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Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Tips For Planning A Winter Road Trip


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Fiona Hammett



Embarking on a road trip is an exhilarating adventure that allows you to explore new places, create lasting memories, and experience the freedom of the open road. And what better time to hit the pavement than during the winter months? A winter road trip offers a unique charm, with snow-covered landscapes, cozy mountain resorts, and festive holiday decorations. However, proper planning is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. In this article, we will share valuable tips and insights to help you plan a memorable winter road trip.


From choosing the right destination to preparing your vehicle, packing the essentials, and planning your route, there are several factors to consider before embarking on your winter road trip. We will guide you through each step, ensuring that you have a seamless and stress-free experience.


So, buckle up and prepare for an adventure like no other as we take you on a journey through the intricacies of planning a winter road trip. Whether you’re seeking the thrills of winter sports or cozying up by a fireplace in a picturesque cabin, we’ve got you covered with practical tips and expert advice to make your trip a success. Let’s dive in and discover all the essential aspects of planning an unforgettable winter road trip.


Choose the Right Destination

When planning a winter road trip, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the right destination. Consider your preferences and interests, whether it’s exploring snowy mountain ranges, visiting charming winter towns, or enjoying winter sports activities. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting your destination:

  1. Weather: Research the average temperatures and snowfall conditions in potential destinations. Some areas may have milder winters, while others may offer abundant snow for winter sports.
  2. Activities: Determine what activities you’d like to engage in during your trip. Whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or simply enjoying scenic drives, choose a destination that offers the activities you’re interested in.
  3. Scenery and Attractions: Consider the natural beauty and attractions the destination has to offer. Are you looking for breathtaking mountain views, frozen waterfalls, or charming winter festivals? Choose a location that aligns with your preferences.
  4. Proximity and Accessibility: Take into account the distance and accessibility of your chosen destination. Consider how long you’re willing to drive and whether there are any specific routes or road conditions to navigate.

Some popular winter road trip destinations include:

  • The Rocky Mountains: Offering stunning scenic drives, world-class ski resorts, and cozy mountain towns.
  • The New England region: Known for its picturesque snow-covered landscapes, charming villages, and winter activities like ice skating and sleigh rides.
  • The Pacific Northwest: With its lush forests, beautiful coastal views, and opportunities for winter hiking and wildlife spotting.
  • Canada’s Banff National Park: A winter wonderland with breathtaking mountain vistas, hot springs, and a variety of winter sports options.

Remember, the key is to choose a destination that aligns with your interests and offers the winter experience you desire. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a combination of both, selecting the right destination sets the stage for an unforgettable winter road trip.


Check the Weather Conditions

When planning a winter road trip, it’s crucial to stay updated on the weather conditions of your chosen destination. Winter weather can be unpredictable, and being aware of any potential storms, road closures, or extreme temperatures can help you make informed decisions and ensure a safe journey. Here are some tips for checking the weather conditions:

  1. Online Resources: Utilize reliable weather forecasting websites, such as the National Weather Service or reputable weather apps, to access up-to-date information about your destination’s current and forecasted weather conditions.
  2. Local News Stations: Check the local news stations in the area you plan to visit. They often provide detailed weather reports, including road conditions, closures, and any weather-related alerts.
  3. Follow Social Media Accounts: Many resorts, national parks, and travel agencies have active social media accounts that provide real-time weather updates, road conditions, and other important announcements.
  4. Contact Local Visitor Centers: Give a call to the visitor centers or tourism offices in the area you’ll be visiting. They will have the most accurate and up-to-date information about the weather conditions and any precautions you should be aware of.

While checking the weather conditions is essential, it’s important to be prepared for unexpected changes. Here are a few additional tips:

  • Pack Appropriate Clothing: Layer your clothing to adapt to various weather conditions. Pack warm, waterproof, and insulated clothing, as well as hats, gloves, and boots.
  • Keep an Emergency Kit: Prepare an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a roadside emergency kit, blankets, and non-perishable food items.
  • Plan for Extra Travel Time: Take into account that winter weather can cause delays. Allow for additional travel time to reach your destination and plan your itinerary accordingly.
  • Stay Flexible: Be prepared to alter your plans if necessary for safety reasons. Have a backup itinerary or alternative activities in mind in case of severe weather conditions.

By staying informed about the weather conditions and taking necessary precautions, you can ensure a smooth and safe winter road trip. Remember, it’s better to be over-prepared than caught off guard by unexpected weather events.


