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Sun Care for Snowbirds: How to Plan for Heading South

By , On , In Sun Protection

Sun care is important for all seasons, whether there’s snow on the ground or sand on the beach. However, as the sun is at its strongest closer to the equator, snowbirds chasing the sun all year long have to take extra precautions.

In this article, we’ll discuss Canadian snowbirds – who they are and why they head south. We’ll touch on how travel looks a bit different in 2021, and leave you with some sun care tips to plan for sunnier days ahead. 

Whether you’re a snowbird heading south this winter, or if you’re making plans for the next one, we’ve got your sun protection needs covered. Let’s get started.

Why Do Snowbirds Head South?

For homebodies, the transition of seasons means cozy fireplaces, sweaters, and easing into the slower pace of winter.  For migratory species (humans and animals alike), this transition brings about a period of restlessness. 

For centuries, each spring and fall, people have noticed this change in caged bird behaviour, where birds consistently flutter to one side of their cage. For some, the shift into winter isn’t so easy. 

A bird’s drive to migrate is a combination of shorter days, lower temperatures, lower food supply, and genetics. For human snowbirds, many of the same reasons apply.

People head south for the warmer weather, that’s undeniable – but there’s often more to it than simply chasing the sun. For many, there are physical and mental health benefits to living in sunnier locales. There’s also the community and active lifestyle – the chance to connect with like-minded individuals and fellow sun seekers.  

snowbird wearing sun protective clothing while golfing

Who Are Canadian Snowbirds?

Canadian snowbirds are most often retirees, with the financial stability and freedom that’s been earned through their working years. They don’t want to leave family and friends behind by permanently relocating, but want to enjoy the sun all year-round. By heading south, they can avoid cold winters, while retaining Canadian residency and the health benefits that come with it. 

In recent years, people of all ages are opting for the snowbird lifestyle. With remote work and seasonal occupations, traveling south for the winter has become more accessible. The Sun Belt in particular has seen substantial population growth since the 1960’s, with opportunities and advancements in cooling systems that make the heat more comfortable.

Snowbird Destinations

The Sun Belt in the Southern US is one of the most popular destinations for Canadian snowbirds. This belt includes destinations like California, Arizona, Florida and Texas, in addition to Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Carolina. Other popular snowbird destinations include Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean. 

While some snowbirds use air travel to get to their destinations, approximately 70% of Canadian snowbirds bring their vehicles with them. From small RV’s to luxury motorhomes, many RV parks welcome snowbirds and make a living from their seasonal residents. 

Migratory Patterns in 2021

Snowbirds typically start to make their way south in October and stay until April. With the current land travel restrictions, the 2021 season is looking a bit different. Some seasonal travelers are putting their plans on pause due to COVID-19. With the federal government advising against non-essential travel, many snowbirds are preparing for a second Canadian winter.

Other snowbirds are determined to make their seasonal voyage. After missing last winter in the sun, there’s a significant number of travellers looking for ways to make this year work. While the U.S.-Canada and Mexico land borders will likely remain closed until at least October 21st, the U.S. is easing air travel restrictions, allowing fully-vaccinated travelers to enter the country.

The threat of COVID-19 is far from over, but the rise in vaccinations and easing border measures are likely contributing to the increased interest in travel. For more travel-related information, visit the Government of Canada website or the Canadian Snowbird Association

man standing with a book in his hands, sunglasses, and wearing sun protective clothing, highlighting sun protection for snowbirds

Looking Ahead to Sunnier Days

If you’re planning to be a snowbird this fall, winter, or sometime in the near future, it’s never too early to start planning. While we can’t assist with the insurance or travel side of your planning, we’ve got you covered for sun care. Whether you’re a snowbird newbie or seasoned migrator, here’s some helpful advice for your sunny days ahead.

1. Seek Shade

Seeking shade is the best way to prevent sun damage. However, no matter how careful you are, it‘s almost impossible to completely avoid the sun outdoors – especially if you’re in the sunny South.

You may not be a sun seeker, but even small exposures can add up. Whether it’s walking to the mailbox or corner store, or from a building to your car, at some point you’ll be exposed. For these cases, sun protective clothing, accessories and sunscreen can help keep you protected.

2. Slather on Sunscreen

Note the expiration date, follow the instructions, and don’t forget to re-apply. Most sunscreens recommend re-applying every two hours, especially if you’ve been sweating or spending time in the water. Sunscreen can provide great protection from UV rays, but only if used correctly.

3. …But Not Just Any Sunscreen

In addition to the proper application, it’s important to evaluate the quality of your sunscreen. Not all sunscreens are created equal, and your best choice is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with high SPF.

Some tourist destinations have started to ban sunscreens that have Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, ingredients that can harm coral reefs and the environment. It’s important to do some research before you go to find out what’s allowed and not. For a safe environmental choice, Coola sunscreens are one of our top recommendations. They offer a wide range of sun care products with more than 70% organic ingredients and a Hawaii Reef Compliant certification.

4. Wear Protective Clothing

Clothing that’s designed for sun protection, specifically UPF 50+ fabrics, is one of the best ways to protect your skin. It’s easy to throw on and there’s no need to re-apply, making sun protection quick and convenient.

UPF 50+ clothing is designed for sun protection, but offers other benefits as well. It’s moisture-wicking and breathable, keeping you cool and comfortable in the southern heat. It can also provide an extra layer for the hot-to-cold transitions in and out of air-conditioned stores.

5. Bring an Umbrella

Even if there’s no rain in your forecast, an umbrella is well worth the packing space if you’re heading to a tropical or subtropical location. In many of these regions, thunderstorms are a regular occurrence. While these thunderstorms rarely last long, it’s good to be prepared. And when the sun starts to shine again, an umbrella can double as sun protection.

6. Take Extra Care in the Sun

If you’re active or exercising in the heat, you’ll need to make sure you’re staying hydrated. Excessive sweating can cause dehydration due to water loss. In extreme cases of overheating, heat injury and heat stroke can occur. Avoiding prolonged exposure to high temperatures, especially when exercising, is important for staying safe in the sun.

As an added precaution, UPF clothing can help keep you cool with its lightweight and breathable fabrics. By covering in a combination of sun protective clothing, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and an umbrella, you’ll be ready for any southern forecast or activity.

For more information, be sure to check out our article on All You Need to Know About Sun Protective Clothing.