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My best tips for a safe winter road trip

Wanna know my biggest travel paranoia? Being stranded in my car in a snowstorm….and I live in NYC. I do a lot of road trips outside of the city, and I go home to New Hampshire, so being stranded is not totally out of the question. But I do take some precautions every time I venture away from the safety of a well-populated metropolis, complete with public transportation and five restaurants on every block.

Quick road trip tips:

  • Never go below ½ a tank of gas
  • Make sure your wiper fluid is topped off
  • Bring an external battery for your cell phone.
  • Double check you have jumper cables and an ice scraper
  • Make sure you’re not due for an oil change

Check the weather (all of it) – but prepare for changes too.

My best tips for a safe winter road trip

I check the weather of where I am, where I’m going to on the day I’m leaving AND coming back. This gives me a full picture of what time I should plan to travel on both days. I know what the weather is along the way as well. For instance, I’m usually driving back home to New York from New Hampshire. If there’s a storm hitting New York first, then making its way toward New England, I want to make sure I miss it completely. Hello, late-night drive!

%$@#! Traffic!

My best tips for a safe winter road trip

My kids have heard me swear like a truck driver. It’s not my fault—that man who cut me off was a total F-$%#!-hole. To avoid this, I now travel very early in the morning to get ahead of what can be two hours of intense traffic getting out of a city. An early call time works well with my young kids, but I know people who love to drive at night. It’s your call!

Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody.

I have a AAA membership with roadside assistance. I learned how to change a tire back in High School driver’s ed., but that was like 12 years ago! 😉 It’s the peace of mind that I can call anytime, anywhere, and a tow truck is on its way.

Winter Survival Kit

I have a duffel bag in the back of my minivan with ski gloves, snow pants, warm socks, and a hat.  There are also energy bars, water, a bag of small votive candles, AND a metal can. If you are stranded in a car waiting out a snowstorm, you don’t want to run out of gas. Experts recommend you conserve it by running your car for ten minutes every hour. The candles provide warmth, and the tin can radiates it

Leave the cat at home, but take the litter.

Another good tip is to have a bag of kitty litter to provide traction if your wheels are spinning on ice and a flare so assistance can locate you.

Ye olde fashioned atlas

My best tips for a safe winter road trip

Why not stash a map or atlas in your glove box? Even if you never have to take it out, it’s there in case you get lost, and your phone service isn’t working.

A word on snow tires

I know some people think you don’t need them. While they are a pain to swap every season, they really do make a huge difference when driving in cold, snowy conditions. If you live somewhere that stays cold for four or five months a year, it may be worth the investment!

A good and safe attitude.

My best tips for a safe winter road trip

I like the mantra, “we’ll get there when we get there.” If the weather gets bad or you need a break, just stop. Stretch your legs at a gas station, visit a local bar and grill for a tasty burger and fries (calories don’t count on road trips), and grab a coffee to go. Your friends and family would rather you arrive late than not at all.

And if they complain, maybe you should just go to the Bahamas next year. 😉

What are your best winter road trip tips? Share in the comments.

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Wanna know my biggest travel paranoia? Being stranded in my car in a snowstorm….and I live in NYC. Here are my best tips for a safe winter road trip

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. We always carry a product called a Halo. It’s basically a battery, but you can charge your cell phone and other USB devices. And, if you have the larger one, you can even jumpstart vehicles! I’ve used ours several times to jump vehicles over the few years we’ve had ours and love it. It holds the charge for several months (even up to a year), so its ready when you need it. I check its charge seasonally, and charge as needed. But that’s the first thing I check before heading out (I keep it in my vehicle).

  2. Carry a set of reflectable cones in your trunk. If you need to pull over due to car trouble, you can alert oncoming drivers.

  3. We keep a couple of aluminum “Space blankets” in the car, the sort they wrap around runners at the end of the marathon

    1. SLOW DOWN. More people get into trouble driving as if roads are dry when they are absolutely not. Especially important for young drivers.

  4. Carry a portable air compressor that plugs into your car’s AC adapter For inflating tires. Make sure your engine is running when using this device So you don’t run out your battery.

