House Call Dr. Zach’s travel checklist
usually arriving within 24 hours. Because the money never actually crosses the border, and the currency conversion is done using the real (non-marked-up) exchange rate, the lower fees means the son can save up to 80 per cent on what he’d pay to transfer the money through a bank. According to the company, sending $5,000 would cost the son C$49.50 in fees, a savings of more than $100. Go to www.transferwise.com or download the app.
THE CRA IS WATCHING
Last year, it came to light that anytime we cross into the U.S. by land, sea or air, our personal data is captured and shared with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If you thought that was a Big Brother-like invasion of privacy, you won’t be happy with Bill C-21 – an Act to Amend the Customs Act. This legislation will allow the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) to share the data it collects, not only with U.S. bodies but also with our own Canadian Revenue Agency. On the surface, this legislation is meant to secure our borders by cutting down on illegal immigration and smuggling. But by tracking your movements every time you cross into the U.S. – whether it’s for a one-day shopping excursion or a four-month winter vacation – the legislation will allow the CBSA to collect your biographic data as well as note the date you leave Canada, where you’ll be going in the U.S. and the date you return, and share it with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The taxman will use it to keep closer tabs on snowbirds who spend more than their 182-day yearly allowance in the U.S. Overstaying your welcome, intentionally or not, could mean a clawback on your social benefits (EI or GIS payments, for example, could be affected) or, even worse, could mean you have to file a U.S. tax return. Think the CRA is unsympathetic? Try explaining your mistake to the IRS. The overriding implication of this legislation is that snowbirds should be acutely aware that their movements are being tracked very closely and should make every effort to learn the residency rules and abide by them. Bill C-21 is currently before the Senate and will likely receive Royal Assent by the end of the year.
2 HOUSE CALL By Dr. Zachary Levine PLAN AHEAD
A check up on your medical checklist, before you go. 1. Be informed Make sure to know your province’s rules for health insurance and know the limitations of your health insurance and get full coverage for when you’re away. 2. Practise preventive medicine Go to your doctor to discuss any health issues where you’re going and how to avoid them. Ask what adjustments need to be made to your medication schedule or dosage while away (due to travel, time change, diet differences), visit other health-care providers before you go, such as your pharmacist, your dentist and your optometrist. 3. Do your research Learn about the resources at your destination and have a plan if you need medical assistance. 4. Take out the guess work Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter medications and vitamin supplements), doctors and medical issues to bring with you in case you need medical assistance; carry a medical alert bracelet or card to inform the medical staff of any medical conditions, allergies, emergency
contacts or other important information in case you can’t. 5. Consider things you may need Depending on your health history (analgesia, anti-nausea medication, allergy medication), make sure to have all health and hygiene essentials in your carry-on, such as painkillers, antacids and Band-Aids. 6. Always keep all your medications in your carryon Make sure that you have enough for the whole trip, as some medications are not available in different places. 7. Be wary Make sure that your medications are not controlled substances elsewhere (such as opiate analgesics) and, if so, have a letter from your doctor stating that they are needed and prescribed. 8. Make it easier For those with mobility issues, look into special services. Airports and airlines have caregivers who can act as escorts and transport people who have difficulty walking. Make arrangements for wheelchairs, guide dogs and special seating. 9. Stay fit Any flight more than four hours increases your risk of blood clots, which can be a deadly problem. To reduce risk, discuss the pros and cons of baby Aspirin with your doctor before flying, stay hydrated during the flight and get up and walk during the flight. 10. It sounds like a no-brainer, but be safe while travelling And that includes practising safe sex when abroad – use barrier contraception (condoms) to help decrease the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Zachary Levine is an assistant professor in the faculty of medicine at McGill University Health Centre and medical correspondent for AM740 (a ZoomerMedia property).
3 RETHINK YOUR FAVOURITE DESTINATION If you’re a snowbird who just can’t quit the traditional spots, here’s a fresh look at some old favourites By Ian MacNeill
Florida For an “off-the-beaten-track” stay in Florida, try the Emerald Coast in the North West. White beaches, seafood and fishing are easily found in one of the many architecturally unique and historical seaside communities. It’s like living like a local without the winter crowds.
Arizona Go beyond Phoenix and Scottsdale. With average daytime January temperatures of 18 C or more, Tucson is a good choice for those looking for local charm and culture. The city has adopted a Dark Sky Ordinance to control light pollution to ensure spectacular starry, starry nights.
Texas Real estate prices may be up south of the border, but US$189,000 will still get you a two-bedroom condo overlooking the pool on South Padre Island. California Thinking of buying in Palm Springs? Check it out first. Longtermlettings.com has a variety of properties available in the US$1,500 a month range. Bonus: the Palm Springs International Film Festival runs Jan. 3 to 14. Mexico The beaches of Puerta Vallarta are not your thing? When it comes to art and culture, San Miguel de Allende is hard to beat, and you can find one-bedroom apartments in the US$800 a month range, but reserve early because it can get competitive for housing. Bonus: Festive Carnaval – a “moveable feast” – runs Feb. 27 to March 5.
… And, yes, Canada
There is a strong contingent of you that has been picking Canada as your top destination for late fall and the holiday season, according to Virtuoso, the luxury travel advisor group that tracks Canadian travellers’ habits. Our Zoomer Travel Survey also found that you’re cooling on going south – nearly 10 per cent of you dropped the U.S. to second place from this time last year (a first in our 10-year history).
With that said, may we suggest the Okanagan? It’s an increasingly popular destination for snowbirds, especially from the Prairies. Not only does it offer much milder winters (it’s in a de- sert, after all, with average temps hovering between 1 and 10 C from January to March) and you don’t have to buy expensive travel insurance. In the winter, hotels empty out, and surprisingly affordable longterm rates come into effect.
You can stay in a one-bedroom suite with full kitch-
en at the Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos starting
at $1,650 a month ( water markbeachresort.com) or across the lake at the Walnut Beach Resort starting at $1,000 a month ( wal nutbeachresort.com). For the active, there’s skiing – we’re particularly enamoured of Apex Mountain, ( apexresort.com) – and for the foodies, there’s wine. Nk’Mip Cellars overlook the lake and valley. Operated by the Osoyoos Indian Band, it’s one of our favourite locations for sipping and supping. Plus there are good hospitals in all major centres, including Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon.
For new destinations on where to go next, go to everythingzoomer.com/ travelclub/adventurous-snowbird.