Home » Winter Road Trip Tips for Families: How to Make a Winter Road Trip a Success

Winter Road Trip Tips for Families: How to Make a Winter Road Trip a Success

Winter Road Trip Tips for Families: How to Make a Winter Road Trip a Success

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The kids are excited about the idea of a winter road trip, but you’re feeling the pressure. Maybe you’re not sure what to pack, or you’re uneasy about winter driving, or you’re worried about the cold?

Wintertime can be a fantastic time of year for families to take to their cars and head out on a road trip though. There are beautiful places to visit and it’s the perfect moment to see your relatives.

Follow our tips for a wonderful winter family road trip.

Winter Road Trip Tips: Give Your Car a Checkup

Before any long road trip, it’s important to give your vehicle a check-up. That’s all the more important in the winter though – if you break down somewhere in summer you’re not going to freeze to death.

Lights. Check all your lights to make sure they work.

Wiper blades. Replace wiper blades that are looking ragged or no longer cleaning the windscreen properly. Refill your windshield washer reservoir before leaving. Make sure that you have wiper fluid rated to -40 degrees F (-40 C).

Battery. Check the health of your battery. A battery that no longer charges well is going to let you down and leave you stranded on a cold winter morning.

Tires. Inspect tires to ensure safety on winter roads. Switch to your winter tires when the temperature is below freezing. In extreme climates, consider a set of winter snow tires or chains. Make sure you inflate the tires too!

If you don’t feel confident doing these things yourself, or you don’t have time, take your vehicle to a professional for an inspection. Consider getting an oil change if your car hasn’t been serviced for a while. Ask for a more winter-friendly oil (motor oils are rated by their viscosity levels at different temperatures).

winter road trip tips

Winter Road Trip Tips: Make an Emergency Road Kit

Don’t head out on a winter road trip with your family without preparing an emergency road kit.

Make sure you have a first aid kit in the car. This should be stocked with bandages, gauze pads, scissors and other items needed for minor medical emergencies.

Other items that should also be in your emergency road kit are a flashlight, flashlight batteries, booster cables, an ice scraper and/or snow brush, a small shovel, a reflective triangle, and a can of de-icer.

It’s worthwhile including a scrap of white, and a scrap of red, fabric. If you get stuck on the roadside during the day, waving a white ‘flag’ will get someone to stop and assist you. Tie the red one to your aerial or wing mirror if you’re stranded so rescuers can see it – the white one won’t stand out in the snow.

Pack a bag of sand or kitty litter too – no it’s not for the cat! If your car gets stuck in slippery snow or ice, putting sand or kitty litter under the tires can help improve the grip.

Depending on where you’re going, you might want to add emergency flares to your kit.

You should already have good winter clothing on your packing list, but add some blankets and pillows to the emergency road kit.

Finish it off with some protein bars and nuts. Just in case you get stuck somewhere, you won’t starve to death!

Winter Road Trip Tips: Packing the Car for Safety

When you pack your car, be sure to put the emergency road kit items in last, so it’s the easiest to get to if you need it.

Pack any food and drink in a cooler and have it in the car with you, rather than in the trunk. That way you won’t need to stop to get it out when the kids get the munchies.

We’re all so used to using GPS on our phones these days but some out-of-the-way areas have poor GPS coverage. Consider buying a paper map too – besides, kids love to look at maps. You can even have them note on the map where they are as a road trip game.

You’ll need a cell phone charger in the car. In case of emergency, you’ll not want to run out of battery in your phone.

Pack blankets and pillows in the rear seat so if the kids are chilly or want to snuggle down, they can without you needing to stop and help them.

Don’t Overpack the Car

Try to leave the view out of the rear window open. If you pack the rear shelf with items, you won’t be able to see anything in your rearview mirror.

If you have so much stuff to take with you, consider getting a roof box where you’ll be able to store all the items that aren’t needed until you get to your destination.

Winter sports holidays require lots of equipment, but do you need to take all your gear with you or could you rent certain things in the resort and save space in the car?

Remove all the Snow from the Car

Have you ever found your windscreen suddenly got obscured by the snow and ice that slid from the car roof onto the windscreen? This often happens when you brake and there’s snow on top of the car.

