Snowbirds in SWFL make decision to stay or leave early

Reporter: Taylor Smith Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Travelers at RSW airport in Lee County. Credit: WINK News.

Snowbirds leaving Southwest Florida during this time of the year is usually unheard of. But we reached out to some car shipping companies that have received calls from people headed north who want to get their cars back home.

The streets, restaurants and beaches are generally packed early in the year and filled with snowbirds escaping the cold.

“From Canada and we are down here for the season,” Sherry Rioux said.

But, with the coronavirus spreading and the unknown of what will happen lingering, it has some people cutting their stays short Thursday.

“If you rent here, you’re screwed under the gun because you have a time frame,” Ruth Gugliociello said.

Lots of travel plans have changed.

“We were discussing today whether we are going to leave next week or not,” Rioux said.

Rioux says they usually stay until late April. But, now, she’s worried they might not be able to get back home.

“We’re very concerned about the border crossing, and that they might close it and say no one will be allowed back in,” Rioux said.

And, in a pandemic, snowbirds say they would rather be home for various reasons.

“Absolutely, we have free health care at home, makes a big difference,” Rioux said.

“My friend feels she would have more of a support system if she went back home, so she’s going home two months early,” Lynne Herbstritt said.

People we spoke to said they have noticed fewer people in restaurants that would normally be packed at around 6 p.m. this time of year. It adds to the question of how this trend could affect local businesses.

And the next big decision travelers have to make is how they’re going to get back up north.

“We have plane tickets home the third of April,” Susan Mendelsohn said. “And we are contemplating driving a car that we keep here instead and canceling our flights.”

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