Soooooooooo I’m a big proponent of flying whenever possible. DCA makes it so easy to get in and get out and not spend hours at the airport. But we drove to upstate New York for Thanksgiving.
Two words: the dog.
I’m a big old pushover when it comes to our pup, and as she gets older, I have a harder and harder time leaving her–especially over the holidays. Nothing makes me smile more than a fuzzy dog at my feet while eating delicious food, or watching her pour over wrapping paper while attacking her new toy. Yes, of course she has her own stocking.
Growing up in Wyoming, and then living in upstate New York for the next five years, I’m pretty adept to winter road trips, and winter road trips with the dog in tow. Somehow I’ve made it all these years with only 2 really horrible winter driving experiences where I should have stayed home, though the recent drive on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving did leave something to be desired.
Here are my suggestions for making those trips where the weather may be questionable:
Flexibility: Never, ever plan a winter road trip to somewhere that frequently has bad weather without some flexibility in your schedule. You are setting yourself up for frustration. Ensure you can have some time on either end, should the weather turn sour.
Water: Always, always travel with water in the car. If you get stuck during a storm with no where to go, and have to hunker down in your car, you’ll be pleased that you have some unfrozen water and don’t have to go all boy scout and try to figure out how to melt your own. If you are traveling with a pet, take some extra (and a bowl, unless they drink from a bottle).
Clothes: Don’t travel in a snowstorm without a coat and some appropriate footwear. Isn’t this self explanatory? Always better to have and not need then find yourself needing to walk 2 miles in Toms, sweater, and no hat or gloves. Don’t be silly, plan ahead and take clothing that will protect you from the elements. Of course, traveling with our dog she always has an extra set of outwear too.
Scraper: I don’t need to explain this one. If you don’t know what a scraper is, I suggest you get thyself to Target and acquire one.
Don’t be superman: This is hard, I know, even for me. But when the weather gets bad, consider stopping. Don’t be all macho and try to keep going if you can’t see the road or your car is up to it’s belly in snow. While I think I’m a good driver, even in horrible conditions, seeing people drive in the best of conditions here makes me realize it’s not me I’m worried about–it’s them. Find a hotel if you need to and hunker down for the night. If you are traveling with a pet, be familiar with what chains take fido.
Don’t listen to fear mongering family and friends: While you shouldn’t be superman, if you are accustomed to driving in less than ideal weather and are comfortable with the conditions, don’t listen to the family and friends (you know who I’m talking about) who see a snowflake and shriek. Or those that make you fear for your own life every time you get in a vehicle they drive. They mean well, but sometimes road conditions are just going to be less than perfect and you know your own limitations better than anyone. Particularly if they have a self-interest in keeping you for another day (cough…the holidays).
Know your car’s limitations: This also seems totally self-explanatory to me, but you’d be amazed when it snows somewhere it shouldn’t (North Carolina, I’m looking at you), how many people don’t know if their car is 2, 4, or all wheel drive. Chances are, if you don’t know, don’t try. Also, some cars just handle better in snow than others. Your truck may be awesome, but an empty bed can cause all kinds of difficulties in snow and ice (no weight, no good).
Please note, these suggestions are mostly suited for east coast driving and weather–out west, where you can drive for 3-4 hours with absolutely no where to stop (I mean NONE) and no cell phone service (I mean NONE), driving in winter requires a bit more caution and more supplies (like emergency blankets, and maybe even a tiny propane stove to melt snow for drinking water). In the east, chances are that if you get stranded or stuck you’ll be retrieved relatively quickly.
All this said, I still stick to flying in the winter where I can…driving in crappy weather isn’t a whole lot of fun.