  5. Samantha,
    Wow your kids have heard you cuss like a sailor! I learned something new about you young lady. I also have a tendency to elaborate with what many consider vulgar comments. Funny story. I was driving on a Saturday with our oldest when he was three years old. I used exactly the term you mentioned, thinking nothing of it.

    The following Monday I received a call from my son’s pre-school teacher asking me to come in and talk. He had repeated my term. She let me know in no uncertain terms my son would have to be removed from Montessori school if he used it again. I was flabbergasted. I seriously didn’t think he would remember my phrase, but he quoted it verbatim.

    My wife and I had a serious conversation with him explaining that some words were for grownups only. I really struggled with not repeating the phrase again when I grew heated with drivers. Thank goodness it wasn’t a subject at school again. Parents don’t always realize that little ears retain everything.

  6. One year my daughter and I picked up an unneeded car from my parents in Missouri and set off to drive it to her college in Hartford, CT. She was going back to school after Christmas break and the weather looked a little dicey. We are from Santa Monica and in my ignorance I theorized we could just tuck ourselves in behind an 18-wheeler and get through anything.

    As we crossed the Pennsylvania mountains on the Turnpike that plan hit a snag. We drove into a white-out and the turnpike became a one-lane road. There were stranded cars on both sides as we trudged on behind our tractor trailer. The lane we were in was drivable but there were six-foot high snow banks on either side. Snow began to build up on our windshield and the wipers were pushing up against it with each swipe. I knew this was going to be a problem.

    We passed a barely visible sign telling us of an off ramp ahead although I had no idea what the road would look like if we took it. When the snowbank dipped to only three feet high I figured that was the offramp and we plowed into it with something of an explosion of snow. On the other side, we found cleared streets, a mountain resort, a lovely hotel with a fancy restaurant, an indoor miniature golf course, and tons of empty rooms since no one else could get there. In the morning, the sun was out. We brushed a foot of snow off the roof of the car and had an uneventful drive on to her college. She never knew how terrified I had been.

  7. I cant stand snow, so I moved in with the fire ants 14 years ago. I only visit relatives in Ohio in late spring or early fall. It’s a 12 hour drive through the mountains in SC, NC, TN, and KY. When we lived in Winchester, VA we had a rule of not going anywhere if snow flurries started. They can get blizzards that pile up in under an hour. If you go to the grocery store the power in the store may go off, and you’ll be stuck in town not being able to go out in the Shennadoah Valley to your house.

  8. Hello and thanks for the tips! I missed ya at the 30th (class of 88). I always make sure to have a tire repair plug kit some kind of shovel an led light and it doesn’t hurt to have a set of tire chains or tire traction mats and a multi tool. As always try to avoid travel if there is going to be a storm or sub zero temps and if you have to it’s best to let someone know your travel route and estimated ETA just in case . I know how bad it can be here in northern New Hampsire!!!
    Safe travels

  9. As somebody who lives in a place where it can hit –40 Celsius for a week or two, this is a subject that I have thought about a great deal! Here is my checklist:
    – those aluminumized space blankets have their place, of course, but at 40 below zero a old-fashioned sleeping bag rated to the temperature is pretty handy too. If you don’t have one of those sleeping bags, then stuffing an ordinary sleeping bag into a second one can be pretty effective as well.
    – Keep your car’s gas tank as full as possible during bitterly cold weather. Not only will that gasoline reduce the amount of space for water to condense and get into your fuel system, but a full tank gives you more gas to use when you’re running your car intermittently. Also make sure that your battery is in good shape for starting your car in bitterly cold weather.
    – Many camping gear stores sell disposable chemical handwarmers that can also keep your feet warm in a pinch. Don’t let them get too old in your emergency kit … these handwarmers tend to lose their potency after 18 or 24 months in storage.
    – You can lose a great deal of your body heat through an uncovered head. Keep it covered with a toque (what my American friends call “a wool hat”). And pull your parka hood over it your head as well. Also, you should supplement your gloves with mitts that keep your fingers together and create a pool of heat.
    – Consider some kind of a small stove on which you can melt snow and prepare soup or coffee. Stoves, even miniature ones, give off exhaust, so make sure you open your windows periodically to clear it out.
    – Finally, keep your cellphone and power bank in inside pockets so that the cold does not drain the energy out of them.

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