Road tripping is often thought of in terms of summer fun. It makes sense. School’s out, there are festivals and events all over the world, and the weather is easy going all around. But hey, just because the winter where you live makes traveling a little difficult doesn’t mean you should discount it a roadtrip all together. After all, there are some things you can only do in the snow and cold.
Skiing, sledding, ice fishing — these are things people travel for in the winter! And they drive in ice and snow to do them. However, we all know that can be pretty dangerous; in the United States alone, 800 people die on average each year from winter motor vehicle crashes.
If you’re going to travel in the winter for a road trip, there are precautions you need to take with your driving and your vehicle to be aware of. A winter road trip can be done in the snow, but that means you need to commit to being smart about it.
Get. Snow Tires. Now.
This isn’t some kind of mind-control marketing message, this is serious. Snow tires are the best way to increase traction between your car and the road when it’s icy, which is where it counts. Snow tires are made with extra flexible rubber compounds and carefully created tread designs. A step above this even is the studded snow tire, which you should use if you live in a particularly icy area or a place where the roads haven’t been shoveled after it snows.
The other option is using a tire chain for your non-snow tire. However, snow tires and studded snow tires are probably the best option for maximum performance driving on ice and snow.
Winterizing Your Vehicle
There’s no doubt about it: four wheel drive cars are the absolute best passenger vehicles to drive in the snow. However, that does not mean they don’t require some winterization to run the most effectively as possible in the winter.
In general, check your antifreeze, tire pressure, and change to an oil with different viscosity. It’s smart to check your belts and hoses as well, but this goes double if you do you’re road tripping in an RV or other large travel vehicle. This is because they have more outside tubes and hoses, which means you need to cover them.
The same winterization tips go for all vehicles, but each kind of travel vehicle, like RVs, have additional specific maintenance needs you need to research and prepare for before big trips. Get out your computer and smartphone and research your specific vehicle’s needs before going on a wintery road trip.
What if your vehicle breaks down on the way there? What if you end up stuck in the middle of nowhere on this road trip? This is where your emergency preparedness comes in apart from your vehicle’s maintenance.
A roadside emergency kit is smart and available at most retail locations that sell car accessories. Extra blankets, fire starting equipment, and some food and water are necessary just in case you get stranded longer than you anticipated.
Power packs for your mobile phones are good as well. Think about where exactly you’re going and pack any extra items that may help you — snowshoes, for instance, are good if you think you could get stranded and desire not to wade through powder.
Driving Through the Snow and Ice
You can bring all of the right equipment and prepare your vehicle as much as possible, but if you don’t know how to drive in this kind of weather, it doesn’t do too much good.
If your vehicle starts spinning out, the general rule is you need to turn into the direction you’re spinning, not drastically try to swerve back. This is more likely to happen on ice (and black ice). Avoiding cruise control on slippery surfaces, driving slowly on unsafe roads, and increasing your stopping distance are other commonly recommended habits to enact and be prepared to do when driving in the winter. AAA has a bigger list of winter driving tips you can read here.
Ultimately, you can’t be too prepared. But hopefully no disasters happen and you’ll make it to your destination to have a fantastic trip! Whether you’re skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, or just road tripping for the holidays (tis the season, yes?), may it go smoothly with minimal discomfort and obstacles.
Where do you go for winter road trips and how do you prepare for them? Let us know in the replies below!
Avery: Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves exploring the U.S. mountains of SW Idaho and examining human interactions with the greater world at large. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.
You can follow her here