Vancouver Island’s milder winter climate offers a snow birding option for those who may dislike the heat in the southern climates or who are concerned about health care coverage.  People living in the southern part of the island during the winter months enjoy a lot more time outside since temperatures are manageable and snow is rare.  When it does snow it never lasts long although it is chaotic since few are familiar with winter driving.  Generally the more temperate weather means it is safer to walk to stores or participate in various activities without the fear of slipping on snow or ice.

If you think this snowbird approach is appealing a quick Google search using the terms ‘extended stay hotel + city name’ will provide a list of many hotel options.  Pricing is quite broad but for the most part, those rentals without kitchens and separate sitting areas are unsuitable for extended visits.  For most snowbirds, the best options would be an extended-stay suite in the heart of the capital city of Victoria where it is easy to walk to amenities as well as enjoy the beautiful and active harbour area.  Downtown hotel prices range from $2,400 for a one-bedroom suite with a city view through to $4,200 for a two-bedroom executive suite with water views.

Before booking your trip consider these steps:

  1. Try negotiating a deal with the hotel.  The published rates can be improved for multi-week stays.
  2. Confirm the kitchen amenities.  Some suites provide kitchenettes whereas others include full kitchens with regular sized appliances and all the necessary dishes, pots, pans and cutlery.
  3. In-suite laundry may be available or the hotel will offer separate shared laundry rooms.  Ask about the hours of operation and security features.  After all, you don’t want your wardrobe to disappear from the dryer.
  4. If you are renting or bringing a car, ensure that parking is included in the room rental.
  5. Pets are permitted in many of the extended stay hotels, however, an extra fee, often per pet, will apply.  The typical fee is about $100 per week.
  6. Hotel taxes can vary.  An extended stay may trigger a tax rebate.  These rules change frequently so do not assume anything.  The tax differences can be quite substantial (in the range of 10%).  Double check the rules as it would be disappointing to find that your stay was ineligible for a rebate because you were one day short of qualifying.
  7. Many hotels will offer a continental breakfast.  Confirm it is available for extended stay guests.  The breakfasts probably won’t be your preferred option every day, but the convenience is great when you need it.
  8. Confirm that your smoking/non-smoking preferences can be met.
  9. Confirm that high speed wireless internet is available at no additional charge.

Before leaving home make sure that your prescriptions are filled for the duration of your trip.  Check the provincial health care coverage rules.  Although these vary by province, if health care services are required you may need to provide payment at the time of your appointment and then be reimbursed by your home province after completing the necessary paper work.  Finally, leave the car at home.  Driving through the mountains would be hazardous during the winter months.  Living without a car is very easy in Victoria.  Walking is popular – even in the winter months the streets are energized with people.  For longer distances consider using public transportation and taxis.  Visiting other areas in BC can be done with a rental car or a vacation package that includes transportation.