Winter is finally here after a very slow start. Skiing, snowboarding and all kinds of other activities that require snow can finally begin. But why not consider an alternative this season? It could also turn out to be a lot cheaper, considering the record low prices of gas.
Heat up the car and hit the road. Recruit a few friends, pack an extra jacket and fill up the gas tank. The winter can be the perfect time to go on a drive around the country because people stay home and go skiing in the mountains which means (mostly) open roads. Imagine clear roads, fresh air, lots of sunshine, powder snow covering red rocks…
It’s crucial remember that while the scenery is majestic, the driving conditions are more dangerous. Stock up the trunk with flashlights, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots, and a first-aid kit. Get your car checked and make sure it’s in good condition for winter roads. Tires are very important, obviously. The pressure should match the specs in your owner's manual. A winter travel safety kit also includes a cell phone, an ice scraper and brush, a tow rope, a candle, matches, and a portable weather radio. It’s always a good idea to let someone know your schedule and the locations you plan to visit in case they have to find you.
You can save money while traveling in more than one way. Depending on how long you plan to be on the road, buy only one kind of snack at each stop. Bonus: You and won’t companions will not overeat. When you feel like having a real meal, go to local diners as opposed to a restaurant or stop at a supermarket and buy some of the ready-made sandwiches. Just avoid the ones with mayonnaise. Last but not least, plan where you’re going to sleep ahead of your trip. You’re going to get the worst room and price if you walk-in at an unreasonable hour in a hotel and say “Do you have any empty rooms?”
Now that you are all set to go, head to one of these places (or several) and unleash the explorer in you.
1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Start from the Mammoth Hot Springs and drive 52 miles on the Grand Loop Road. Everybody goes there in the summer so you shouldn’t expect any traffic. The winter is a great time to take this trip if you want to see wolves who were re-introduced to the park in 1995 after 70 years. Plan to go skiing or just hike along the trails through the Upper Geyser Basin.
2. Route 66: Illinois to California
This is the ultimate American trip – the legendary 2,400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. It has been featured in just about anything – TV, music, movies. The trip is also authentic. Many places still keep the original two-lane highway. The most popular locations along the trip are in the Southwest but Illinois has something to offer as well. Stop by Pontiac and visit the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum. Along the way you’ll also find stunning panoramas, charming towns, and rocky cliffs, and beautiful deserts and parks. If you really want to see what it’s like to be “alone” on the road, go west from Kingman past the saguaro cacti and loose boulders. You’ll get to Oatman, an old gold-mining town. Don’t forget to visit the Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is 50,000 years old.
3. Along South Dakota Highway 240
Just 40 miles of driving on the Badlands Loop Road can energize you for weeks ahead with the dozens of picturesque views. Go to the Badlands National Park, which had slowly formed by deposition and erosion starting 69 million years ago. Cedar Pass Lodge is the only lodging and restaurant in the park. It’s going to be cold but you can expect to not cross paths with many (if any) other people on your way, expect the park rangers and maybe lots of sheep.