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Welcome to the Snowmad Life

Remote workers are flocking to warmer destinations for the winter months. Should you join them?

By Brittany Anas on March 3, 2021

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iStock/urbazon

With the flexibility to work from anywhere this winter, Christopher Norton moved from New York to the San Diego area. 

“I love the winter months when I’m skiing on a mountain, and dislike them in everyday life when I trudge through the cold NYC tundra and step into another slush pile,” says Norton, who works in the financial industry as a UX researcher. 

So, he’s spent the winter months booking Airbnbs near the beach via a discounted monthly rental model. Since he’s still working East Coast hours, Norton gets to end the day with a sunny afternoon workout or surf session.

Welcome to the snowmad life. 

 

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Flocking to warmer destinations during the winter, a migratory pattern once reserved for retirees, is now something realistic for remote workers who have the option to work from wherever they please. 

“An increasing number of digital nomads have decided to join in the snowbird migration since they realized they can work from anywhere, so why not do it from places with warm weather and plenty of beaches and natural parks?” says Maria Gatea, a senior editor with STORAGECafe© who wrote a piece on snowbirds’ destinations

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STORAGECafe©, which provides listings for self-storage facilities, analyzed snowbird trends for 2020-21, predicting that there would be fewer Canadian snowbirds in this year’s migratory pattern, but more younger and remote-working American ones. 

To put it another way? Remote workers aren’t waiting until retirement to flock to warmer destinations in the winter. Here’s a look at the emerging trend.

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COVID-19 is reshaping work-life boundaries in unprecedented ways, and it’s prompted many to re-evaluate where they live: According to an Ipsos survey, 42 percent of people have either moved or considered moving since March 2020. 

It’s simply too soon to definitively call the snowmad lifestyle a trend because this is the first winter wherein remote work has become a widespread norm. But there are a lot of anecdotes hinting that seeking sunny destinations to work from in the winter is one COVID relocation trend that remote workers are, well, warming to. 

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The Atlantic Hotel & Spa on Fort Lauderdale Beach, an all-suite beachfront hotel, has seen a significant increase in long-term stay bookings this past fall and winter, with 20 percent of rooms booked for 14 nights or more and 10 percent of guests booking extended stays of 30 nights or more. 

“Having seen an influx of guests staying for over a month during the wintertime, I foresee this trend extending into the summer months and well past the pandemic,” says Samuel Atwood, general manager of The Atlantic Hotel & Spa, a Charlestowne Hotels managed property. “Hotels everywhere will continue to adjust their offerings to cater to guests navigating this new world.”

Vrbo, a vacation rental marketplace, tells us snowmads are flocking to vacation homes in warm, sunny destinations like Arizona, California and Florida, and many are staying for 15 or more days. 

Is the Snowmad Trend Here to Stay?

It’s not just single digital nomads who are interested in the snowmad experience. Gatea says she’s noticing families giving it a go, too, as parents work remotely and their children are enrolled in e-learning. Go ahead and call them a flock of “zoombirds,” another buzzword that’s catching on, she says.

For some, the snowmad life comes in a hybrid form. Chicagoan Janet Mandell, for instance, has booked several extended stay months at AKA West Hollywood in Los Angeles, where she’s enjoying the warmer weather and has opened a fashion rental showroom for her high-end designer rental business. From the sunnier locale, her kids can do their remote learning poolside.

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While it’s hard to predict if the snowmad trend is here to stay, it’s giving some a chance to test-run cities they’ve always wanted to live in. 

Norton says he’s aware of how lucky he is to enjoy some West Coast warmth and have a job while the vaccination timeline is ironed out and his employer decides how and when to reopen its office. 

“If your employer is willing to let you work elsewhere temporarily, then it’s an opportunity to live in ‘that destination’ that you’d always hoped to check out, so shopping around for short-term rentals or furnished Airbnbs are a great option to consider until (hopefully) things return to a new normal,” Norton says.

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