I am bringing my family of four along with two extended family members to visit in the middle of December for about 12 days. Our purpose is to experience winter since Hawaii doesn't have snow, and doesn't get truly cold. Why choose to experience unpleasant weather? We are intending to leave Hawaii in a few years and move to the Kitsap penninsula and wanted to experience the best and the worst weather. We visited last year in June for about 8 days, spending the first three in Vancouver and then the remainder in Seattle. We had a great time then, and got to see most of the recommended sights in both places.
For this upcoming trip, my main concern is driving a rented minivan in the winter. I know that chains are not allowed on rentals, and having not driven in snow before I wouldn't want do it anyway. Driving on wet roads isn't a big concern to me (it rained for a month straight in 2006 here in Honolulu - the year my older son was born) provided it isn't icy. However, we do want to see and play in some snow. Our itinerary is as follows: we are once again flying into Sea-Tac, renting a minivan and then driving to Port Angeles via Tacoma/Bremerton/Hood Canal way to catch the Coho Ferry to Victoria where we will stay for two nights. Then we plan catch the BC Ferry to Tsawwassen and drive back to Seattle that way with the intention of stopping at some outlets for shopping. We'll be staying in the Lake Union area again while in Seattle. Our intentions are to visit Craigdarroch Castle during the day and Butchart Gardens in the evening while in Victoria, and then in Seattle visiting the Space Needle again, maybe Woodland Park Zoo again, the Flying Heritage Collection again, doing a lot of shopping in various places such as Bellevue (and seeing the Christmas decorations), and visiting Silverdale to scope out the area as far as houses, schools, etc. So far, it seems like Snoqualmie is our best bet for snow as far as our limitations go (no chains = no icy roads), unless there is another place more easily accessed with snow (we're not going to ski or snowboard, just play in the snow).
I'm looking for any tips or advice primarily on carrying out our plans in the winter. We are hoping that the weather will be like it was earlier this year as opposed to January of 2012 when it snowed.