Are you planning a winter road trip for yourself and your trusted road buddies this season? Whether you are hitting the national parks of California, taking a cold-weather road trip through Colorado, or heading out for a snowshoe trek in Nevada, properly prepare with our thoughtful guide for winter driving tips!
The winter months are not the typical time of year that people decide to embark on an extended hour-drive to their destination of choice, but sometimes road trips during possible snowstorms and icy roads are unavoidable.
Tips for your Winter Road Trip
Winter road trips pose new threats for drivers in cold weather: windshields become laid in ice, equipment freezes, batteries fail, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is higher, and coveted roadside saviors can be fewer and farther between. From Los Angeles to New York to the Grand Canyon to Key West, our travel tips for driving in potentially hazardous winter wonderlands have you covered!
What to Pack for Cold Weather Driving
The first item on the agenda for prepping for a road trip in the winter months is to gather the necessities, prepare them, and pack them! Your epic getaway will be even more epic if you are fully prepared to take on anything a winter storm or icy road could potentially serve your way.
Whether you are traveling through small towns with no phone service or stores or trekking through the entire state of Vermont, it is so important to have everything you may need. On that note, it is not a bad idea to keep most of these items in your car year-round — you never know when they will come in handy.
Winter Road Trip Packing List
Ice Scraper: If you have ever lived anywhere where snowfall is common, you know that you can't live your day-to-day life without a reliable ice scraper. Find a slew of them on Amazon.
First Aid Kit: It is highly suggested to keep a first aid kit in your car all the time for general safety precautions. You never know when you will need some gauze, a bandaid, or a pair of sharp, tiny scissors.
Antifreeze: Check with your mechanic or trusted car nerd to make sure your car's engine is suitable for antifreeze. This engine coolant helps keep your car's cooling system from freezing in winter weather conditions.
Jumper Cables: In case of a dead battery, be sure to have a set of jumper cables in your car for an easy battery re-boot. You can buy a set that requires having two cars to start or you can buy something like this that you can use by yourself.
Charger Box: Since we rely so heavily on technology for communication, safety, and more, it is always a great idea to have portable chargers in your vehicle year-round.
Snow Tires or Chains: If you do not have snow tires (you probably don't if you live in San Diego or Miami), then consider getting them if you will be in winter-weather spots for extended periods of time. If snow tires are not an option, be sure to always have a set of chains for potential road hazards and mountain passes. It is also imperative that you know how to put them on so practice this before you hit the road.
Winter Wiper Fluid: Regular wiper fluid can freeze during extreme temperatures. Be sure to fill your wiper reservoir with cold-weather fluid during the winter months.
Emergency Kit: Ideal for year-round safety, an emergency car kit is a must-have for any traveler. Most of them include jumper cables, a scraper, first aid kit, tools, and lots of other handy accessories to make you feel so prepared on the road.
Warmers: A key item to have for any winter road trip is a big box of warmers. You can activate the warmers to use for just about anything. It is always good to have extra to share!
Snow Shovel: A snow shovel is perfect for digging your car out if it has been sitting in snowy conditions during a storm. Road salt and/or cat litter is also a great tool to have to add traction.
Other Pro Tips for Winter Driving
Be sure to always check your route for road closures and road conditions before heading out. Most regions have local radio stations or websites that keep live updates streaming for travelers. Scenic drives in wintertime are so much more enjoyable when you have the peace of mind of being prepared on long stretches of byways through state parks, national parks, or random back roads.
Top Places for Winter Road Trips
Southwest Adventures to Utah or Arizona
(Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, etc.)
San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, California via the Pacific Coast Highway
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina
Share your favorite winter road trip stories and tips on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
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