I’m a big fan of road trips — it’s a fantastic way to see the country, find hidden gems and find fun pit stops, and you have the freedom of a fairly flexible travel schedule.
I’m a bit partial to California road trips, but there are so many unique locations to see by car in the US — from the Pacific Northwest (Leavenworth is a holiday dream!) to the myriad of places in the South.
When it comes to winter road trips, there are definitely some things to keep in mind as you plan and prep. Before we dive in, I’d highly suggest taking a look at my guide to planning a road trip.
Here are my tips for planning a winter road trip!
Prepare Your Vehicle
Are you planning to drive your own car or rent a car? For winter road trips, driving a car with four-wheel or all-wheel drive is preferable.
Having snow tires or chains is advisable to have in the car, as well!
Another way to prep your car is to create an emergency kit fit for cold weather. This includes things like emergency blankets, first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, gloves, and water.
Research Your Route
Definitely research your route ahead of time and know that road conditions can be WAY different in the winter than at other times of the year.
When Meyer and I flew into Seattle and drove to Leavenworth, we didn’t anticipate being caught in a snowstorm. It would be good to plan ahead and have possible pitstops — in the chance that we needed to sit out the snowstorm.
Pay attention to factors such as road closures and snowy conditions and plan accordingly. It’s important to remember that the journey is just as important as the destination and part of what makes road trips so fun.
Use the “Planning Your Trip” feature via the Pilot Flying J myRewards Plus app and plan out rest stops and places to fill up (and pick up all the necessary snacks!)
Using the myRewards Plus app, you can take advantage of the 10-cent gas discount on every gallon of gas (through the end of 2022).
Here’s how to redeem the discount and save 10 cents on every gallon of gas!
While planning out fuel stops, do also pay attention to main roads versus back roads. If possible, try to stick to the main roads and highways, especially when it comes to colder areas and those that could have snow or ice.
While back roads can oftentimes be more scenic (I’m usually all for that!), there’s a good chance they’re less maintained during the winter.
For roads that are less traveled, it may be a bit more difficult to find assistance if your car should run into any issues.
Add Stops at Pilot Centers
It’s important to research your route, check on weather conditions, and plan for pitstops — breaking up your driving time with stops at Pilot Flying J is a great way to refresh and take a break.
Pilot Flying J has more than 750 travel center locations across the US and Canada.
You can find everything from your go-to snacks, to stuffed animals for the little ones, to checking your e-mail via the on-site WiFi, and even trucking gear.
I love that you can always count on finding clean bathrooms and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Load Up on Fresh Food & Snacks
What’s a road trip without good food and snacks? At Pilot Flying J travel centers you’ll find fresh food made daily in-house, delicious coffee, and alllllll the snacks.
Here are a few of their offerings:
- Fresh Pizza: Handmade and hand-roped. From classic cheese pizza to those with several toppings, you can score a whole pizza or just an individual slice.
- Fountain Drinks: Whether you love a crisp Diet Coke or want to create your own concoction with cherry or other sweet add-ins, the fountain dispenser is full of favorites.
- Fresh Fruit: Find seasonal fresh fruit, perfect for snacking on the road.
- Chicken Tenders: Hot, classic, and crunchy!
Pad Your Trip with Extra Time
Part of the fun with road trips is finding hidden gems and places to stop at while you drive — while we were driving to Leavenworth, we stumbled across the cutest coffee chalets that were sooo good.
Always pad your driving time so you’re not in a rush and can stop and “smell the roses” when you find these kinds of places.
Plus, just in case you get snowed in or have to wait out the weather, it’s best to have a bit of wiggle room when you’re driving from place to place.
Keep in mind that there are fewer hours of sunlight in the winter, and you may want to plan driving stretches during daylight hours.
What to Pack for a Winter Road Trip
- Sunglasses: for when the sunshine bounces off the snow
- Cell Phone and Charger for the Car
- Paper Map and GPS: just in case your phone dies or you don’t have service!
- Ice Scraper: again, a just in case, but a credit card can work in a pinch
- Windshield Washer Fluid: it can get used up pretty quickly if you hit a storm or hit sleet, so best to have some on hand.
- Jumper Cables: always good to have in the car in case you accidentally leave an interior light on.
- Kitty Litter or Sand: hear me out on this one, if you’re going somewhere where snow can be really tricky, putting down a bag of something with traction and grip under your wheels (i.e. kitty litter or sand) will help you in a slippery spot.
If you happen to forget something — no worries, Pilot Flying J has you covered! You can find everything from sunglasses to chargers to winter essentials (yes, even coats!)
All your last-minute needs are covered at Pilot Flying J.
Before You Go
Check the weather forecast to see if there’s anything looming and make any changes to your driving schedule.
This post was sponsored by Pilot Flying J. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.