Traveling in winter means expecting the unexpected — canceled flights, slippery roads, and inclement weather. It’s important to have not only the right clothing but other necessities as well. When it comes to cold winter travel, being prepared can literally be the difference between life and death, especially if you’re going to be traveling via automobile. Whether you’re a seasoned cold weather traveler or just planning your first winter trip, these hot tips for cold winter travel will help you get to your destination safely so you’re ready to enjoy your time away.
The first step to traveling in cold weather is ensuring your vehicle is winter ready. Schedule a visit with your car dealership or service shop for a winter check. In addition to looking at your tires’ air pressure, your mechanic will check whether you need an oil change and ensure you have enough antifreeze, which acts as a temperature regulator for the water in your car’s engine. (It’s generally a good idea to check your car’s fluids and tires before any long journey, regardless of the season.) In addition, certain states have tire chain laws that set forth conditions during which you must use chains, so it’s important to know what’s required for any state you may be driving in. Even if you don’t think you need them, having them available in your car’s trunk may be necessary.
Regardless of whether you already have emergency roadside assistance and a first aid kit in your car (and you always should!), you’ll need extra supplies for winter travel. Start with a snow shovel in case you have to dig your car out from under the snow. You may want to toss in a bag of kitty litter; even if you are cat-free, kitty litter, when sprinkled on the ground under the tires, can help provide traction on ice patches without damaging your car’s undercarriage the way gravel or rock salt might. In addition, you’ll want to pack an emergency blanket for each traveler, as well as water and snacks, such as trail mix, peanut butter or cheese and crackers, and dried fruit. It’s also not a bad idea to include a few extra pairs of socks and gloves, not to mention an additional hat or three. Throw everything other than the shovel and kitty litter in a backpack to keep things together and within reach.
If a good part of your days at your destination will be spent outdoors, you’ll want to dress in layers. Invest in good-quality men’s, kids’, or women’s long underwear, which is designed to trap the warm air that your body gives off. Winter underwear comes in a variety of materials, including silk, polyester, and wool, as well as differing thicknesses, so ensure you choose the right set for your destination. The thicker the material, the more heat trapped and the warmer you’ll be.
Subsequent layers can include long-sleeve T-shirts, flannel shirts, and wool sweaters. What you decide to bring or how many items you want to layer will depend on where you’re going and how much time you expect to be outdoors. Of course, the advantage of dressing in layers is that if you get too warm, it’s easy to shed an article of clothing or two—and just as easy to put them back on should you start to feel too cold.
While it’s possible that given all those layers, you may be able to get away with a fleece jacket, odds are you’ll want something warmer. Waterproof down jackets are a great option. Not only will they help you stay warm, but they will also keep you and your down from getting wet. When down gets wet, it loses its loft and, therefore, its ability to trap air. If you are allergic to feathers or live a vegan lifestyle, opt for a jacket with alternative polyester fill designed to mimic down’s qualities. If you’re worried about keeping your legs warm, add a coordinating pair of snow pants.
Be sure to bring items to keep your hands, feet, head, and face warm—these body parts are susceptible to frostbite in very cold temperatures. Choose wool socks and invest in the appropriate footwear, such as a pair of snow boots or flannel-lined duck boots. To keep your hands warm, you can layer a pair of mittens over a pair of gloves. You can also pick up some socks and glove liners, which are basically long underwear for your hands and feet. Don’t forget a hat or an ear wrap to protect your ears. Finally, apply a face protectant with appropriate SPF to help avoid wind and sunburn.
By preparing for cold weather travel and planning for possible contingencies, you can ensure that you and your family arrive safely at your destination. With that worry out of your mind, you’ll be able to enjoy your time outdoors and indoors, lazing before a crackling fire, hot beverage in hand.