Surviving the Winter Journey Home: College Student’s Guide to Safe Holiday Travel

You’ve taken your tests, turned in your papers, and completed every extra credit assignment available to you. The semester has finally drawn to a close, and now is the time for rest and relaxation. 

But, before you get to bed down in your old room and enjoy your parent’s cooking, there’s another test you need to take: the winter journey home. 

Driving home in the winter poses a real threat to your health and safety. Icy conditions can be dangerous for even experienced drivers and negative temperatures strain your vehicle. Adapt to the conditions by preparing yourself and your car for the long journey ahead. 

Preparing Yourself 

The National Weather Service (NWS) reports that 70% of winter deaths occur in automobiles, usually due to a mixture of frostbite and hypothermia from exposure to cold conditions without the right gear. 

Prepare yourself for the worst by dressing appropriately for winter. Pack durable, insulated outerwear like coats and jackets. If possible, pick up a pair of insulated boots and gloves and look for thicker wool socks that protect your extremities from the cold weather. 

If you are caught in a winter storm, stay inside your vehicle. Your car can protect you against wind chill and wet weather. The NWS also recommends that you run the car’s engine every ten minutes to keep the temperature in your cabin up. Exercise from time to time and focus on getting blood to your extremities to avoid frostbite. 

Preparing Your Car

Black ice and blizzards can increase your risk of an accident. Preparing for these kinds of hazardous conditions is key if you want to make it home safely. Start by purchasing snow tires for your car, as these will offer extra traction should you turn onto a slippery road at any point. 

When on the road, practice defensive driving and keep a keen eye on weather alerts. This can help you stay up to date with ongoing storms, floods, or fog and avoid dangers associated with winter driving like: 

  • Poor Traction: Precipitation and cold weather can extend your braking time and reduce your maneuverability. 
  • Visibility Issues: Foggy conditions dramatically reduce your ability to see oncoming traffic and queues. Slow down to mitigate the risk of rear-ending another driver and leave more space than usual. 
  • Road Damage: Icy roads can cause potholes and reduce traction. Pay close attention to the road ahead and pull over for a rest if you feel yourself becoming fatigued. 

Drive cautiously when navigating winter weather and treat other cars with more respect than normal. Avoid driving through floodwater if you’re unsure of its depth, and consider setting off later in the day when possible. This reduces the risk of skidding on black ice and improves visibility on the road. 


Driving home for the holidays can be a little daunting. Prepare yourself and your car by packing plenty of warm clothes and getting your vehicle serviced before you head out. Consider a set of snow tires and always stay up to date with the weather conditions. This can help you avoid hazardous conditions and reduce your risk of road accidents.