Tag: snowbird

BeachFront, Ocean Front, Ocean View: What to Know

An example of prime beachfront property, the units are directly accessible to the sand at ground level. Miramar Beach, Northwest Florida. Beachfront, Ocean Front, Ocean View What to Know About the Nuances of Beach Rental Terminology Snowbirds looking for a place with “beachfront” in the 

Cook Like a Pro: The Basics

Beautiful and simple butternut squash pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese Cook Like a Pro The basics of cooking like a professional chef When it comes to cooking, I’ve found that snowbirds fall into two groups: the non-cooks and the foodies. I consider myself a 

Where to Shop to Furnish Your Vacation Rental

Retail Therapy, Miramar Beach, FL

Where to Shop

Where to shop to furnish your vacation rental or second home

Personally, I'm not a shopper. I'd rather do almost anything else than run to the store for something. Professionally, I've become adept at finding everything needed to furnish our vacation rental and have invested much time and thought in choosing every single item. Nothing was purchased or returned on a whim or without weighing the pros and cons of how that item fit into the rental property or not. 

Many snowbirds own a vacation rental, second home, lake, desert or mountain home and/or simply want to know where to find the charming items stocked in their winter rental. That used to be me. Where did the owner acquire the rugs, pillows, lighting, accent pieces, furniture, artwork and outdoor patio set? Now I'm that person supplying these items and we've had guests ask, "Where exactly did the mattress come from and what is the specific model # of it?" A true compliment!

It's ironic that being a shopper in a professional capacity changes your outlook on what you are looking for. You are not only shopping for what you like, you are anticipating what your guests will like. It's not just the adults, you have to appeal to the teens and kids too. There's a mix of every personality staying in a rental unit, which means it's critical to identify the overall theme. I've written about this topic in another post [The Basics of How to Furnish a Vacation Rental Property] and it's important to get it right. A guy's rustic fishing trip kind of place is completely different than a ladies' luxury getaway or a romantic couple's retreat. 

Everything needs to work together in a cohesive way and you have to know what the limits are. When is enough, enough? How much is too much to spend? Is good enough, enough? Is it time to stop shopping?

Your furnishings must not only look appealing, they need to endure wear and tear to get through at least one entire busy season. Value, quality and brands do make a difference for many items that need to last much longer than one season. Other items, such as bath towels and wash cloths need only meet your minimal standards because they will be replaced before showing lots of wear. No one wants to use a thread-bare towel or make-up stained wash cloth. This also applies to chipped dishes. Buy a moderately priced brand that will be available from year to year and replace every single chipped item. Tired, imperfect and dirty is what many guests have at home and they want to escape to fresh everything. Below, I will share where I shopped to furnish our vacation rental. Consider every possible bricks and mortar store and online resource to find the mix that works for you.


I love Walmart for anything where you only need the basics, large and small.

  1. Ceramic every day dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, serving platters
  2. Glassware such as short and tall drinking glasses, juice glasses, wine glasses
  3. Casserole dishes in various sizes
  4. Flatware and serving spoons
  5. Utensils such as wooden spoons, whisks, spatulas
  6. Stainless steel utensil caddy
  7. Chip-resistant Corelle bowls, dinner and salad plates (kid friendly)
  8. Coffee cups
  9. Coffee filters
  10. Dish racks and storage solutions
  11. Dish clothes
  12. Dish towels
  13. Drawer organizers
  14. Plastic wrap, aluminum foil
  15. Measuring cups and measuring spoons
  16. Plastic nesting mixing bowls
  17. Glass pitcher
  18. Plastic pitcher
  19. Nesting skillets
  20. Pots and pans in various sizes
  21. Disposable salt and pepper shakers
  22. Cleansers: toilet bowl, glass and multi-purpose
  23. Liquid hand soap
  24. Laundry soap
  25. Laundry hamper
  26. Collapsible drying rack
  27. Coffee maker
  28. Blender
  29. Toaster
  30. Iron
  31. Alarm clock with charging portals
  32. Mattress pads
  33. Mattress topper
  34. Pillows
  35. Pillow cases
  36. Batteries
  37. Light bulbs
  38. Paint brushes, drop cloth and supplies
  39. Spray paint
  40. Glass display jar for sea shells
  41. Outdoor cushions
  42. Markers, coloring books and sketch pads
  43. Games, puzzles
  44. Bar stools (I had to return them due to odd counter height)

