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You are here: Home » Features » On the Road: Winter Travel Tips

On the Road: Winter Travel Tips

driving tips (Large)I was in Upper Peninsula Michigan and nine years old when I saw my first snow. It made me furious.

The flakes were so tiny. You could hardly see them! Throughout my North Carolinian days, I had been made to believe snowflakes were the size of white construction paper cut outs we made in each of my classes. I pictured snow falling in soft pieces bigger than my face.

My teachers had said no two snowflakes were alike but I couldn’t even tell if these real flakes were all different from one another when they were all smaller than garden peas.

This trip was my family’s first long vacation, my first trip to somewhere east of the Mississippi, and my first taste of what a cold that simple fleece couldn’t protect me from felt like.

Now, in college, I am going to make this same trip to Michigan on my own. Only slightly more familiar with snow than I was a nine, I have asked my (worry wart) retired fighter pilot father for help on his best winter travel tips for the icy roads up North.

1.)    Put a sleeping bag and kitty litter in your trunk before you leave.

My father always expects the worst. The sleeping bag is a defense against the cold in case of getting stuck, as running a car’s exhaust for too long is poisonous. The kitty litter (perhaps the strangest of the tips he’s ever given me) serves two purposes. It helps to weigh down the trunk for better traction from the back tires and also makes walking on ice much easier. If you must move away from the vehicle, laying down the litter makes walking a less slippery.

2.)    Leave with a fully charged phone, bring a phone charger, and tell all parties involved an accurate time window in which you will arrive.

Being in the cold burns cell phone battery life more quickly, which can be deadly if caught in a traveling predicament. Also, being in an area with low service can kill your phone battery as the phone is spending its energy on picking up on signal. It is best to turn off your phone until you need it. It is also extremely important that the people that are expecting you have a strong sense of the time you should arrive, at least within a thirty minute range. With treacherous driving conditions, at least one other individual knows what roads you are taking and when, in case you do not arrive and they need to go searching.

3.)    Tune into the AM weather channel radio stations.

Weather conditions are constantly being reported on the AM frequencies which has given me a reason to use the AM frequency at all for the first time. Head these weather conditions. If a storm is headed your way, it is better to sit it out at a diner, the store, or (if you have not left) your house, than to brave mother nature.

4.)    In case of an emergency, always stay with your car unless the snow builds up to a point that would make opening the door difficult. Also, wear a bright red or orange scarf.

Your vehicle is much bigger than you and therefore easier to see. Same with the colorful scarf, which is a stark contrast to the white snow.

With these travel tips he’s include the normal fatherly advice which he’s taught me to know by heart: have a full tank of gas, buy a warmer jacket, have good tire pressure, take granola bars, and don’t drive too fast.

With these tips and the acceptance that snow is beautiful despite how tiny the snowflakes are, I am as ready as I can be for my trip to the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan.

About Hunter Houtzer

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