Did You Know? Travel Preparedness Kit

“If you have to be on the roads, be prepared,” my mom told me when I was young. She taught me how to create a travel preparedness kit, and I want to pass that knowledge on to you!
Regina Robinson Regina Robinson
Olympia Branch Leader & Super Volunteer
December 27, 2019

My mother imparted great words of wisdom regarding winter travel when I was young. “If you have to be on the roads, be prepared,” she said. And she always reminded me that, “If you don’t have to travel, stay off the roads.” She always kept a Travel Preparedness Kit in all of our vehicles, one that she put together herself. Mom rotated items in and out according to the season. I followed her example, and I never leave home without a Travel Preparedness Kit in my car, changing or adding items with the seasons just like she showed me.

Follow these tips to get ready for winter travel

Stay current on your car maintenance

Routine checkups for overall vehicle health makes me less worried and more prepared when winter conditions start. Keep your car prepared before winter arrives with regularly scheduled vehicle maintenance. Make sure you’re also getting regular oil changes, and other regular vehicle services, which might include: checking on the car battery, radiator and antifreeze levels, plugs, and the heater and defroster in good working order. Check the wear on your tire tread, and purchase new tires or add air if necessary. You’ll also want to check your brakes. Look over the windshield for cracks and purchase new wiper blades and washer fluid as needed. Add a wintertime formula to keep ice off your windshield. Check the alignment of your headlights and add new bulbs. Don’t forget to check that the rear view taillights are in good working order.

Keep a full gas tank

Mom also explained the importance of keeping my gas tank full during winter driving. “When a gas tank is almost empty or even half full, condensation can form in the tank. This condensation freezes, forming ice in the fuel lines, which then causes the vehicle to not start.” Winter driving can also be very time consuming. Fog, ice, snow, and rain can make travel for poor travel conditions and sometimes you can be stuck in traffic for hours - having that full tank of gas helps.

Have cell phone and car charger, a little extra cash, and identification

I tuck an emergency contact card in my wallet with a note attached that states, “One cat at home, please call __________ to help take care of my pet.” I also list medications I’m allergic to on the card. Lots of cell phones have programs to list your emergency information.

Tell a trusted friend or relative where you are going during winter travel

Let them know the proposed route and the back-up route. Include when you expect to arrive at your destination and a time frame of when you expect to be back home.

Wear appropriate travel clothing and to dress in layers

This helps if you get stranded without a heater. Dressing in layers with tightly woven fabrics such as wool long underwear as a base layer, even in summer, can protect us from hypothermia. Next a puffy or fleece for insulation keeps core temperatures from dropping. My outer layer is waterproof: coat, hat, gloves, and boots.

Create (or buy) a Travel Preparedness Kit

Items for my Travel Preparedness Kit fit into a small Rubbermaid tote I keep in the back of my car.

  • A laminated sheet with emergency family contact information. I’ve taped mine to the inside of the list. This includes my doctor’s phone number and which drugs I am allergic to (1st responders always want to know this information). The cat Shiloh’s information is also included: vet phone numbers, medications, and extra food.
  • Extra meds for at least a couple of days with an emergency prescription
  • A spare pair of eyeglasses with extra prescription
  • Jumper cables, with roadside emergency kit including: flares, leather work gloves, plastic disposable gloves, candles with matches and a lighter, flashlight, headlamp with extra batteries, duct tape, zip ties, and a plastic ziplock baggie with a sharpie and notepad.
  • Food that doesn’t need preparing: protein bars, snickers bars, prepackaged nuts and berries, drink mixes (lemonade, ice tea, Gatorade), bottled water, and a water filter.
  • Large and small trash bags.
  • Bathroom kit includes: hand sanitizer, toilet paper & wet wipes. Small dog poo bags work great for toilet paper & wet wipes trash.
  • The 10 Essentials
    • Rain gear: jacket and pants.
    • Extra clothing: 1 set long underwear, warm hat & gloves, a buff, warm jacket, wool socks and waterproof boots.
    • Microfiber quick drying towels.
    • Map (Washington State map) & compass. If hiking, map of the area.
    • First Aid Kit.

Add these Winter additions to the general Travel Preparedness Kit:

  • Tire chains
  • Mini backpacking stove, 2 fuel canisters, cook pot, several spoons, a travel insulated mug.
  • Food items with extra water to prepare: packaged soups and several favorite backpacking meals, travel size beverages for hot drinks (tea, coffee, cocoa, and cider), dense protein bars, and chocolate bars or hard candies.
  • Solar charger & lights.
  • Yellow or red brightly colored cloth strips to tie onto antenna when stranded.
  • Heavier sleeping bag, mini tent, and tarp with rope.
  • Micro spikes, poles, gaiters ,and rain gear.
  • Extra-large heavy duty trash bags in case gear gets wet. Extra microfiber or quick drying towels.
  • Ice scraper, short bristled brush to keep snow off car, and collapsible shovel.
  • 10lb bag of sand (adds weight to my front wheel drive vehicle and it can also provide extra traction in snow and ice).
  • Extra bulbs and fuses for basic functions of car (any auto supply store can help you).
  • Full tank of gas.

Fun additions:

When I shared this list on my Facebook page, and friend said, “Regina, I don’t see any winter fun items added to your “Winter Travel Preparedness Kit!” He is an avid skier and never takes his skis off his rack all winter long, and I had to agree with him one hundred percent. I hadn’t considered adding anything but the basics to my travel preparedness kit, but that changes now:

  • Snowshoes, poles, skies or snowboard with appropriate gear (avalanche beacon, GPS such as Spot or InReach).
  • Travel sized checkers and chess.
  • 2 decks playing cards.
  • Any comedy books (think along the lines of Patrick McManus, Bill Bryson. If you have one that I should check out please let me know).
  • How to survival and learning.

Get out there! 

In sharing this information with you I’m taken back to a time that Mom was preparing us for a road trip across the United States. In all that I learned from my Mom the next best piece of advice was to have fun. Even when the weather was awful, relax, have fun, and trust that all will be okay.

I am thankful that she taught me to be resourceful, ask questions, and seek answers. She gave me the tools I needed to feel comfortable driving during the winter time. She made it A-Okay by teaching me to be prepared.

Bonus Tips

Travel Preparedness for Children

  • Pack additional food & snacks, water, and supplies.
  • Have current doctors contact information on hand, updated photos of children, extra medications and prescriptions.
  • Extra clothing; Rain gear, wool socks and rubber boots for easy in/out of the car transitions. More than one microfiber quick dry towel for quick spills.
  • Mini car snack kit for each child that they can be in charge of, with items such as raisins, cheese sticks, nuts & seeds, crackers, apples and carrots, water bottles, juice cups, etc.
  • Favorite toy, book, music, cards or games. Challenge them with an “Eye Spy Game.” Another fun idea is to have a list of places, things, or items they need to find, such as a local landmark.
  • Frequent stretch your leg breaks.

Traveling with Dogs & Cats

Travel with pets in carriers or use a seat belt tie in, this helps to prevent animals being thrown from the car in case of an accident. Travel can be an anxious time for pets, remember that they too need fresh air and bathroom breaks on long car trips.

  • Pack enough food, water and favorite snacks for travel. This includes an extra 2 days worth of food/water/meds in case of unexpected delays.
  • Bowls for food & water
  • Leashes, harnesses, collars – up to date tags with contact information and a current photo
  • Vet information, records of shots, Medications
  • Quick drying towels
  • Pet beds or favorite blankets and toys
  • Enough poo bags
  • For cats also include carrier with blanket and or bed, travel sized litter box, litter and scoop, poo bags to get rid of waste.

Additional Resources:


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