The holiday season, regardless of which, if any, holidays you choose to observe, is a beautiful time of celebration and togetherness, but to enjoy that togetherness, many of us need to travel. From short distances to nearby family and friends to hours or even days on end in the car, we all have somewhere to be and it is important that we arrive there safely. To prepare you for the impending holiday traffic jams and sometimes snow weather conditions, we’ve put together a list of tips to keep you safe and sane, as you make your way to your holiday observations and celebrations.
Planning your holiday destinations ahead of time is a great way to prepare yourself for a successful trip. Once you know where you are headed, map out your route, then map out a backup route for when that one is no longer the best option. Car accidents, road closures, construction, poor weather conditions… any, or all, of these things are possible, but they need not put a damper on your holidays. Having a backup route ready to go is a great way to help you stay focused and calm when the holiday hustle and stress peaks. Set up traffic alerts and weather updates on your smartphone to be sure that you always have the latest information. And we know technology is our friend, but it doesn’t hurt to keep an old school atlas or local map in your vehicle in case it is needed.
Share Your Travel Plans and Itinerary
The theme of the season is sharing; sharing your good will, good fortune, etc. You should also share your travel plans. Make sure your host knows when you expect to arrive and if you are running early or late. This is helpful for a couple of reasons: 1) They can be prepared to welcome you and 2) If you don’t contact them and don’t arrive, they have an idea where you are and where you are headed. It never hurts to over communicate travel information.
Service Your Vehicle Before Your Hit the Road for the Holidays
Routine and preventative vehicle maintenance can help to make sure that you do arrive at your holiday destination safely. It is important to check your vehicle’s tire pressure and oil. A tire rotation and professional inspection should also be done, especially if you are planning on traveling during winter holidays. Cleaning out your car, too, before you go may make the trip more comfortable, regardless of how long or short the drive may be.
If You Won’t be Home for the Holidays, Make Sure it is Secure
Whether it is an actual checklist or a mental note, check to be sure your home is safe and secure before leaving. A check like this should include:
- Check all doors to be sure they are locked
- Unplug all unnecessary outlets, including the Christmas tree if you have one.
- Turn down the heat
- Secure all windows on the first floor
- Take out the garbage
- Check that all lights are off, but leave the porch light on
- Make sure the refrigerator is working and closed tight
- Check that the oven and stove top is off
- Make sure there are no clothes left in the washer
- Rather than hiding a key under your front mat, ask a trusted neighbor to hold on to a copy and share your contact information and that of your destination with them in case there is an emergency
Regardless of the distance you plan to drive, it is most important to do so safely. Stay aware and focused on driving, and avoid distractions that could result in an accident. Never text and drive and if you need to make an emergency call, do so using a hands-free device or Bluetooth. Go slow in bad weather and avoid following too closely to the car in front of you. We all have somewhere we need to be and by driving cautiously we take care to ensure we are making the road as safe as possible. If you are driving long distances, avoid traveling alone if possible and never hesitate to pull over in a safe spot if you are too tired to drive safely.
In Case of an Emergency
- Travel with a fully charged cell phone.
- Keep an extra USB charger in your car, most newer cars now feature USB ports.
- Keep emergency, non-perishable food and bottled water in the trunk of your car.
- Stock an emergency kit, including a first aid kit, blankets, a change of clothes, and extra cash in your vehicle.
- Make sure you have jumper cables and road flares.
Emergency planning goes beyond the items you put in your car; it also includes emergency funds. What’s in your bank account to cover the cost of an emergency while on the road? If the funds in your savings aren’t enough to cover the financial impact of an unexpected emergency, remember that alternative lending solutions may be available to help you make ends meet. Personal loans and title secured loans are options for those who may not qualify or have time to go through the lengthy application process of a traditional bank loan.
Here are some more helpful resources: