How to Prepare for Your Christmas Road Trip

If you’re going away for the holidays you’re not alone. Millions of Americans head out, with others flying, others taking the train or bus, while a significant number choose to drive. Roads can become quickly clogged, especially around major metropolitan areas and anyplace where snow, sleet, or ice are a factor.

Getting there requires planning, which you likely already do, including mapping out a route. These days, though, the physical maps have given way to GPS, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto often supplying the directions. Still, it is important to weigh your route options and do the necessary adjustments along the way.

To that end, we’ve come up with the ideal way to prepare for your Christmas trip.

4 Tips for Prepping for a Winter Trek

snow covered road
A snow-covered road is pretty, but treacherous.

Most of our ideas are seasonal, but a few of the tips are ideal no matter the season.

Perform a walkaround.

Before you hit the road, walk around the vehicle and inspect your car. If tire pressure is low, then inflate them. Likewise, check the spare for air. You should also have a jack and chocks to change a tire. No spare? An inflator may do.

Turn on the car and check all the lights. These include headlights, daytime running lights, accent lights, fog lights, side marker lights, taillights, and any other exterior lighting. Replace burnt-out bulbs, but please know that a fuse may be the culprit.

Lift the hood.

Ensure that the car is ready for a trip by checking fluid levels. A winter blend for the washer fluid is ideal if you’re traveling to a sub-freezing destination. Likewise, your radiator fluid should handle the cold air.

You’ll also want to inspect the battery to discover if it is running sufficiently or needs replacement. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a thorough wipe down of the detritus that gathers on the posts. Inspect all belts and hoses for cracks and leaks. Replace as needed.

Swap out the tires.

If you live in a warm climate, winter tires are a foreign matter to you. But for folks living in areas where ‘Ole Man Winter pays a regular visit, they know that three-season radials won’t do. Yes, they are still known as “all-season radials” by some, but they are not a solid choice for anyone who drives on snow and ice.

Instead, investing in a set of winter tires is ideal, as these will supply the grip needed when the moving gets tough. A set is composed of four tires: you should always have matching tires on all four corners, regardless of the season.

Add to your emergency kit.

You do have an emergency kit, right? A kit is a must for every vehicle, no matter the season. Your year-round kit should include flares, a flashlight, extra batteries, jumper cables, and duct tape. Also, a medical kit is the ideal kit within a kit choice. A cell phone charger or an extra battery goes far no matter what the season.

But when winter hits, a few extra items come in handy. These include a foldable snow shovel and sand or cat litter, the latter for supplying grip on the road when you become stuck. Nonperishable food, winter clothing gear, and a blanket come in handy. Just imagine finding yourself stuck somewhere with no cell phone coverage and plunging nighttime temperatures.

Driving Tips

Once on the road, do not hurry to your destination. Take your time, plan for breaks about every two hours, and keep an eye on traffic and weather conditions.

If the move out gets tough, switch to “Plan B.” Certainly, that plan may involve finding a place to stay to wait out a storm or at least stay there until the snowplows have come through.

Further, keep in mind important driving tips, such as turning your wheel into the direction of the skid and doubling or tripling your space between vehicles. Lastly, an auto club membership or other towing services may come in handy while on the road. Ensure that your membership is active.

Photo Credits

liz west from Boxborough, MA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In-article photo credit Tama66

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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