What to Pack, What Not To

Midlife Snowbird, The Emerald Coast, FL

His & Hers

What to Pack

Snowbird Wardrobe

Snowbird men and women have different wardrobe needs, but there are some common traits. How much is too much stuff? If you have a washer and dryer onsite, you don't need to pack a lot of clothes, but be smart about your choices. Don't think you're suddenly going to wear the items that have been lingering in your closet, untouched for a year or more.

Bring only your best

Bring only your favorite and best-fitting items that can multi-function. From there, mix and match, wear layers and don't worry about "repeating" your wardrobe. No one but you will even notice. What does get noticed is if you look consistent. Remember, you'll want to save space for the items you purchase while away.

My snowbird closet

One of the best assets of your snowbird closet is an airy, uncrammed, uncluttered feeling when you look at your wardrobe. We have a walk in closet at home and in our winter condo. By far I love my condo closet the most because it is clean, clear, concise.

If you have a small closet in your winter home, you won't have space for lots of extras, so don't put yourself through the agony of packing too much stuff, only to have to weed it out once in your second home.

Space Bags - Not Suitcases

We travel in a sedan, our dog takes up the entire back seat, which leaves the floor in the back seat and the trunk for "everything else." My best packing hack is space bags! I purchased several sizes and my husband uses one large space bag for his clothes, I get one for my clothes and there's a third for beach towels, sheets and more clothes.

The space bags are sealed with a vacuum cleaner, which means you will not be able to access the items in your space bags until you arrive at your destination. You will also need to re-seal them when you leave your destination, which could be problematic if your winter home doesn't have a vacuum cleaner. I found the space bags didn't hold a seal after the first year, so repurchase them if needed. Overall, I love using space bags in lieu of a suit case, which is a waste of valuable space in the trunk.

Color Coded Duffel Bags

So, you're wondering what do you do with your clothes for the trip to/from your winter destination? I use color coded cargo bags to easily know what bag belongs to me, my husband or our dog. And the type of bag indicates what is inside: lime green duffel = my travel clothes; orange canvas bags are for the dog and a brown duffel is my husband's travel clothes/toiletries. This is so much easier when you are unloading at your destination. You're road weary by then and just want to relax, so anything to make your life simpler is helpful.

What's in our Closet?

Here's what's in our closet after being away for six+ weeks. His quantities are on the left and mine is are on the right. The + items were purchased while away. Because we have a full size washer and dryer in our condo, we packed accordingly.

Shirts

T-shirts

2 = short sleeved = 2 + 1

7 = long sleeved = 2

Dress Shirts

2 = Collarless = 2

4  = Short sleeves = 0

1+1 = Long Sleeves = 1

Sweaters/Jackets

2 = Cardigan Sweaters = 2

2 = Pullovers = 0

0 = Zippered Athletic = 3

1 = Windbreaker = 0

0 = Trench coat = 1

0 = Winter coat = 1

Pants

5 = Jeans = 3

0 = Capris = 1

1 = Khakis = 0

1 = Sweats/Yoga = 2

1 = Athletic shorts = 2+2

2 = Cargo shorts = 0

Accessories

0= Baseball Caps = 1+1

0 = Purses = 2+2

0 = Scarves = 2

1 = Belts = 1

0 = Tanks = 2

3 = Pairs of Socks = 2

Shoes

3+2 = Loafers = 0

0 = Dressy sandals = 1

0 = Flip flops = 0

0 = Walking shoes = 2

UNDERGARMENTS

Of course, preferably bring enough undergarments to last at least two weeks without having to wash them. And/or buy more while away. Even if you don't live in an area with plentiful retail shops, you can always shop online.

Jewelry

Jewelry is another consideration and here's what we brought:

1 = Wedding ring = 1

2 = Bracelets = 4

0 = Pairs of earrings = 4

1 = Necklace = 2

What to Leave Behind... Or Not

Clothes

After six+ weeks of snowbirding, what should have been left behind? About HALF of the clothes we brought. Well, at least in some categories. Don't overdo your shoes and jackets. Make it work with a scaled back wardrobe.

