7 Tips for Winter Road Trips

When you are on winter road trips, detailed planning matters. And if you need to drive to and from one of the snowiest cities in the United States you’ll definitely want to work out a detailed winter driving safety plan.

Driving through hard-packed snow, winter storms and roads covered with ice and slush require a different skill set compared to driving on normal road conditions.

Here are Travelmath’s 7 tips for winter road trips to help you plan and drive safely this winter.

1. Plan your route

At Travelmath, we use at least 6 tools to help us plan our road trips:

1. Driving time
2. Driving distance
3. Stopping points
4. Halfway point
5. Cost of driving
6. Hotels in the area

Say you plan to drive from Syracuse to Minneapolis. It takes 16 hours 13 minutes (1,092 miles) to drive between both cities according to the driving time and driving distance tool.

Recommended stopping points are Erie Pennsylvania, Toledo Ohio, Chicago and Madison Wisconsin. Fort Wayne Indiana is the halfway point and the cost of driving each way between both cities is $103.26 (at the time of writing). You can also check for hotels near your chosen stopping points or halfway point.

With these tools you will be able to draw up a plan on when to start your road trip, where to stop, how much it will cost to drive and find hotels in the area. A detailed driving plan will give you the advantage of booking the hotels in advance and checking weather conditions of the cities area you will be driving through.

It may be better to print out the direction and have a paper map handy.

2. Get helpful resources from the experts

For expert road trip safety advice, we go to AAA. Download this 7-page How to Go on Ice and Snow PDF by AAA.

3. Prepare a checklist for car maintenance

Here is a list to help you get started:

Wiper blades
Windshield washer fluid
Exhaust system
Oil change

Another great resource from AAA that you can print out is the AAA Winter Car Care Checklist. Get it here.

4. Emergency survival checklist

Some of the basic items to bring include:

Tow rope
Warm clothes
Extra batteries
Emergency contact
Cell phone charger – external batteries

We found the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Winter Survival in Your Car PDF and North Dakota Department of Emergency Services PDF helpful as well. To download click on the links:

Winter Survival in Your Car

Survival Kit for Winter Driving

5. Know What to Avoid

Here are a few things you must avoid when driving in winter:
• Avoid using cruise control
• Avoid tailgating
• Avoid driving fast
• Avoid driving when you are tired
• Avoid driving if you don’t have the confidence to drive on icy road conditions

Your family and your safety is more important than getting to a place on time or needing to impress friends and family.

6. Join a Roadside Assistance Program

Join a roadside assistance organization like AAA and if you qualify for AARP membership, you may want to check out the AARP Roadside Assistance Plan and Programs. Canadians may want to check out the Canadian Automobile Association.

7. More tips

Learn the winter weather glossary so you can understand the types of conditions you will be driving in.

Do you know the difference between: a blizzard, heavy snow, winter advisory, ice storm, wind chill, winter storm warning, winter storm watch and Northeaster?

Blizzard means expect sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles an hour for a period of three hours or longer. Falling snow and/or blowing snow will reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile. (Source: Massachusetts Department of Transportation)

Heavy snow means snow may accumulate to four inches or more in 12 hours or less, or snow may accumulate to six inches or more in 24 hours or less. You can learn more about winter weather glossary from MASSDOT here.

If you don’t know the best ways to drive near plows, MASSDOT teaches drivers how to use common sense when driving near plows. Read it here.

Do you have any tips for winter road trips? Please share.

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