Start Planning Your Holiday Roadtrip Now

traffic safety

Early Christmas shoppers are the worst. Its not enough that they had to run out and buy gifts ahead of the rest of us; they have to lord it over us, as if they were avatars of good old Kris Kringle himself. "I've already got all of my shopping done," they say, smugly, as if the mere fact of them having rushed out to buy gifts in their ample spare time made them better than the rest of us. Bah, humbug!

Now, for those of you who are early shoppers, please don't take offense; this bitterness comes only from a place of envy. For those of who are desperate-minded, forever behind-the-eight-ball, frantic speed walking, Christmas eve dashing, last-minute shoppers, the thought of getting all of our shopping done months, or even weeks in advance, fills us with a jealous rage.

It's hard to do things early, for some of us. And yet, early is often better, we late doers must concede. Take the vaunted holiday roadtrip, for instance. While these trips can be a source of holiday cheer for the whole family, they can also be disastrous (ever seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Like that). The key to avoid trouble on the road, beyond just driving safely and paying attention to your surroundings, is to plan ahead.

But what does a roadtrip plan look like? How do you prepare for a potentially lengthy journey across highways and byways during a time of year when it seems like everyone and their grandmother is on the road with you? Here are some tips to help set you up for success.

Make a Maintenance List and Check it Twice

You'll want to ensure your vehicle is in tip-top shape before heading out on the highway. This is where early preparation will really pay off. Maybe you are an automotive whiz who can handle all your own maintenance in short order and at the last minute, but for everyone else, automotive services will be required. Those tend to hard to book at the last minute, and harder still during the busy holiday season.

Save yourself a lot of potential heartburn by getting your maintenance done well in advance of your holiday journey. Go down the list, item by item:

  • Oil changed and filled up?
  • Tires in good shape and appropriate for any inclement weather along your route?
  • Brakes good?
  • Any maintenance reminders?
  • Check engine light?
  • Headlights, taillights?
  • Wiper fluid?
  • Emergency roadside kit?
  • Spare tire in good shape?

This is not a comprehensive list of everything you might need to look at for your specific vehicle, but it should be a good place to start.

Prepare for Naughty Drivers

Wouldn't it be nice if every driver on the road were well-behaved and responsible? Of course it would, but, unfortunately, that's a Christmas wish Santa is unlikely to fulfill. The highways are full of jerks. Well, maybe 'full' isn't the right word, but certainly there's no shortage of them on the road.

Prepare for jerks. Anticipate jerks. Do not be enticed into risky driving by jerks. Remember that getting to your destination safely is what matters. Don't get into battles with tailgaters and trolls. Focus on your driving, your vehicle, and your navigation. Don't let a few misbehaving drivers drag you onto the naughty list.

Lay Down a Few Ground Rules

Whether you are traveling by yourself, with friends, or with family, you should lay down a few ground rules. For example:

Don't drive tired. The strongest coffee or the tallest energy drink are no substitute for a good night's sleep. As part of the whole planning ahead thing, plan to get a solid eight hours the night before your trip. It's simply a matter of safety.

Don't distract the driver. Whether we're talking about your kids, some raucous friends, or the whole family singing "99 Bottles of Beer," there is always the risk that your passengers will distract you from the road. Let them know upfront, in a gentle and kind way, that you prefer to minimize distractions during the roadtrip.

Define what kind of trip you will have. Are you going for a good time or having a leisurely cruise across the country, with plenty of stops for snacks and pictures? Decide with your passengers in advance what kind of trip you're aiming for, so that no one winds up disappointed.

And as a final ground rule, remember to enjoy yourself. After all, isn't that part of the holiday spirit?