Drive Smart

Winter Vacation Driving


Why is driving in winter on holiday not a problem, whereas in the UK, a few inches of snow causes travel chaos?

Previous winters in  in the UK exposed many travellers around the country to significant snow fall which saw major travel disruption the length and breadth of the country. Only essential travel by car has been recommended with the dangers of driving in winter realized as insurance claims surged by 50%. So why is it that this seems only to affect us when driving in winter in the UK and not when we are driving in winter / snow conditions on holiday?

The simple answer is that the UK is not as prepared for heavy snow whereas winter holiday destinations, by their very nature are much better equipped. Whilst most UK airports were closed for days during the infamous ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018 and over 1,000 flights cancelled, Geneva Airport hit the headlines when it closed for a ‘few hours’ with the loss of just 40 flights, quite remarkable considering it received the worst of the storm!

beast from east flight cancellations

Once you’ve arrived at your winter holiday destination, you’ll likely want to see snow and ice as ski and snowboard holidays are less appealing with no snow. So why are so few accidents / congestions reported when driving on winter holidays. The main reasons are the ROADS and the TYRES on the rental car.


The roads are a major part of why driving in winter on holiday is seemingly less of an issue than it is in the UK. The UK simply does not invest in the infrastructure to deal with heavy snow and sub zero temperatures as they happen so infrequently. Countries that rely on tourism to winter destinations such as France, Italy and Switzerland invest heavily in their road network and maintenance to ensure the roads are passable in all but the most extreme conditions. After all, a winter ski resort is only great if you can get there!

The roads are well maintained and cleared frequently during the worst of the winter to aid safe passage to resort. Primary roads from the airports are given extra resource to ensure tourists can get from the airport to resort with minimal fuss and the airports themselves are also very resilient to extreme weather.


If you’ve rented a car in a winter destination you’ll likely be familiar with Car Hire Winterisation. In simple terms the rental agents prepare the car for driving in winter conditions which usually includes fitting winter tyres and including an ice scraper, shovel and de-icer in the vehicle as part of a winter essentials kit for your car. Winter tyres in particular provide a significant benefit in grip levels over regular tyres when the temperature is below 7 degrees celcius and are a major reason why cars and their drivers are much safer on the roads in winter on holiday than they might be at home! In many EU countries, it’s a legal requirement to have winter tyres fitted at certain times of year,
Most rental locations also offer ski racks for rental cars as well as snow chains that might be required in the most extreme conditions.