Snowbird stretches his loonies

About two-and-a-half million Canadians head south each winter for anywhere from a few weeks to six months. No matter where we go or what we do when we get there, we’ll all be in the same boat — spending Canadian dollars worth much less in U.S. funds.

While we all take a hit on our dollar during a stay down south, the impact is nowhere near as bad as it might be — thanks to the lower cost of living in the U.S. And, with a little careful planning, that loonie can be stretched a long way. Veteran Florida travellers have made a habit of taking advantage of the “early bird specials” available at most Florida restaurants, cutting the cost of dining out by upwards of 40 per cent.

You’ll be delighted to know that a gallon of gas in Florida is always cheaper. During my rounds, I’ve found that Coastal, Hess, Citgo and the mini mart gas outlets including Circle K, Pwik Qwik and Cumberland Farms routinely have the lowest prices.

Clip those coupons
One thing Canadian Snowbirds have become expert at over the years is taking advantage of all those deep discount coupons — available for practically everything. Florida is wall to wall with discount coupons and Canaan coupon clippers.

You can pick them up at CAA outlets in Canada, at Florida Welcome Stations located at the Florida/Georgia boundary, and at just about every restaurant along the way. If you’re flying south you’ll find them in car rental depots and hotel/motel lobbies. A few dollars here and there soon add up.

Get seniors discount
Most of the major attractions offer a Canadian or seniors discount. Just inquire about it at the gate and be prepared to show Canadian ID. The best attraction deal in the state is the Kennedy Space Centre’s Visitor Centre (formerly Spaceport USA). There’s no gate admission at all. A party of four can spend the day and tour the space shuttle launch site for about the same cost as one adult admission to the major attractions in nearby Orlando.

Fly charter
Flying south? Save money by booking with one of the charter airlines that specialize in vacation travel or by reserving a flight-only package with one of the tour companies. Why pay last-minute full-fare on regularly scheduled airlines whose rates are geared for business travellers?

Incidentally, you can also book northbound flights with airlines simply by calling a toll-free 800 number from the U.S.

However you get there, have a good trip. And, when you arrive, join me for Canada Calling on the radio as we continue the 50-year-old tradition of airing news from home each day for Canadian Snowbirds in Florida and Arizona.

Prior Smith is host of the daily Canada Calling radio broadcasts to Florida and Arizona and a syndicated weekly columnist.