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Even the most seasoned road trippers carefully consider how a winter road trip packing list is different from other times of the year.
Packing the car for winter travel isn’t as easy as one might think. In fact, is absolutely essential to plan for inclement weather and not just assume clear skies.
In many states, the weather can change drastically in a few minutes. Consequently, having the right winter road trip essentials is critical.
Our ultimate winter road trip packing list includes clothing, personal items, and road gear to prepare for unpredictable winter weather conditions.
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How to Prepare for a Winter Road Trip
Winter road trips take a bit more planning and preparation than summer vacations due to unpredictable and sometimes dangerous driving conditions.
Along with reviewing our overall best family road trip tips, here are some extra tips specific to traveling in the winter.
1. Check your car’s wellbeing
Prepare and service your car before your winter road trip.
For instance, don’t risk running into heavy sleet or snow on the highway and finding out your wipers are worn out.
- Wiper blades
- Fluid levels
- Tire air pressure
- Gas tank level
- Car battery
2. Consider a roadside assistance service like AAA
If you have a roadside emergency and need help, who would you call?
As a key component to our general road trip checklist, consider joining a roadside service that will give you peace of mind should you become stranded.
Options include services like AAA or those offered through your car insurance carrier.
Also, write the contact numbers on paper so you can save time in an emergency.
3. Watch the weather
Heading somewhere snowy?
No one wants to venture into a surprise blizzard after departing.
Instead, check the forecast for your destination and the travel days in between.
Based on the forecast, you can adjust your route and modify your overall packing strategy in preparation for changing weather conditions.
4. Give yourself extra time and be flexible
Plan extra hours or even days in case things do not go as planned.
If you keep a tight schedule, an unexpected road accident, closures, or inclement weather could derail your plans.
In addition, if unexpected delays prohibit on-time arrival, missed hotel reservations could cost you.
However, booking cancellable reservations allows you to change plans as needed and stay somewhere else that is closer.
5. Pack an emergency kit and supplies
Have a first aid kit, winter weather tools, and extra food, water, and blankets if you get stranded in your car for a while.
Whether you are sitting in traffic or on the side of the road with a flat tire, extra supplies can shift a miserable experience into a more comfortable one.
In extreme cases, supplies and a well-thought-out road trip food list can save lives.
Basic travel essentials for winter include:
- Extra food and water (non-perishables)
- Necessary medications
- First aid kit
- Portable phone charger
- Emergency phone numbers handy (towing, family members, etc.) in case your phone dies
- Warm clothing
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Basic tools (i.e., screwdriver, pliers, wrench)
- Pet food and supplies
Winter Road Trip Packing List
The following winter road trip packing list contains our favorite products and additional information on the things that we always have with us on a winter road trip.
Be sure to save this winter road trip checklist to get organized for your next trip in cold weather.
1. Windshield De-Icer
When slippery roads are treated with salt and sand, it makes for a mess on your windshield.
The frequent use of your windshield wipers and windshield fluid to clean your window(s) causes an icy, dirty build-up if the correct washer fluid isn’t used.
Before your winter road trip, be sure to purchase a winter-specific windshield washer fluid that is both streaks-and glare-free, and has deep freeze protection that melts ice quickly.
These products are specially designed to improve winter driving visibility by quickly melting light ice and frost.
Additional planning tip: We love aerosolized windshield de-icer that can be used to melt away ice build-up on your windshield if your car has sat outside for too long.
2. Snow Brush + Ice Scraper
The next item for your winter road trip packing list is a snow brush and ice scraper duo.
Yes, you need both.
Use the snow brush end to sweep away snow that accumulates on your vehicle or to wipe away wet sleet that may be blocking your view.
Then, scrape the ice build-up with the long scraper end that can easily reach the middle of your windshield.
The thin size of this snow brush and ice scraper duo allows it to be easily stored beneath the front seat of your car.
3. Portable Car Battery Jump Starter
Don’t ever rely on needing another vehicle to jump-start your car’s dead battery, especially when traveling in the winter.
Instead, bring along a car battery booster pack that can jump-start a car battery within seconds without the worry of incorrect connections or sparks.
This one is rated for gasoline engines up to 6 liters and diesel engines up to 3 liters.
Along with being a car jump starter, this booster pack doubles as a portable power bank to recharge smartphones, tablets, and other USB devices.
4. Collapsible Snow Shovel & Traction Mats
A folding emergency snow shovel is an absolute must on your winter road trip packing list.
Snow accumulation can reak havoc on your winter travel plans, so it is best to always be prepared by having a shovel on hand.
Use this shovel to clear paths and parking spots, as well as to dig your car out of a ditch, parking spot, or driveway.
In addition to using a collapsible snow shovel to dig yourself out, consider bringing along a set of tire traction mats to provide emergency traction for your tires in snow, ice, mud, and sand.
Other forms of traction include sand, kitty litter, and cardboard.
5. Fuel Line Antifreeze
During the winter, water can collect in gas tanks and fuel lines.
While gasoline doesn’t freeze until it reaches -100°F, the water still freezes at 32°F.
If temperatures regularly go below 0°F where you are traveling, using water remover and fuel line antifreeze is a smart decision.
This product sinks to the bottom of the tank and absorbs the water to prevent partially clogged or completely blocked gas lines and fuel injectors.
6. Waterproof Blanket
It is absolutely essential to add a Waterproof blanket for cold weather to your winter road trip packing list.
Having a blanket kept in your trunk or storage area is a good idea for all seasons, especially when traveling in the winter.
If you run into unexpected car trouble or if you find yourself without heat in your vehicle, wrap yourself in a cold-weather blanket.
This will help preserve your body heat, as well as keep you comfortable as you either await help or arrive at a warmer destination.
We love that this one is both waterproof and windproof, as well as can be easily stored in the accompanying handbag.
7. Jacket, Hat & Gloves
If you’re taking a winter road trip when the weather will either be cold or unpredictable, it is important to pack a jacket, hat, and gloves.
Not only do you need these winter essentials to protect you from the cold temperatures, but you’ll need them to stay dry from potential snowfall.
You never know when you’ll need to get out of your car during a road trip, or you happen to become stuck or stranded during frigid temperatures.
Be prepared by always having a jacket, hat, and gloves on your winter road trip packing list.
8. Food & Water
The last winter road trip essential on our winter road trip packing list is food and water.
Not only is food and water good to have on hand for general use, but it is especially important to have on hand in the case of an emergency.
In other words, always keep a sturdy trunk organizer stocked with a few bottles of water and some non-perishable food items such as nuts, granola bars, trail mix, crackers, and dried fruit.
Winter Driving Safety
Should you road trip in the winter?
Winter road trips can be fun and epic, but we advise taking sensible precautions.
- Take your time.
- Stick to the speed limit on main roads and highways when the weather is less than perfect.
- Keep your plans flexible or plan some extra time in case of delays.
- Make sure you have sufficient emergency supplies if something happens.
- Check out these important tips on successful winter driving.
The best family trip is the one everyone returns home from safely.
If you enjoyed this winter road trip packing list, click here to check out our related posts:
- Road Trip Food List: Best Road Trip Meals and Snacks
- 18 Amazing “Are We There Yet?” Road Trip Activity Bags
- Best Road Trip Activities for Toddlers
- 13 Awesome Road Trip Word Games to Play in the Car With Kids
- Top 16 Tips for Flying With Kids & Ways to Keep them Calm
- 8 (Unexpected) Benefits of Traveling With Kids
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find our exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*