Did you know you only have a month to prepare for holiday travel? That’s right – Thanksgiving is only one month away, and most folks know by now that this is the busiest travel time of the year, causing a multitude of travel snags and traffic delays for those who find themselves unprepared.
According to our friends at AAA, over 46 million Americans traveled at least 50 miles to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends in 2014, with the average distance traveled being around 550 miles roundtrip. With nearly 90 percent of Thanksgiving travelers taking to the highways, and gas prices at their lowest in years, you can bet holiday traffic volumes (and headaches) will be at their highest in 2015.
But with a bit of planning and preparation you’ll be on and off the road, enjoying the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, in no time at all. Here are four Thanksgiving road trip tips to ensure smooth sailing as you head out on the highway this holiday season:
Plan your trip. We all know most folks travel on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving. If possible, consider traveling on alternate days and leave early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid increased traffic volume on the highways. Also, research alternate routes in advance to dodge traffic jams or accidents that could slow you down. And don’t forget to check the weather forecast a few days before you leave so you’ll know what conditions to prepare for. *Bonus tip: Although they may be considered outdated due to technology, it never hurts to keep a map in the glove compartment in case of poor internet service along your chosen route.
- Vehicle maintenance. Avoid the last minute rush. Have your car and tires inspected in the next week or two (or do it yourself if you’re able), and be sure routine maintenance has been taken care of before you hit the road. Check the oil, belts and hoses, coolant, battery, and wiper fluid. Been hearing a funny noise and you’re not quite sure what it is? Have that checked too! Be sure you have emergency vehicle maintenance supplies on hand, such as a tire jack, lug wrench, tire sealant, jumper cables, tire chains, tow strap and electrical tape – just in case! And lastly, don’t forget to fuel up before you leave town (if you’re able, fill your tank a day or two before your trip to avoid gas station chaos).
- Emergency Kit. Make sure you have the basics in case you find yourself in a jam: flashlight/head lamp, battery charger, road flares, first aid kit, pocket knife, water/snacks, blankets, snow shovel, and hand warmers. *Bonus tip: Worried that you won’t have room in your vehicle for all of your family, luggage, and emergency supplies? Consider adding more cargo space with a StowAway Cargo Carrier.
The necessities. Don’t forget to pack any prescription medications, and be sure to bring extra in case you get stuck along the way (remember the storm that hit the east coast last year?). It’s also helpful to have extra over the counter medications on hand, like those for head or muscle aches, upset stomach, motion sickness, and heartburn. You’ll also want to remember to bring chargers for your cell phone, tablet, laptop, and any other electronic devices you use to communicate and/or keep the kids entertained on long road trips. And speaking of kids… they’re known to get bored and hungry on long road trips, so be sure you have plenty of snacks, beverages, movies, games, and music to keep them happy along the way.
*Bonus tip: Back in my day, when electronics didn’t rule the world and cars weren’t equipped with DVD players, TVs, and satellite radio, my sister and I were forced to keep ourselves occupied in the back seat of the car. This included road trip games like I Spy, 20 Questions, Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, Slug Bug, and Mad Libs. Try turning off the electronic devices this year, and see how much fun you can have without them!
Whatever your destination this holiday season, these four road trip tips and a little advanced planning will help ensure smooth and safe travels so you can enjoy a stress-free Thanksgiving with family and friends.