Winter Travel Tips From a Weather Expert | Almanac.com

Winter Travel Tips From a Weather Expert


Aaaah! The joys of traveling in winter weather.

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10 tips to make traveling easier, whether you fly or drive

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Traveling this winter? Whether you fly or drive, here are 10 quick tips from a weather and climate expert to make traveling easier.

Do you know what "old" farmers really do in the winter? We travel to agricultural conventions. The harvests are over, hotel rates are low, and crop conventions allow them to see old friends and learn a few useful facts. And—since we are speakers at these conventions—we get to experience the joys of winter travel. 

Some of us still choose not to travel due to COVID-19, but if you are now visiting your loved ones or maybe visiting the slopes for some skiing, let us share some of our top winter travel tips. After all, we are in this together (frequently wedged in narrow airplane seats beside each other).

1. Fly non-stop. If you can fly non-stop, do so in the wintertime. We know it can be more costly, but if you're choosing between flights, it makes sense for winter travel. 

2. Pick connecting airports carefully. Remember that El Niños shift the mid-winter storms south. This surprises many travelers.

  • Yes, in fall and spring, it is smarter to choose your connections through southern airports like Dallas/Fort Worth to avoid snow delays.
  • In mid-winter, however, during El Niños, northern terminals have quieter weather, and the southern tier of states usually have more storms. 

3. Fly Early in the Day. Weather problems in one airport trigger delays throughout the system, so fly early in the day. The earlier you fly, the fewer of these cascading delays will hit you.

4. Give yourself extra time in winter!  On planes, give yourself a longer than average time between connections. De-icing can make your flight depart one to two hours late. 

Whether driving to the airport, hotel, or destination, add an extra hour. Would you spend extra time reading in an airport or trying to book a new flight? Just do it! You'll save yourself unnecessary stress.

5. Check in 24 hours ahead, and don't wait. Bad weather and travelers on canceled flights trying to get new flights means planes can be overbooked. If you have assigned seats and check in by computer 24 hours early, you have less risk of being bumped. 

Remember, de-icing an airplane can add hours to travel. Source: Steve Torquay, Wikimedia

6. Get updated online. Get Twitter (or Facebook) and follow your airline 2 or 3 days before the flight. If you see flights are starting to be canceled due to weather, then your flight is at higher risk. The earlier you learn of a canceled flight, the more likely you can get rebooked.

7. Have an emergency car kit. In the back of your car, keep a warm pair of mittens, a blanket, a flashlight, extra batteries, windshield cleaner, a water bottle, an energy bar or two, and a bag of kitty litter or rock salt for traction. See the Almanac's Winter Car Emergency Kit.

8. Is your car winter-ready? How's your tire tread and air pressure? Do you need winter tires? Are all your fluids topped up? Do you know where to find your defroster, hazard lights, and windshield wiper buttons? Do you know how to shift into lower gear? Does your car have any special features, such as anti-lock brakes? If you're going on a long winter drive, spend a little time with your owner's manual and maybe even drive your car in a parking lot to be sure you're ready for winter driving.

9. Prepare before driving. Don't leave the house in a rush when driving in the winter. Turn on the defroster so your windows heat up and won't get foggy when you're driving. Take time to get any snow off your car lights and windows. 

10. Slow down!! In winter snow, drive much slower. Never tailgate. Focus on the road and look ahead for bridges (that may have ice spots), turns in the road, and snowdrifts. Again, there is no rush. Take your time and reduce your speed dramatically, even by half if needed.

We love interesting weather, but here’s hoping your travel weather is boring this winter!

About The Author

James J. Garriss

With an academic background in international business, James is a writer, editor and researcher for Browning Media LLC, helping to present accurate climatological projections. Read More from James J. Garriss