If your family is hitting the road this year to see friends and relatives during the holiday season, you’ll find these pre-travel holiday road trip tips helpful for making your trip safe and memorable.
In this safety briefing, we’ll take a quick minute to remind you of the things you should check before heading out.
Monday – Holiday Travel Part 1
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), Christmas and New Years are among the most dangerous holidays for drivers. This is due to the increased amount of drivers on the road, urgency to reach a destination, poor driving conditions that winter months bring, and many other factors.
Protect your family and your vehicle this holiday season with these tips.
A week before setting off for your destination, perform vehicle maintenance:
- Antifreeze levels – Check they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
- Brakes – Check for wear and fluid levels.
- Exhaust system – Repair as necessary; carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
- Fuel and air filters – Replace as needed.
- Battery and ignition system – Make sure they are clean and functioning properly.
- Heater and defroster – Ensure they work properly.
- Headlights and hazard lights – Check for serviceability.
- Thermostat – Ensure it works properly.
- Windshield wiper equipment – Repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
- Install good winter tires – Make sure the tires have adequate tread.
Tuesday – Holiday Travel Part 2
If you plan to travel when inclement weather looms, monitor road and weather conditions by checking local news stations or Internet traffic and weather sites. You can sign up for weather alerts to receive text messages and optional alerts for your area. However, do not check your phone while driving and avoid all unnecessary distractions when you are behind the wheel.
Before you leave the driveway or parking lot, take time to clear snow and ice off your car windows, mirrors, lights, reflectors, hood, roof, and trunk. Drive with your headlights on and be sure to keep them clean to improve visibility. Use caution when snow banks limit your view of oncoming traffic.
Before traveling, consider making an emergency kit. According to AAA, a winter emergency kit should include a first aid kit, jumper cables, an ice scraper, and a snow brush.
Additionally, you should carry:
- Sand, cat litter, or traction mats
- Small shovel
- Gloves, hats, and blankets
- Flashlights with fresh batteries
- Warning flares or reflective triangles
- Shop rags or paper towels
- Drinking water and nonperishable snack bars
- Warm clothes
- Basic hand tools
- Phone chargers
If you’re traveling by car, map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads. Consider altering your travel times to avoid the heavy traffic. Also, have your paperwork in order. Make sure your auto insurance policy is current and that you have a copy in your vehicle.
Wednesday – The Right Gadgets
The right gadgets can make a long drive safer and much more comfortable. Consider the following to be critical gadgets that are worth the investment:
- GPS: It is your choice to use one, but make sure you have one and know how to use it. If you’re renting a car with a built in GPS, ensure familiarity before traveling. If you’re using your smartphone, be sure you have a car-charger and mounting device to hold it within the driver’s view.
- E-Z Pass or Cash: If you are taking toll roads on your trip, it’s worth looking into buying an E-Z pass. This pass works on many tolls roads and bridges across the country and can be purchased online and paid monthly, eliminating at least one road trip headache.
- Cigarette Lighter Splitter: The design teams of cars haven’t caught up with our modern population’s growing need to plug in our devices. While the old fashioned cigarette lighter remains a popular place to plug in, it allows only one device to use it at a time. If you’ve got multiple devices to charge, consider a splitter.
- Travel Medicine Kit: Whether you’re traveling by plane or car, have ability to handle minor medical emergencies yourself.
Thursday – Home Security
The winter holidays are a time for fun gatherings and visiting friends and family. However, a home break-in while you’re away can leave a bad taste long after the holiday turkey is gone. Thieves know there are plenty of empty houses during the holidays, so if you can make your home look occupied, they’ll seek out easier targets.
Here are some tactics that can help create this illusion:
- Leave a light on and have a radio or TV playing. Install timers to turn lights on and off at the times you normally would.
- Don’t let mail or newspapers pile up. Put a hold on your mail or ask a neighbor to pick it up for you.
- Make sure your trusted neighbors know you’re gone.
- Proudly display your home security sign and arm your security system.
- Make sure your landscaping is trimmed and doesn’t provide any hiding spots near entry points.
- If you’ll be away for more than a few days, arrange for a lawn service or neighbor to cut the grass or shovel snow while you’re gone.
- Don’t advertise your absence on social media. If you’re somewhere far away and check in on Facebook, burglars know you won’t be home for a while.
- Wait to post those vacation photos until after you get home. That beautiful beach picture you posted on Instagram tells thieves that your home is an easy target.
- Park a car in the driveway or ask a neighbor to park in your driveway while you’re away.
- Put motion detectors on outdoor lights.
- Remove the spare key. Experts say thieves are pros at spotting fake plastic rocks and they know to look under mats and above doorsills.
Friday – Food Safety
Packing food is a great idea for a road trip! It helps keep the driver awake and alert and it keeps kids full with nutritional rather than fast food.
Easy to transport foods like popcorn, nuts, pretzels, and dry cereal are good options because they won’t go bad even if they get warm. Grapes, carrots, celery, and other fruits and veggies are also safe as long as they are fresh, washed beforehand, and packaged in sealable containers.
Follow these basic food safety tips while on your holiday road trip:
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- Don’t let food sit unrefrigerated for more than two hours.
- Pack any foods that need to be kept cold in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice.
- Ensure everyone washer their hands with soap and water before eating and pack hand sanitizer for use between stops.
- Bring leftovers home with care. Keep them chilled and reheat thoroughly before serving.