For us, holidays are about family. Whether it’s traveling “back home” to visit Paul’s family in Edmonton or hosting Christmas at our home with my mom. For many, the holidays are a busy time for travel. The winter holidays can be especially tricky if you’re driving to visit family. Here are 37 things you don’t want to forget to pack for your winter road trip. Plus, I’ve made a winter road trip packing list to help you remember everything!
Winter Road Trip Essentials
If you’re driving in winter weather conditions, you need to be ready to handle possible serious situations. We’ve traveled up to Edmonton, over mountain passes, and thankfully haven’t needed any emergency supplies. However, we still pack them just in case. Be sure to know your route, destination, and head out with a full tank of gas (we’ll be using Shell and our Fuel Rewards Program to save on gas during our drive). Even if you’re having great weather where you are, you could have mountain passes or winter conditions on your drive.
Winter Car Safety
The first priority for packing for a winter road trip should be what you might need to take care of your car in winter weather. Before you leave it’s important to have your standard car maintenance and check up done. Fluid levels and tires are important to check. If you don’t live in a winter climate, be sure to tell your mechanic if you’re heading into winter conditions so they can make sure your car is ready.
- Battery Pack / Jumper Cables
- I actually prefer a jump start battery pack since you might have trouble finding someone to jump you depending on where you stop and where your battery dies. But definitely pack at least a set of jumper cables.
- Ice Scraper
- You need to keep those windows clean if you’re staying overnight in winter conditions. These also work well for getting snow pack off of tire wells. (buy on Amazon)
- Shovel / Sand
- These are helpers in case you do find yourself stuck. We normally pack a cheap bag of kitty litter instead of sand. Of course, perhaps it pays to watch a youtube video before you leave so you know what steps to take to actually get unstuck.
- Flashlight & Flares
- De-icer Windshield Fluid
- This is something we often forget to take care of since we live in Seattle where it’s not necessarily needed. However, when you’re driving in winter conditions you’re going to need de-icer.
- Spare Tire
- Be sure to make sure that you have a spare tire, and that it’s still in working condition!
- Hot Packs
- If you are stuck or stranded you need to do what you can to stay warm. Hot packs are easy to pack and can help you stay a bit warmer until you can be rescued.
- Pocket Knife / Multi-tool
- You never know when you’ll need a pocket knife or even a screwdriver. It’s a good idea to pack a multitool in case you need to fix something. A roll of duct tape is a good extra to pack too.
- Tire Chains
- If you will be driving over mountain passes or on snowy roads, tire chains are a must. Sometimes they’re a requirement for travel on certain roads.
To keep you comfortable during your car ride, there are a few things you should pack along for the ride. Many of these ideas are found on my Road Trip Essentials post.
- Wet Wipes
- Paper Towels
- First Aid Kit
- Hand Sanitizer
- Driver’s License
- Insurance Card
- Be sure your insurance is current, and that you have your current card in your car before you leave.
- Membership Cards
- Don’t forget to pack your membership and discount cards. Shell has a Fuel Rewards Program that can give you gas savings while you drive. Be sure to fill your gas tank often when driving in the winter. Also, download Gas Buddy to help you find affordable gas near you.
- Road Map
- There are two reasons why we still like to take road trips with paper maps. We actually keep a current road atlas in the car for every trip. It’s never good to rely totally on electronic navigation. And sometimes paper maps are way better for identifying landmarks you might be passing. Kids will also love following along on your trip.
- Wallet / Credit & Cash
- Be sure to pack cash and credit cards. Credit cards are great for buying gas, and cash might be needed at some small towns or roadside stops.
- GPS device
- While paper road maps are great for getting a good overall look at where you’re going, GPS devices have perks too. Our absolute favorite feature is the estimated driving time. It’s nice to see when you’ll be arriving at each stop. Phones work fine for this, but if you’re crossing the border into Canada or Mexico, a GPS will save you from needing cellular data. Be sure to update the maps before your trip, and consider packing a paper map in case your device gets confused.
Again, just in case you do get stuck, you should have warm clothing items packed.
- These are great for staying warm. Mylar camping blankets are great and take up little space.
- Gloves / Hats / Scarves
You definitely need to pack food and water for your winter road trip. Again, hopefully, you won’t have any problems, but just in case you do, you want to be prepared.
- Make sure you pack some road trip snacks along with all that junk food. Protein bars are also a good idea if you do find yourself stuck for a while.
- It’s always a good idea to keep water on hand when driving. Large plastic gallon jugs of water are easy to pack.
- Reusable Water Bottles
- We try to be eco-conscience when on our road trips so we pack reusable water bottles.
Tech & Entertainment
- Cell Phone
- Portable Battery Packs
- If something does happen to your car, you want to make sure you have enough battery life on your phone to get help.
- DVD Player / Tablet
- Holiday Music Playlist
- There are so many fun holiday songs, make a playlist of your favorites. Singing along to fun music can help make the miles go by quicker!
- Holiday Books
- Your local library is a great spot to find some holiday books to pack along for the ride.
- Coloring / Writing Supplies
- Travel Games
- Check out our list of family fun travel games!
- Charging Cables / USB Plug
- If you have multiple devices that you’ll need to charge, be sure to pack enough cables. Also, consider a USB plug for your car 12V outlet and a multiport DC plug.
I’ve created a printable winter road trip packing list to help you make sure you don’t forget any of the important things you’ll need. And check out how we pack our car for a road trip.
Of course, don’t forget all your other vacation necessities, like clothes and a toothbrush!