Home Goods

Home Goods is great for discounted prices on better quality close-out items

  1. Knick knack decor items that add charm to every room
  2. Wall art
  3. Beach towels
  4. Ice bucket
  5. Wooden charcuterie board
  6. Cutting boards in various sizes
  7. Household items such as coffee mugs, measuring utensils, serving spoons
  8. Paper towel holder
  9. Decorative liquid soap dispensers for kitchen and bath
  10. Area rugs
  11. Place mats
  12. Pillows for both bed and outdoor use
  13. Vanity seat
  14. Foot stool
  15. Games, puzzles

I also shopped regularly at Tuesday Morning for these same items, but unfortunately the retailer closed it's stores in 2023


Big Box Stores: Lowes and Home Depot

Big box stores fill in a lot of gaps for practical household items

  1. Outdoor cushions
  2. Outdoor rugs
  3. Welcome mat
  4. Wire closet shelves
  5. Rubber wire coated dish shelves and racks
  6. Hardware such as hammer, screwdriver and miscellaneous hardware
  7. Paint brushes and spray paint
  8. Room darkening curtains
  9. Blinds
  10. Light bulbs
  11. Cleansers: for toilet bowl, glass, shower and multi-purpose
  12. Gallon-sized liquid soap refill
  13. Laundry soap

Thrift Shops

Thrift shops are ideal for pre-owned household items at a greatly reduced price. Typically, I drop off donations and then visit the shop to see if there's anything of interest. Thrift shop furniture is typically very well built if it's more than 20 years old and often will look fresh again with a new coat of paint.

  1. Barware such as gently used glass beer mugs, wine glasses, pilsner glasses and rocks glasses
  2. Games, puzzles, books
  3. Kitchenware, pots, pans, casserole dishes
  4. Furniture, mirrors, artwork, housewares

Restaurant Suppliers: Gordons Food Service

Restaurant suppliers such as Gordons Food Service are great for commercial grade products that need to wear well for many seasons.

    1. Baking sheets in multiple sizes
    2. Muffin tins
    3. Glass pitchers
    4. Serving utensils


Amazon, Etsy and other online retailers such as Overstock and Wayfair offer practical specialty and unique items.

  1. Driftwood decorative bowl
  2. Knife set with butcher block holder
  3. Hand towels, wash cloths, bath towels, bath mats
  4. Hair dryer and cloth storage bag
  5. Plastic storage bags with zippers
  6. Bedspreads
  7. Custom signage
  8. Oversized plastic serving bowl
  9. Specialized Christmas/holiday decor

Surf Shops

Surf shops are great for finding local items that add that extra special touch.

  1. Starfish, specialty shells and sand dollars
  2. Beachy front door decor and signage
  3. Coastal accessories

Let's be real, there's no need to pay for free driftwood and shells from your local beach. Buy the items that you can't find at the shore.

Local Retail Shops

Local mom and pop retail or consignment shops, such as Retail Therapy in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida typically offer local products for a one-of-a-kind purchase.

  1. Original art and ready-to-frame prints by local and regional artists
  2. Handcrafted local items
  3. Books by local and regional authors
  4. One of a kind decor and items unique to the area

Local and Regional Furniture Stores

Mattress Firm, Rooms to Go and local furniture stores have practical options at various price points for big ticket items.

  1. Lamps
  2. Dressers
  3. Bedroom set
  4. Coffee tables, end tables
  5. Buffet servers
  6. Dining room set
  7. Sofas
  8. Easy chairs
  9. Mattress with adjustable tilt bed frame
  10. Mirrors
  11. Lighting
  12. Area rugs
  13. Wall art

National Retail Stores

National retailers such as Marshalls/TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, At Home, Kirklands, Five Below and other medium to large home stores offer items you might not find elsewhere.

  1. Mirrors and wall art
  2. Decor and accessories
  3. Kitchenware and utensils
  4. Bedding, pillows, towels, blankets, bedspreads
  5. Most any type of housewares and goods related to the home and patio

Before Bed, Bath and Beyond closed stores in 2023, I shopped there as well.

Parting Thoughts

You have to know when to edit yourself and stop shopping. If you can't do this on your own, ask a trusted friend or family member for honest feedback. No one wants to stay in a place that has too much of a good thing. If necessary, rotate your regular and seasonal accessories so returning guests feel there's something new to enjoy for their stay. Retire items that start to show a little wear, not after they are worn out or too dirty to clean. Never keep broken items, not only is it a safety hazard, it's unbecoming.

