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It’s the most wonderful time of the year—and the busiest travel season in the United States. Many Americans are headed to Grandma’s, their timeshare, or other destinations for Thanksgiving. And according to AAA’s travel forecast, an estimated 48.5 million of us will be traveling by automobile rather than in a one-horse open sleigh. From traffic to construction to bad weather, anything can happen on the open road. Here’s how to make your holiday road trip a success.
This time of year, you must accept the reality of holiday traffic. There’s no getting around it. Unless you left last week. Although you probably can’t avoid it, you can plan for it. First, consider avoiding peak driving times. This chart can help guide you in some of the bigger cities. No matter where you live, Wednesday is going to be rough. Consider leaving Tuesday or travel on Thanksgiving morning, if that’s an option. Then give yourself extra time, factoring traffic, weather, and other delays. On the road, relax into it. If you’re late, Grandma will keep some turkey and pumpkin pie warm for you.
It’s pretty inconvenient to have the biggest travel day coincide with the traditional beginning of winter weather, but there’s no changing it now. The best thing to do is use common sense around the weather. Keep an eye on the forecast and plan your travel times around it if you can. Then equip your vehicle with all necessary winter safety gear like scrapers, a small shovel, jumper cables, extra wiper fluid and warm blankets. While you’re prepping the car, go ahead and check the oil and other fluids and replace any sketchy wiper blades. Once the car’s all set, pack winter gear (and snacks and water) for all passengers in case you get stranded or have to walk.
A successful holiday road trip starts with a realistic plan. Plot out your route and stops in advance. Make necessary hotel reservations early and budget for an extra night in case you are delayed. Speaking of budgets, gas prices will probably be higher this time of year, so be ready for that. Of course, with more motorists out there and winter weather becoming a factor, creating a back-up plan is a great idea. Have alternate routes at your fingertips (and on your phone). Let someone know what route you’re taking and keep them updated from the road.
This is always good advice! But for holiday road trips, it makes even more sense. Rest stops will be full of holiday crowds, so avoid the lines and the prices and eat your lunch in the car. And since delays are likely, you’ll risk a toddler melt-down because you’re out of Goldfish crackers. In addition to snacks, if you’re traveling with kids, make sure they have plenty of activities to keep them occupied. We promise you’ll be happy you prepared!
Safety is the first rule of any road trip. Before the trip, pack a travel first aid kit, charge all your devices, add roadside assistance to your phone contacts, and make sure have a full tank of gas. On the road, keep your tank at least 1/4 full in case of unexpected delays. Brush up on your winter driving skills before you leave. For example, anti-lock brakes will compensate for a loss traction. Remember not to pump the brakes and instead, let technology do its job. Then give yourself more space between you and the car in front of you just in case you need more stopping distance. Take breaks so you don’t get tired. Safe drivers keep their eyes open and hands on the wheel.
We hope these tips help make your holiday road trip a success. For more travel tips this season, click here.
(Image Source: Pixabay)