8 Travel Tips for Safe Scenic Road Trips This Winter 


Jason is an adventure travel writer with a passion for exploring the world's most beautiful and remote destinations.

Winter is the perfect time to take a scenic drive. Of course, driving in the winter comes with a risky set of challenges you need to be prepared for. 

From knowing how to drive safely in the snow to planning for an icy breakdown, we’ve rounded up eight essential tips to help you take safe, scenic winter road trips this season. 

1. Pack An Emergency Travel Kit

Emergency kit for winter driving

Never go out on a scenic winter drive without packing an emergency kit. It doesn’t matter how well you know the route; if you break down, you could be waiting a while for help. 

Here’s a quick list of everything you should pack in your emergency travel kit to keep your family safe on wintery roads:

  • Cell phone and power bank
  • Enough warm blankets for everyone
  • GPS and paper map
  • Ice scraper
  • Winter coat, hat, boots and gloves
  • Jumper cables
  • A flashlight or head torch
  • Non-perishable food and bottled water
  • Handwarmers
  • A first-aid kit
  • A shovel and sand

One of the major risks of driving scenic roads in the winter is getting stuck. Moving snow and mud with your hands is impossible, so always pack a small shovel and some sand or kitty litter to help move your vehicle. 

If you get stuck and need roadside assistance, you’ll be glad you have blankets and food to keep your family warm and safe until help arrives. 

2. Have Your Car Serviced

Servicing a car for winter driving

You should always get your car serviced before a long trip, but it’s especially important when driving in snowy conditions. 

“Traveling in cold weather takes a great toll on the mechanics of your car, so a check-up will identify any problems, top up your fluids, and ensure your vehicle is in the best condition before you head off.” – Robert Walden from Vehicle Freak

It’s impossible to guarantee your car won’t break down when you’re out on a road trip, but having a service beforehand ensures important components like the belts, cables, spark plugs, and hoses are in great condition to boost your odds of a smooth trip. 

3. Get Your Tires Snow-Ready

Winter tires

If you’re traveling on a route prone to snow and ice, tire preparation is a must. Pack snow chains in your vehicle (and understand how to put them on), and consider switching to winter tires if your route is especially icy. 

You should also be vigilant about tire pressure throughout the trip. Every ten degrees of temperature change causes the tire pressure to rise or fall, so check the pressure every time you stop for gas or bathroom breaks and keep them topped up. 

4. Know Your Winter Driving Techniques

Winter driving techniques

If you’re not used to driving in the winter, you’ll need to brush up on your driving techniques before you head out. Here are some basics to give you confidence on snow-covered roads:

  • Avoid driving at night, during rush hour, or when heavy snowfall is forecasted. 
  • Know your route and be mindful of winding routes, sudden corners, or possible road closures. 
  • Always be mindful of black ice – if you do it, don’t hit the brakes or swerve; just keep a firm grip on the wheel and wait for the car to come to a stop. 
  • Don’t use cruise control; it drastically reduces control on icy roads. 
  • Increase your following distance by several seconds. 

“A great tip for driving in icy conditions is to avoid hitting your brakes when you’re on an incline and use inertia to get over hills whenever possible. This helps reduce the risk of skidding and losing control.” – Todd Bialaszewski from Junk Car Medics

5. Take it Slow

Driving through scenic parts

Remember, this is a scenic winter drive – take it slow and enjoy those views. It takes significantly more time to accelerate, slow down, and come to a stop in winter weather, so try to avoid braking whenever you can and keep it to a slow and steady pace. 

It’s easy to want to get the driving over with, but the slower you go, the less stressful you’ll feel about the weather conditions, and the more time you’ll have to find new places to explore. 

6. Give Yourself Extra Time

Slow winter driving

When planning your route, factor in significantly more time than your GPS says it will take. Driving on winter roads naturally takes longer, and you’re more likely to run into roadblocks, obstacles, and other emergencies. 

You should also plan more stops if you can. This helps you escape unexpected snow storms, gives everyone a chance to stretch and warm up, and allows more time to look around and enjoy the views. 

7. Carry the Numbers of Local Recovery Services 

Local recovery services

Hopefully, you won’t need a tow truck, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Since you’ll be in unfamiliar towns on your scenic winter road trip, make a note of local recovery services and keep those numbers in your car. 

If you do happen to break down, you’ll have the number of someone local who will likely get to you much faster than a national breakdown recovery service. 

Keep all emergency numbers in the car on paper just in case your phone dies – that way, you can use someone else’s or look for an emergency roadside phone. 

8. Keep The Tank at Least Half-Full

Tank full

Most of us are used to waiting for the red fuel light before we worry about filling up, but that’s a bad idea on a scenic winter drive. You never know how far you are from a gas station or whether you’ll run into trouble before getting there. 

Remember, in the winter, you’ll want to keep the car running to keep everyone warm if you run into trouble, so you’ll want as much fuel as possible. 

During your drive, as soon as your tank gets half empty, aim to find a refill station. This way, you have plenty of time to find a local gas station, and you’ll always have plenty of fuel for emergencies. 

Stay Safe Out There

It’s true that planning a winter scenic drive can be more stressful. You need to pack more emergency supplies, winter driving is slower and more mindful, and backup plans can be life-saving. 

But it’s also one of the most beautiful times of year to explore your surroundings. By following these safety tips, you’ll be able to take stunning scenic drives safely and stress-free. 

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