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Five Canadian Snowbird Vacation Ideas for This Winter

December 16, 2020

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This is going to be a winter like no other for Canadian snowbirds. COVID-19 border rules have made driving to the US Sunbelt all but impossible.

There are also extremely high levels of COVID-19 infections in many parts of the US — and many Sunbelt areas are among them. And Canadian snowbirds will still remember the chaos last spring when tens of thousands of them hurried home to Canada. All of this combined means that travelling to the USA will not be in most Canadian snowbirds’ schedule for 2020 or 2021.

What happens now to those Canadian snowbirds accustomed to travelling to the USA for an annual winter escape? What should they do with their properties and what are the best places for Canadian snowbirds to winter when they can’t go south?

What to do with snowbird vacation homes

Some Canadian snowbirds may consider selling property in the US or renting out snowbird vacation homes this winter. Before you make any rash decisions, it’s best to know the implications for snowbirds selling property in the US.

If you don’t pay tax in the US, you may have to pay up to 15% of the sale price in federal withholding tax. Also, bringing your winter escape property’s furniture and other contents back to Canada can lead to high customs charges.

A better option may be to simply hold onto your winter escape property, in the hope of enjoying it in the near future. You could also consider renting it out. If you have someone locally who can help with the logistics of long- or short-term rentals, the extra money can help cover your property’s various costs.

If you choose either of these options, be sure to consult a cross-border tax expert, so you don’t fall foul of American or Canadian tax laws.

Best places to winter for snowbirds

While Canadian snowbirds’ schedule for 2020/2021 may have changed drastically, it doesn’t mean that they can’t still have a snowbird vacation. It pays to check the level of COVID-19 cases in each city before travelling, for your own protection. Also, check each location for any possible quarantine rules and local COVID-19 protocols before travelling, as these are constantly changing.

Having a winter escape in Canada may mean a very different vacation this year compared to the usual warm weather spot, but snowbird vacations can still provide a welcome break. We take a look at some of the best places for Canadian snowbirds to winter within their own country.

Victoria, B.C.

One of the best places to winter for snowbirds is Canada’s warmest winter city, with an average January high of almost 8°C. While you probably won’t go swimming in the ocean, at least it’s mild enough to enjoy the outdoors.

And there is plenty to enjoy in Victoria:

  • Parks and gardens with year-round flowers
  • Victorian heritage buildings
  • The Inner Harbour
  • Beautiful hotels
  • Museums and parliament buildings
  • Breathtaking hiking trails

Halifax, N.S.

Those Canadian snowbirds used to travelling to the USA may not think of Halifax as the best of escape winter vacation ideas. It may not be tropical (it averages around zero in January) but it’s nowhere near as cold as most inland areas.

You can bundle up and enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and tobogganing in and around Halifax.

And there are plenty of places to keep warm, including museums, art galleries and the Discovery Centre. Restaurants and bars are famously welcoming, and all have COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Another reason why Halifax is one of the best places for snowbirds to winter is that it is less busy than in summer and has more travel bargains.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

A former capital of Upper Canada, this 200-year-old town is certainly among the best places for Canadian snowbirds to winter. Its comparatively mild winters mean that you’ll be able to enjoy strolling down the town’s main streets. Shopping in the many cute boutique stores and dining in fine restaurants are just some of the town’s attractions.

Another reason why it is one of the best places to winter for snowbirds is Niagara wine country. It has over 50 vineyards, half of them within a 15-minute ride from the town. Most wineries continue to hold tastings throughout winter, following COVID-19 protocols, so you can safely sample the region’s excellent wines, including Niagara’s famous ice wine.

Whistler, B.C.

Canada’s most famous winter resort is one of the best places to winter for snowbirds who love snow. Apart from the world-class skiing and beautiful scenery, Whistler is a cute town that is custom built for winter escapes. And, perhaps surprisingly, it’s not even that cold, with average highs of 1°C in January.   

Dozens of excellent restaurants (all with spaced indoor seating) and boutique stores mean that there is plenty to enjoy off-piste. Be sure to make reservations in advance, as COVID-19 protocols reduce seating to 50%.

St. John’s, N.L.

While St. John’s may not spring to mind as one of the best places for Canadian snowbirds to winter, it has a lot going for it. It’s milder than most inland Canadian cities (the average temperature is just above zero in January) and has plenty to see and do, both indoors and outdoors:  

  • Historic sites like Signal Hill and Cape Spear Lighthouse
  • The Rooms, containing an interactive museum, archives and art gallery
  • Water Street’s 19th Century buildings
  • Beautiful architecture, including a basilica and a cathedral
  • The East Coast Trail, with some of Canada’s most stunning hikes
  • Puffin and whale watching
  • Maritime music

Help with financing your snowbird vacation

For snowbirds used to driving to the USA and staying in their own property, a trip elsewhere can be considerably more expensive.

The good news, you could still have a winter escape, without breaking the bank, by taking out a reverse mortgage. This is a loan for homeowners aged 55-plus and is based on the value and location of your home, which requires no regular payments at all. You only pay what you owe when you decide to sell, move out or if both homeowners pass away, so it won’t affect your retirement income.

Call us today at 1-866-522-2447 and see how much you could borrow. And remember to check with provincial and federal COVID-19 health and travel guidelines before planning a snowbird vacation.

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