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Driving To Northern Michigan In Winter: Tips For Safe & Smooth Travels

Thanks to its awesome snowfall and abundant skiing, winter is one of the best times of year to visit Northern Michigan. However, the storms that bring all that cherished snowfall have the potential to derail your travel plans. Follow these tips if you are driving to Northern Michigan in winter and want to have a safe and smooth journey.

Look at the Weather

The biggest factor to take into account when driving to Northern Michigan is the weather. If there are big storms making their way through Michigan, you might want to think about postponing your drive until they have moved through.

If you are itching to hit the slopes and make the most of all that new snow — or if your travel plans don’t allow you to reschedule — simply plan for your drive to take longer than you might expect.

Make Sure Your Car has Good Tires

The last thing you want to do when driving to your Northern Michigan ski vacation is end up in a ditch. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) does its best to keep roads de-iced using snowplows, gravel and saline solutions that melt snow and ice. Despite MDOT’s hard work, if you try driving to Northern Michigan without all-season or winter tires, you are rolling the dice.

Even if there isn’t a storm heading through Michigan or there hasn’t been one for a few days, Northern Michigan’s roads can still get icy in the winter. Snow tires or all-season tires are going to help you stay the course all the way to Northern Michigan. Taking a four-wheel drive vehicle that has these types of tires is an even better bet. On the flip side, a four-wheel drive without all-season or winter tires is not to be trusted in wintery conditions.

If you are renting a car, check with your rental car company to make sure you can reserve a vehicle with snow tires or all-season tires as well as four-wheel drive.

Prepare the Rest of Your Car

Before you set out toward Northern Michigan, you need to make sure that your windshield wiper fluid is full, your windshield wipers are working well, and you have an ice scraper. You also want to make sure that you have a winter coat and gloves in the car, so that you can scrape it off in freezing conditions.

Once you’re driving, keep your gas tank more than half full for the duration of your trip. This will allow you to run your car and stay warm if you are delayed in road closures.

Use an App and Charge Your Phone

Using a maps app can be exceedingly helpful for letting you know when you might encounter traffic. It will also keep you in the know should any of the roads along your route end up closing. Google or Apple Maps will do the trick.

Make sure your phone is fully charged or you have a phone charger with you in your car. Maps apps that use location services can be taxing on your battery. And a phone with a dead battery isn’t going to do you much good if you end up needing to call for help.

Drive During Off-Peak Hours

Timing your drive is essential when traveling from downstate to Northern Michigan in the winter. When the weekends arrive, there is a mass exodus from Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, etc… as skiers and snowboarders head north toward the many ski areas. If you decide to drive to Northern Michigan at the wrong time, you can expect to get stuck in all that slow-moving ski traffic.

Take it Slow

With incredible scenery and many points of interest along the way, the drive to Northern Michigan can be a great experience unto itself! Take your time and don’t hesitate to stop in some of the towns just off the highway. Many of them have intriguing histories, delicious dining, and great shopping.

Now you know how to make your next drive to Northern Michigan safe and seamless.