In mid-March, the relentless Florida sun is nudging up the temperature in a farewell salute to the snowbirds who, with their RVs and trailers, are exiting the state via I-95, I-75, I-10 and other highways in a procession not unlike the wagon trains of old.
Their idealistic, low-stress pursuit of balmy weather and the good life is ongoing as they head back to their homes in Canada, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Alabama, New York and other states across the country. In place of long dreary winters, slippery roads and the dreaded snow shovel, they have enjoyed scurrying sandpipers, a snooze on the beach, early morning golf, lingering lunches with fellow RVers, the sights of Florida, and best of all, a sense of freedom.
But some snowbirds are wondering if they have worn out their Florida welcome. More than 850,000 RVers pop into Florida each year and spend an enormous amount of money. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) estimates that the United States has 2 million snowbirds, with Florida the perennially favorite destination. The Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC) states that Canadians, primarily those from Ontario and Quebec are the most numerous Florida snowbirds. Other studies show that 600,000 Canadians winter in Florida each year. The three-year-old Canadian Snowbird Ass ociation boasts 100,000 members many of whom have visited Florida in their RVs.
A snowbird trip may last anywhere from a few weeks to six months. Generally, 41 percent spend eight weeks or more each year away from home and nearly 30 percent book at least 12 weeks. Beginning in October, snowbirds, like homing pigeons, flock south with the sun and faithfully head for central and south Florida.
Florida ARVC explains, "Campers are much more affluent than the general population in America. Who can afford a four-week vacation in Florida during the winter in a $40,000 RV? Three out of four have some college education, four in ten have college or post-graduate degrees and most are married."
Ray and Joyce Presley from Louisville, Kentucky, who winter at the Great Outdoors RV/Nature & Golf Resort, a five-star beauty reminiscent of a southern estate on central Florida's east coast near Titusville say, "November to Easter is our snowbird time. After Easter it's like someone said 'evacuate.' We purchased a site overlooking the lake in the low $20,000, and the $1,600 a year, which includes all fees, taxes and top security, is great financial planning for us.
"WHEN I RETIRE I'M GOING TO
MOVE UP NORTH AND DRIVE SLOW"
Art Perry, who drives a 36-foot Beaver Contessa explains, "The 'When I Retire' bumper sticker is the worst attitude I've seen in Florida. I can see why the locals get irritated with us newcomers, but we contribute a great deal to Florida's economy. The state would dry up in six months without snowbirds and tourism.
William White, driving a 38-foot rig and on his way home to Ohio says, "I've been snowbirding in Florida for 20 years and I'm sorry to say that Florida has become very commercial and has horrible traffic problems.
I feel the state is out to get every single dime they can from us. The nine percent tourist tax is excessive. They have only four months or so to make their money from snowbirds and they do a good job. I find Vero Beach is less costly. On the east coast, from Fort Pierce, prices escalate as you drive south."
FLORIDA STATE PARK SNOWBIRD CIRCUITOther snowbirds, as thrifty and clever as foxes, utilize the splendid, well-managed Florida State Parks. Wayne Stevens, Public Information Director says, "We have 143 Florida State Parks, 43 for camping. Our parks encompass history, culture, the best nature experience in all Florida, festivals and park programs. Season after season we see snowbirds traveling the Florida State Park circuit. They stay the maximum 14-days in each park, doubling-back to many of them."
"Many snowbirds," he continues, "who are burned out on Florida's commercial attractions have found the state is filled with nature and natural phenomenon as seen in the state parks. This is the other side of the state."
The Great Outdoors RV/Nature & Golf Resort, (800) 621-2267; call the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds at (904) 562-7151 for the Florida Camping Directory and brochures.
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