On Vacation: Winter Road Travel

New York City streets clogged with cars and drivers after a snowstorm.

Clogged Streets After a Winter Snowstorm

Winter. Cold, freezing rain, sleet, and snow. And while these characteristics might seem counter-intuitive to fun and good times, the opposite is often true. Skiing or snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and even camping are all just part of the winter fun to be had across America.

And if you really don’t like outdoor winter sports, there are always the ocean beaches to enjoy in warmer places the Gulf of Mexico, California, and the Southern Atlantic states.

Wherever you are, you still have to travel to your destination and arrive safely, and make provisions to keep your home safe while you are gone.

Winter Roads

Turn on the news after any winter storm and you’ll see video of stranded motorists, multiple-car accidents, and roads covered with ice and snow. If you travel regularly in the winter, sooner or later you’ll encounter a winter storm that turns normally safe roads into hazardous arenas of black ice and snow.

A park with several inches of snow on the ground and the trees covered with frost and snow.

Winter can be one of the most beautiful seasons of the year

When you find yourself in the middle of a wintry mix that turns into a mess, it’s time to slow down and take it easy. The best advice is to leave the road and spend a few hours in a truck stop restaurant or maybe a shopping mall. If you have to drive, try to remember the two-second rule and triple it. Put at least six seconds between you and the car in front of you. If someone tailgates, slow down and let them pass.

Don’t let become overconfident because your vehicle has all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Those options do offer additional safety and security, but they will slip and slide on ice very easily. Large vehicles like RVs have weight in their favor―provided they are equipped with winter tires. Like any other vehicle, they quickly lose traction on ice.

Special Hazards

A ski resort in winter showing skiers, lifts, and various buildings at the base of the slope.

Mountain Ski Resorts are Popular Destinations

Mountain ski resorts are favorite destinations, but mountain travel in the winter is often unpredictable and the roads can change from clear, to snow covered, to icy, and back to clear in the space of a few miles. In some mountain states, conditions may require the use of tire chains for certain vehicles. Other vehicles may be required to have tires with the M/S (mud/snow) designation on the sidewall. Be sure to check ahead.

It’s easy to forgo winter clothing when the temperature is in the 70s and the sun is shining. But travel just a few hours from any warm location and you may find yourself in much colder weather. Carry winter clothing in your car and always keep a winter kit with candles, matches, blankets, and warm caps and mittens in the car for emergencies.

If you live where snow and ice are common, you probably take winter in stride and your home and car are ready for winter weather. Traveling to an area that rarely receives snow after a few flurries or even when a few inches have fallen will put you in a different world with drivers who lack experience driving in snow and don’t understand its hazards.

Winter RVing

Depending on the make and model of your RV and how it is outfitted, it may or may not be well suited for winter use. Keeping it on the road is addressed by having the right tires and taking it easy on snowy or icy roads.

Other factors to consider are topping off the propane tanks and making sure the generator is ready for use. Many people use electric heaters to supplement the furnaces. Winterizing the plumbing is necessary and you may not have the use of your ice maker. Heaters that keep water tanks and lines from freezing are available.

Winter is great time for vacations and getaways. Some extra preparation makes the trip safer and more fun for everyone.

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