By Jessica Shea Choksey
As the holiday season approaches, there are certainly a lot of things to be thankful for. But congested holiday traffic is not one of them. Each year, more and more people get on the road for the 4-day weekend, with the promise of family, feast and football at the other end of the journey. Last year, AAA reported an estimated 47 million people traveled 50 or more miles from home on Turkey Day. So how do you stay safe and sane as you embark upon the Great American road trip this year? Here are some tips and suggestions to help you get ready to make the long drive this holiday season.
Ready your vehicle. Make sure it’s maintained and in good shape. Check your tire pressure, oil and coolant. And if it’s dirty, give it a good cleaning inside and out. Riding in a clean car is always a more enjoyable experience for the family.
Preset your navigation. Set your destination in your navigation well before your departure. This will be one less thing to worry about when you’re loading up the car last minute to get on the road in a timely manner.
All systems go. If your car is equipped with various driver-assistance systems (forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert), make sure they’re all turned on to help make your journey the safest it can be.
Check the weather report and road conditions before you depart. For those living in colder climates, check the weather forecast before you hit the road. You don’t want to be caught off guard by a winter storm or road closures in the middle of your road trip. The Federal Highway Administration’s website is an excellent resource. But there are a number of other reliable traffic and weather sites you can visit for information.
Be equipped for winter storms. Be ready for potential snow or ice. Thanksgiving is often the first winter-driving weekend for those up north. To prepare, equip your vehicle with blankets, booster cables, flares, a flashlight, hand warmers and a window scraper.
Bring an extra charger for your cellphone. You never know when you’re going to run low on power. Keep an extra charger in the car. You’ll be glad you did, especially in the event of an emergency.
Talk safe. Don’t ‘talk and drive’ on your mobile unless you’re doing it hands-free or while pulled over safely on the highway.
Wear seat belts. Make sure everyone in the car is properly wearing seat belts, even if you’re in a larger vehicle such as a van or RV.
Take regular breaks. That’s what rest areas are for. Stop at least once every two hours and more frequently if it’s snowing, as falling snow can have a hypnotic effect. The same goes for night driving. Taking breaks reduces fatigue and tunnel vision on the highway.
Watch your speed. Driving too fast to cut travel time is especially risky when highways are packed with holiday traffic. It’s just not worth it. Plus, state police will be out in full force to catch rule breakers.
Don’t drink and drive! This one’s a no-brainer. Just don’t do it. No matter what.
Try not to overeat. Eating too much can make you tired during the drive back home. Especially turkey, which contains a natural sedative called L-tryptophan.
Cut distractions. Supply the kids with distractions so they don’t distract you. If you a have a rear entertainment system, throw in a movie. Better yet, teach them some of the road games we grew up with -- the license plate game, the billboard game, etc. These might keep them busy for hours. If all else fails, you can always arm them with their devices (with headphones).
Have fun. Holiday road trips can be a great pastime for the whole family while creating wonderful memories. Enjoy the adventure!
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com .