Millions of people travel during the winter months.  One of the prime reasons is the busy holiday season.  On top of that, some people need to escape the cold and head south for some fun in the sun.  Others are ready to hit the slopes on ski vacations.  Whatever your reason, traveling in the winter can be tricky and you need to be prepared!  Not sure where to start?  Keep reading for plenty of winter travel tips – what to know now!

It doesn’t matter if you’re flying or driving, traveling during the winter months is not for the faint of heart.  This is especially true when traveling in or around areas that experience severe weather.  This time of year is prone to delays and dangerous conditions.  It is essential to be properly prepared before and during your trip.  Have a plan in place and have a backup plan too!

General Considerations

Booking

This is especially true with flights, which are discussed more later. But be sure to give yourself a buffer. Do this with things that involve time/scheduling. A little buffer in time gives you a little wiggle room if things get backed up. Do this with things that involve money too. A little buffer in costs gives you a little wiggle room if unexpected expenses come up.

Understand Credit Card Benefits

Many credit cards out there offer a variety of travel benefits. The range of offerings is pretty vast. Some benefits can be complicated and there is always fine print. Take some time to read up on the benefits so you have a better understanding of what is offered and what isn’t. In some cases, this may lead you to also purchasing travel insurance during the booking process.

Consider Travel Insurance

Depending on your individual situation, you may want to consider travel insurance. These policies vary widely, and coverage often depends on a number of factors. Oftentimes, there will be an offer to add coverage to protect your trip at the time of booking. Having travel insurance can give you a little extra piece of mind should you need to use it. Hopefully, you won’t have to!

Car Travel

There are many ways to experience winter in different parts of the world. It can be a busy time on the roads, but there are some simple tips you can follow to make sure you get where you want to go.

Map Your Route In Advance

Thanks to sites like Google Maps and in-car GPS, it is easy to map out your route in advance. Armed with information about where you are going will help you keep an eye out as you navigate to your destination

Perform Routine Maintenance

Be sure to do any routine vehicle maintenance before you leave. This includes oil changes, tire rotations, replacing wiper blades, checking to ensure all lights and signals are operational, etc. If major repairs are needed, do that too. Keeping your car in top shape will help you be more confident on the road. You will also want to verify that your emergency kit is well stocked. If you are traveling in the winter, take extra time to prepare for those needs.

Plan Your Timing Appropriately

I always like to plan departure and arrival times appropriately. This helps us avoid navigating or arriving in unfamiliar places during rush hour times. Planning your timing appropriately also includes weather consideration. You may need to depart (or plan to arrive) before severe weather hits.

Stop Along the Way

It is really important to stop occasionally during your road trip. Get out of the car, stretch your legs, move your body and take a few deep breaths and a few minutes to clear your head. This will help you feel better!

Use Helpful Apps

There are many apps out there which are helpful during road trips. We have already mentioned Google Maps as one. Other apps like GetUpside and Gas Buddy can help you save at the pump, which is a big source of travel stress lately.

Monitor Road Conditions

Before departing, be sure to check the road conditions. In times of poor weather, there are often advisories and closures. Even better if you can check the webcams along your route of travel. We always want to know what to expect as we make our way down the road.

Preparation

If you are traveling by car, be sure to take steps to ensure everything is checked prior to leaving for your trip.  This might include service work, topping off your gas tank, and ensuring your tires are in good condition.  In some situations, snow tires or tire chains may be necessary.

When packing your car, there are a few things you will want to include.  You can find complete lists online, but be sure not to skip the following:

  • Extra blankets, socks, gloves and hats
  • An emergency car kit
  • Plenty of fresh water
  • Food
  • Shovel

You can view a more complete list here.

On the practical front, keeping yourself calm and relaxed is one of the best things you can do to make your trip go smoothly when winter travel comes into play. Slow down and allow plenty of space between you and the car in front of you.

Flying

Aim For Few Connections

Airports are crazy places, especially lately. One of the best things you can do when flying is to spend as little time as possible in them. You can do this in part by planning route with as few connections as possible. This also lessens your chances of having a missed flight.

Lengthy Layovers

Flying isn’t glamorous anymore. It hasn’t been for years. But it has gotten uglier lately. Reduced flights, staffing issues, plane maintenance needs, route changes, severe weather, wildfire smoke, unruly passengers… these are just a few things standing in the way of getting to your destination on time. If you do have a connecting flight, it is best to plan lengthy layovers to help mitigate some of these issues.

Select Morning Flights

It is better to choose early morning flights. There is less of a chance that the airlines are behind on their morning flights. By afternoon there can be a domino effect resulting from all the issues mentioned above.

Fly Carry-On Only

When things go wrong at the aiport, one of the few things you can have control over is your luggage. The last thing you want is to miss a connection and be stuck without your items. Even worse if this is in the winter and it is freezing. By packing less and maintaning control of your items, you can at least be prepared if you miss a flight or are severely delayed.

Dress Appropriately

This should go without saying, but dress appropriately for the weather when you are flying in the winter months. Even if you are headed to a warm weather destination, remember that planes and airports are quite cold. Be sure to pack warm-wear items for the return trip home too.

When traveling in the winter, it is important to also remember that patience is a virtue.  It is also best to be flexible and have a backup plan (or two). Regardless of your best planning efforts, roads will be closed, flights will be delayed, and mother nature will have her way with weather systems. 

This time of year, it is important to remember that safety is the number one priority. Practice the tips mentioned here, as well as follow the advice of experts and officials.  Now tell us, what would you add to the list to make winter travel a bit easier?

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12 Comments

  1. These are great travel tips. There’s so many different things to consider when you are traveling in winter instead of the summer! Thanks for all the reminders.

  2. Great tips! I love travel in winter, but one thing we learned since moving to North America was the need for snow tires (and packing blankets in the car just in case!) We never had to worry about that back in the UK!

    My other tip is to bring micro spikes if you plan to go on any hikes near snow/ice. They make it sooo much easier to walk.

  3. Great tips! I book early morning flights as much as I possibly can for the exact reason you mention….less likelihood of being off schedule, although I do find the customs lines lengthier in the morning.

  4. I love that you included credit card benefits. I feel like this is something we often overlook and don’t take advantage of. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. I try as much as possible to book morning flights. They are indeed less likely to be delayed, as those are the plane’s first routes of the day. I also try to avoid layovers in winter, especially in cold destinations. The chances of snow storms getting you stranded are so much higher.

  6. These are great tips for those planning a winter trip. I like winter road trips, but they require preparation, especially if you are planning a trip to cold regions covered with snow.

  7. About flights – I’d add that if you can use the same airline all the way to your destination, life is simpler if things do go wrong. I’ve just booked some flights, choosing an early (too early) morning flight so that I can stay with the same airline through the connection. It took me a while to sort it out because the online suggestions all went for the cheapest options which nearly always meant changing airlines as well as changing planes. And this wasn’t really that much more expensive anyway!

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