A mature couple hugging as they walk along a beach.Whether you're planning a month away or maybe more, it's time to get ready for your adventures as you follow the sun south.

Now that there's a chill in the air, many Canadians are setting their sights on how best to avoid winter. And for snowbirds, there's more to it than just booking a flight, hotel, and packing a bag with the bare essentials for the beach. If only it were that easy!

When you'll be away from the comforts of home for an extended stay there's more to consider and we've rounded up a few tips and tricks to help you ensure you're ready.

Getting Organized: Travel Basics Before You Go

When you plan to be out of the country for months at a time, there are some important items that can't be taken for granted. Take your provincial health care coverage, for example. You can only be outside of your home province for so long before you lose it. Play it safe. Find out how long you can be away because if you exceed what's allowed, you may have to go on a waiting period to re-establish your health care eligibility after returning home.

You'll also want to ensure you have emergency health care coverage for your travels beyond the border because your provincial coverage doesn't cut it. It's estimated, at best, your government health insurance may cover up to 10 percent of your total out-of-country emergency health care costs. Some provinces cover less or nothing at all. It's essential then that you protect your trip, your health, and your finances and secure snowbird travel insurance before you take flight.

The following are additional pre-travel housekeeping items to sort out as well:

  • Check your health card and passport to make sure they do not expire while you are away and renew if necessary. Check the expiry dates on your credit cards too.
  • Arrange for pre-authorized payments or set up Internet banking so you can pay your bills.
  • Prepare a list of emergency contacts for yourself, and also family and friends.
  • Pack enough of your medication(s) to cover your time away but never combine your prescriptions into one container; keep them separate with the pharmacy labels still affixed to the bottle.
  • If you wear glasses, get a copy of your prescription so that if you should lose or break your eyewear, you'll be able to easily replace them.
  • If you're planning on travelling with your laptop, tablet or smartphone, save money by getting a plan that allows for international texting and data to avoid, or minimize, roaming fees.

Getting Organized: Around the Home

It's essential to ensure your home is protected and stays protected and your first step in doing this is to call you home insurer. Ask them what needs to be done in order to ensure your home insurance coverage stays in effect while you're on holiday. For example, often they'll require that you have someone check in on the house (inside and out) on a regular basis if you'll be away for more than a few weeks.

Over and above your home insurer's requirements you'll also want to:

  • Have your furnace maintained, gutters cleaned, and your roof inspected to make sure it's in tip top shape and can weather the worst that winter has to offer.
  • Call your telephone, cable, or Internet provider to temporarily suspend your service. However, make sure doing so won't interfere with your home's security system, if you have one.
  • Hire someone to clear snow from your driveway, sidewalk and path after each snowfall.
  • Invest in timers for your lights and stagger them so they go on and off at different times to give passersby the appearance that someone is home.
  • Arrange to have someone you trust collect any junk mail or flyers that land at your front door.
  • Plan to store valuables that are usually kept in your home in a safety deposit box.
  • Cancel any regular deliveries and forward your mail.
  • Unplug all unnecessary electronics and appliances.

Getting Organized: Behind the Wheel

If driving to your destination, let your auto insurer know about your plans to make sure you're fully covered wherever your travels take you. For example, did you know your auto insurance isn't valid in Mexico?

It's also a good idea to:

  • Take your car into your mechanic to get a tune-up ensuring it's ready for the road trip ahead.
  • Renew your licence plate, auto insurance, or driver's licence before leaving if they're going to expire while you're away.
  • Consider joining a roadside assistance program that can help you both in Canada and outside of the country.
  • Create an emergency kit for the car. Make sure it includes things like first aid items, a flashlight, reflective triangles or road flares, jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, and water.
  • Bring a spare car key, just in case.
  • Don't overdo it. Take frequent breaks from driving and take your time.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and with these tips and ideas you can help ensure your plan to follow the sun's warmth this winter will go off without a hitch. Safe travels!

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