Road Trip Weather Planning: Everything you need to Know

Road Trip Weather Planning: Everything you need to Know
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A road trip is all fun in games until unexpected weather comes into the picture. Storms, severe temperatures, and poor road conditions can turn a peaceful drive into a hellacious experience. But a little preparation is all you need before heading onto the open road to keep you and your passengers safe and sound.

In this article, I’m going to cover tips and tricks for road trip weather planning. Follow these recommendations so that you can enjoy your time on the road in peace. Oh! And don’t forget to wear your seatbelt–safety first!


Here's everything you need to do your weather planning for your road trip!

Check the Forecast Before Leaving

First things first, check the weather forecast! Even if you’ve been enjoying clear days and cool temperatures, a storm can be lurking just a few miles down the road. If you’re unprepared for it, well, you could be in for an unpleasant experience.

I can’t stress this tip enough for anyone driving into the mountains. Places at high elevations are known for unpredictable weather. At the bottom of a mountain, it might appear to be a bright, sunny day, but as you drive up and up, clouds can roll in, and rain, snow, and hail can pour down.

Check out the best app to use for road trip weather alerts below!

Use Chains in Snowstorms

Snow covering a road
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Going on a road trip in the winter? Then you may want to bring some chains along. Chains are used in snowy conditions and can be required even if you have an AWD or 4WD vehicle. If you know there’s a chance you’ll be in a place where snow or ice is likely, don’t think twice about it. You can find chains at stores like Walmart and AutoZone. Nothing’s worse than coming upon a highway where law enforcement is checking for chained tires only to realize you don’t have any.

When you apply chains to your car, never stop in the middle of the road. Safely pull off to the shoulder before getting out of your car. If chains are required, there will be a designated area for vehicles to stop and install them–the process only takes a few minutes.

Check Your A/C and Heater

Oh no! The A/C isn’t working! No one wants to get stuck in freezing or blazing temperatures only to find out the car’s A/C or heat doesn’t work. Not only would it make the road trip uncomfortable, but it could be dangerous. Driving through a desert without A/C in the middle of the summer and hitting unexpected traffic is a recipe for disaster!

So, when you’re gearing up for your journey, check the air system in your car. It’s worth spending the money to fix a faulty system to ensure you are safe for any road trip weather!

Avoid Driving through Heavy Winds

Wind and road trips are not a match made in heaven. Strong gales can make controlling your car a struggle and tip over taller vehicles. When winds reach speeds between 30 and 45 mph, it’s no longer safe road trip weather. Your best bet is to pull over at a rest stop and let the wind die down before getting back on the road. Always make the safest choice, even if you have to wait for a few hours to avoid weather on road trips. Your life is more important than getting somewhere on time!

Stock Up on Food and Water

My favorite part about a road trip is stocking up on my favorite snacks and drinks [checkout our list of healthy road trip snacks] before burning rubber! Driving takes a lot of focus, and a bag of trail mix and a Gatorade are a great way to keep you from getting depleted. Having a cooler full of food and liquids will also ensure you’re ready for any unexpected weather scenarios that could leave you stuck in the car for hours and hours.

Pack Appropriate Clothing

If you’re expecting hot road trip weather, pack shirts and shorts. If you’re expecting cold road trip weather, pack pants and sweaters. Easy! Of course, you can wear whatever clothing you would like. I’ve been known to go on long driving trips in my pajamas–please don’t judge me. But whatever you choose to wear, it’s a good idea to have extra sets of clothing in case of extreme temperatures. You don’t want to get caught in a snowstorm without a jacket!

What’s the Best Weather App?

When it comes to the best road trip weather app, we all have our preferences. I, however, use Weather on The Way! It’s a nifty little app that clearly shows you the weather conditions along your entire route. If weather conditions aren’t looking so hot, don’t worry! You can select an alternative route with more agreeable conditions on the app. The only downside is in order to get road trip weather alerts, it requires you to use the Pro version, which costs $2.99 a month–not too bad of a price.

Top 5 Weather Apps

Here's also a curated list of weather apps that can help you plan for the weather on your road trip, if you're looking for options to compare:

  1. Weather on The Way (for all the reasons mentioned above)
  2. Drive weather
  3. Highway weather
  4. Radar Scope
  5. AccuWeather

Can Google Maps Show Weather Along Route?

I’ve got a bone to pick with Google Maps. Yes, in theory, Google Maps shows the weather along your route. But! You have to manually choose each city for live weather updates. Google announced a few years ago that Google Maps would have a weather layer option, but it looks like the feature is only available on Google Earth.

The weather information provided by Google Maps is reliable; however, I recommend going with a road trip weather planner app like Weather on The Way.

Final Driving Advice

Weather determines what type of road trip you’re going to have, and you need to be prepared for whatever life throws at you! Checking the weather forecast is a foolproof way to get the best idea of what to expect. However, things can turn on a dime. So, pack appropriate clothing, bring snacks, check your car’s air system, have chains for snowstorms, stock up on supplies, and use a weather app during your trip! Follow these simple tips, and you’re guaranteed to have an incredible road trip.

Road Trips > Beginner Guide > Road Trip Weather Planning

About the Author

Ryan Hichens

Ryan Hichens is a freelance writer, digital nomad, and sucker for a good time. He’s a native Californian but has spent the last five years backpacking and road-tripping throughout North and South America. Check out his Instagram to follow along with his travels and writing.