Prepare Your Vehicle

Before embarking on your winter road trip, it’s essential to make sure your vehicle is prepared to handle the challenges that come with driving in winter conditions. Taking the time to properly winterize your vehicle can help prevent breakdowns and ensure a safe journey. Here are some important steps to prepare your vehicle:

  1. Check Your Tires: Ensure that your tires are in good condition and properly inflated. Consider using winter tires for better traction on icy and snowy roads.
  2. Test Your Battery: Cold weather can put a strain on your vehicle’s battery. Have your battery tested to ensure it’s in good working condition and replace it if necessary.
  3. Top Up Fluids: Check and replenish all fluids, including oil, coolant, and windshield washer fluid. Consider using a winter-grade washer fluid to help prevent freezing.
  4. Inspect Your Brakes: Make sure your brakes are in good condition and have them inspected if needed. Proper braking is crucial when driving on slippery roads.
  5. Verify Lights and Wipers: Ensure that all headlights, taillights, and turn signals are functioning properly. Replace any burnt-out bulbs. Check your wiper blades and replace them if they are worn or streaking.
  6. Stock an Emergency Kit: Prepare an emergency kit including a snow shovel, ice scraper, jumper cables, flares, a flashlight, extra batteries, blankets, and non-perishable food items.
  7. Keep Fuel Tank Full: It’s recommended to keep your fuel tank at least half full during winter trips. This helps prevent fuel line freeze-ups and ensures you have enough fuel in case of unexpected delays.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s owner’s manual, particularly the sections on winter driving. This will provide you with valuable information specific to your vehicle and its capabilities.


Finally, consider signing up for roadside assistance or ensuring that your existing coverage is up to date. Having access to roadside assistance can provide peace of mind in case of emergencies or breakdowns during your winter road trip.


By taking the time to prepare your vehicle properly, you’ll increase your safety and have a better chance of avoiding any avoidable mishaps on your winter road trip.


Pack the Essentials

When preparing for a winter road trip, packing the right essentials is crucial to ensure your comfort, safety, and enjoyment throughout your journey. Here are some essential items to pack:

  1. Clothing and Accessories: Pack warm, layered clothing to stay comfortable in fluctuating temperatures. Don’t forget items like hats, scarves, gloves, and thick socks to keep yourself warm. Consider packing moisture-wicking materials to help regulate body temperature.
  2. Emergency Supplies: Include essentials such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, blankets, non-perishable food items, water, and a tool kit. It’s also wise to carry an ice scraper, a shovel, and a tire pressure gauge in case of emergencies.
  3. Navigational Tools: Bring a GPS device or ensure that your smartphone has offline maps available. Additionally, pack a physical map or atlas as a backup in case of technology issues.
  4. Entertainment: Pack entertainment options such as books, magazines, portable speakers, or a playlist of your favorite music. This will help pass the time during long stretches of driving or if you encounter inclement weather or road closures.
  5. Snacks and Water: Pack a variety of snacks that are easy to eat on the go, such as granola bars, trail mix, and fruit. Don’t forget to bring an ample supply of water to stay hydrated throughout your journey.
  6. Personal Care Items: Remember to bring toiletries, medications, and any necessary personal care items. This includes items such as tissues, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and sunscreen.
  7. Chargers and Power Banks: Make sure to pack chargers for your electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, and cameras. Having a power bank can be handy when you need to charge devices on the go.
  8. Vehicle Documents: Carry important documents such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Additionally, keep contact information for roadside assistance and emergency services easily accessible.

Remember that space may be limited, especially if you’re traveling with others. Prioritize essential items and consider the duration of your trip to ensure you have enough supplies for the duration of your journey.


By packing the essentials, you’ll be well-prepared to handle any unforeseen circumstances and have a comfortable and enjoyable winter road trip.


Plan Your Route

Planning your route is an important aspect of a successful winter road trip. Mapping out your journey in advance helps ensure that you take the most efficient and safe routes, while also allowing you to make the most of your time and visit any desired attractions along the way. Here are some tips for planning your route:

  1. Decide on Destinations: Determine the main destinations you want to visit during your road trip. Research the best routes to reach each destination and consider any scenic drives or attractions you’d like to see along the way.
  2. Consider Road Conditions: Check for road closures, construction, and any potential detours that may affect your chosen route. Consider the weather conditions and if any specific roads are prone to hazardous conditions during winter months.
  3. Break Up Your Drives: Plan for rest stops, fuel stops, and meal breaks along your route. It’s essential to give yourself time to rest, stretch your legs, and avoid driving for extended periods, especially in winter conditions.
  4. Be Realistic with Driving Times: Adjust your route planning to account for potential delays due to winter weather, road conditions, or traffic congestion. It’s better to give yourself extra time and arrive safely rather than rushing.
  5. Use GPS and Mapping Apps: Utilize GPS navigation systems or mapping apps to help you navigate your route effectively. Choose an app that allows you to download maps offline in case of limited cell reception in remote areas.
  6. Research Alternative Routes: Identify potential alternate routes in case your intended route becomes inaccessible or unsafe due to weather conditions. Having backup options can help you navigate unforeseen challenges along the way.
  7. Review Attractions and Points of Interest: Take the time to research and make note of any attractions, viewpoints, or scenic spots that you’d like to visit along your route. This will allow you to plan stops and make the most of your journey.

Keep in mind that while planning your route is essential, flexibility is also important. Winter weather can be unpredictable, and it may be necessary to modify your route or make alternative plans based on the current conditions. Stay informed about the weather and road conditions as you travel, and be prepared to adjust your route if needed for safety reasons.


By planning your route carefully, you can maximize your enjoyment and minimize any potential road trip challenges during the winter season.


Make Accommodation and Dining Reservations

When embarking on a winter road trip, it’s important to plan ahead and make accommodation and dining reservations in advance. This ensures that you have a place to stay and enjoy meals, especially during peak travel seasons or in popular winter destinations. Here are some tips for making reservations:

  1. Research Accommodation Options: Look for accommodations that cater to your preferences and budget. Whether you prefer hotels, resorts, cabins, or vacation rentals, consider the amenities, proximity to attractions, and any specific winter activities offered.
  2. Book Early: Popular winter destinations tend to fill up quickly, so it’s advisable to book your accommodation well in advance. This ensures that you secure your preferred choice and have the flexibility to plan the rest of your trip accordingly.
  3. Consider Flexible Booking Options: Look for accommodations that offer flexible cancellation policies, in case of any unexpected changes or weather-related issues.
  4. Look for Winter Deals and Packages: Many hotels and resorts offer special winter deals and packages, which can include discounted rates, complimentary amenities, or access to winter activities. Take advantage of these offers to enhance your overall experience.
  5. Research Dining Options: Explore the dining scene in your chosen destinations. Look for local restaurants, cafes, and eateries that offer winter specialties or seasonal menus. Consider making dinner reservations if you have specific places in mind.
  6. Ask for Recommendations: Consult travel websites, review platforms, and local tourism offices for recommendations on popular dining spots and hidden gems. This can help you discover unique culinary experiences during your winter road trip.
  7. Consider Packing Snacks and Food: While dining out can be a delightful experience, it’s also a good idea to pack some snacks and non-perishable food items. These can come in handy during long drives or if you find yourself in remote areas with limited dining options.
  8. Stay Updated on COVID-19 Restrictions: Keep in mind that COVID-19 restrictions may affect the availability and operation of restaurants and accommodations. Stay informed about any guidelines or regulations in place and plan accordingly.

By making accommodation and dining reservations in advance, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you have a comfortable place to stay and can indulge in delicious meals during your winter road trip.


Safety Precautions

Ensuring your safety should be a top priority when embarking on a winter road trip. The following safety precautions will help you navigate the challenges of winter driving and keep you protected throughout your journey:

  1. Check Road Conditions: Before hitting the road, check the latest road conditions and weather forecasts for your route. Stay updated on any closures, advisories, or hazardous conditions.
  2. Winterize Your Vehicle: Prepare your vehicle by checking the tires, battery, brakes, and fluids. Install snow tires or use chains if necessary. Keep an emergency kit with essential supplies in your vehicle at all times.
  3. Drive Cautiously: Adjust your driving habits to accommodate winter conditions. Drive at a safe speed, maintain distance from other vehicles, and brake gently to prevent skidding. Be aware of black ice and icy patches on the road.
  4. Use Proper Lighting: Make sure all your vehicle lights are working properly. Use headlights, fog lights, and hazard lights when necessary for visibility. Clear snow and ice from lights before driving.
  5. Watch for Wildlife: Be cautious of wildlife that may be more active during winter months. Pay attention to warning signs and drive carefully in areas where animal crossings are common.
  6. Stay Hydrated and Take Breaks: Drink water regularly to stay hydrated. Take breaks from driving to rest and stretch your legs, especially during long journeys
  7. Observe Traffic Regulations: Adhere to speed limits, traffic signs, and road rules. Yield to emergency vehicles and snowplows, and exercise patience when encountering delays or road closures.
  8. Stay Informed: Sign up for weather alerts and stay connected to local news and road condition updates. Use reliable sources to stay informed about any possible changes in the weather or road conditions.
  9. Inform Others: Share your travel plans and estimated arrival times with a trusted individual. Check in with them periodically to keep them updated on your progress.
  10. Pack Warm Clothing and Blankets: Have extra layers of warm clothing and blankets readily available in case of a breakdown or unexpected delays.
  11. Keep a Fully Charged Mobile Phone: Ensure that your mobile phone is fully charged before setting out. Have a car charger or power bank available for charging on the go.

