Must Have Car Essentials for Winter Travel

How to be prepared for snow and ice.

Car traveling on a snowy road.

(Taiga /

Falling winter snow is beautiful to watch from the comfort of your heated home, but people still must go to work, school, or shop. Even if you are just going a short distance, preparedness is the key to traveling safely during the cold weather months.

Nothing brings this home more than the early January 2022 storm when people were stranded in their cars on Interstate 95 in eastern Virginia for hours – some up to a full day – after a winter storm dropped  more than a foot of snow, according to CNN.

Storms can come on suddenly and road conditions can get dangerous quickly so being prepared when you travel is essential. CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray said in the article, “Just as we prepare for hurricane season  even if a hurricane doesn't come to our location, it's still better to be prepared.”

As winter storms are instensifying due to climate change, being prepared for weather conditions is even more essential. Here’s how.

Prepare for Winter

Before the weather turns cold and snowy, winterize your car according to CNN. Now is the time to check or fill your antifreeze, replace your windshield wiper fluid, and do a full tune-up by checking your breaks, heater, windshield defroster, and fluid levels. You can do it yourself or bring it to a mechanic.

This is also the time to check your tires and replace them if needed. Make sure your air pressure is good. If you live in an area that is prone to snow and ice, now is the time to get snow chains ready and a long-handled combination snow and ice brush ready.

Another preparedness tip is to keep your gas tank as full as possible to avoid ice in the lines and to make sure you have sufficient gas if you do get stuck.

Keep a snowbrush in your car for winter travel.

(Ruslan Sitarchuk /

What to Pack in Your Car Before Traveling

Besides your snow brush, there are many essential items that you should not leave home without, according to Travel Awaits. Always keep windshield de-icer in your car to help you melt the ice before you use your ice scraper.

Another must have is a set of jumper cables because cold weather can reduce your battery’s cranking power. You should also keep a charged jumper box in your car that you can also use to charge your cell phone if you get stranded.

Keep a shovel in your trunk in case you get stuck or have to dig yourself out as well as a bag of sand or kitty litter to give you traction on ice. Other tips from Travel Awaits include keeping flares or reflective triangles as well as a flashlight and a portable phone charger in your car that you can use if your battery is drained.

Don’t Forget Your Own Needs

It gets cold in a car if you are stranded for any length of time. That’s why you should keep extra warm clothing, blankets, gloves, and hats in your car. It’s also a good idea to keep moist wipes, toilet paper and a first aid kit in your vehicle.

While your car uses gasoline, you will need fuel too, so keep non-perishable foods like energy bars, trail mix, and canned goods in your car. Also make sure that you have enough water to last many hours if you get stuck on an interstate.

Take food and water with you.

(Sabira Dewji /

How to Keep Safe if You're Stranded

Even the most prepared person may still get stuck in snow or ice conditions. So here are some tips from AAA to keep you safe if you do. Try not to leave your car because it will provide shelter and will make it easier for rescuers to locate you. Just make sure that you clear your exhaust pipe.

Conserve fuel by just running your engine and heater long enough to take out the chill. Keep warm by layering clothing and blankets.

Be visible, if you do not have flares or road triangles, tie a colored cloth to your antenna or in your window so your vehicle can be seen. But most of all, don’t panic and start walking because you could easily get lost in the snow.

But the best tip for winter travel is if the weather is bad and you don’t have to be somewhere, stay home, and watch the snow fall. You will be glad that you did.

Snowy road in the winter.

(Radovan1 /