My family travels along the Parks Highway and the Seward Highway several times a year. We enjoy the scenery, fishing and road trippin’. We are thinking about driving up to Fairbanks this holiday season. What do you need to survive an Alaskan road trip in the winter? I will share travel tips from the State of Alaska and some extra things I like to bring.
Thank you to Man Crates for prompting me to write about my ultimate Alaskan survival kit! They stuff their crates with snacks, gadgets, gear and video games. This is not a sponsored post.
Winter Driving Tips from Alaska 511
Winter weather too often catches people unprepared. The National Weather Service reports that 70 percent of the fatalities related to ice and snow occur in automobiles, and about 25 percent of all winter-related fatalities are people caught off guard, out in the storm. What winter weather preparations are being made in your area and what are the appropriate steps to take that will ensure your winter weather safety? Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter driving.
Safe Winter Driving Tips from Alaska 511
- Before you travel check with the National Weather Service (NWS). They issue winter weather warnings, watches and advisories. Please see www.arh.noaa.gov/hazards.php or you can dial 5-1-1 and request call transfer to the NWS weather information line. Any NWS weather alerts, if active, will also play on the 511 phone system, and they appear on the website and apps as well. Check the weather cameras where available. They show what is going on in real-time.
- Know the current driving conditions. Listen to the local radio station, call 5-1-1 Travel In The Know, or log onto http://511.alaska.gov.
- Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights – even the hood and roof – before driving.
- Plan long trips carefully.
- Don’t let your gas fall below a half tank. You can’t count gas stations being open in the winter. If it’s an extremely long drive through rural areas, packing an extra gas can might be a good idea in winter time.
- Let someone know where you’ll be going and when you expect to arrive or return. Tell them to call authorities for help if you don’t get back or check in within an hour of your estimate.
- Carry a cell phone or other communications radio. Know, however, that cell phone coverage along much of Alaska’s highway system is spotty and you may not be able to reach someone on the cell. If you are within cell range and run into life-threatening trouble, use it.
- Travel during the daylight and travel with another person.
- If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation.
- Dress warmly. Wear layers of loose-fitting, layered, light weight clothing.
- Carry food and several bottles of water.
- Pay attention. Don’t try to out-drive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.
- Leave plenty of room for stopping.
- Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows – stay back at least 200 feet and don’t pass on the right.
- Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Brake correctly. It takes more time to stop in adverse conditions.
- Watch for slippery bridge decks, even when the rest of the pavement is in good condition. Bridge decks will ice up sooner than the adjacent pavement.
- If you use social media, you can subscribe to receive notifications via either the 511 Facebook or Twitter (@alaska511) pages.
The Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game has first aid and travel safety on their website at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hunting.firstaid.
There is more information about car safety and emergency tips available online and from your insurance agent. In addition to safety and survival info for your car, you also need warm winter gear. The weather can change quickly. What else will you need for your road trip? Besides the survival and safety gear, we bring along some other food and supplies to enjoy our trip.
Alaskan Road Trip Survival Kit Extras
- Car charger for your phone
- Thermos with coffee
- Jack Link’s Beef Steak Tender Bites
- Gardetto’s snack
- Kellogg’s Fruit Snacks
- Nuts – chocolate covered
- Mandarin oranges
- Dried moose meat and fish
- Pilot Bread Crackers
- Water and juice
- Entertainment – books, games and movies
In addition to the store-bought snacks, we also like to bring along some traditional Alaska Native prepared/preserved foods, like dry meat or fish. It is harder to come by in the middle of winter, because it gets eaten up pretty quickly. Of course, we have to have our good ole’ Pilot Bread crackers too.
The drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks takes about six to seven hours on the Parks Highway, depending on the weather and how fast you are going. We take our time going up to Fairbanks and stop on some pull-outs to take photos. We fill up our gas tank in Healy or other places along the way.
We have two kids, so we have to find ways to keep them entertained along the way. I make sure they bring books, movies or games. We usually download books or movies for them. I also remind them to download their favorite games to keep entertained. There is plenty of time for them to take naps, so they bring a pillow and blanket to keep comfortable.
There are a lot of adventures to be had in Alaska and there are many travel resources. For instance, AK on the Go is a website dedicated to Alaska family travel. I love traveling around Alaska by road, water and air. I feel grateful to live in this great state with adventure at our doorstep!