As a professional shopper, it can be fun, but it is a LOT of work. Pace yourself so you can think about each item and how it relates to what you already have. If necessary, return it or donate it to a local charity. I bought a charming $35 lamp with a sea-grass shade at Home Goods. Upon installing it in the rental unit's bedroom, it didn't quite look right. So I decided to paint it a coastal blue hue to blend in better with the decor. It still didn't look right and now it had an imperfect paint job. I felt it was time to retire the lamp. Letting go of the items that are not working for one reason or another is better than making a bad impression.

One more thing: don't forget to keep an eye on the trends. After a few years, it's important to replace dated items with fresher things, not because they actually are bad, just to keep ahead of or equal to your competition. Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy the large and small items that provide the extra special charm.


"Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.”

-- Gertrude Stein, American Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Art Collector [1874-1946]


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In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from or in connection with, the use of this website.

Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of Midlife Snowbird. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links or advertisements does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.

Flying Snowbirds

Cosmo is an international flying snowdog who lives in Germany and has made seven round trips to NW Florida since he was a pup Flying Snowbirds Are you a good candidate to fly to your warm weather destination? Flying snowbirds are a bit of an 

How to Book Direct With Owners

How to Book Direct With Owners Where to Find Rental Owners and Avoid Extra Fees One common question I encounter from snowbirds is how and where to find rental owners and property managers. It’s a great question and with some diligence, it can be done. 

Candid Conversations with Snowbirds: An Insider’s Perspective

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Candid Conversations with Snowbirds

What Snowbirds Are Talking About from an Insider's Perspective

Every snowbird is different, yet there's many common threads of conversations that all relate to core issues: the overall value and cost of housing, location, friendships/connections, community and appreciation. As a seasoned snowbird, I consider myself an insider of the snowbird lifestyle because I've experienced and witnessed a lot over the years.

If you've ever wondered what snowbirds actually talk about, I'm sharing insight from personal conversations with snowbirds I've known for years as well as total strangers I've just met. They are refreshingly candid about what is important to them and don't even necessarily realize they're sharing such valuable information. It's not earth shattering, however it does provide honest insight into the minds of what matters to snowbirds, especially snowbirds who rent their warm weather homes. Seemingly the smallest details make their way into the conversation, which tells volumes about what matters to a snowbird. Whether you are a rental property owner or the one renting the property, these are some common themes to be aware of from each view. I've been both and this is what snowbirds are talking about from an insider's perspective.

Snowbird Housing

Housing costs, location, features and availability are all important to snowbirds. If a snowbird is happy with their housing, they will rebook it year after year, which is helpful for owners and guests to have continuity, familiarity and know what to expect.

Snowbirds are quick to share their overall satisfaction or not. They will let you know if they like the view, furnishings, attentiveness of the property manager and cleanliness. I've heard from many snowbirds about dirty/worn/outdated units. If this is the case, there had better be a good reason to repeatedly stay there, such as being pet friendly or a fabulous view of the ocean, lake or mountains.

Many snowbirds move around for one reason or another. Availability is a major consideration. If a place doesn't have the needed dates, such as all of January and February, it will force guests to move within the complex or to an entirely different place. Size, price and location are also important. Some snowbirds, such as my longtime friend, Vicki seek accommodations large enough to host multiple groups of family/friends from home and are willing to pay more for that. Others want only enough space for themselves. This could be because they intentionally don't want to have space for guests or have no plans to host guests.

I've learned from personal conversations that many snowbirds have misperceptions about pricing because they mistakenly believe smaller units will cost less. Sometimes that is true, yet there are bargains to be found because the three bedroom units may be vacant in the winter unless priced to compete with the one and two bedroom units. Another common concern is how to rent directly from owners/property managers to avoid paying third party fees.

Rising housing costs matter to snowbirds, especially the ones who have retired. The Naples area of Southwest Florida is known for being very upscale and expensive. During the course of a conversation about Northern Florida versus South Florida prices, it was revealed a friend of a friend's cost to stay at the same place in the Naples area for the next season was increasing to $47,000. That's a lot of money and it was for an inland, not beachfront property.

My friend Judy stays at the same condo every season and appreciates that her property management company recognizes her and calls her by name when she arrives. Not only do they personally acknowledge her, they leave a fresh fruit basket welcome gift on her counter every year.

