Winter Preparedness For Travel By Car

Sometimes, even though we know better, we decide to drive despite precarious winter road conditions. My worst driving decision occurred a few years back. It was two days before Christmas during a snowstorm. I was stupidly determined to travel from Ohio to New Jersey for the holidays despite there being six plus inches of snow on the ground already, snow coming down steadily, and a forecast of snow all day. Seriously, stupidly, stubborn.

Fortunately I’d remembered from a previous holiday drive, not to decorate all the gifts with little jingle bells. We just about lost our minds that year with the incessant jingling for 11 hours. And thank goodness, mostly because I was travelling with my daughter, the car was full of cold weather provisions because this day got uglier and scarier by the minute.

Roads were completely snow covered and visibility was awful. Our drive from Dayton to the Ohio/Pennsylvania border, normally a three-hour drive, took nine hours. My hands were aching from gripping the steering wheel and my shoulders tense from the stress. Thankfully, our cooler was filled with food, snacks, and drinks that got us through those long hours; as you can guess, every fast food place was closed because of the storm.

We found a hotel at the last exit in Ohio as the storm subsided. Our trip through Pennsylvania the next day on the PA Turnpike was blissfully uneventful – until we exited onto Route 1 in New Jersey. It was rush hour and Route 1 traffic was bumper to bumper. Thirty minutes from our destination and relieved to be coming to the end of our grueling journey, the car just died. It was dusk and we were on the shoulder of the road which people were using to bypass traffic to the exit ramp. I was sure we would be rear-ended! Luckily, I had two flares which were put to immediate use.

When I called AAA for roadside assistance, the operator advised the wait would be two hours as they were having their holiday party. Seriously? Again, we were ever so glad for the extra blankets as it got cold pretty quickly with the car turned off. Finally, the tow truck arrived and took us to the dealership and it, too, was also closed for their holiday party in their showroom. Oh, man! Frustration had me near the breaking point and I was not very polite to the young woman at the front desk as she seemed to have no sympathy whatsoever for our plight. Then a knight in shining armor – the dealership manager – happened by and came to our rescue not only by taking my car in, but by also giving us a loaner (with heated seats!) for free. Then my new hero had some of his team help with the transfer of our luggage, bags of Christmas presents, and travel supplies to the loaner car. Thirty minutes later we were snug at my mom’s de-stressing – my daughter with a cup of cocoa and me with a glass (maybe two) of vino. Whew.

Will I ever travel in the middle of a storm again? Highly unlikely. Will I ever leave the house in winter without emergency supplies? No way, José. Although my decision to travel that day was ridiculously dumb, at least I had the foresight to bring everything I needed to keep us safe and warm.

Below are some preparedness ideas for you to consider:

For You

  • Stuff to keep you warm. Extra warm clothing to layer up, an extra coat, blankets, gloves, scarf, hat, and warm boots. I like to have gloves for pumping gas, eating, and anything that requires use of fingers, but mittens are awesome for real warmth.
  • Stuff for your belly. Snacks, granola bars, water. For longer trips, food like sandwiches and fruit. Don’t forget snacks, food, and a travel water bowl if your furry friend is with you.
  • Stuff for emergencies. A working flashlight, first aid kit, ice scraper with brush, a snow shovel, basic tools (screwdrivers, pliers, wrench), warning flares, cloths or paper towels, and tissues as your nose will be runny if it’s chilly. Have important phone numbers for emergency services programmed into your mobile device, and don’t forget to bring a car charger for your phone. Can’t hurt to have a container with a lid for potty emergencies.

For Your Car

  • Air pressure. Check the air pressure in your tires. Both extremes of cold and hot temperatures can affect tire air pressure.
  • Try to keep at least a half a tank of fuel in your vehicle. You never know when you might be caught in a major traffic jam due to ice or snow, or, like yours truly, find yourself in a broken down car on the shoulder of the road during everyone else’s holiday parties.
  • Wiper fluid. Fill-up the windshield washer reservoir with fluid that won’t freeze when the temperature drops. Winter deicer fluids are formulated to prevent the solution from freezing, and also contains chemicals that melt ice and frost.

Drive safely out there, and get your Boy Scout on and be prepared for winter driving.

 

Resources: AAA, USA Today

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