you are away.

o Emergency contact
Prepare a “cheat sheet” with the numbers where you can be reached abroad, your home insurance company details (including policy number and emergency contact) and the contact information of the person inspecting your house while you will be away. Make sure to transfer this information to a trusted friend or relative and to your home security company.

o Water
Cut your main water supply and drain your pipes before leaving. Turn off the taps for your washing machine and don’t forget to turn off your water heater. Remember to only do so if your pipes have been drained to avoid frozen pipes and subsequent water damage to your property. In doubt, check with a plumber before undertaking this task.

o Mail
Hold your mail with Canada Post (for a fee) or have someone collect it on a regular basis. Suspend any newspapers or magazines subscriptions. You could also add a “no flyers” sticker (“pas de circulaires” if you live in Quebec) to your mailbox to stop the distribution of local newspapers to your house.

o Lights
Set up timers for indoor and outdoor lights to turn on at night rather than having them on continuously. Some timers are even photosensitive and can detect when to turn the lights on based on luminosity.

o Monthly subscriptions
Suspend services such as Internet, cable and other monthly subscriptions which you will not use. Note that if you have an alarm system, you might need to keep your landline active for it to function properly. If you do keep your landline, consider transferring your calls (for a fee) or adding a voicemail service to your plan. Check your voicemail messages regularly to avoid your inbox being full at any time while you are away.

o Heating system
Lower the temperature of your heating system, but try to keep a minimum temperature of 15 degrees.

o Electricity
Save on your power bill by disconnecting all appliances and electronics. Because of the heightened risk of power outages during winter, empty your fridge and freezer to avoid food waste.

o Pets
Unless you plan to travel with your pets, find a trusted pet sitter to take care of them while you are away.

o Valuables
Do not leave anything such as jewelry, laptop/tablet or expensive art in plain sight. Store all your valuables and important documents in a safe or at the bank.

o Car
If you own a car and plan on storing it while you are away, check with your car insurance company to put a hold on your coverage during your absence. The same applies for your car’s registration. At the SAAQ (for Quebec resident), they can adjust your yearly fees based on the length of time you will store your vehicle.
If your car will stay outside, ask your mechanics for tips, such as not leaving the emergency brake on. Ensure that the person checking on your property removes the snow after a snowfall.

o Garage
If you have a garage, disconnect the automatic door opener. Don’t leave any remote in cars that have been left outside.

o Doors and windows
Although somewhat obvious, lock all doors and windows. You should even consider removing the handle to dissuade any home intruders. Use a wooden bar as a stopper for extra protection to your sliding door.

o Periodical checks while you are away
Some home insurance policies require your house to be visited or inspected at a certain frequency during your absence. Find a family member, a close friend or a trusted neighbour to check your residence periodically while you are away to simulate a presence.

Now that your house is all set for you to spend your winter months in the sun, make sure to choose a travel insurance plan that will suit your individual needs. Call your travel insurance representative to get the best quote for your new life as a snowbird.