Longtime friends Lou and Sue, have stayed at the same high rise complex for 10+ years and shared that they prefer a unit on the 3rd to 6th floors. They were on the 26th floor for just one season because it was too high, especially during storms and wind. It isn't just about sitting on the balcony and feeling woozy from the dizzying height. The unit was only accessible from a long, gulf-front exterior walkway leading to the elevators. Every time they were coming or going when it was stormy or windy, it's blowing directly onto the exterior walkway. No thanks!

Speaking of elevators, they can be quirky and often don't function. Many snowbirds have said that they love their ground floor units because of the easy access for them and their pets. The down side is keeping pets corralled on the patio of a ground floor unit, it's not a good idea to leave the slider door open at night due to security and your view of the water is not as spectacular as a higher floor. There are ground floor units that may be located next to a pool, which can be wonderful but it also means your direct view is of sunseekers reclining in the pool's lounge chairs.

Casual conversations about housing provide valuable insight of aspects of what may seem like a great choice, yet there's always more than meets the eye when you really delve into the details.

[Snowbird Housing Case Study: Not All That Glitters Is Gold]

Furnishings and Decor

Decor and furnishings are important to snowbirds who are spending an extended time in their warm weather home. Furnishings are mentioned in snowbird conversations more often than you might think.

A new neighbor explained that their rental is decorated in "Parrots, red paint and a tropical Tommy Bahama" vibe. She explained it, "Isn't her style" but they do love the unobstructed gulf view and that is the primary reason they chose the place. We talked about putting aside the unwanted items, but the intense red paint in the kitchen is difficult to ignore. I get it, I spent three seasons with an emerald green kitchen. It didn't feel beachy and neither does my neighbor's red kitchen. I guess the only options are "Live with it or leave it."

Another friend, Mary, casually mentioned that her newly renovated condo only has seven spoons. She said the flatware matches and it's of good quality, but there are a total of seven spoons.  Mary's lack of spoons was upstaged by Terrie who told me she only has three spoons. I didn't ask -- Mary and Terrie volunteered the info because it is ridiculous enough that they needed to vent. Terrie's 3 BR / 3 BA unit was purchased within the last six months and refurbished, which is all the more reason to get the details right.

Not only are these situations memorable for all of the wrong reasons, it's very short-sighted of the owner and/or property manager. If a guest is running the dishwasher more frequently due to lack of basics such as flatware, it's increasing utility costs and annoying the guest who either must purchase their own flatware or hand wash it every day or perhaps every meal.

Other snowbirds have shared they lack storage, don't have enough pots/pans/bakeware and don't have any equipment to vacuum their rental or the vacuum doesn't function.

None of the guests were impressed with the shortfalls. The message the snowbirds receive is "My property isn't loved enough to provide proper basics, why should I care if they don't care?"

Hobbies, Recommendations and Concern for Other Snowbirds

It's heartwarming how much of a bond there is with snowbirds, even ones you've only just met and may never see again. Kind of like small town or even university life where you know everyone has something in common and because of that it connects you that much more.

A great icebreaker conversation starter is to ask another snowbird where they are from. If they have a dog, ask the dog's name, etc. By showing interest and asking a few basics, it's easier to find out if you have things in common, such as being a dog lover, common interests in pro or university sports teams and other activities such as golf, fishing, reading or other hobbies. By sharing a little information, I found out one of my neighbors was attending the same local architectural home tour my friend and I were attending. Recommendations for favorite festivals and other events is a great way to interact with and get to know your fellow snowbirds a little better. You may even decide to attend an event, walk your dogs together or go out to dinner some evening. Becoming a part of your snowbird community often starts with a simple introduction that leads to lasting friendships.

It's fairly quick to figure out snowbird's favorite sports team and hobbies. They're often wearing apparel with their hometown team/s or they have cues of what they do for fun based on their attire and accessories. Perhaps the conversation is related to their fishing gear; water sports equipment and gear; bicycles; guitar or musical instruments or their golf clubs. It's one of the easiest and most popular conversations amongst snowbirds who are getting acquainted.

Snowbirds often express thoughts of missing other snowbirds who have passed away or are absent for various reasons, such as no longer able to travel to their warm weather destinations. They also check up to learn if their friends and acquaintances have returned and let them know they are happy to see them again.

