What do you imagine when you think of your next road trip? Is it a breezy summer drive–maybe along the California coastline? Or is it a winter trip where you stop at all the popular ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains, spending a day at each one? Or maybe driving the ring road in Iceland? With a little planning and preparation, you don’t have to let the weather stop you from hitting the road during any season. Here are a few tips to help you get where you want to go (and have some fun getting there!)
Plan your route
It might be fine during the summer to just pick a direction and drive. However, more challenging and possibly hazardous weather conditions mean you need a detailed route plan ahead of time. You might even need a couple of detour options to hand as well, just in case a bad snowstorm moves through and closes a road down. Having a route as well as a backup will help you avoid potentially treacherous back roads. Plus, you can be sure that there are plenty of service stations along your routes, in case you have an emergency or need to fill up with fuel.
Winterise and gear up
Get your car inspected at least one week before setting out on your road trip. Issues that seemed minor in the summer can be life-threatening on winter roads. Some of the inspections you can do yourself, like making sure your tires are fully inflated and have enough tread, that the fluid levels aren’t low, and that there aren’t any leaks. If you’re in doubt about any of the above, or if you want other parts of your car inspected before leaving (which is recommended), go to a mechanic.
Even the best plans sometimes go south. Maybe a sudden snowstorm comes through and you’ll have to park on the side of the road for a few hours until it blows over. Maybe your car breaks down. You can’t predict everything. Pack extra gear in your car for these kinds of emergencies.
Winter survival kits usually include heavy blankets, and a 72 hour kit with food and water in it, torches, a first aid kit, and more. Invest in some road flares or other signalling devices as well, just in case, as well as some basic tools and a spare battery pack for your phone (or an external way to charge it if it dies). You should also bring an abrasive material such as cat litter or sand that can be used to increase traction if you get stuck (it really works!). Hopefully, you won’t have to use these things, but if you do, you’ll be grateful you have them.
Practice, practice, practice
Spend some time behind the wheel before your trip. If you live in an area with snow and ice, find an empty car park to practice winter driving techniques and get yourself comfortable with them. Once you can instinctively steer yourself out of a fishtail, you’ll know you’re set. Also, get used to the longer stopping distance when driving on icy or snow-covered roads.
And if you don’t live in a place where you can practice beforehand, keep these tips in mind when you set out on the road. The most important things to remember are to keep your speed slow and don’t follow too closely. Knowing this could be what keeps you from getting into a multi-car or truck accident on the road, and no one wants to deal with an accident in even the best of weather conditions. Stay smart and you’ll stay safe.
If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, stay calm. Reduce your speed and turn on your low-beam headlights and fog lights (if you have them). Maintain an even longer following distance than normal winter conditions. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, find a safe place to pull off, well off the road, and wait until conditions improve. Don’t stop on the road or just right off to the side of the road. Another car could lose control and slide right into your car if it’s on the side.
Enjoy The View
The winter season offers some of the most breathtaking views of nature you’ll find anywhere. Drive safely, but don’t forget to live in the moment and enjoy the journey. Sometimes the best part of a trip is the journey there and the views you see. If you miss that, the trip loses part of its winter magic.
A great road trip creates a sense of freedom that can’t be found anywhere else. We create memories and forge new bonds with our fellow travellers. That’s not something that need only happen during summer. By following these tips, you can enjoy a breath-taking road trip even in the winter. Oh, and don’t forget your favourite playlist to listen to on your journey!
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