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How to Check the Weather for Your Driving Route

Updated on June 19, 2013
Driving at 5000 ft in the shade of trees can mean the difference between a clear road and a road deemed impassable due to ice.
Driving at 5000 ft in the shade of trees can mean the difference between a clear road and a road deemed impassable due to ice. | Source

There is nothing more frustrating than being on a great road trip that ends prematurely in bad weather. No one likes to turn around and go the other way after traveling so far - knowing this sometimes influences our decision to make poor choices.

If you are driving through mountains, this could happen in a blink of an eye - even if the weather man said it was going to be sunny with temperatures in the high 40s. In the mountains, trees can easily shade snow and ice from the sun. What is sunny and warm for the forecast can still be cold and icy in the shade at 5000 feet above sea level.

To help you find success in your future travels, here are some of the topics that will be covered on this hub:

  • Plan Your Trip Route
  • Maps and Directions
  • Interstate Driving Conditions
  • Route Planning Software
  • Weather Conditions for Driving
  • Road Conditions for Travel

Oregon's Odell Lake at 4800 feet above sea level.
Oregon's Odell Lake at 4800 feet above sea level. | Source

Plan Your Trip Route

There is a saying that if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Although this may be true in most cases - especially business, traveling to areas where you are not familiar with should be one area where we can apply this anecdote.

When you plan a trip, you need to make arrangements weeks in advance. Decide on where your destination is, and whether or not you'll be making stops along the way to visit other nearby points of interest.

  • How much driving can you plan on?
  • Enlisting a navigator/co-pilot
  • Hotels to stay along the way
  • Do you have a timeline?

How much driving can you plan on?
Decide where you want to go, and decide when you will return. Once you decide this, find out how much time you'll spend driving, and if you have enough time to reach your destination. If you are not used to making a six hour drive, this is pretty intense, and you need adequate recovery time before backing yourself with another six hour drive.

With adequate sleep and breaks for eating and bathroom along the way, you should probably plan for no more than about 5 hours of actual driving. With breaks along the way, and a good co-pilot/navigator, 5 hours is a snap.

Enlisting a navigator/co-pilot
A good navigator is super-essential in ensuring that you're going the right way, and can easily find alternative routes when coming across blocked roads or heavy traffic. The navigator can find routes that get you back on track, and can even find and book hotels available along the way. The navigator/co-pilot also is responsible to run the music selection for the drive and read or take pictures of anything along the way that the driver should see but can't because his/her eyes should be on the road.

Hotels to stay along the way
You should be aware that when you plan on staying at a hotel, what check-in and check-out times are. You should also know what hotels will allow early check-ins or late check-outs so that you can plan accordingly. When you take a driving trip and need to stay in hotels/motels along the way, it is a waste because you'll be checking out early in the morning and not really using the full amount of stay that you're paying for. Take heed, you don't have to stay in the finest places, but you do need to keep it safe - check reviews.

Do you have a timeline?
With points of interest, with adequate rest stops for restrooms and stretching your legs on a brisk walk around the rest areas or visitor's stations, you can plan on driving leisurely and enjoying the trip. If you leave on time, and don't need to rush, avoid driving in rush-hour, you should have a more favorable time on this trip.

I stretch my legs while my co-pilot checks the route.
I stretch my legs while my co-pilot checks the route. | Source

Maps and Directions

In this era of on-line everything, I cannot stress how important it is to have a good map, whether it be a printed fold-out map, or a map on your electronic device that DOESN'T have to be online to access. This is especially important because not all trips will travel in areas where there will always be cellular service. This is where GPS units like GARMIN have a little more advantage over the cell phone GPS units - cell phones need cell service or internet connections to update maps. Cell phones can generally give you GPS coordinates (long/latt) without actual internet connection, but it doesn't have the resources to actually interface with maps to give you roads and other pertinent information.

When we do take road trips, we usually back ourselves up with a GPS unit - ours is a GARMIN. It gives us peace of mind that we 'really' are going the right direction. I must admit though, if your GPS is more than 5 years old, get it replaced. A lot of the technology has been replaced, and the constant "re-calculating" for no reason is almost entirely eliminated.

Rule to remember: Electronics fail. Always have something you can go to whether it's a map, or your 'Map Quest' print-out.

This beautiful stretch of hwy 97 is very beautiful, and un beknownst to me, one of the most dangerous roadways in the northwest with more than 1 car accident per day.
This beautiful stretch of hwy 97 is very beautiful, and un beknownst to me, one of the most dangerous roadways in the northwest with more than 1 car accident per day. | Source

Interstate Driving Conditions

In Oregon, and for some other states we have what is known as 'Trip Check' which is a free service by the DOT that will give you important information about road conditions ahead. You have access to traffic cameras that can not only give you information about traffic, but also the weather and to some extent what the road conditions look like.

Warnings like snow zone,'carry chains' and other information are shown on a map that will cover the entire state. There are technical advisories for trucks displaying whether trucks are allowed in an area, or how traffic might affect your travel plans.

Trip check is a very useful tool when it comes to seeing what interstate conditions are ahead. Check on conditions frequently to see if conditions ahead are changing, and check with your state to see if Trip check is available to you there.

Klamath Lake is frozen over.
Klamath Lake is frozen over. | Source

Route Planning Software

There are a lot of route planning software available on the internet, several are available for download onto your computer or onto your smart phone. Best of all, you can find free, or close to free apps for your smart phone.

Free route planning software like that available from will allow you to map out your travel plans, and access your itinerary from your smart phone.

Roads End

Road ends in a frozen marsh area with no cars in sight for miles in any direction.
Road ends in a frozen marsh area with no cars in sight for miles in any direction. | Source

Weather Conditions for Driving

You should be aware of what type of weather conditions you will be facing on your entire driving trip from start to finish. You may start in the dessert and end in a snow zone, whatever the different driving conditions you may be driving through, you need to be prepared with a travel emergency kit. Having an emergency kit on board with you could mean all the difference in case of any emergency or delay.

You've heard of the driver who had driven off the road in bad weather only to be found days later trapped in his vehicle in a ravine off the road. He/she lived off rain water that trickled into the car and a bar of chocolate found in the glove compartment. If something similar should happen to you, you will be in a much better position with an emergency kit because you will be able to sustain yourself, and more than likely be able to move out into a more favorable position for rescue.

A note towards building your emergency kit; always carry the sensible items - if you will be going into mountains, always bring snow chains. If you are traveling in a rainy area, always pack raincoats. Whatever conditions are going to be, take the worry and doubt out of the trip, always be prepared for emergencies.

Winter Driving Kit

Emergency Road Kit

Emergency flares et al
In case of stalls, flats, etc.
Always carry tire iflaters
Simple tools
Screwdriver set, spanner, pliers.
You never know when you might need them.
A case of water, canned goods or rations.
Being prepared in case of stalls in remote areas.
Staying warm is a must.
Mounts or deserts, nights are cold.
Change of clothes
At least one more set of clothes.
Clothes get wet/soiled
Fresh set of batteries
If possible, crank type (no battery)
First air kit
Keep infections down.
Recharger for your phone
Keeping your cell alive
Conserve your car battery
It may seem over the top, but situations like these can easily get out of hand and progress in the wrong direction. Always be prepared. Keep your kit inside your car passenger area when traveling.
Still in the mountains
Still in the mountains | Source

Driver or Navigator?

Are you a better driver, navigator, or can you do both on long road trips?

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