5 Important Safety Tips For Family Road Trips This Winter

5 Important Safety Tips For Family Road Trips This Winter

Living in Southern California, we are lucky to live near so many destinations that are just family road trips away. Our boys have really gotten used to hanging out with us in the car as we drive to Palm Springs, Yosemite, San Diego, or wherever we venture off for a long weekend. One year, we drove all the way to Texas to be with family. 

As a kid, I remember driving across the state of Michigan regularly for the holidays to visit family. Or, we’d travel down to Evansville, Indiana to visit close friends… funny enough, that’s where I ended up going to college. So the road trip to Evansville became a regular one throughout college and graduate school.

Before I get too off track, let’s get back to family road trips. And honestly, taking a family road trip can be a unique adventure. You don’t want your family trip to fall flat or have a winter trip where the only memories are cold. Most importantly, planning ahead is a must, especially in the winter. Use these five tips to keep your family safe and create lasting memories this season.

two people standing next to their car looking at mountains with snow on ground

Benefits of Planning Family Travel

A family trip will always benefit from some careful planning. And you know me, I am a planner! Because, you get the joy of uninterrupted family time and can watch your kids grow through their experiences in new situations. Taking a road trip helps your children learn in different ways:

  • Expanding social awareness
  • Family bonding time
  • Teaches flexibility and compromise
  • Encourages independence and responsibility
  • Gives real-world experience
  • Reduces any family stress

 If you plan a road trip for the winter months, you need to plan ahead for safety as well. 

parts of an emergency kit on the counter

1. Bring an Emergency Preparedness Kit

First, we all know that having an emergency preparedness kit is a home staple. Having one on a road trip is a great idea as well. When things are frozen in winter, storms can come without warning, making this type of kit a necessity. 

If you are forced to pull over, a kit has the supplies you need if you get stuck for a while. Therefore, you need to address first aid, hunger, hygiene, and other miscellaneous needs. Some kit basics are:

  • Non-perishable food items
  • A gallon or two of water for each person
  • Medications: prescription and over-the-counter
  • First-aid supplies
  • Duct tape
  • Multi-tool 
  • Baby wipes and plastic bags
  • Cell phone chargers
  • Medical information on each person

Consider taking disposable hand warmers, changes of warm clothes, a flashlight, and extra blankets for unplanned situations during colder weather.

When we drove to Las Vegas las month, we ended up with a flat tire from a bolt. My husband was able to drive the van to a local tire shop, but we both wished we had a portable tire pump to give the tire more air on the trip to the shop.

a person testing tire gauge

2. Make Sure Your Car is Ready 

Second, you need to address car maintenance before you depart. Your car should be in good shape before you leave to avoid a breakdown or some other event that could delay the trip or put your family in an unsafe situation.

Check that your running and signal lights are working, and check your battery, wiper blades, fluid levels, and tire inflation. You might want extra antifreeze for a winter road trip, and make sure you have jumper cables and snow chains in the car, just in case.

While on the road, fill up often as a fuller tank prevents gas lines from freezing. Make sure you don’t overpack the car, and start the car a few minutes before driving to warm the engine, which helps avoid placing extra stress on your vehicle. And who likes to get into a cold car, anyway!

a person pointing to an atlas with a phone and camera on top of the a large map

3. Familiarize Yourself With Your Travel Route

Third, know the route you plan to take and feel comfortable with the road conditions and its topography before leaving. If you’re uncomfortable in normal conditions, don’t try to drive in winter weather. Remember you will have the whole family with you and extra risks should be avoided. We live a few hours from the mountains. And sometimes, people have to put chains on their tires in order to drive there, if the weather is bad. I am so anxious about tire chains, that we just avoid it all together right now when the weather is too bad.

So, familiarize yourself with the various rest stops on your route. Quick note: don’t forget to take a portable potty if you have a newly potty-trained toddler with you. It makes life much easier at rest stops. Take it slow and steady, and drive with caution. Know how long the trip should take and inform someone you trust about your plan to travel and destination, just in case. Finally, check your tailpipe for snow! If snow is not a usual occurrence for you, this is a crucial step to keep fumes out of the car.

cars in a line on a snowy road

4. Be Prepared For Extreme Weather

Fourth, if you decide to take that trip during winter, be prepared and do your best to avoid getting stuck in dangerous weather conditions. Weather can be predictably unpredictable, so do all the extra safety checks. The emergency kit is part of this, but also know about winter road conditions and be careful on slick roads and where you might encounter black ice. Don’t be afraid to pull over somewhere warm and take a break if you need to. 

Years ago, we were in Michigan for the holidays. And the day we were to fly out, we woke up to two feet of snow. I told my husband we had to get on the road to the airport asap, because the road conditions would get worse. By the time we were on the highway, cars were sliding into ditches, signs were falling over, and the visual conditions were poor because of the heavy snow falling.

kids looking at a tablet in back seat of car

5. Keep Your Kids Entertained

Finally, the last thing you want on your family trip is complaints of boredom or the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?” This is where planning saves the day. Pack a car trip bag filled with fun stuff for the kids to do. Some easily portable activities you can include in your bag are:

  • Coloring books
  • Sticker and activity books
  • Cards
  • Magnetic playsets
  • Mad libs
  • Dry-erase board and markers
  • Travel bingo or scavenger hunts
  • A lap desk to work on

Having what you need to keep the kids entertained helps to lessen some of the anxiety during travel and keeps family enjoyment high. 

Why Planning for Family Travel is Important

Remember, with kids, you have to be prepared for anything, especially on a winter road trip. Make the most of your family time and create memories you can look back on fondly. A little forethought and a well-thought-out plan help you stay safe in any situation and also promote family togetherness with a little less stress.

5 Important Safety Tips For Family Road Trips This Winter text with picture of a person looking out the windshield to a snowy road, with feet on dashboard

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