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13 Retirement Tips for Snowbirds

Pat and Pete Engel of Glendale, N.Y., are seasoned snowbirds, having spent every winter since 1995 in Florida. "After two bad blizzards within two years, I realized I never wanted to see another snowflake after we retired," says Pat, 79. The Engels rented a place near Cape Canaveral for the first few years, then bought a condo in nearby West Melbourne. Each January, they secure their home in New York and head to Florida until April. Pete, 81, plays golf, and the couple take advantage of outdoor festivals and other warm-weather activities with snowbird friends from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Many snowbirds follow family and friends south, while others experiment until they find the right location and community. Some rent the same place for years; others buy a second home that may become their primary residence in retirement. Whatever your migratory path, successful snowbirding takes preparation and smart planning. Here's our advice.

Rent (Early) Before You Buy

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In most places, January through March or April is peak snowbird season. Migrators often book the same place for the coming year before they leave in the spring, and others begin booking their rental as early as August. Early birds get the biggest blocks of time and the most-desirable properties, with features such as an extra bedroom and bath, a good view, updated furnishings and plenty of amenities (such as a clubhouse, pool, gym, tennis courts and golf course).

At , which lists and manages vacation rentals in 23 states and 16 countries, snowbirds often book

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