With the permission of COVID-19, the airlines had their own unwelcome break last year. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the number of US leaflets fell by more than 95% in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. And while the restrictions for airlines have been largely lifted, the number of people booking a flight is still about 60% lower than this time last year.
But many families do not completely abandon holidays. Instead, they choose road trips closer to home. If you are planning a trip in the next few months, here are some tips to help you make the most of that winter trip.
Ideas for Winter Travel
When it comes to winter vacations, it is common for East Coasters to want an escape from the cold weather. But there are still many ways to take a break from daily life while living relatively close to home.
- Enjoy the landscape. Sometimes the journey can be as enjoyable as the destination. Take advantage of the picturesque winter landscape with a car ride in the mountains. Roads that run through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and New York's Hudson Valley, as well as Vermont's famous Route 1
- Hit the slopes. You do not have to travel to Colorado or Utah to enjoy a ski vacation with the family. Instead, use fresh powder at a resort in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine. Not only do these states have great ski and snowboard slopes within driving distance – they will also be lighter for your wallet. (Related: How to Store Your Outdoor Equipment in Low Season)
- Take a Hike. While many national parks can become cramped during the summer months, cooler weather provides a lower attendance – which means you get even more space to explore. The parks of Acadia and the Great Smoky Mountains are well-known gems. But the Ohio National Park Cuyahoga Valley, Virginia Shenandoah and Kentucky Mammoth Cave also provide great destinations. Or check out the latest addition to the National Parks system: New River Gorge in West Virginia. Stay at a nearby lodge or plan a winter camping trip to complete your trip.
- Get away from it all. If you are not much of a hiker but are still looking for a quiet getaway, you may want to consider booking a stay in a cabin. Via sites like VRBO and Airbnb, there are options to plan a socially remote cottage that suits you – whether you prefer remote and rustic or luxurious "glamping".
- Celebrate the season. Take your cold weather vacation to the next level by integrating a winter festival. Visit the Ice Palace during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival in New York. Or play in the snow volleyball tournament at the Stowe Winter Carnival in Vermont. Be sure to do your research in advance, as COVID-19 precautions may alter some of the available activities. packing for a summer trip. However, there are some extra tips that you should keep in mind.
- Winter your emergency kit. A well-stocked emergency kit can help you get back on the road quickly and safely if you are stranded. Pre-assembled kits are available for purchase, or you can use this guide to assemble your own emergency kit. When traveling during the winter months, you may want to consider adding extra items such as warm blankets, hats and gloves.
- Improve grip. Driving through a snowy mountain pass? Your car needs as much grip as possible. Consider packing a set of tire chains for extra grip, if needed. A bag of sand or cat litter can also help if you get stuck in the snow. And if you are really worried about winter driving, you may want to consider fitting a set of snow tires. Read more in our buying guide for snow tires.
- Use your roof rack . If you are going on a ski trip, avoid filling the inside of the vehicle sky high with gear. This obstructs the view from your rearview mirror and severely limits your visibility. Instead, think of these as actions that you must take on a ski or snowboard rack to free up storage space in your vehicle.
- Maximize visibility. Driving through sleet and snow can make a real mess of your windshield. Make sure you carry a snow brush, ice scraper and extra windshield washer fluid so you always have a clear view of the road ahead. (Related: Why it's worth removing all snow and ice from your car)
- Rely on mobile GPS. During severe winter weather, it is not uncommon for mountain roads to be closed. And if an accident occurs on a narrow highway, traffic can be backed up for hours. Use a mobile navigation app while driving to avoid delays. Most apps give you live travel updates and redirect your route in the event of a road closure.
- Prepare your playlist. Mixtape nostalgia, anyone? Every good car journey needs a soundtrack. Whether it's on your smartphone, CDs or the good old fashioned radio – choose your songs in advance so you can keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel.
Planning a Road Trip During COVID-19  Given the COVID-19 pandemic, your winter trip may require a little more planning than usual. Before you go, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guide for domestic travel under COVID-19.
Spoiler alert: Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. If you decide to travel, there are ways to reduce the risk.
Here are some tips to help you make sure everything goes according to plan.
- Make reservations in advance. These days, you probably need bookings for more than just your hotel. Due to COVID-19, many restaurants and attractions limit the number of visitors they let in to reduce capacity. So reserve as many things as possible in advance – from dinner tables to ski lift tickets.
- Understand local health guidelines. When traveling outside your home country, the COVID-19 Precautions Guidelines may change. For the states you travel through, check the health department's website for instructions on topics such as worm use, test requirements, and social distancing. You should also be aware of your home country's guidelines for possible quarantine periods if you are traveling to a high risk area.
- Reduce your exposure. Generally speaking, you have a lower risk of exposure to coronavirus when traveling by car than taking a train or airplane. But you will still stop eating and refuel your vehicle. Be sure to practice good hygiene during these stops by washing your hands thoroughly and using disinfectant. Health experts also recommend that you use a mask when you are indoors (and when it is not possible to distance yourself outdoors).
Prepare your vehicle
When taking a winter trip, it is important that your car, truck or SUV can take you safely to your destination. Here are some tips to help you get your car ready.
- Schedule a multi-point inspection. This type of inspection, usually carried out at a dealer or an independent car shop, is an excellent way to get a snapshot of the general condition of the car. A trained mechanic can inform you about any maintenance problems that need to be fixed before they get worse (or more expensive).
- Check your tires. When driving in winter weather, the condition of the tires is an important factor. Before leaving home, inspect the tread depth of each tire and inflate it to the pressure recommended by your car manufacturer. If you have a low tread, replace your tires before driving on the road. You can check with the "ear test". Just insert a penny upside down in a tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, it's time for new tires.
- Change your oil. Road trips can collect miles on your car in just a few days. Look ahead to prevent maintenance, such as oil changes, which may lapse when you travel. Taking care of it before you go is not only good for your car – it is also good for peace of mind.
- Add liquids. Do not wait until your windshield is covered with snow and ice to realize that you need washing liquid. Check all fluid levels in your vehicle before your drive. It includes windscreen washer fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid, oil and power steering fluid. Finish all as needed.
Winter driving tips
Over the years, our team of experts at Erie Insurance has provided lots of tips and tricks to safely navigate winter weather. Before your next drive, learn with these quick readings:
We've Got You Covered
There's a lot to keep in mind when planning a drive. At ERIE, we do not think that your car insurance should be one of them. Therefore, our promise is simple: to be there when you need us. Whether you take the road less traveled or on your daily commute, you can trust us. Find an agent in your area to learn more about car insurance from ERIE.