Travel Hacks

What to Do in a Blizzard or Snowstorm When Vacationing

Matt Wilson
April 18, 2024

Growing up as an avid skier, preparing for a significant snowstorm and driving in the snow became second nature to me because of my experience. You might be ready for a few inches of snow in your metropolitan area, but what if you travel and a snowstorm hits? 

Many beautiful places in the world are incredible to visit during the winter. Imagine going on a winter road trip to Yosemite National Park, skiing in Bariloche, Argentina, or chasing the northern lights in Iceland. You're probably not bringing a snow shovel on these trips. So how can you be prepared, put your mind at ease, and have a great time without any worries?

Matt Wilson Under30Experiences Alaska dogsledding
Dogsledding in Alaska with the most amazing, well-cared-for working dogs!

Tips to Help You Survive in a Snowstorm or Blizzard When Traveling

If you’re going somewhere that could reach freezing temperatures, be prepared for a snowstorm or even a deep freeze. 

Trust me, I’ve seen the devastation just a little bit of snow and temperatures below freezing can cause when I lived in Austin, Texas. We had to let our water drip whenever it was near 32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius to keep our pipes from freezing! 

Watch the Weather Conditions When Traveling

Most of the time, you get advanced notice if a blizzard is coming. Blizzard conditions are defined as a snowstorm with high winds and low visibility. They can strike at any moment, especially if you are traveling in the Rocky Mountains, Andes, Alps, or any other mountain range. Moreover, blizzards can be scary and disorienting and turn you around quickly.

Therefore, turning on push alerts on your Weather app is critical. Even on vacation, when I usually take a break from my phone, I make sure to check the weather forecast. Having push alerts set up for watches and warnings is a good idea.

Want to travel safely? Check out my 84 Solo Travel Safety Tips for Every Traveler.

Ice and snow driving tips from NOAA
Next time it snows, go find a huge unplowed parking lot and learn to handle the vehicle under these conditions!

What to do in a Snowstorm when on Vacation

Driving in a Snowstorm

Driving in a snowstorm takes special skills and a lot of practice. Thus, increase following distance between you and the car in front of you in the snow because you won’t be able to stop as if you were on a dry road. My dad would tell me, “The rules of the road don’t apply in the snow.” Just because there is a stoplight doesn’t mean that people will be able to stop. And always keep your distance from snow plows!

And please, allow me to get on my soapbox for just one minute… Just because you have a four-wheel drive doesn’t mean you should venture out into the snow! Even all-wheel drive does nothing on ice. Pull over until you have better visibility and the roads are clear. 

It’s critical to have plenty of fuel and, most importantly, to keep your tailpipe clear as snow piles up! Every winter, people die of carbon monoxide poisoning waiting out a storm with the engine running. They're trying to keep warm with the car running during a storm, but the snow blocks the exhaust, and sadly, they're found too late.

If you are driving somewhere, you could experience snowy conditions, so be sure to have extra food and water in case you get stuck in a snow bank. Again, sleeping in your car will require those Mylar space blankets. In addition, if I’m going on a road trip in the winter, I always have a shovel, sand for traction, boots, a flashlight, and extra warm clothes in case I need to spend the night in the car.

Enjoying my travel tips? Check out my book, The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life.

Prepare for Power Outages

Heavy, wet snow or ice can take down trees, block roads, knock out power lines, and be dangerous! If a winter storm is coming, you should prepare to be without power.

Confirm with your hotel if they have a generator. Your Airbnb probably doesn’t have one, but they might if you stay in an apartment or condominium. 

Therefore, prepare for a power outage if snow, ice, or high winds are coming. Gather food, water, flashlights, batteries, candles, and extra blankets or sleeping bags. (See my packing list below!) It will get cold quickly if the power goes out. I always put my thermostat up a couple of degrees in case we lose power. At least it’ll be a little warmer in the house, decreasing the probability of our pipes freezing.

If the power goes out, let your water drip so your pipes don’t freeze. Also, be extremely careful with candles, as you can easily start a fire.

How to Stay Safe in a Blizzard or Snowstorms While Hiking

If you are caught in a blizzard while hiking or visibility becomes extremely poor, stop walking so you don’t get lost and do whatever you can to stay warm. Stay together, pitch your tent, or wrap up in a Mylar space blanket, which I recommend you carry. Look for nearby shelters like near a rock or in a cave, but don’t venture too far off the trail in case people need to look for you.

Matt Wilson SUP adventure in the snow
There is no shortage of fun you can have in the snow as long as you are prepared for a blizzard or snowstorm!

Items to Have on Hand in a Snowstorm

This list includes some critical items you might not have considered for your next winter adventure, but not everything you need. Please note that you should decide what you can carry with you, depending on your mode of transportation. 

Want to upgrade your packing list? Check out my 12 Essential Items You Need to Carry While Traveling.

Flight Cancelations and Delays

A winter storm can significantly delay your trip and cause flights to be canceled. Runways become unsafe, visibility becomes extremely limited, and roads leading to the airport can be dangerous. You can’t do much other than sit back and wait for the streets and runways to be cleared and for things to start operating normally again.

In these instances, it’s beneficial to have travel insurance, which can reimburse you for expenses incurred during delays and cancelations. 

The three travel insurance companies I’ve worked with for years are World Nomads, Safety Wing, and Wanderwell. It’s crucial to read your plan carefully if you plan to do high-risk activities like scuba diving, rock climbing, high-altitude trekking, etc.

Oh, and a note from the lawyers: We receive a commission when you use our affiliate links to get a quote from World Nomads and other travel insurance companies. We do not represent World Nomads or any other company. This is not a recommendation for buying travel insurance.

Enjoy Winter Wonderland!

Traveling in the winter can be an incredible experience. Imagine visiting the Christmas Markets in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest or seeing snow-covered temples in Japan. 

Moreover, traveling off-season means fewer crowds and a better overall travel experience. Just remember to take it slow, prepare for the cold, and have fun! Plus, group travel is the safest way to travel.

Want to make friends and see the world? Check out Under30Experiences’s group trips for people ages 21-35.

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson is Co-founder of Under30Experiences and Author of The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life. He is host of the Live Different Podcast, Millennial Travel Podcast, and formerly Co-founder of He is committed to helping people live more adventurous lives.


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