The holidays are a popular time for travelers. According to the United States Department of Transportation, the busiest travel times occur during winter holidays, Thanksgiving being the heaviest long-distance travel day. When it comes to media coverage, airports get a lot of the attention but as much as 91% of travel during the holiday season is done by personal vehicle. Before beginning the journey, travelers should take some basic precautions to ensure that they stay alive and injury-free. Winter weather and extended travel times can present certain safety hazards that should be considered before any long trek.
Extensive planning is important. It ensures that you are prepared for anything that might happen during your trip. Map your route along with at least one alternate in case of emergencies. Find out if there are any road closures, heavily traveled roads that could lead to traffic, or areas with seasonal risks like canyons or mountains where icing, avalanches, or mudslides can occur. Researching the weather conditions you will be traveling through goes hand in hand with this, and not just the weather at home and where you’re going. An unexpected winter storm can severely alter your plans. Plot stops for rest, gas, food and bathrooms. A few good rules might be every 2 hours, 100 miles, or half tank of gas if you plan on combining rest and fuel stops. If you are traveling with children, this becomes even more imperative. Remind the kids not to talk to strangers and keep all valuables hidden in the trunk. Unwanted attention in unfamiliar territory can be bad news.
Work out a schedule long in advance. Figure out which days you will want to travel. If possible, try and avoid the busiest days for travel by extending or shortening your trip. For example, traveling on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving or going home Thanksgiving night instead of the following morning may save you a headache. Pack an extra bag for the worst-case scenario. Most likely you will make it to your destination with zero issues but, no one thinks they will be a victim of an emergency until they are.
Here are some items we recommend bringing:
*Add to this list based off your specific needs. Things like prescription meds, extra asthma inhalers, allergy meds, EpiPen etc. are easy to throw in a backpack or first aid kit.
Pay attention to vehicle maintenance. A broken-down vehicle or flat tire can be a very harrowing situation in the wrong environment. Check oil level, tire pressure and tread, spare tire, tools, wiper blades, fill washer fluid reservoir, test battery and fill gas tank. Confirm that head, brake, tail, emergency and signal lights are all in working order. If you find any issues, have them checked out by a mechanic before departing.
Planning for the trip ahead is not your only consideration. Your home is more vulnerable without you occupying it. If you have a security system installed in your home, ensure that it is working properly, to include all alarms, motion detectors and cameras. If you do not have monitoring included with your system, consider adding the service to your plan for the month you’ll be traveling. Have a friend, family member, or trusted neighbor check on your home periodically while you are away, especially if you are leaving on a long trip. If possible, have them gather mail and occupy the residence for a short period of time when they perform their checks.
Give them a copy of your trip itinerary, contact info and even photocopies of important documents. Things like passports, credit cards, and any other types of identification in case something happens to the originals and you need a copy sent in a hurry. It may be a good idea to keep a set of copies with you as well in a separate location from the originals.
The holidays are a time for rest, family, and fun. Don’t let them become a nightmare. Follow these tips to help keep you and your family safe this holiday season. Failing to plan is planning to fail.