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.
Top 6 Winter Know-Hows for Your Next Winter Travel Assignment
No. 1: Know the 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 to your next travel job.
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.
No. 2: Know the route
Road trips can be made more fun by the spontaneity of how you’ll get there. You can 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 getting to your travel assignment 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.
Knowing your route ahead of time can be a life-saver in an unexpected situation, especially during the winter months. Do a little research ahead of time to consider all possible routes and then learn more about weather patterns along the way. Check out the weather, and plan your route in areas with light winter conditions, so you can have a smooth and safe ride to your destination.
No. 3: Know the timing
Timing out your road trip goes hand-in-hand with planning your route to your winter travel job. 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
When you embark on your journey to your winter travel job, 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.
No. 4: Know the 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.
If your only reason is to get to your next travel job assignment, that's okay, too! Honestly, that makes things easier because then you already know where you're going and where you're staying. Since you know the end goal, you can focus more on how you'll get there!
No. 5: 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 for your travel job assignment 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, 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 your phone plugged in and charging while you’re trekking on the road, and you’ll be prepped in the event of an emergency.
GPS and map.
Isn’t technology great? We have a maps app that guides us from point A to point 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 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.
No. 6: Know the car
Packing your car with all the right tools for a winter road trip to your next assignment isn’t enough to get you from here to there. Your car (or camper) 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 head off for 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. So, fill ‘er up!
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.
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 for the ride and stay safe driving this winter, while you keep your great sense of adventure.