From the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to Sal and Dean in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, from Peter and Ellie in Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” to the Delta House frat brothers in “Animal House,” Americans have always been attracted to the idea that our hopes and dreams may be waiting for us down the road, around the next corner, or over the next hill. The lure of the open road can pop up at any time, even in winter, when Mother Nature isn’t exactly warm and welcoming to voyagers. If your urge to travel outweighs any concerns about the weather, be sure to heed the safety tips for a winter road trip; we share a few of them below.
Plan your itinerary in advance. The idea of just hopping into your car and going wherever the road takes you can be very appealing, but it’s a recipe for potential disaster. You may be heading directly into a paralyzing storm or straight into a long series of traffic jams, which are less dangerous than blizzards but just as frustrating. Check the weather forecasts, research traffic conditions and highway construction plans, and plot out a route — including reservations at overnight rest stops — that will get you where you want to go with minimal hassle and inconvenience. Then make sure you share your plans with someone who can alert and inform the authorities if you get lost.
Prepare your vehicle for anything. Hoping for the best isn’t an effective strategy. Have your car tuned up before you leave home, and stock it with everything you might possibly need along the way, including (but not limited to):
- A first-aid kit
- A car emergency kit, complete with any potential repair needs and a fire extinguisher
- Enough non-perishable food, drinks, water, and sanitary items to last several days (in case you’re stranded)
- Cold-weather gear
- Entertainment items (again, in case you’re stranded)
- Your cellphone (preferably equipped with GPS), chargers, and up-to-date maps (cellphones don’t always work)
Once you’re packed, remember to fill the gas tank, and try to follow a route that offers access to quick, easy refills.
Get your rest. Drowsy drivers are dangerous drivers — and not just to themselves. Coffee may be an effective pick-me-up in the morning, but it shouldn’t be used as a remedy for driving fatigue. If your eyelids are drooping well before your next planned stop, find a place to pull over for a nap; sleeping in your car is far preferable to (and much more affordable than) waking up in a hospital room.
Drive safely. In inclement weather, safe driving means driving slowly, keeping your headlights on, maintaining more distance between your car and other vehicles, braking early and slowly, forgoing cruise control, and taking every precaution.
Hitting the open road can be quite rewarding — and/or just plain fun. To enhance your enjoyment, make car and hotel reservations through Travel Plus: You’ll earn 5% cash back on bookings and rebates on travel perks. Happy trails!