Snowbird FAQs is a forum where we provide answers to some of the most common and interesting questions we receive from Snowbird Advisor members that we feel will be of interest to other members.
My wife and I live in Ontario and bring our car down to Florida with us every year.
Now that the Ontario government has stopped issuing license plate renewal stickers, how are we supposed to prove to police officers in the U.S. that our licenses have been renewed and aren't expired?
I was pulled over once before because my sticker showed my registration had expired and don't want to get pulled over or run into trouble while we're away for the winter.
You should remove all the license plate renewal stickers on your Ontario license plate, as they are no longer required, which should solve the problem.
However, snowbirds should always renew their driver’s licenses and car registration before departing for the winter if they are going to expire before you get back. You can renew your license plate online or in person at a Service Ontario centre.
When you renew, make sure you get a copy of your receipt and keep it with you to show in case you get pulled over while in the U.S.
We have heard that next year the U.S. will require travellers to show enhanced state-issued driver's licenses to fly domestically within the U.S. Is this true, and if so, what kind of ID will Canadians need to fly domestically in the U.S.?
You are correct that some new ID requirements will be introduced for flying domestically in the U.S., however, these changes will not impact Canadians.
Beginning on May 3, 2023, the TSA will require individuals who plan to use their state-issued ID or driver’s license as identification to fly within the U.S. to ensure they are REAL ID compliant.
This change is primarily intended for U.S. citizens and residents who use their state-issued IDs to fly domestically.
Canadians can simply present their Canadian passports or NEXUS cards instead.
You can find details about which types of ID the TSA will accept for air travel here.
We will be driving to Florida shortly and I’ve heard that a lot of tolls don’t take cash anymore. How can we pay our tolls?
It is true that many tolls have gone cashless and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. But if you are driving to Florida from Eastern Canada then it is worth getting an E-ZPass. The E-ZPass Program is the largest toll collection program in the world with toll agencies in 19 states. It is also useful while you are in Florida for toll roads and bridges there.
Once you set up an E-ZPass prepaid account, you will receive a small electronic transponder that attaches to the inside of the windshield. You deposit money in your E-ZPass account which is debited each time you use a toll.
For more information: https://www.e-zpassiag.com/
While not all states currently accept the pass, E-ZPass can be used in many states from Minnesota in the West to Maine in the East along many of the popular routes through states on the way to Florida, including Florida itself. For a map of states accepting E-ZPass, click here:
My husband and I have heard that some U.S. states are requiring Canadians to quarantine when they travel to the United States. Is this true?
As of October 1st, 2020, there was no official requirement at the state level for visitors to quarantine when arriving in popular snowbird states Florida, Arizona, California and Texas.
However, this could change at any time so you should always check official sites before you go.
Also, it's important to be aware that just because there is no quarantine requirement at the state level, there may be local requirements at the city or county level, or in specific communities such as RV parks or golf & country club communities, so it's best to check with the management of your community before you go.
I am following the Canadian government's travel restrictions closely as I hope to be able to drive to Florida at some point this winter.
However, I am a little unclear about the U.S. Border Closure and the government Travel Advisory. Are they the same thing or are they unrelated?
The Canada/U.S.Land Border Closure, which prohibits "non-essential" travel by land between Canada and the U.S. and the Government of Canada Level 3 Travel Advisory, which advises Canadians against all non-essential travel to virtually ALL countries in the world (as of October 1st, 2020) are NOT tied together.
For example, the land border restrictions could be lifted or modified while the Level 3 travel advisory remains in place. Conversely, the travel advisory could be modified or reduced to Level 2 while the land border could remain closed.
Normally, travel advisories are country or even region specific. This one is unique in that it applies to virtually everywhere. Eventually, the travel advisories will likely be modified to warn of the specific level of risk in a country or region.
My husband and I own a home in Florida and are considering driving down for the winter.
We know the Canada - U.S. border is currently closed due to COVID-19, but I have heard that there may be an exemption allowing Canadians who own real estate in the U.S. to drive across the border.
Is this true?
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation circulating about this topic, with rumours spreading that Canadians who own property in the U.S. are exempt from current land border travel restrictions and are allowed to drive across the border if they are travelling to their property in the U.S.
However, these rumours are not true.
While it is possible that this policy may change in the future, as of September 21, 2020:
- There is no exemption allowing Canadians who own U.S. property to drive across the border while travel restrictions are in place, and
- Travel for the purpose of visiting a property you own on the U.S. has not been deemed to be "essential travel" by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. agencies responsible for overseeing the Canada/U.S. land border closure.
NOTE: The information provided on this page is intended for Canadian citizens and permanent residents
We are planning to spend next winter in some more exotic destinations and are finding conflicting information about health and safety in those destinations. Where can we get reliable information?
Canadians can get reliable health and safety travel information on the Government of Canada’s Travel Advisory Website designed specifically for travellers.
The website provided information about:
- Local safety and security conditions and areas to avoid
- Possible health hazards and restrictions
- Natural hazards and climate
- Entry and exit requirements
- Local laws and culture
- Where to find help while you are travelling abroad
We also recommend that Canadian snowbirds register with Canadian Consular Services when they are travelling. You can learn more about why we recommend registering with Canadian Consular Services here.
You can register online or in-person at a Canadian consulate office.
We’re a same-sex couple considering spending our winters somewhere warm. Which snowbird destinations are the most LGBTQ friendly?
While LGBTQ snowbirds share the same needs and concerns as all snowbirds, many seek out winter destinations that are LGBTQ friendly where they can feel safe and find a like-minded community.
Some favourites that are particularly welcoming to LGBTQ snowbirds include several destinations in Florida like Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, Tampa and South Beach.
And if you’re looking beyond Florida, take a look at Palm Springs, California; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Honolulu, Hawaii, as they also make the list.
You can find more information about winter destinations for LGBTQ snowbirds here.
We have been spending the past several winters in different destinations across the U.S., but are looking to try a different country this year. Can you please let us know what the top non-U.S. snowbird destinations are?
You are not alone – a growing number of snowbirds are exploring destinations outside the U.S. for their winter getaways. And depending on where you go, some of these destinations can be more affordable than spending your winter in the United States.
Some of the most popular non-U.S. snowbird destinations are the Puerto Vallarta and Bay of Banderas region of Mexico, the Northwest coast of Costa Rica and Panama City, Panama. In Europe, snowbirds are increasingly heading to Southern Portugal and Spain. And if you want to go further, the Gold Coast of Australia also attracts Canadian snowbirds.
We are new snowbirds who just retired. We'll be driving down to Mesa where we have rented a house for the upcoming winter and will be bringing our dog. What do we need to do to bring our dog across the border with us?
First of all, your pet must be healthy, look healthy and be well groomed or it can be turned away.
It is required that all pets are up to date with rabies shots and other vaccinations and you should carry a document from your veterinarian certifying general good health and vaccination records. It is also required for coming back to Canada.
Before you travel, be sure to look at the websites of the departments that oversee the importation of pets (even though you are not importing your pet, you are subject to the same health requirements).
In the United States, this is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can find regulations for importing pets on the USDA website. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) website also has requirements for importing pets, including rabies vaccinations.
It is also highly recommended that your dog be micro-chipped for identification purposes should he or she escape during travel or during your stay in the United States.
You can find more tips for Canadian snowbirds travelling with pets here.
When I try to pay for gas at the pump in the U.S with a credit card, it asks me for my zip code. As a Canadian, I don’t have a zip code. I have heard there’s a “trick” to get around this issue but haven’t been able to find any details. Do you know anything about this?
Yes, there is a workaround you can use the often works:
When asked for your zip code, simply enter the three numbers of the Canadian postal code for the billing address associated with your credit card, followed by two zeros.
For example, if the postal code for your credit card’s billing address is F1F 2F3, you would enter 12300 as your zip code.
NOTE: We have been receiving word from some members who were able to use this workaround in the past that it no longer works for them. However, it still seems to be working most of the time in most regions of the U.S.
We are travelling to Florida shortly and wanted to know if the construction on I-75 around Detroit is finished or are there still detours?
We are happy to report that the planned construction over the past two years in the southbound lanes of I-75 in Michigan is now completed.