Manitoban snowbirds are preparing for a late southern migration.

Earlier this week, Rep. Brian Higgins, a New York congressman, said they were looking to reopen the land boarded to fully vaccinated Canadians for non-essential travel. This means snowbirds who drive south for the winter will be able to return.

"By the time this time of year comes, I am getting ready to head south already, thinking about packing," snowbird Garry Stratychuk says. "We have been going to spend the winters in Arizona since 2008."

Last year, Stratychuk and his wife flew to Arizona when that was open for leisure travel, but it was not ideal for the extended stay.

"We always have a bunch of stuff, have a dog, and it makes it easier."

The couple will be heading south later than usual this year, bringing a new meaning to Boxing Day. He says the December 26 date is for a number of reasons, including not knowing what the rules will be and spending Christmas with their children.

He says they often meet other Canadians in Arizona but the trickier part for Stratychuk will be visitors. Last year they did not have any, but this winter might see the return of some friends and family. 

"It was very weird not having anybody down but it was totally enjoyable on its own," Stratychuk says.

Stratychuk is far from alone in having fewer visitors than usual last year, as the Pembina border had the same experience. Personal vehicles travelling through the crossing dropped from 250,900 in 2019 to 49,888 in 2020.

"CBP does not expect the reopening of the border to cause any significant impacts. CBP officers have remained vigilant throughout the pandemic processing legitimate trade and essential travel and are prepared to process travellers at pre-pandemic levels," Jason Givens, a spokesperson from U.S Border Customs and Border Protection says in an email.

This year there have been 9,828 personal vehicles pass through, which is likely to see a boost once the border reopens.