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It’s officially Spring – although it hardly feels like it given the fact that we’re still chasing snow in the Rockies. Regardless, the coldest days are behind us and despite my love for snow, I’m looking forward to warmer weather.
Unfortunately, warmer weather doesn’t mean we’re done traveling in winter conditions. We still have many mountain passes to travel through and our upcoming trip to Canada will surely include plenty of winding mountain roads. While traveling in the mountains during Winter is almost always a bit terrifying, doing so with your home, pets, and every earthly belonging you own along for the ride makes the trip that much more nerve-wracking.
If you follow me on Instagram then you probably know we’ve had our fair share of scary travel experiences. Fortunately, we took a few precautions ahead of our trip that gave us peace of mind when things didn’t go as planned. Those close-encounters also taught us to plan ahead and design our travel days with extra caution. Here are a few of the tricks I’ve learned along the way to make your own Winter travel experience a little less stress-inducing.
1. Purchase All Terrain Tires
Without question I can say that the number one thing we’ve done to make our winter travels smoother is to invest in Winter tires & chains. Driving on unfamiliar roads in iffy conditions with your entire home perched atop your vehicle can be a seriously stressful event. Snow tires take away a lot of that stress. Since our camper is pretty solidly affixed to the top of our truck, we didn’t want to bother changing out studded tires at the end of the season, so we instead opted for all-weather, winter-ready tires. These tires are legal in the summer months but still work on mountain passes where traction tires or chains are required. I’d also strongly recommend investing in a set of flares to alert other drivers if you do need to stop on the side of the road for any reason.
2. Know Your Route
Educate yourself and know your route! I do this by simply checking the weather forecast for the towns we’ll be traveling through. If snow is in the forecast I recommend visiting the Department of Transportation’s website for that state and checking what the road status is before heading out. Pro tip: jot down the department’s 1-800 number in case you need updates from the road as well.
3. Make a phone call
I know, phone calls are a scary thing these days, but trust me on this one. Websites rely on humans to update them and even Google sometimes gets it wrong. If you’re curious about conditions at a certain campsite, along a certain rural route, or any unincorporated area with iffy resources online, find a phone number and call it. BLM land, National Forests, and just about every county in the US has some sort of information center with a phone number associated with it. While you may need to leave a message and wait for a call back, it beats spending hours at a time researching online without getting any answers.
4. Hope for the Best, pLan for the Worst
This is pretty similar to my advice for hiking (“plan for the hike you might have, not the hike you want to have”). Unexpected road closures or difficult road conditions can severely delay your trip. Don’t assume you’ll have ample groceries, gas stations, or propane fill-up sites along the way. Before leaving one destination, make sure you’ve stocked up on enough essentials in the event you need to boondock unexpectedly at a rest station.
Speaking of rest stations, locating a few campsite or rest stops along your route that you could use in the event of an emergency is incredibly helpful! I typically do this for our long travel days in case we find ourselves feeling exhausted before we arrive at our destination. Which brings me to my next recommendation.
5. Invest in a Good MAp
You know those books of maps you see at travel stops? Those are called gazetteers. In the U.S. they’re often sold according to state and cost about $20. They’re worth the investment. Not only will they show you routes when your cell phone has long since lost a cell signal, they’ll also show you what land is BLM (free camping) or National Forest land. They’re incredible resources to have tucked away for those long travel days.
6. Invest in Travel Insurance like AAA
Sure, it might seem like something only people over 65 use, but there’s a reason those wise old owls pony up the cash for AAA’s service – it works and gives you incredible peace of mind when sh*t hits the fan. See the photo below? Yeah, that tow would have cost us a pretty penny but not only was the bill covered by AAA, the headache of figuring out logistics was handled as well.
7. Be Flexible and Enjoy the Journey
“You don’t know until you go” – no matter how much you plan or design your epic adventure, things will go wrong. I’ll admit, I’m not the best at following this advice. I like to know my destination and I want that destination to be as good as it sounded when I picked it and I certainly don’t want to feel dissapointed after all that effort. Unfortunately, thats just a part of life, things go wrong. The best thing you can do for yourself, and your travel partners, is to have a good attitude and stay positive. Remember, the difficult experiences typically make for the best stories when they’re all said and done, and who doesn’t love a good outdoor survival story?!