Home (Away) for the Holidays: Preparing for winter driving

During the holiday season, the Pit Stops family is often on the road, en route to Lake Tahoe, California or Central Oregon for a family ski vacation. If you’ll be traveling in winter weather as well, revisit our Home (Away) for the Holidays series, with tips on getting a holiday vacation rental, playing in the snow, and preparing for a winter vacation.

Our first challenge? Packing all the trappings of Christmas into our minivan. There’s really no good way to do this, especially if your kids are young enough that a visit from Santa is expected at your destination. We made it work with the  aid of our roof bag and my husband’s natural packing skills.

Which led us to our second challenge: preparing our car for winter driving conditions. Like many parts of the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year, our route from Oregon to Northern California has the potential to turn from dry roads sunny skies to snow, ice, and chain requirements. If you, too, plan to tackle winter roads this holiday season, consider doing the following:

1. Give your car a check-up. Get the oil changed, check the battery, brakes, and windshield wiper fluid levels before you depart. Make sure your spare tire is properly inflated and ready to go. Fill up on gas before tackling any summits or snowy highways where you may be delayed.

2. Find room for the essentials. I know your car’s already filled to the brim, but you absolutely want chains (made for your car’s model), a collapsible snow shovel, a flashlight, and winter gloves handy. I’m embarrassed to say we’ve been caught unprepared before, and there’s little worse than bumbling around in the dark without the right equipment. You’ll also want plenty of bottled water and snacks in the car in case of road closures or delays.

3. Stay updated on road conditions. Check road condition websites before departing (we’ve bookmarked CalTrans and ODOT), and receive updates on the AM dial of your radio. Be prepared for check-points for chain installation and removal.

4. Have a back-up plan. No one wants their travel day to end at a closed or hazardous highway or interstate, but it does happen. Have a few places in mind where you could spend the night if necessary. It’s always better to stop early and wait out a winter storm rather than get too far, just to turn around and head back.

Try to go with the flow, take your time, and take the opportunity to stop and play in the winter weather along the way!

Have a safe holiday, and be sure to follow our Tahoe adventures in our Home (Away) for the Holidays series.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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