I grew up and still live in the Northwest – the key term there being “north.”
While I live in an area that doesn’t get as much snow as some other areas of the country, the opportunity is still there for the random blizzard to roll through and leave the area blanketed with snow – and the corresponding icy roads that usually pair with it.
But winter travel isn’t limited to roads. By air or by land, there are winter travel tips that can help make your solo travel less stressful.
1. Slow down. A lot. If you generally drive 5 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, reverse it. On icy roads especially, use the speed limit as just that – your limit – and don’t be intimidated to drive more slowly than that.
2. Having a four wheel drive doesn’t mean you can stop on icy roads any better or differently than anyone else. Having three decades of experience in seeing tourist come to Idaho to ski, renting big four wheel drives, and watching them subsequently slide through red lights on icy roads, I know that the misconception still exists. Allow at least five car lengths in between n you and the next car.
3. If you start to fishtail or slide, (as much as I love Carrie Underwood), “Jesus, Take the Wheel” is not the best option. And DO NOT slam on your brakes. Take your foot off the gas, tap the brakes lightly, and whatever direction your car is going – STEER that way, but steer GENTLY. If you lose control of a car on ice, don’t lose control of your mind. Steering into the skid and tapping your brakes LIGHTLY will help you regain control.
4. Have your route mapped out. If you’re driving in unfamiliar territory, have your directions printed out and handy. (See here - Creating Useful Solo Travel Directions)
I see it every winter travel season… people fuming in airports because flights were delayed or canceled. Just be prepared for it and you’ll help keep your blood pressure and attitude in check.
1. Have all the phone numbers of people that you’re supposed to be meeting with on the calendar appointments on your handheld or in your planner. In case your flight gets canceled or delayed, you can still call your contacts and hold your meetings in the airport.
2. De-icing planes is NORMAL and SAFE. I will never forget flying to Los Angeles in February with a girlfriend who didn’t fly much. We had a quick stop in Reno, and as a matter of course, they de-iced the plane. For someone who is already nervous about flying, seeing the plane in which you are traveling get hosed down when the snow is falling can be disconcerting. I can guarantee you, I’ve been on dozens of planes each year that undergo de-icing, and believe me, you’d much rather be on a plane that’s been de-iced!
3. Always book the first flight out, and never book the last flight out for the day. If you’re on the first flight, chances are, you will be able to get on another flight that will get you there on the day. Those on the last flight of the day will most likely end up spending a night in an airline-provided hotel if the flight gets canceled or if you connecting flight is late. In 10 years of traveling, I’ve only had it happen once, but it’s better to be safe, especially if you have pets at home that need your attention.
4. If your flight is canceled outright, be sure to politely ask the agent with whom you are working what the availability is on other airlines to get you there. They have to put you on another plane – even if it’s a competing airline – if they can’t get you there.
Winter travel doesn’t have to be stressful for solo travelers. Keep your great attitude, and you will have a great trip!