Staying organized is easier with color coded duffle bags and space bags

Food Prep Appliances

Our condo was promoted as "well stocked," and it is, but that doesn't mean all of your favorite appliances and gadgets from home will be supplied. If there's a special high quality knife, or well designed Williams Sonoma® spatulas and gadgets you can't live without, then it's better to bring it. I can almost guarantee your snowbird rental will not be stocked with Pampered Chef® products, it will be basic inexpensive items that have seen their share of use. Otherwise, you may decide to make it work with what you have in your winter home or you could buy it once there. Or, if you're like me and you pared it down a little too much, have a friend or loved one stop by your home and ship it to you.

[HOME VS. AWAY: APPLIANCES, GADGETS]

Our first year in our Southern home we purchased a small, inexpensive crock pot and used it a couple times. We should have left it behind instead of toting it back home, only to haul it back the second year. We already have a fleet of crock pots in our primary residence, so the newest one is now a permanent asset of our winter rental for others to use until we return.

Bathroom Appliances, Prescriptions & Toiletries

If your rental doesn't have blow dryers and night lights, it's nice to find out in advance. It's not worth spending your time running around buying these items when you can easily bring them from home.

Bring anything you don't want to have to order or buy, such as cosmetics, hair spray, combs, brushes, shampoo/conditioner, jewelry cleaner, nail polish remover and polish, spray tan equipment and supplies, hair extensions, hair appliances and more. Most of it doesn't take up that much space.

Don't forget to pack a supply of vitamins and aspirin, antacids, first aid items and medications/prescriptions. You don't want to have to purchase full quantities of your vitamins only to end up with a dozen bottles of items that you only needed a handful.

Food

Some snowbirds prefer to transport their own pantry food from home, but there's no way it would fit in our vehicle either to/from our winter destination. We bring a few snacks for the road trip and then purchase everything else once at our destination.

Figuring out when to eat up your winter home's food is an art form that most snowbirds I've talked to have spent years trying to master. We gave away and tossed out more food than I want to think about our first and second years of snowbirding because neither a styrofoam cooler or box would possibly fit into our overloaded vehicle.

[SNOWBIRD MEAL PLANNING]

Pet Supplies

Pack enough pet food, medications, vitamins, leashes and supplies to last at least a week or more in your winter destination and make sure your pet has a comfortable bed. If you are in a remote area, you'll want to make plans to order your pet food/supplies online.

We didn't have room to pack a large commercial pet bed for our Golden Retriever, so we brought a 2' X 3' carpet remnant that he likes. It packs flat, it was a piece of home and provided some softness in an all-tile condo, which was chilly at times.

[COUNTDOWN TO DEPARTURE: PET PREP]

Sheets/Towels/Blankets

Your snowbird contract should let you know if you need to bring your own linens and towels, but if it doesn't, find out in advance. Some snowbirds prefer to have their own linens, or they bring their own so their pets can sleep in bed and not potentially ruin the rental sheets.

Our rental has two kitchen towels and two dish cloths, which would last us 1-2 days. So we brought our own to supplement.

Most rentals don't provide beach towels, so either purchase new ones at your destination or bring yours.

Tools/Office Supplies

Don't forget to pack scissors, a stapler, screw driver, tape, paperclips, notepaper, envelopes, stamps and pens. No one wants to drive around looking for these items if you don't have to.

Spare Keys

If you are not sure about needing spare keys while away, bring them. It's not worth calling a locksmith if you lock your only set in your car. Or worrying about whether someone borrowed your car. Likewise if you hide your spare keys/valuables at your primary home while away, make sure you can easily figure out where you hid them! It may be a surprise, but your memory about these things will fade the longer you are away.