By following these safety precautions, you can minimize risks and navigate winter road trip challenges with confidence, ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey.


Entertainment and Activities

Part of the fun of a winter road trip is engaging in entertaining activities and experiencing the unique charms of the winter season. Here are some suggestions to keep you engaged and make the most of your winter road trip:

  1. Winter Sports: Take advantage of the snowy landscapes by participating in winter sports activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, or tubing. Research ski resorts or outdoor recreational areas along your route that offer these activities.
  2. Scenic Drives: Explore picturesque routes known for their winter beauty. Drive through national parks, scenic byways, or countryside roads that offer stunning views of snow-covered mountains, frozen lakes, and other natural wonders.
  3. Winter Hiking: If you enjoy hiking, research winter hiking trails in your chosen destinations. Just be sure to check trail conditions, dress appropriately, and take necessary precautions for safety.
  4. Photography: Capture the magic of winter landscapes by bringing your camera along and finding scenic spots to take memorable photos. Look for frozen waterfalls, snow-covered trees, or breathtaking sunsets.
  5. Local Festivals and Events: Check if there are any local winter festivals, ice sculpture competitions, or holiday markets happening in the areas you’re visiting. These events can offer a glimpse into the local culture and provide memorable experiences.
  6. Indoor Activities: On days when the weather is particularly challenging, explore indoor activities such as visiting museums, art galleries, or historical sites. This allows you to learn about the local history and culture while staying warm.
  7. Cozy Dinners and Cafes: Seek out restaurants, cafes, and eateries known for their cozy ambiance. Enjoy a warm meal or a cup of hot chocolate while immersing yourself in the winter atmosphere.
  8. Stargazing: If you’re in a remote area with clear skies, take the opportunity to stargaze. The winter sky often offers stunning views of constellations and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights in certain regions.
  9. Enjoy Local Winter Traditions: Research local winter traditions and customs in the areas you’re visiting. This could include attending holiday concerts, experiencing local winter rituals, or trying traditional winter foods.
  10. Fireside Relaxation: If your accommodation offers a fireplace, take advantage of it. Cozy up by the fire with a good book, a board game, or simply enjoy the warmth and relaxation it provides.

Remember to embrace the unique beauty and activities that winter offers. By incorporating these entertainment options and engaging in local winter experiences, you’ll make your road trip even more memorable and enjoyable.



A winter road trip can be an enchanting and unforgettable experience, allowing you to explore snow-kissed landscapes, participate in thrilling winter activities, and create cherished memories. With proper planning and preparation, you can navigate the challenges of winter driving and ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.


Choosing the right destination, checking weather conditions, and preparing your vehicle are critical steps to undertake before hitting the road. Pack the essentials, such as proper clothing, emergency supplies, and entertainment options, to stay comfortable and engaged during your trip. Planning your route, making accommodation and dining reservations, and adhering to safety precautions will further enhance your road trip experience.


Embrace the winter wonderland through engaging in winter sports, capturing breathtaking photographs, discovering local festivals, and indulging in cozy dining experiences. Immerse yourself in the charm of the season, whether it’s by stargazing, partaking in local customs, or simply enjoying the warmth of a fireside relaxation.


Remember, flexibility is key, as unforeseen circumstances may arise during your winter road trip. Stay informed, adjust your plans accordingly, and always prioritize safety. By incorporating these tips and making the most of the unique opportunities that winter brings, your road trip will be filled with adventure, beauty, and cherished memories.


So, prepare your vehicle, pack your bags, and embark on a thrilling winter road trip. Whether it’s traversing snow-covered mountain ranges or discovering the cozy charm of winter towns, may your journey be filled with joy, wonder, and the exhilaration of the open road.