Ahh, winter. To some, there's no better time to make like a bear and hibernate, waiting out the cold and the snow until warm, sunny days reappear. To others, it's the most wonderful time of the year. No matter which you more closely identify with, there's one thing we can all agree on – road trips rock! And what better time to take a road trip than during the “offseason” of one of America's favorite car-related pasttimes?
If you've already read our Pirelli Pro Guide then you know winter can be a tricky time to hit the roads. Extreme cold and adverse weather conditions lend to the dread, but that doesn't mean you have to stay inside on your couch all season long. To the contrary, with a little planning, you can ensure your time on the road is both safe and fun.
First things first – get winter tires. We cannot stress this enough. Winter tires are essential to a safe ride in all conditions winter might throw at you, including extreme cold, snow, rain, sleet, and even ice. If you're going to be driving long distances over the winter with your friends or entire family, you're going to want to ensure everyone's safety first and foremost.
Now that we've got the most important tip out of the way, let's move on to planning. Similar to how you might plan a summer road trip, there are a few boxes you'll want to check before loading up and moving out:
• Keep an eye on the weather – while your vehicle may be equipped with winter tires and all-wheel drive, it's still best to avoid driving in severe conditions. Always check the weather and alter your driving schedule, if needed.
• Don't rush things – while you may be able to drive for long stretches in the summer, its best to drive in shorter bursts during the winter. With less sunlight overall and the possibility that you may be driving into more severe weather over the course of a few hours, it's always best to pace yourself.
• Set a schedule and work around traffic – if you're a seasoned road trip pro then we're sure you already know this. However, it's always worth a reminder. Simply put, do your best to plan any arrivals and departures around times of major traffic, especially if your trip is taking you to or through cities.
With all of your planning done, you're ready to move on to packing. Of course, you're going to want to make sure you have enough clothes for the duration of your trip, plus all sorts of snacks and goodies for the car ride, especially if you are traveling with kids. However, it's also important to make sure you pack some essentials in case you find yourself in a jam on the road. Don't forget things like a car charger for your cell phone, ice scrapers, extra windshield wiper fluid, jumper cables, an emergency kit filled with things like flashlights, flares, and first aid supplies, as well as a winter survival kit. It's also always a good idea to keep a paper map handy in the event you are are out range of cellular service or navigation satellites.
Now that you know how to plan and how to pack, you're likely asking the million-dollar question – “Where should I go this winter?”
There really are an incredible amount of options at this time of year, as hotel rates are reduced and traffic is lighter than other seasons. Your current location will play a big part of where you end up going. For instance, if you're in the northeast, you may way to explore the New York Hudson Valley or Vermont's Route 100, both of which offer scenic views and are filled with history and activities along the way. If you're further south, the Florida Keys will happily provide the warmer weather you are likely seeking. Another great choice at this time of year would be one of our country's many national parks, as crowds are much lighter during the winter. Some standouts include Arches National Park in Utah, Big Bend National Park in Texas, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park that goes through Tennessee to North Carolina.
Wherever you decide to go this winter, make sure you've prepped and properly packed before hitting the road. Taking the guesswork out of your roadtrip in advance will allow you and your family to focus on what matters most – having fun with each other. Safe travels this winter!