Not only do snowbirds want to be appreciated, they also seek and share recommendations of where to go, what to do and the best places to eat. A neighbor, Dee, stopped me to ask whether to go to the Winn Dixie for groceries or drive further to another large super center? Another time she asked if I thought a local restaurant up the street would be a great choice for a special date night? She knew my husband and I dined at this same romantic gulf front restaurant for our wedding anniversary. I told her we had enjoyed the restaurant for past anniversaries and were disappointed to find there were only five entrees on the menu this time. Because of our conversation, Dee appreciated the insight of what to expect.

This year there was an unfortunate abundance of snowbirds who departed days, weeks and even a month+ ahead of schedule due to their own illness and in one case, illness of a pet. I talked with snowbirds who personally updated each other and kept each other apprised of the status of the ones who left early. In one case, a man who loved to fish at night was hospitalized after being found on the floor of the elevator after returning from fishing one evening. Scary stuff, especially for the spouses who are lacking the normal support system in their primary homes. By expressing the care and concern for each other, it does make a difference so the snowbirds in crisis do not feel entirely alone in their warm weather community.

Snowbirds also kindly wish each other well and let their friends know they arrived safely back at their primary homes. Until next time, we tell each other we hope we meet again next year.



"Every good conversation starts with listening.”

-- Tom Haak, American Author, Business Founder


The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. We make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from or in connection with, the use of this website.

Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of Midlife Snowbird. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links or advertisements does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.

Housing Case Study: Not All That Glitters is Gold

Balancing a great view with cost isn’t an easy decision [Pictured: Maravilla Resort, Miramar Beach, FL, a condo complex with 188 units] Not All That Glitters Is Gold Snowbird Housing Case Study My twist of William Shakespeare’s famous quote, “All that glitters is not gold” 

Snowbird Road Trip Essentials Checklist

Be prepared for planned and unplanned situations such as the loss of cell service in rural areas. Don’t forget to take photos to document the beautiful scenery. Snowbird Checklist: Road Trip Essentials Organize for a Successful Snowbird Road Trip Now that Thanksgiving, the Christmas crush 

How to Pack Your Vehicle


How to Pack Your Vehicle

Strategic Organization for a Successful Snowbird Road Trip

The first season we became snowbirds, I made a huge mistake. I did not get involved in packing the vehicle, only the stuff that goes in the vehicle. I was naively happy my husband handled all of the rest. As you can guess, it didn't take long to realize I had no idea where anything was, nor was it organized so that essential items could be easily reached from the passenger seat in transit or while stopped. 

Over the years, I've developed strategies for packing the vehicle to/from our snowbird community or any other destination. Because most people, including us, typically don't make long haul road trips more than once or twice a year, I recommend reviewing your techniques of what worked and what to skip prior to departure. Yes, it's rather intuitive, but there's always some detail that gets overlooked and it's not typically convenient to correct it while in transit.

We transport our Golden Retriever and business essentials such as computers, supplies, equipment and a printer to our snowbird community. If you don't have a dog and/or a business to bring, it's much less complicated. These are my personal strategies for organizing our vehicle for a successful road trip.


Related Posts:

Countdown to Departure

Countdown to Departure, Pet Prep

What to Pack, What Not To


Strategic Organization for a Successful Road Trip

First Get Your Basics Organized/Updated

Most of us already keep the basics organized in our vehicles: proof of insurance, registration, vehicle manual, cash, garage door opener and compact umbrellas stowed in the pocket of every door. I always have an atlas in the seat pocket in case of no cell service while traveling through rural areas.

Emergency preparedness is essential for a long road trip. If you have all of the items for first aid or to change a tire or give/get a battery jump, verify it's all there. If you don't have any of those items, consider purchasing them or invest in a AAA membership if you're not the type to work on your own vehicle. Newer vehicles may not be designed for a jump due to the absence of battery terminals. If your vehicle is in that category, it's better to know in advance that you'll need professional roadside assistance than to try to flag down help only to find they can't help you and vice versa. Keep gloves, hats and an extra blanket or two in your vehicle in case of a problem.

If you travel via toll roads, your Riverlink, SunPass and E-Z electronic passes should already be installed on the windshield. If you prefer the cash/credit lanes, restock your small bills and change as a back-up just in case.

It's also assumed you will remember to bring your purse and/or wallet, sunglasses and keys. Everyone should have their own set of keys, don't try to downsize to one set in the event of lost or stolen keys.