Avoid this by clearing all the snow off the roof and scraping the ice off all the windows too, not just the windscreen. You need full visibility and that includes the rear and side windows.

Pre-Warm your Vehicle

It’s not safe or comfortable to drive in heavy winter boots and coats. Start the car up 10 minutes before you leave to get it warm before you all pile in. You might need to start it up more than 10 minutes beforehand, depending on the outside temperature and your vehicle’s heating system.

That way, when you’re ready to hit the road you can take off your thick winter coat and gloves so they won’t impede your driving.

Keep a pair of comfortable shoes in the car that you can slip into instead of your heavy winter boots. Big boots easily catch on the wrong pedal and they make it harder for you to sense the pedals beneath your feet too.

The same goes for the kids. It’s really hard to reach back from the front seat and help kids remove their puffy winter coats. Instead of having to try to help them undress just 15 minutes into the trip, the whole family can start out feeling comfortable and ready to enjoy the scenery en-route.

Winter Road Trip Tips: In-Car Entertainment

Some families have their favorite games for road trips. If you don’t, make sure there’s something to keep the kids entertained.

Pack iPads, phones and any other electronic entertainment devices, along with charging cables. Do you have enough charging points or will you end up with the kids arguing because they can’t both charge their iPads at the same time?

Movies are great for keeping the little ones occupied, but why not include books, stickers, coloring pads and car-friendly games too?

Depending on where you’re going, you might even find a road-trip companion book for kids of things they should look out for en-route.

Winter Road Trip Tips: Snacks and Drinks

No road trip is complete without some yummy food. It’s a good idea to bring along things that aren’t too messy though. Also, avoid food you’re going to need to help the children with.

Sandwiches, nuts, protein bars, and fruit make for a great in-car picnic.

In cold weather, something warm can make everything feel cozier. If your kids are old enough, you might want to bring a thermos flask of hot soup and serve it in insulated coffee cups.

Winter Road Trip Tips: Stay Warm

Make sure you have heating pads, blankets and warm clothes. Hats, mitts, and scarves are all great for stopping us feel the cold winter wind, but a good, waterproof coat is essential too.

Winter Road Trip Tips: Check the Weather Report

Before you set off, check the route in advance. Take a look at the local weather conditions for wherever you’re going. Avoid driving if there’s going to be a snowstorm or horrendous weather.

Instead, look for an interesting place to stop over and take a day out in a destination en-route. If you treat it as part of the trip, and not an inconvenience, it will be much more fun.

winter road trip tips

Winter Road Trip Tips: Drive safely

It goes without saying that we need to take more care when driving in winter conditions.

Reduce your speed, and allow more time to reach your destination so you’re not tempted to drive too fast in order to get there before dark.

Leave longer braking distances and brake more gradually. Keep plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front.

And finally, avoid braking on corners – brake before a corner so you can reduce the risk of losing traction on the road.

Winter Road Trip Tips: Keep the fuel tank full

Get into the habit of stopping to fill up often. As well as helping prevent the fuel pipe from freezing, you’ll not end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with no fuel to keep the car’s heater running.

Make sure everyone uses the bathroom in the gas station – that way you can avoid having to pull over on snowy roadsides where you might get stuck in the snow.

In case of emergencies

Hopefully, it’ll never happen, but if you do get stranded somewhere, stay in the car. In rural areas, cellphone signals might fail you, but don’t try to be a hero and walk to try to find help unless you know that it’s within a 5-minute walk. Sooner or later someone will come past and be able to assist.

Instead, keep the family in the car. Use your blankets to snuggle up. Turn the car engine on for 10-15 minutes every hour to warm the car – if you leave the engine running constantly it may overheat.

Crack open a window very slightly on the non-windy side to get some fresh air in.

You can tie a red ‘flag’ to your aerial or wing mirror if you’re stranded so it can easily be seen.


When the winter season arrives, it could be the perfect time to take that long-awaited family road trip. With careful packing and sensible driving, you might even find that a winter family road trip is more fun than hitting the road in the summer.

Be sure to tell someone what your route is and your expected arrival time, pack the kids in the car and enjoy the season!

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