Winter Road Trip Tips

December 28, 2016
Juxhina Malaj

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you’ve probably lost count of how many times the phrase “Winter is Coming” has been said in the past few years. The truth is, winter is already here. Nonetheless, nothing must take away the excitement of a road trip, especially now that we are in the midst of the holiday season.

Snow, ice, and other winter weather-related hazards shouldn’t stop you from hitting the road. In this guide, you will find useful winter driving tips. You will learn about how to prepare for a winter road trip, how to winterize your car, and what to do in case your car breaks down on the road. For all that and a few more extra tips, keep on reading.

Winter Road Trip Tips

Road trips. Who doesn’t love them? Some long for them, others live for them. A road trip is a synonym of joy, adventure, and surprise. It opens your horizons and allows you to see the world from a new perspective. Road trips also give you a chance to meet new people and have random life-changing encounters with complete strangers. You can hear people’s stories and come back to your routine changed. You could be a little bit happier, a little bit wiser, and definitely inspired. Some road trips are meant to change us.

But sometimes, when those road trips are taken during bad weather they can also bring along uncertainty, fear, and danger. Winter road trips can surely be fun. But to have a positive experience, you have to be prepared and know how to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Unlike summer or spring road trips, winter travels present us with various challenges. Before you decide to embark on a road trip during the cold season, you must be fully prepared. You have to take all the necessary measures before hitting the road and prepare yourself and the car. Below is a list of tips to help you get ready for that exciting road trip that has been brewing in your head for quite some time now. Learn how to prepare for a winter road trip.

1.Do a car check up

A professional’s opinion whether your car is ready for the journey ahead is always important. Ask your mechanic to check your vehicle’s brakes, battery, lights, oil, and tires. Get the green light from your mechanic – cross off this item from your winter road trip preparation list. And don’t forget to keep your gas tank at least half full too. It will allow you to keep your car running for warmth should you become stranded in a deserted area.

2. Plan route in advance

This tip is relevant for all kind of road trips. But in winter not all roads are equal, some may be closed due to bad weather. Checking road conditions and planning your route well in advance with updated road maps will help you more than you think. If it is too late for you to find up-to-date road maps, plan your road trip by using the main roads which are most likely available all year round.

If someone is expecting you at your destination, let them know in advance about the route you plan to follow and your expected arrival time. Even if no one is expecting you, inform a relative, or someone you trust about your road trip plans so that they can check on you and help if something happens.

3.Don’t forget a survival kit

Before leaving your house, you will need to pack a tow rope, flashlights, matches, shovel, gloves, candle, and a paper towel. All these items, along with a fire extinguisher, ice scraper, road flares, batteries, and a toolkit may come in handy at any time during your winter adventures on the road. Store them in your car before you embark on your journey through the winter wonderland. They will help you plenty in case your car breaks down on the road.

4.Clothes and food for the winter

From where I come from it never snows, and I’ve lost count of how many times I wished for it to snow. I moved to Bulgaria for several years. It snows there, sometimes even in April. I realized that living by the seaside and in relatively warm temperatures my whole life has made me “vulnerable” to winter. I now try to stay away from cold weather whenever I have the chance. It’s hard for me to imagine how people in Colorado or Alaska, two of the Snowiest places in the United States, survive cold winters.

Whether you are used to cold weather or not, having extra warm clothing with you, blankets, a pair of extra gloves, socks, another pair of shoes, is always a good idea. Packing homemade food with you, or just buying some snacks in advance is also advisable. At some point during your journey, you will get hungry but won’t always find a place to eat or buy snacks. Therefore, you should always have enough water and food in your car.

5. Entertainment on board

Audio books, CDs with your favorite music, or various games if you’re traveling with your kids are just some basic entertainment means. If you are traveling with your best friends, or your family you can always entertain each other even if you don’t have anything else. Someone can read, or sing for you, for example, (I hope you have good singers in your family or circle of friends). But if you are traveling alone, bringing your favorite music with you is a must. Here is a great list of road trip songs you can enjoy. Since we like being generous, here are 10 more awesome tunes you can add to your playlist.

  • Regularly check your car battery

Extremely low temperatures can do a lot of damage to your car battery and eventually shorten its lifespan. Checking the battery regularly to ensure it functions well before starting your journey is highly recommended. If it can be of any help, here is a post I wrote some time ago about the average lifespan of your car battery and how to extend it.

  • Get snow tires and check your tire pressure regularly

No matter how careful you are while driving, snow tires are the ones that help you improve the traction of your car and keep you and those around you safe on the road. During your winter road trip, you will encounter many sections covered by ice and snow, so that is why snow tires are a must for everyone. Furthermore, make sure your car tires are properly inflated and refill them whenever you need to.

More tips on how to prepare!

  • Use the right engine oil

In the winter, low temperatures don’t only reduce tire pressure, but also the effectiveness of the engine oil. That is why you should also check whether you are using the right oil for your engine and adjust the viscosity.

  • Install wiper blades for clearer visibility

If you do not live in a cold area but are traveling towards one, installing wiper blades is another must. You need a clear vision all the time in order to reduce your chances of getting into an accident.

  • Stock, stock, stock

Stocking your car with emergency supplies such as flares, boots, first aid kit, flashlight, a bag of sand and a shovel, blankets, coolant, ice scraper, batteries, jumper cables, fluid, matches, washer, engine oil, and food is always a smart move.

  • Replace everything that needs to be replaced

Ice build-up is one of the main reason why you should replace wiper blades almost every year. Replace your belts and hoses if you notice they are worn out. Moreover, checking the anti-freeze mixture is also important when you fully winterize your car.

What to do if your car breaks down on the road?

Murphy’s Quantum Law: “Anything that can, could have, or will go wrong, is going wrong, all at once. If there is a wrong way to do something, then someone will do it.”

Winter driving

No matter how cautious you try to be, you never know what may happen on the road this winter. Cars get stuck in the snow, break downs happen. The most important thing in this type of situations is not to panic and over-react. Here’s what you need to do in the unfortunate event of a vehicle failure.

  1. Try to get the car off the road
  2. Evaluate the problem and see whether you can fix it yourself
  3. Call 911 and ask for help

4.Alert other drivers that your car broke down

You can always call a car shipping or towing company to arrange to take your car to the nearest mechanic or your home. It is important not to leave the car alone for two main reasons. First, you may risk your life trying to walk on a high-speed roadway. And second, the roadside service can’t help with your car if you are not present at the time help arrives. Find more info about what to do if your car breaks down on the road here.

Extra winter road trips tips

  • Carry a car charger for your cell phone
  • Make sure to have important phone numbers (relatives, emergency road service) at hand
  • Don’t always count on technology. Always have paper maps, besides Google maps and GPS
  • Avoid driving during the night
  • Take breaks whenever you need to
  • Always keep your lights on
  • Be extra careful
  • Stay hydrated
  • Stay positive

As long as you prepared in advance for whatever may come, winterize your car, follow all the road trips tips mentioned above, be extra careful, and know very well what to do in case your car breaks down in the middle of the road, you will have nothing to worry about. Road trips are always fun, whether you are taking them alone or with other people.

Safe travels!



Leave a comment