The Big Holiday Road Trip Survival Guide

traffic safety

Alright, without looking it up, what do you think the best selling music single of all time is? You might know. Or you might be thinking through the biggest songs of artists like Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson, trying to figure it out. Do you give up? Alright, the best-selling single of all time is "White Christmas," recorded and released way back in 1942 by Bing Crosby, and written by Irving Berlin. It's sold over 50 million copies, and that's just one version of the song.

One possible reason why it topped the charts is that celebrating the holidays, in some form or fashion, is practically a universal experience. Almost everyone celebrates some kind of special occasion, whether it's Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Diwali. And just as the holidays are universal, so too is the epic holiday roadtrip.

Immortalized in such films as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the great holiday roadtrip is often portrayed as hectic, chaotic, and downright stressful. But it doesn't have to be. With these tips from our survival guide, you might even find yourself enjoying every minute of the journey.

Tip #1 – Play a variety of music on your drive.

"White Christmas" is a great song. So is "Jingle Bells," and "Happy Holiday." But when you go  with all Christmas music, all the time over the course of a long trip, it can begin to wear on your psyche, as well as the minds of your passengers. Sprinkle in a little of the Christmas spirit now and then, but definitely listen to some normal music in between the beloved yuletide favorites.

Tip #2 – Give your vehicle a thorough inspection.

It should almost go with out saying that you should ensure your vehicle is in good order before embarking on a roadtrip, and yet you have no doubt seen plenty of motorists stranded on the side of the highway, or perhaps even been there yourself. Now, in some cases, that may be out of the driver's control, but in many instances, breakdowns can be avoided through regular inspection and maintenance of your vehicle. Check all fluid levels. Check your tire pressure and your tread. Do you need snow tires? Has your vehicle been doing anything funny lately? If you're driving an automobile you know needs repair or replacement, it's best not to risk that final breakdown coming in the middle of a roadtrip; in that circumstance, a rental car is probably your safest bet.

Tip #3 – Prepare for traffic congestion, and don't let it stress you out.

Just as the winter season is a cause of nasal congestion for many, the holidays can cause major congestion on the highways. It's a simple mathematical problem: daily traffic, plus irregular holiday traffic, equals imbalanced, overloaded traffic patterns. It's to be expected, and you shouldn't let it overwhelm you or make you feel stressed or anxious. Stay calm, stay focused and pay attention to your surroundings. When you see brake lights ahead, definitely focus on stopping and moving with traffic, but also check your rear-view mirror to make sure no one is flying up behind you, and give yourself enough room between your vehicle and the one in front of you to make evasive maneuvers in the event they do. Getting angry or upset about backed-up traffic won't help you reach your destination any quicker, so you might as well relax and accept that there may be delays.

Tip #4 – Pack everything you need.

On long roadtrips, snacks and beverages are a must. Avoid overly sweet drinks that might lead to a sugar crash. Use caffeine sparingly, as needed. Drink enough water, even if it means you have to stop to use the restroom an extra time or two. In addition to sustenance, make sure you bring essential safety items, such as a first-aid kit. It's also advisable to bring road flares, in case you end up on the side of the road at night. Double check your spare tire before leaving, and make sure it's in good shape and has enough air in it. And, importantly in this digital age, bring enough car chargers for everyone.

Tip #5 – Have fun.

Sure, traveling during the holidays can be a literal overwhelming. But it's important to not let the little inconveniences that crop up during a long roadtrip ruin the mood. When you look back on your trip, you'll feel much better if you spent the time focused on enjoying yourself, or just making memories with your family. After all, the holidays are about more than just checking off items on a list; they're all about the time you get to spend with the people you love most—even if too much of that time is spent staring at brake lights.