6 Road Trip Tips for Holiday Travelers
More than 43 million Americans traversed the nation's highways to spend time with friends and family over last year's Thanksgiving Day weekend, according to the AAA. And with gas prices dipping, it's likely even more motorists will be heading "over the river and through the woods" this year.
Whether you're a long time resident of the Snow Belt or will be making your first venture into icy territory, it's essential to prepare for the unexpected.
An accident or a severe storm can close highways and trap you and your passengers in a vehicle for hours. It's far better to be prepared than sorry.
1. Carry a winter survival kit in the trunk
At the least this should include blankets and warm clothing, a radio and flashlight with extra batteries, drinking water and cups, food (particularly raisins, nuts, dehydrated fruit and jerky), reading materials to help stay awake, toilet tissue, nylon rope and a bright red or orange cloth and a sufficiently loud whistle to signal for help.
If you're headed deep within the snow belt, be sure to pack battery booster cables, gas-line antifreeze, a tow rope and a container of sand or cat litter to help give spinning tires traction should a car get stuck on a slick road.
2. Stay in touch.
Always carry a cell phone and let friends or relatives know when you're leaving, the route you're traveling and your expected arrival time. Consider packing along a car charger for your phone.
3. Fuel up.
Never depart with less than a full tank of gas and be sure to dress according to the weather.
4. Drive defensively.
Slow down if conditions begin to deteriorate, and leave extra room between your vehicle and the cars ahead - a car's brakes won't work as well on slippery roads. Drive with your headlamps on, and avoid using your cruise control to maintain quick reaction times for sudden stops.
5. Stuck? Don't floor it!
If your vehicle becomes stuck in the snow or mud along the way, keep your wheels straight and accelerate slowly in low gear. Don't floor the accelerator. Instead, rock the car back and forth, shifting between drive and reverse gears and holding your forward and rearward most progress with the brake pedal, until you finally get the vehicle freed. Throw the aforementioned sand or kitty litter under your car's drive wheels as needed to give the tires a dry surface upon which to grip. If the vehicle isn't freed after several tries, call a tow truck to avoid damaging the vehicle's powertrain.
6. Keep calm and carry on.
If your car suffers a breakdown or the road becomes blocked, turn on your emergency flashers, stay in the car and remain calm. Call for help and to advise the authorities of your exact location (having GPS navigation can help in this regard if you're in unfamiliar territory). Remove the contents of your emergency kit from the trunk and put on warm clothing before you get cold. Huddle under a blanket and run the engine and heater for only short periods. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow. Open at least one window a small amount to prevent carbon dioxide from building up in the passenger cabin while you wait for help to arrive.
"Holiday road trips are the source of some of our very best memories," says Dean Pisciotta, president of Brakes Plus, the family-owned and operated car maintenance and repair chain. "It's important that your vehicle is in shape for the trip, and that you are, too. Plan ahead and stay safe."
Wherever you travel this holiday season, Brakes Plus, with 67 locations in Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, Texas, Nebraska and Iowa, stands ready to provide you with great car service. Family owned and operated, Brakes Plus provides free estimates before starting any work, and strives to provide every customer with a positive experience.