In 2014, over 94 million people traveled during the holiday season. 9 in 10 travelers drive to their destinations, and the roads are never busier than during the December holidays. The last two weeks of this month are the number one most dangerous time to travel in the United States. Be ready to tackle the busy roads with a few common sense preparations.
1. Keep vehicle maintenance up to date. This includes oil changes, tire pressure, fluid levels, and headlights and taillights. Be part of a roadside assistance plan, such as a AAA, in case something goes wrong.
2. Lock valuables in the trunk. Valuables in plain sight lure would-be thieves. Don’t flash around jewelry or electronics when stopping for food or gasoline.
3. Know the weather forecast. Monitor the forecast in the days before the trip. If bad weather looms, allow extra time for the journey, or adjust travel dates to avoid storms, especially snow and ice.
4. Instruct children not to talk to strangers at stops along the way. Always go to the bathroom in groups, especially at truck stops and rest stops.
5. Have a route mapped out. Take large metro areas and potential heavy traffic into account. Consider altering the departure times to avoid traffic. Know alternate routes in case of traffic or bad weather.
6. Keep your cell phone charged and bring the charger in the car. In case of an emergency, you’ll want to be able to call for help.
7. Pack entertainment. Keep those kiddos quiet with what my family calls the “fun bag.” Books, toys, coloring books, electronics, snacks, music … all of these items help keep the little ones occupied and mom and dad from losing their minds.
December’s holiday season is also the busiest time at our nation’s airports. Keep these tips in mind:
8. Monitor flights from your computer or mobile device. Watch out for delays or cancellations. It’s better to be stuck at home or in a hotel than at the airport.
9. Allow plenty of time to get checked in and through security. Heavy volume means longer lines everywhere. The TSA agents don’t care if you’re going to miss your flight. It’s better to be early than late.
10. Have all luggage tagged with your name and address. In addition to the outer luggage tags, include the same information inside your bags.
11. Wrapped gifts in the security line may have to be unwrapped for inspection. Wait to do the wrapping once you arrive at your final destination. Consider shipping gifts via UPS or the US Postal Service instead of carrying them on the plane.
12. Book an early flight. The early-morning flights are generally less crowded. Booking a seat on one of these may provide a more pleasant experience. In case of delays, it also gives fliers the chance of arriving at Grandma’s house before dinner. Take a look at the business class seats, too. With less folks flying on business during this time, lucky fliers may be able to score an upgrade for less money than usual.
13. Getting bumped isn’t always bad. If a flight is oversold, volunteer to be re-ticketed. You may be able to negotiate a voucher for a future flight or a first class upgrade. Remember, though, that airlines don’t have to compensate travelers for weather delays.
If you plan to be part of the 2015 travel season, stay safe and travel smart so you can fully enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.
Contact Holly McElwee at [email protected]