Five Winter Travel Tips for Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is surrounded by majestic, snow covered mountains and world renowned ski resorts. Convenient lodging exists from Truckee all the way to South Lake Tahoe with highways linking the mountainous area together. It's a winter wonderland for those who visit, so it's no wonder Lake Tahoe sees nearly 300,000 visitors on peak days.

While the Lake Tahoe region serves as the ultimate winter vacation destination for people all over the world, winter weather is a common occurrence here that should not be ignored. Slick roads, heavy traffic, and road closures can put a dent in your vacation itinerary. As we all know, traveling during the holidays can be hectic, especially if you face an additional drive after you've just finished a long flight. So ease some holiday headaches with these simple tips and start your vacation as soon as you leave the house.

It Starts at the Airport


If you are traveling from other parts of the country, there are airport options close to Lake Tahoe-- RNO and SFO. Reno is just a short drive from the east. In 45 minutes you can be at the lake. The Bay Area lies to the west, offering more flights and still only a four hour drive. Ultimately, getting within driving distance is easy, but stress can pop up before you even land.

#1 Reserve Your Airport Parking in Advance
Start off on the right foot first thing at the airport. Parking and leaving your car at the airport can be stressful and expensive if you find yourself scrambling last minute. You already have to face the gauntlet to make it to your cozy vacation cabin, give yourself the upper hand when possible!

ParkFellows is a great site that allows you to search and compare reliable parking facilities. You can reserve your spot in advance, see photos of the lot, and check their security measures. They offer services at various major airports and make it easy to find the cheapest price through their easy online booking site. For those visiting from major cities, this is a simple hack that will save you time and money and start your vacation off right!

#2 Have Winter Items in Your Carry On
You don't want to find yourself buying new winter gear in the event your luggage gets lost. Chances are you will have to hop into a rental car when landed, so you also want to be travel ready for the road after your flight.

• The easiest way to pack heavy duty boots? On your feet!
• Find a nice pair of gloves that are not bulky, but made of high quality material and waterproof.
• A warm head helps keep a warm body. Look for something slim, practical, and tactical.
• Have long underwear on hand. I always love the classic brand, Hot Chillys. They are lightweight, slim, and can fit under almost anything. The material is super warm and will make the difference if you have to go outside and put chains on.

Now It's Time to Hit the Road


Alright, you've made it here. Now what? Hopefully you are able to get a four wheel drive rental car, because chances are you will use it! Lake Tahoe receives significant snow, even at lake level, so it goes without saying there are some winter driving tips you will want to abide by.

#3 Have a Winter Car Emergency Kit
First thing you will want to do when you arrive is outfit your vehicle with some emergency items. If you nailed the carry on set up, you are already wearing boots and have gloves and layers handy. Whether you are coming from Reno or the Bay, there will be various places that are stocked with these next emergency items. While the link above has an extensive list you can refer to, here are a couple must haves.

• Chains
• Emergency blanket, gloves, hats
• Full Tank of Gas
• Flashlight with batteries
• Jumper Cables
• Bottled Water

#4 Stay in the Know
Knowing when to hit the road and when to stay in is an art. The best way to insure you aren't stuck out in the cold is to stay on top of weather and road conditions. Skiing until last chair isn't worth it if you face black ice and heavy traffic right after. Being aware of when a storm is going to hit could save you hours stuck on the road and help you avoid dangerous driving situations.

• Track the weather and make sure to check multiple times throughout your stay. Weather can change abruptly in the mountains.
• Check road conditions on the CalTrans website. You will be able to tell if roads are closed or if chains are required.
• Check out webcams on the Caltrans CCTV Map to see real time traffic conditions near your destination

#5 Don't Rely on Data
Do yourself a favor and have some old school tricks up your sleeve. During peak season, cell service can jam up around the lake, causing slow data connections and deadzones. A paper travel guide and paper maps can save you trouble when technology lets you down in the mountains. Also remember to have important destination or contact information on paper in case your phone dies.

As the holiday season kicks off, we are all excited for winter fun and family time. Hopefully these tips will help you prepare for your next epic winter adventure and enjoy your vacation to the fullest. The best trips are made possible by planning ahead, packing smart, driving safe, and having fun!

photo credit: Tucker Ballister