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How to plan a winter road trip

Winter may be a time for hibernation for some, but there are a great many of us that love nothing better than getting out and exploring the wintery wonderlands of the UK. 

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How to plan a winter road trip
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Winter may be a time for hibernation for some, but there are a great many of us that love nothing better than getting out and exploring the wintery wonderlands of the UK. 

A winter road trip comes with its excitement, unique sights, and precautions. As with any holiday, the key is in the planning. Being prepared and having a good roadmap, in more sense than one, will allow you to tackle the roads with confidence. 

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Where can I go on a road trip in the winter?

The UK has more extremes in weather than some places across the globe. Now, while that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can rely on snow up to your knees in the wintertime, it does mean you might find some roads too difficult to travel on. 

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of your trip, take time to consider a couple of essential questions:

  • How far do you wish to travel?
  • How comfortable are you with driving in more hazardous weather conditions, or rougher roads?

Once you know your limits, you can start thinking about the sorts of places you could travel to, and through. It's a road trip, after all!

Some popular road trip destinations include the Scottish Borders, Snowdonia, the Yorkshire Moors and Cornwall. With a map in front of you, you can start building a picture of the length of travel involved, the quality of the roads, and the stops and sights to plan in along the way.  Just don't forget to stop where you can safely do so to take some memorable photos!  

What should I wear on a road trip in the winter?

Admittedly, a road trip involves a fair amount of time in the car. Wintery conditions or not, you want to feel comfortable while you’re in your seat, without bulky coats and layers hampering your enjoyment.

That said, it’s winter! And you’ll be stopping off along your way, so you need the proper attire for all stages of your trip. Warm winter clothing essentials need to be close to hand. They include the obvious, such as:

  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Scarf
  • Extra, warm socks in case of wet feet!
  • A warm, practical, weatherproof coat
  • Warm boots, preferably walking or snow boots if you’re out in the wilds!
  • Blankets.

These items will keep you safe and warm during your road trip, both for exploring and if you have an issue with your car, forcing you to halt your trip and call for assistance. 

While you’re in your car, keep your layers warm, loose-fitting, easily removable and comfortable. There’s nothing worse than tight-fitting clothing or rigid fabrics when you’re spending any length of time travelling. 

How do I find out the weather for a road trip?

These days most of us own smartphones, which are extremely handy for getting a snapshot into the weather while you’re on the go.

But travelling long distances and getting a clearer view of the weather en route may take a little extra digging. It’s advisable to get this detailed view on the upcoming weather before you travel further afield in winter, especially if you’re going to remote areas.

First, check the weather before you travel. Yes, it is always subject to change, but it’s far better to have a view on it before you head off. If there are any warnings in place, you can make alternative plans. Also, you may not have wi-fi along the way. If you do your research each morning, while you have access to the internet, you can dodge that issue. 

Some useful websites with reliable information include the RAC and the Met Office. You can also play around and compare advice from websites like Weather Cast, where you can enter your start and end destination.

Creating a winter road trip checklist

Getting your wardrobe packed and sorted before you set off on your road trip is one thing. But of course, you also need to make sure you’ve ticked off some big essentials on your car’s checklist.

When embarking on a more ambitious trip, you should always feel confident that your vehicle is roadworthy. You may want to book your annual MOT and service before you leave. And if that’s not necessary, check the air in your tyres, water levels, and make sure the obvious things, like lights and wiper blades, are all still in good working order.

It's a good idea also to pack the right equipment in your car and to arrange roadside assistance if you haven’t already. In your boot, pack:

  • A spare tyre - and make sure it's fit to use!
  • Jump leads
  • A warning triangle
  • Windshield scraper
  • A small shovel in case of getting stuck in the snow
  • Cat litter, which can add traction if your tyres are struggling to work free from a slippery surface. 
  • Emergency food.

These items will all add to your kit and help you to prepare for any eventuality.   

Winter road trip precautions 

It's always wise to prepare well for trips like this. Still, disaster and mishap planning aside, remember that these adventures can be the most rewarding and memorable. And an adventure is what it is!

Aside from packing your car with the essentials to keep you safe and happy, and must-haves to keep your car on the road in most scenarios, you also need to think a little about the route itself. 

Last but not least, take each day as a fresh experience, with its excitement and challenges. Having an idea of the weather along your route is a must, but don't forget to consider traffic and time of day to avoid any rush hours where you can. 

Think about what services you will be able to check into throughout the day and remember that driving on winter roads will feel different from any other time of the year. So, go carefully, give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the roads and the sights along your way, and don’t forget to enjoy every minute.  

We spoke to Colette Burgess from We're Going On An Adventure, who told Age Times: "Being prepared on a winter road trip is so important. It's easy to think, 'It won't happen to me' - but it might, and if it does, you'll regret not packing that blanket!

"I used to commute around 80 miles a day for work and got caught out more than once in huge, four-hour-long traffic jams - knowing that I had extra layers, snacks and a power bank in the car meant that I didn't panic in those situations.

"I rely heavily now on Google Maps when I'm driving - even those routes I know like the back of my hand - being able to see where the traffic issues are (and hopefully avoid them) and share my route so my husband can keep an eye on when I'm due home is really valuable!"

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