Six ways to safely and wisely navigate winter travel  

An estimated 48% of Americans will travel during the holidays in 2023, according to a Deloitte study. Most will have smooth journeys. But some — there are always some — will have a bad experience: Canceled flights, weather woes, missing paperwork, or forgetting adventure gear. 

It would be a miracle if all those travelers made it through their trips unscathed. 

All these situations mean people should, as they say in the Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared.” If travelers do their due diligence to prepare for the unpredictable, they can respond accordingly.  

Navigating winter travel armed with some advanced prep can make the experience more enjoyable and less anxiety-provoking. It could even keep you alive. 

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Be Flexible and Kind

Holiday travel can be a mess. Actually, it is a mess. There will be a freak snowstorm somewhere, and flights will get canceled. And there’s nothing you can do to beat Mother Nature. So, if there’s an act of God, be kind and be flexible.

While you may be on vacation, others don’t have the luxury of seeing family throughout the holidays. They have to work to assist other travelers. Yelling at customer service personnel to fix something they can’t fix won’t help the situation and will put everyone even more on edge.

a gorgeous sunrise on fresh snow with a large mountain in the background
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Bring Warm Clothes and Blankets on a Road Trip

If your holiday plans involve a road trip and driving in winter conditions, be prepared for road construction and closures. Have a way to keep warm. Pack blankets, food, water, first aid, and other necessary items to help you weather an hours-long delay.

Also, check your vehicle before setting out in winter conditions. Most oil change shops or car dealerships will do a complete vehicle safety check if you let them know you’ll be on the road. Take care of any mechanical issues before you leave town. 

Being prepared for the worst could be the one thing that helps keep you alive. 

Tell People Where You’re Going

Tell people where you go if you’re going on winter hikes and explorations, as with your summer trips. This applies to a quick hike or drive, too. Having one person know where you are and when you should return can be the difference between life and death. 

Be safe and tell a friend! Also, consider getting a satellite communication device.

Stay Hydrated on your Winter Adventures

It might be cold out there, but you still need to drink water. Actually, you need to drink more water. 

Studies show that breathing in cold, dry air increases how much water your body uses because it has to warm up the air before reaching the lungs. Because of this, you’ll dehydrate quicker when exercising in cold weather. 

So even though you might not feel thirsty or believe you’re sweating much while hiking, snowshoeing, snowboarding, or cross-country skiing, you’re using up more water reserves than you think. Aim to drink at least as much as you would during summer adventures — at least two liters per activity, and more if needed.

Likewise, staying hydrated and having proper nutrition are essential to maximizing your winter excursion enjoyment. It can also help prevent hypothermia from setting in. 

Stay Updated on the Weather, Flight, and Road Conditions

Before starting out, check the roads, weather, or flight status. The most important check is for the weather, which can start a domino effect on flights and road conditions. A bad storm in one part of the country can force cancellations 2,000 miles away. 

Additionally, make sure you have updates/notifications enabled for your flight to ensure you never miss important changes. 

If driving, check the road conditions near your home and throughout the journey. This will inform you about any hazards or closures and also tell you how long it’ll take to reach your destination. Trying to outrace a storm can prove dangerous. If you aren’t confident you can get over a mountain pass in time, stop and get a hotel room. It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Having the most real-time information will make you more prepared, which leads to less anxiety.

monring light on our winter tent camping set up there's two tent with a towering mountain behind us

Make a checklist

Before you rush out the door, make a checklist and go through it item by item to ensure you’ve accounted for everything you need for the trip. There’s nothing worse than getting to the airport or even your final destination and realizing that you forgot something crucial. 

If you plan to work remotely, place the most important items at the top of the list, such as medicine, important documents, or work gear. While you might think it’s not that important, this matters for items that cannot be replaced or purchased at a local grocery store, or when most places are closed for the holidays. 

If flying, add these documents to the travel list: passports, IDs, and boarding passes. Lastly, make sure your TSA Pre-Check traveler number is listed on the boarding pass, or you will not be allowed in the shorter line. If you have TSA-PreCheck, but it is not listed, talk to a flight agent who should be able to add you. 

If your airline has an app, download it to your phone or tablet and add your boarding passes and PreCheck traveler number there, as well. You can often check-in online through the airline’s app as far ahead as 24 hours before your flight. Show the barcode or QR code from your electronic device to the TSA official and airline gate agent for even faster boarding.

Talk to the airline gate agent about any other issues. In many cases, a small error may be easily fixed to get you on your way. 

Ultimately, being prepared for your winter travels will allow you to enjoy your trip more, decrease your anxiety, and give you the peace of mind to enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones.

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks. 

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside