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Leaving for winter holidays by car

How to prepare your car

Winter holidays are great fun. So the sooner you get there, the sooner you’ll start to enjoy yourself. Just make sure you’re aware of the unique challenges that can happen on trips to the mountains.

What should I check?

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First of all, check everything’s working properly and that your tyres are fit for the journey. You can see if you’ll need winter tyres at your destination by reading our article where are winter tyres mandatory in Europe. Essential checks include your lights, wipers and battery. You’ll find more information in our guide to preparing your car for winter.

Secondly, and this is very important, read up about the local driving laws where you’ll be driving. Do not assume that they’re the same across Europe.

How should I load the car?

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It’s very important that you don’t exceed the maximum load and that you keep weight evenly balanced (particularly if you’re using a roof box). Make sure that the driver has clear visibility through the back window.

In terms of stacking luggage, remember that luggage can move forward if you have to brake suddenly. We therefore recommend that you load heavy luggage first and, wherever possible, anchor it behind rear seats or a partition net. Lighter luggage can then sit on top of it. A good tip is to put clothes and soft toys in vacuum bags to reduce volume.

Do I need a roof rack?

That’s entirely up to you and depends on what you’re taking with you. If, for example, you’re packing skis and poles, you might find it a lot easier to buy a ski holder or long roof box than try to squeeze them inside the car. 

What else should I pack?

Take a look at the weather forecast before you leave and find out what the local regulations are regarding snow chains (they are mandatory in some areas).

It makes sense to pack a windscreen snow cover too so you’re not held up scraping your windows every morning during your holidays. Extra tip: If you need to use a de-icer and windscreen wipers to clear your windows, let the wipers go in one direction then stop them and wipe with a clean cloth. This avoids dirt being rubbed back and forth, scratching your glass in the process.

Children get bored on long journeys so don’t forget to pack some entertainment for them. Tablet computers can be life savers!

And speaking of life savers, find out how to pack a winter emergency kit.

What do I need to consider when driving?

If you drive in the mountains you’ll probably come across a lot of tunnels. Take extra care to stick to the speed limit and drive at a safe distance behind the car in front. Accidents in tunnels cause real problems leading to long tailbacks.

If you’re caught in a tunnel jam you need to be mindful of ventilation and pollution. The best thing to do is to cut off your engine. If, for whatever reason, you’re asked to leave your vehicle, you must leave your keys in the ignition so that emergency crews can move your car if necessary.

Remember too that you may need to keep your sunglasses handy. Although it may be dark in the tunnel, you could come out to very bright sunshine and white snow.

Take extra care when driving over bridges and overpasses or along dense forest roads. These are most susceptible to ice so keep your speed down and your braking distances long.

For more detailed information read our articles how to drive in icy conditions and how to drive in snow

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