Start With a Clean Vehicle

This should go without saying, but thoroughly vacuum and wipe down every inch of your vehicle's interior surfaces prior to departure. Road trips are stressful enough, it's important to start with an exceptionally clean interior for safety and launching your journey the correct way for no other reason than it just feels better. The exterior should be clean too, especially the windshield and all glass windows. By personally cleaning everything, you'll have an opportunity to check the condition and restock any of the aforementioned basics.

Organize by Zone

The most important zone, which I refer to as "zone one" is a radius within reach of the front seats. The primary job of the passenger is to assist the driver in every way possible while in transit. Second is to manage any additional passengers, including the family pet/s. Solo drivers will have a different set of needs that are not addressed in this post.

Many snowbirds travel by SUV, however, the zone strategy applies to any vehicle. Zone one is everything within reach of the front seats. The other zones include the back seats and cargo area. If your uncaged pet is travelling with you, remember that not only can you reach zone one, your pet likely can too. This means it's important to plan accordingly so your dog isn't chomping on snacks or discarded food wrappers that are within easy reach of you and him. The first year we traveled with our puppy, Bodie, he was delighted to discover rolls of toilet paper were located near his dog bed. He entertained himself biting them until our next pit stop.

Physical Barriers to Separate the Zones

We use physical barriers to separate the zones. This includes a commercially produced aluminum pet barrier that keeps our dog from entering the front seat area. For his safety and ours, this is non-negotiable. I've seen many dogs travel in pet cages, which is a good option for smaller animals. Even if your pet doesn't typically try to barge into the front, think of safety in the event of a fast stop on the highway. Your pet should not become a missle and neither should anything else in the cargo zones.

To contain the items in the cargo area of our SUV, they are packed within a large box with the heaviest items on the bottom and only lighter items on the top. Never put heavy items anywhere they can become harmful projectiles. The large box in our cargo area helps contain items that shift while in transit and might fall onto the dog. Yes, in the past it has happened with coat jackets that are stowed on top of the heavy items and it's frustrating because the passenger cannot safely move the item until the next pit stop.

Zone One Requires Multi-Functions

Zone one is very important because there are many functions happening in this zone. The passenger must be able to help the driver navigate as well as efficiently dispense food and beverages to the humans and pet/s. Other functions include storing and charging electronic equipment and adjusting the front and rear temperature and radio stations. Sleeping/resting are also important for the passenger. Zone one requires being able to quickly clean up spills and messes and dispose of trash.

Middle Console

The hard-working middle console is a plethora of activity. We keep our cell phone super charger and phones in the middle console area. The interior of the console stores bags of snacks plus cash/change and the vehicle manual. A bottle of hand sanitizer plus each person's beverages fit into the cup holders.

Always bring extra clean sandwich bags and varying sizes of extra plastic containers with lids to keep inside the console. These containers are very handy in transit. The driver can keep their own individual bag or plastic dish of trail mix, chips or popcorn on their lap during transit. Plastic containers are ideal to catch crumbs or drippy sandwiches. Leftovers, such as pizza slices or uneaten sandwiches travel better in a clean sealed plastic container vs. a flimsy styrofoam to-go container. There's nothing fun about cleaning up a capsized fast food box, especially because it never happens when it's convenient.

One of my best tips for travelling with a dog is to keep a decent-sized high quality (such as Rubbermaid® brand) air-tight plastic container on top of the middle console. Our dog prefers to munch on ice cubes in transit and when the ice melts, he has chilled water to enjoy. I layer two or three clean dish cloths under the container of ice to keep the condensation away from leather console top and to clean up drool or messes as needed. It works very well compared to the days of travelling with a traditional water bowl on the console. No matter what the ice/water is stored in, offer it to your pet frequently to ensure they don't get too dehydrated. They are stressed too.

Within your middle console, pet's travel bag or somewhere else within reach, make sure you know where the portions of kibble are located to feed the dog in transit or at a rest stop. I portion each meal in baggies so I don't have to measure from our bulk supply of dog food, which travels in a tin in the cargo area. There have been trips where I couldn't remember where the food was and resorted to getting it from the bin.

I stack the dog's travel bag on top of the bottled water (which sits on the floor behind the middle console, then my purse, travel pillow and cosmetic bag are on top of that. Whatever is most important to you should go where it can be easily reached.

