You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘driving across Canada’ tag.


Winter road trips are not too different from summer ones. You can run into bad weather or road closures in any season. But here is my advice for long-haul driving in the winter:


1) Service your car before you leave – snow tires are essential, oil change of course, and keep a thick wool blanket in the car (in case you need to nap). It’s probably a good idea to have emergency stuff like jumper cables, fluorescent triangles, shovel and traction mats (although I don’t have the latter), but there are plenty of websites you can visit for these kinds of lists.

2) Don’t have a fixed schedule. You need to pace yourself according to road conditions and weather, and if you have a daily goal, you could stress overly or drive beyond your need to rest.

3) It’s easier to find accommodation at this time of year, so no need to book ahead. When you NEED to stop, then search for what’s available nearby ( has great deals and you can book a hotel or motel in your price range immediately). Some days, I just drove through the night (45 hours straight once – I saw two sunrises!), stopping for one-hour naps (with my blanket) every now and then. When I’d had enough, I pulled into the nearest small town and had a comfortable bed at an inn within half an hour.


4) Remember daylight hours are short. I wouldn’t, however, start at the crack of dawn because it’s too cold, roads can be icy and if you’re going through a big town or city, you’ll run into morning rush hour. Best avoided. I generally start at 9:30 or 10. I don’t mind driving at night, but in British Columbia, you might want to avoid driving after dark: the sun goes down behind the mountains early and wild animals are a real hazard. So keep distances short in the Rockies.

5) You probably don’t want to drive north of Lake Superior in the winter. That’s one long, lonely, twisty, “no service” road. You can go through Michigan (Chicago, or directly south of Lake Superior through northern Michigan state), Minnesota and North Dakota. The prairies can be bitterly cold and windswept. Watch weather forecasts and stay ahead of storms, and be aware of icy roads. At some point, you will need to turn north, and it’s going to be a long and lonely and probably icy trek. Try to do it in the daylight. Drive slowly and test your brakes on the roads.


6) The worst conditions to be aware of are blowing snow or soft snow on the road that whips up with passing vehicles. This is the most dangerous. When a vehicle is about to pass or a big transport is coming towards you in these conditions, slow to a crawl or even pull over. A veil of snow in front of you can completely blind you for long enough to put you in the ditch. Don’t risk it.

following-truck-at-night7) In bad weather and/or at night, position yourself a very safe distance behind a transport — leaving enough room to stop comfortably if the vehicle you’re following should hit an animal or stop suddenly – but close enough that the transport’s rear lights are your guiding light. These drivers travel at a steady pace and at safe speeds and they know the roads. Plus, they generally know you’re following them and will warn you of trouble ahead by flashing their lights.

8) Schedule trips over the Rocky Mountain passes for the warmest time of the day (early afternoon) when the sun is high. Check road conditions and weather forecasts. Be prepared to reroute or stop.


9) Don’t always rely on your GPS in case you lose service. Have a list of the roads you need to take or where you need to get to that day. Either copy GPS directions onto paper before you start out, or use a real map.


10) Finally, learn to recognize signs of sleepiness. Falling asleep at the wheel is a real possibility and can be deadly or at the very least extremely frightening. Long-distance driving can be mesmerizing to the point you don’t even realize how sleepy you are. Be mindful. Take frequent breaks, for gas, bathroom breaks and walkabouts. Don’t use drive-ins. Stop your car and get out. Often, a 15-minute nap is all you need to refresh and continue.


Susan Hickman