As if winter isn’t enough of a cold slap in the face, as a medical traveler you need to deal with traveling to your next assignment, even when the weather isn’t ideal. A lot of times, this means packing up your stuff and truckin’ it across the country in your car. Get tips on staying healthy during winter travel, packing tips for your winter travel assignments, and generally commiserating about general slushiness and cold. This is your winter road trip guide for medical travelers and anyone else looking to brave the ice on the road.
6 Winter Know-Hows For Your Next Road Trip
Know Your Weather
This may seem obvious, but any time you’re planning on hopping in the car for a long trek, you should check the weather forecast before you head out on the road. Is the weather fluctuating above freezing and then dipping back down again? Then, assume there will be black ice. Snow is pretty much inevitable during the winter months, but whiteout conditions or black ice can be dangerous to attempt to drive through.
Sometimes you may not have a choice if your next travel assignment begins right away, but if it is bad weather and you have the option, delaying a day or two (or even a few hours!) could really make a big difference in your travel comfort, safety, and timing.
Know Your Route
Road trips or road travel in general can be made more fun by the spontaneity of how you’ll get there. You toss navigation out the window, and let the road take you where it wants. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take a pit stop and visit the largest ball of yarn or try a hole-in-the-wall taco place. When you’re looking at road trips in the winter, throwing caution to the wind might not be your best plan (or lack thereof.) But, there’s no reason to suck the fun out of winter travel! Just plan your fun pit stops along the way, so you know where you’re going and don’t get stuck in bad weather conditions.
Know Your Timing
Timing out your road trip goes hand-in-hand with planning your route. Having a plan in place will help you enjoy your winter travel more. While summertime is perfect for long days of driving and random stops along the way, winter driving requires a bit more strategy:
• There are less hours of daylight in the winter.
• Driving in winter conditions can be more exhausting.
• You may be driving slower due to inclement weather.
Plan for shorter driving periods, stop frequently to warm yourself up with a toasty drink or food, and add more days to your road trip calendar, if you can. Give yourself reasonable expectations when you’re traveling and set a good pace. You want to still be able to enjoy your travel, and barreling through the roads during a frosty, slushy winter can be more dangerous and will leave you with some winter travel grumpiness too.
Know Your Reason
For a lot of travelers, this reasoning is to get to your next travel assignment. If you’re traveling just to travel, I guess you don’t have to have a reason for the road trip. But you should always have an end destination in mind, instead of embarking on an aimless winter road tip. Don’t just Clark Griswold it through the country. We all know how those things turn out.
Know How To Pack
Along with planning your destination and timing, you’ll need to be prepared when you face that frozen tundra on four wheels. Pack your car with the necessities and you’ll be better off should an emergency arise:
Phone charger for the car.
If you don’t already keep an extra phone charger in your car (you know, for the days you spend playing too much Candy Crush at 20% battery life) now is the time to start. Make sure you get something that is compatible with your car and your phone. For example, if your car already has a USB port, all you need is an extra USB charger. If not, they make adapters. Keep y our phone plugged in and charging while you’re trekking on the road, and you’ll be prepped for an emergency.
GPS and map.
Isn’t technology great? We have a maps app that guides us from point A to B, regardless of whether we’re trying to find that new, hip restaurant in town or traveling across state lines. But if you end up in a dead zone with that smartphone or GPS, you’ll probably wish you had a better idea of where you’re headed. It’s a good idea to keep a paper map on hand, just in case. Plus, you’ll get cool points for being “old school.”
Winter survival kit.
This goes without saying, but they make a packaged kit for winter road travel. It includes emergency items like a small snow shovel, flashlight, power station, and hand warmers. You can find them at hardware or home improvement stores. Or you can make your own. Fill a backpack with emergency items (like some on this list from the Safety Kit Store) and be sure to include emergency water and food.
Emergency car kit.
In addition to a winter survival kit, include emergency car items in your kit, like jumper cables, road reflectors, ice scraper, and first aid items. Here’s a road trip kit from AAA to give you an idea of what to pack.
Extra windshield washer fluid.
Before you hit the road, top off your windshield washer fluid, and keep an extra container of it with you on your trip. If you run into a bad storm, you tend to use that stuff up faster thank you think.
Sand (or kitty litter!)
No, you aren’t bringing your cat on this adventure… or, maybe you are? I don’t know your plans. But in any case, a bag of sand or kitty litter is good to have on hand when the snow gets you stuck. It can help you out of a slippery snow spot in a pinch.
Know Your Car
Packing your car with all the right tools for a winter road trip isn’t enough to get you from A to B. Your car is doing all that heavy lifting! Which means you need to tune it up and make sure it’s ready for this adventure. Make sure you get this checklist ready:
The winter car basics.
This includes your exhaust system, heater, defroster, electrical (like brakes and lights), and the oil levels. The basic guts of your car need to be checked fully before you have a safe winter road trip!
Do you need winter tires? Do you need tire chains? Are your all-season tires going to handle this trip well? Is the tread okay or do you need new tires in general?
This is so important to the conditioning of your car for winter. A car will not do well traveling in winter without anti-freeze in the radiator.
If you’re going to keep extra windshield washer fluid in your car, you need to make sure the windshield wipers are effective for clearing snow and ice, rather than just smearing it around, obstructing your vision.
Know How To Drive
If you’re road trip savvy, you obviously know how to drive. But there are a few extra tips for driving in snowy or winter conditions on the road that can make your journey safer.
Fill up your gas tank frequently.
In the winter especially, it’s important to not let your gas gauge drop below half a tank. If you break down, you’ll want the fuel to keep your car running and the heater on.
Clean the ice and snow off your windows completely.
Surprise!—a few inches of snow accumulated on the windshield of your car overnight. Have you ever been running late on a winter morning and just decided that clearing a small “lookout hole” in your windshield was ok? (Don’t arrest me. I’ve been there.) Well, winter road trip time is not the best moment to take a queue from your blog writer here. Don’t blindly zoom down the snowy interstate onto the next town. Clean off the whole window. Clean off all the windows. It’s much safer.
Don’t use your cruise control.
I know, bummer, right?! It’s my favorite car tool when headed out on a road trip. But winter conditions make it harder to control your vehicle or stop when needed, so adding a cruise control to the mix is just asking for safety trouble.
Only use low beams in snow storms.
It sounds strange, I know. You may be thinking that using your high beams is better for people to see you in a snow storm. However, when you use high beams it causes reflections in the snow flurries, making visibility more difficult to both you and your fellow friends driving on the road.
Don’t spin your wheels.
Spinning your wheels when you’re stuck in snow will only create an ice slick under your tires, making it even more difficult to get unstuck. Rock your car by pressing on the gas briefly, then removing your foot, then repeating. It will create a rocking motion and give you momentum to get loose. If you want to jam out to some Queen and shout “We will rock you!” while you do it, well, you just go ahead there, friend.
Get roadside assistance.
Roadside assistance is great and not very costly if you have a membership. Roadside assistance plans include breakdowns, towing, mobile mechanic, tire changes, car jumps, and more. Seriously SO worth it, especially in winter.
Winter road trips can be a fun and exciting way to get you to your next travel assignment. These know-hows will help you be sure you’re prepared and stay safe driving this winter, while you keep your sense of adventure. Let your travel experiences warm your heart while you’re out there on the road.