The New Snowbirds

February 5, 2012

After watching the news about the frigid weather hitting most of Europe I thought that one of the chapters in my book Retired Life in Thailand might be appropriate for reprinting here. Want to get away from freezing temperatures and blizzards? The “winter” months in Thailand are about as nice as it gets.

The New Snowbirds

‘Snowbirds’ is a term used in the U.S. and Canada for retirees who flee the cold winters of the northern regions to warmer locales like Florida, Arizona, and Mexico. There is also a European species of snowbird who heads for Mediterranean climes. Today there is a new breed of migratory snowbirds that travel a lot further in their quest for an endless summer.

More and more Expats come to Thailand during the cold season months to enjoy our almost perfect weather and then return back to their home countries when the weather begins to heat up. I lived that way for six years. During that nomadic time between Chiang Mai and Seattle I never saw a really hot day or a really cold one, and I had almost forgotten what a rainy day looked like.

True snowbirds need to be able to maintain two separate households. That can get expensive. Here are a few things that you can do to keep your back-home costs down.

  • Most utilities can be turned off when you leave for an extended period.
  • Also, phone services, as well as cable and internet services, have very inexpensive vacation plans.
  • Auto insurance can be cut to as little as $5 per month while your car is being ‘stored’.

With these plans I saved enough to cover most of my living expenses for the winter.

Here in Thailand many people find it more convenient to pay the rent on a condo or house for the whole year even if they use it for only a few months. If you plan on doing this it would be best and safest to live in a place with full time security like a condo or a gated community so your stuff will still be there when you return.

But my migratory days are now over. Keeping up two homes got to be too much of a hassle, so I chose to live here year round. And now I get to experience really hot days and I definitely know what rainy day looks like. And I am as happy as a bird.


Note: My father, in his older years, come to think of it he was no older than I am today, once said to me that growing older was becoming quite sad. It is sad because your friends tend to leave you. A good friend, and old Chiang Mai transplant, passed away last week. Michael Long, MBE, British Counsel, passed away after a long illness. He was taken care of selflessly by his wife of many years Lawan. Will miss you Mike, and all the good talks we had about how crazy this old world is. RIP.


This is Retire 2 Thailand’s 50th blog post. It’s your reading and occasional comments that keep me going. Thanks to all.

3 Responses to “The New Snowbirds”

  1. Comment from Cat:

    Hugh, at present I keep two working households. It’s convenient in that I don’t have to cart toothpaste around but remembering what’s where is a pain. I’ll start cooking something then too late realise that the necessary utensil is elsewhere. I’ve nearly stocked up at both residences but I sometimes get caught out. I keep my utilities on in the UK because there is a real fear of frozen pipes. To cut costs, in the UK I don’t have a TV (avoiding the horrifically expensive TV license) nor do I have a telephone. But I do have wifi. They’ve changed squatters rights in the UK, so I can rest easier on that end. But they are now bringing in second home taxes. Grrrrrrrr…

  2. Keith said

    Houses in Phoenix and Flagstaff Arizona in the U.S. is another popular arrangement, although the direction the birds fly is reversed. A significant minority of homes in Flagstaff are summer homes for Phoenix residents fleeing the desert-like heat for what Thais might call เย็นสบาย (1 one-syllable word and 1 two-syllable word 🙂 or comfortably cool.

    I once left Flagstaff when there was about a meter of snow on the ground. Two and a half hours later by shuttle bus, I was in Phoenix with cactus in bloom and sunny spring-like weather.

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