Just because you’re eager to move from Connecticut to California in the middle of January doesn’t mean you’re ready to toss your parka onto your vehicle’s passenger seat just yet. With a winter move, you must prepare for frigid temps, snow, ice storms and other winter hazards along the way.
Moving cross-country can be difficult enough without adding icy roads, frostbite, dehydration and other stressors of winter months. Don’t worry, though. You’ll be ready for slick roads and snowy highways if follow these 20 winter long-distance moving tips.
1. Winterize Your Vehicle
Before your moving date, take a trip to your mechanic first for a tune-up. Have your vehicle checked for proper fluid levels and worn hoses or leaks, recommends the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
2. Don’t Go It Alone
Travel with at least one additional person, maybe more, for the safest journey in cold weather. You can take turns driving on potentially treacherous roads, and if your vehicle gets stuck in the snow, you’ll have pushing manpower. With more people loading your car or moving truck, that’s also less time you’ll spend in the cold.
3. Consider Terrain When Planning a Route
If you have a choice between planning a shorter drive through a snowy mountain pass or a route that adds a hundred miles to the trip but has better weather, put safety first. In addition to being stressful, driving in a snowstorm through mountains could take even longer than the other route.
4. Drive a Rental Truck Slower
Drive a moving truck slower than you’d drive a car, especially in bad weather, says Penske Truck Rental: “Leave extra room between the truck and the vehicle in front of you. Trucks require even more time and room to stop in bad weather.” Be especially careful on bridges and overpasses, which freeze more quickly than other pavements.
5. Wear Layers
Dressing in layers prepares you for different situations. You won’t want to wear your puffy coat for hours in the car, for example. And if you wear a sweater and vest while driving, you may be able to run into a gas station quickly for some hot chocolate without putting on a bulky coat.
6. Pack Blankets, Extra Coats and Sleeping Bags
Load your vehicle with enough blankets, sleeping bags, coats, hats and gloves to keep you and your passengers warm in sub-zero temperatures for a few days in case you get stranded, recommends Drive Safely, an online driver education site.
7. Be Ready for Roadside Emergencies
Make sure you’re covered with a roadside assistance service before you head out. Pack a snow shovel, ice scraper, flares, jumper cables and a broom to brush snow off the windshield and windows. Have a spare tire, tools to change it and tarps to cover any wet ground. Bring bags of cat litter too, which helps with traction on ice or snow if you get stuck.
8. Pack Healthy Snacks and High-Protein Foods
Drive Safely advises long-distance winter drivers to bring along non-perishable, high-calorie food such as granola bars, dried fruit and canned meat, enough to last for up to three days. That way, if you’re stranded after veering off an icy road, you won’t go hungry waiting for help.
9. Wear a Hat
Bring a hat to keep your ears warm while pumping gas and going into restaurants. You’ll also need a hat if you have car trouble and need to change a tire or walk somewhere for help.
10. Protect Your Hands
You can still get frostbite through gloves or other clothing but exposed skin is especially vulnerable, according to the Mayo Clinic. Wear gloves when pumping gas or getting in and out of your vehicle.
11. Stock Extra Washer Fluid
Have you ever run out of window washer fluid on a slushy day? Don’t end up peering through a dirty windshield on an unfamiliar highway, hoping for the best.
12. Bring a Flashlight
What if you have to get out of the vehicle at night to investigate a worrisome noise beneath the hood? A flashlight also comes in handy when walking across icy hotel or gas station parking lots.
13. Stay Hydrated
Keeping hydrated is as important in the winter as during summer months. Pack lots of bottled water for the long drive.
14. Wear Sunglasses
If you leave town wearing new shades, you’ll look really cool. But you’ll be a safer driver, too, since sunglasses cut glare reflecting from snow.
15. Prepare for Rental Truck Road Hazards
If you’re driving a rental truck through mountain passes or northern states, find out ahead of time whether you need to have tire chains on or available in case of a snow or ice storm, recommends Penske.
16. Know the Weather Forecast
Check weather apps ahead of time to help you plan a route. “When traveling, listen to local radio stations for the forecast,” says Penske.
17. Keep Your Phone Charged
Try not to run down your phone battery with music downloads and GPS, since you may need to make an emergency phone call along the way. If you must deplete smartphone juice, keep an eye on your phone and keep it charged. Use a portable power bank instead of your car charger to avoid putting extra strain on the battery in cold weather.
18. Get Enough Sleep the Night Before
Driving while exhausted with slowed reflexes is dangerous, especially in the winter, when you could be surprised by a black ice patch or stopped traffic.
19. Keep Calm in Hazardous Conditions
Getting all worked up because it keeps snowing or sleet is freezing the windshield won’t help you get to your destination any faster. It will only distract you, making you more likely to get in an accident.
20. Know When to Call it Quits
While you may want to keep driving despite inclement weather, sometimes it’s just too risky. If you get caught in a snowstorm or ice storm, call it a day and stop for a good night’s sleep at a hotel. Hopefully, weather conditions will improve by morning, roads will be clear, and you’ll be well on the way to your new home.