Cosmetic bags should have practical items such as eye drops, lip balm, an extra contact case, spare glasses, a lens cloth, breath mints or mini bottles of mouthwash, tweezers, aspirin, make-up and purse-sized perfume. When spending that much time in your vehicle, you'll want to be able to refresh as needed between fuel stops.

Magazines and paperback books are stowed between the passenger seat and console within easy reach.

Dashboard console

As previously mentioned, the dashboard console should contain your proof of insurance, registration and plenty of extra paper napkins. The paper napkins are handy for messes that need to be thrown away at the next pit stop or in the event your drive-through order didn't include napkins.

Behind the Seats

I never travel without a throw-style blanket and beach towel or two and keep them and my travel pillow within easy reach for a nap or when it's a little chilly. We don't want our dog to overheat, especially if the sun is shining on his area of the vehicle, so it's easier to rely on a blanket and keep the overall temp colder rather than too warm. We also make sure the vents are not blowing directly on the dog too much. Keep an eye on things so the dog isn't miserable the entire time.

Our dog's pet bed is huge and it's situated behind the driver's seat since the driver won't be needing to reach back there anyway. We cover it with a clean sheet to not only keep it cooler than the fuzzy fabric of the actual bed, but the sheet can be washed upon arrival. By the time we've spent two full days travelling, it's hairy and has seen it's share of drool and other fluids.

Plenty of 12 oz bottled waters are stowed behind the middle console for the passenger to locate as needed. I also have at least one gallon of bottled water in the vehicle. My experience is the gallon of water is better for bringing into the hotel and the 12 oz bottles are easier to reach and dispense while in transit.

We keep our coats behind our respective seats so we can quickly find them for pit stops.

Floor Space

Slip-on shoes are essential. The passenger's floor space is usually not all that roomy and quickly fills up with shoes, bags of trash and often, my purse. I travel with two or three professional cameras and keep at least one within easy reach at all times. Sometimes that means on my lap, in my purse or in the pile behind the middle console.

The floor space between the two rear seats is filled with a solid box filled with canned goods and pantry items. If we had a small cooler that would fit in the space, that's what would be located here, but none fit the space. Not only does the box of canned goods give us something to eat when we arrive, it most importantly supports the dog's bed.

There's a lot to be utilized with floor space and the gaps from where the seats fold down. We usually bring multiple packs of double roll toilet paper to stuff in these gaps. Shoes and smaller items that aren't needed while in transit also fit in the gap.

A small set of weights is ideal for gaps or floor space and two liters and glass bottles wrapped in kitchen towels can travel on the floor or in the gaps if they won't be trampled in transit or roll out when the side doors are opened.

Pet Pathway Zone

Our dog is physically unable to jump into the vehicle even once, let alone multiple times per day on a road trip. We find it much safer for him and us to use a sturdy commercially made folding ramp. Because the ramp takes up space in the SUV cargo area, we often pack duffle and utility bags on top of it. That means unloading the bags every time the dog uses the ramp. It's a trade-off and not really a big deal. Other dogs travel in commercial pet carriers and cages with the cargo area. No matter how it works out best in each situation, be careful of air flow or lack thereof, as well as heating/cooling and access to food and water.

Practice and Refine with Your Own Vehicle

Before loading your sedan or SUV, carefully consider, "Do we really need this? Is it essential? A duplicate? Hard working?" If so, then it's worth planning and organizing how to make it fit within the allotted space of your vehicle. If not, leave it behind and direct your energy to the items of most importance.

Our first two seasons we travelled in a sedan, which is a lot different than the very large SUV that we purchased for the practical cargo space. No matter the mode of travel, think creatively and work out the strategies that are best for your own personal needs. Don't forget to observe other vehicles at the rest and fuel stops. It will either reassure you are on the right track or inspire you to try new tactics.

When we arrive at our snowbird destination, I enjoy watching the other travelers loading their belongings on the utility carts to move in for the season. I've never seen anyone with a light load and it's refreshing to know we're not that different from anyone else.



" 'Just in case' is the curse of packing.”

-- Alexandra Potter, British Author


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Cooking Class: Four Festive Hors d’oeuvres

The small bite hors d’oeuvres are beautifully presented, everything is more sparkly and has an element of being that much better. Beef tenderloin blue cheese bites Butternut squash crostini with arugula hummus Parmesan crisps with Prosciutto and orange marmalade preserves COOKING CLASS Four Festive Small