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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Traveling in winter, whether heading home for the holidays or heading off to somewhere tropical, always seems like a fun idea until delayed flights, snowstorms, and overstuffed suitcases get involved. We start to regret booking a layover flight, wearing a parka to an overheated airport, and not getting the right rental car. If winter travel has you feeling like a blow-up holiday snowman in a blizzard, don’t panic. Here are 11 winter travel tips to keep mishaps and delays at bay, and keep your budget in check through it all. 

RELATED: 15 cheap flying hacks that will save you real money

Book direct flights

Interior of airplane with passengers on seats waiting to taik off. Horizontal composition. boring flight in economy class aircraft salon. economy class

Keep in mind, if your travel plans are interrupted by bad weather (or other natural events known in the industry as “acts of God”), airlines are not obligated to reimburse you or cover the cost of a hotel. That’s why booking direct flights is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you don’t get stranded at a layover airport. That way, if your departing flight does get canceled, you can just go back home and try again in the morning. 

Invest in travel insurance

Winter weather can be unpredictable, especially in places like the Midwest or Northeast. Travel insurance typically doesn’t cost much, but if there’s a winter storm causing cancellations and you can’t make your reservation, you’ll be reimbursed for the parts of your trip that you missed (just be sure to read the terms carefully). As for purchasing travel insurance, booking on sites like CheapTickets.com makes it easy: When you check out, you’ll be given the option to add it to your itinerary with just a few clicks.

Pack layers versus one big coat 

Red suitcase being packed with black and white shirt, camera

Going from a cold climate to a warm one? Don’t get stuck dragging that bulky parka around in a place where it’s not needed. Instead, wear multiple layers to keep warm en route; unlike the parka, light layers like T-shirts, long sleeved shirts, leggings, and just one or two sweaters will still be useful in your destination during cooler tropical nights.

Book the right car for the terrain

Golden, British Columbia, Canada

An economical car like a Prius is great for road trips. Unless you’re headed to the mountains or some other place with lots of snow and potential ice. Be sure to reserve a rental car that has all the right features like 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive that can handle the terrain. When you book on CheapTickets.com, you can use the “All-wheel drive/4X4” filter to narrow your search. You may also want to consider springing for an SUV, as the added height can help you navigate through heavy snow. 

Treat yourself to some cozy amenities

Harbor Light Inn, Marblehead, MA

When you dream of a winter getaway, you might think tropical paradise, or you might imagine yourself soaking in a hot tub after a long day of skiing. Regardless of what your perfect vision is, booking on a site like CheapTickets.com can help you find it. Just use the search bar to find cozy amenities like fireplaces, or use the hotel filters to discover accommodations with hot tubs, indoor pools, spas, and more.

Stay up to date on your flight’s status

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Terminal 4 in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Photo: Robert Couse-Baker – Flickr

Don’t you hate it when you go to check in, only to find your flight was canceled, right after you paid handsomely for that Uber ride to the airport? Stay on top of changes when you download the CheapTickets app. It’ll send you real-time flight alerts, plus information on gate changes and luggage carousel numbers. You might also want to consider following your airport and airline on social media. Most airports and airlines will post updates about closures and cancellations due to impending weather on their social channels first. 

If you’re driving, gear up your car for cold

Getting stuck on the side of the road stinks, but in winter, it can be downright dangerous. Be prepared by gearing up your car with a flashlight to see under the hood, a first aid kit, potable water, snacks, warm clothing and a thick blanket, a spare tire and jack, a basic tool kit, and emergency flairs. It also helps to leave a bag of kitty litter in your car. Why? Well, it’s not just for cats. When driving in snow or on iced-over roads, sprinkling a little kitty litter right in front and behind your tires will provide the traction needed to keep going. 

Avoid checked-bag fees

Checked bag on luggage carousel at an airport

The easiest way to avoid them is of course to pack light, so you can go carry-on only. But we know, it’s winter, so your bag might be loaded up with holiday gifts or chunky cold-weather clothing. If that’s the case, you could still skip baggage fees, thanks to airline loyalty programs, or airline credit cards. Just be advised that some cards have high interest rates and sizable annual fees.

Be flexible with booking dates

Everyone wants to fly out on Thursday or Friday and return on Monday for long weekend getaways. That’s why these days of the week tend to be more expensive for everything from flights and hotels to rental cars and activities. Same goes for the days right before and after major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. That said, one way to save big bucks is to check flight calendars to see if there’s a lower priced flight on Tuesday or Wednesday, or some other day of the week close to when you’d like to leave. Comparing is easy when you book on CheapTickets.com, thanks to the site’s “Flexible dates” tool. Most travel websites will let you view a full calendar where you can see cheaper dates.

Consider driving versus flying

While flying will get you to your destination faster, it could also come with major delays due to bad weather. Even if your departure city enjoys a mild climate, your plane could experience weather delays if it’s coming from a storm-addled destination. A more reliable mode of travel would be to drive yourself, especially if you’re eight hours or less away. Driving is also often cheaper, especially if you plan on traveling around major holidays.

Wear your bulkiest items on your travel day

If you really must have the cable knit sweater that looks just like the one Chris Evans wore in Knives Out with you on vacation, then consider wearing it for the first time on your travel day. Same goes for your chunkiest pair of shoes or boots. Create room in  your suitcase by wearing larger items on the plane or in the car. 

Tagged: Cheap Tips, Events, Flights, Holidays, Seasonal, Tips & advice, Types of Travel

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Megan duBois

Megan duBois

Megan is a Florida native with a love for all things Disney, travel, food and running. You can follow Megan on Twitter @megand513 and on Instagram @minglingwithmickey where she dishes out the most recent Disney news and tips for the perfect park day!
Megan duBois

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