Ice ice baby: essential tips for an epic winter road trip

By Josh Sale, Canstar

If you’re on social media this winter, chances are you’re being berated by pictures of your friends on envy-inducing European or South-east Asian sun-chasing holidays.

It’s not fair.looie-kang-3E1s3v5RNG8-unsplash

It’s really not.

wang-xi-RTrZvGlvlQc-unsplashBut if there’s one thing better than (or just as good as) drinking coconuts in the sun, it’s rugging up and embracing winter on a road trip.

Plus, it could be more cost-effective.

Snowy adventures, cosy mountain retreats and crisp winter skies, plus more manageable temperatures in the tropics, are just some of the benefits of road tripping between the months of July to August in Australia.

Whether you’re visiting the outback or venturing to the mountain regions and snow fields of Victoria and New South Wales, here are our essential winter road trip tips to help you make the most of the cooler months.

Prepare your car

To start your road trip on the front foot (or wheel), it can be a good idea to service your car before you leave.

Cars may not be as efficient in the cold so check all the fluid levels and top up the antifreeze (also known as coolant in Australia).

Before heading off, particularly if you have an older vehicle in a cold climate, it may be helpful to take some extra time to warm up the engine so the oil can properly flow through the vehicle and the windscreens have time to defrost.

Do, however, take caution and don’t leave the car running without anyone inside, as this could tempt would-be thieves.

Pack smart: don’t be left out in the cold

Before leaving home, be sure to pack good-quality winter clothing and an emergency kit (e.g. torch, phone charger, ice scraper, small shovel, gloves, hazard triangle or LED flashers, blankets, first aid supplies, food and water) just in case.

As with any long road trip it’s also a good idea to invest in a hardcopy map or GPS to use in case your phone loses reception or your battery dies.

Plan your route

When road tripping, the last thing you want to do is get lost or stuck – especially if you are in remote or snowy areas.

Plan your route and be aware of any roads that are prone to snow. It might be worth coming up with a back-up plan in case any of these roads are closed.

Check whether any emergency roadside assistance you have is up to date and make sure you carry the relevant phone numbers with you before leaving home.

Once you’re on the road, if the conditions are difficult, slow down and give yourself extra time to get to your destination safely.

Prepare for the unexpected

Driving in winter could involve different driving conditions to what you are used to, so it is important to familiarise yourself with safe driving techniques in case you hit ice or drive through a snowy region.

Before you hit the road, it is also a good idea to check whether you have adequate car insurance in case of an accident and to keep your insurer’s contact details handy.

To provide an extra level of financial security in the event of the unexpected, and especially if you’re hitting the slopes, you may also want to consider taking out domestic travel insurance.

Depending on the policy available, this type of insurance may help cover the costs associated with trip cancellations (e.g. accommodation, lift tickets, ski lessons), rental vehicle excess or lost belongings.

However, exclusions may apply regarding ski equipment, so check this with your provider before you take out cover.

Winter can be an awesome time of year to explore the different regions of Australia and, with a little extra preparation and care while driving, you can be on your way to enjoying a road trip to remember.

Josh Sale - Canstar.jpgAbout Josh Sale

Josh Sale is a Senior Research Analyst at Canstar, responsible for the continued methodology development and delivery of Canstar’s flagship Star Ratings.