Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Preparing for Holiday Road Trips

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where recently she's been researching different social work degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Many of us will be taking the kids and the car on a road trip this winter to visit family and friends for the holidays. Being busy now is no excuse to be caught unprepared on the road in freezing temperatures later. Here are few tips to keep your holiday traveling safe and drama-free.

Prepare the Vehicle

·Not everyone will be traveling in sub-zero temperatures this winter, but it’s still a good idea to prepare for the worst (and hope for the best). Temperatures tend to plummet when the sun goes down, so be sure to pack a few extra blankets, snacks, and water for the kids. See if the antifreeze, battery, brakes, exhaust, heaters, and oil are up to snuff a few days in advance so you can make last-minute repairs in time. Replace your tires now if they’re worn, and fill your windshield wiper fluid with cold-weather fluid.

·Keep in mind that not all gas stations are open when you need them—say, on Christmas Eve. Make sure you have at least half a tank of gas at any point in time, even when you’ve reached your destination.

·Prep the car with up-to-date roadmaps (or install the latest updates on your GPS, but don’t rely on it too much; service isn’t dependable) and a spare set of directions from GoogleMaps or MapQuest.

·Watch the weather a day or two in advance. Stuff a tool kit, shovel, and flashlight into your car.

·If you get caught in a blizzard, pull off the highway and turn on your hazard lights. Watch for snowplows and emergency road crews. Stay inside the car but don’t keep it running. Instead, run the heat and the engine for 10 minutes every hour to conserve gas (remember that half-tank rule?). Use the blankets, snacks, and water you packed to stay warm and avoid dehydration. If you do go outside, keep an eye out for symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite (shivering, exhaustion, no feeling in extremities including nose, toes, fingers, and earlobes).

Have Fun

Add a few days to the trip—not just as buffer time in case something doesn’t go as planned, but to make time for side-trips. Rather than stuffing your kids in the car like horses in a trailer, make the trip itself enjoyable for them by stopping at relatives’ and friends’ houses along the way, or even visiting tourist traps. Many summery establishments—think beach side hotels—have discounts this time of year, so your family could have the beach all to yourselves. Just remember to dress warmly!

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