Safe Holiday Family Travel Tips

Image via iStock

Tips for Smart Family Road Trips

It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is just around the corner, but it is that time of year again. Besides being the busiest shopping season of the year, it’s also a popular time of year for taking road trips to see family.

Unfortunately, many people are unknowingly ill-equipped for a road trip. When weather, road conditions, mechanical failures, or emergencies arise, they aren’t properly prepared to handle the situation. Here are 12 important things to consider while preparing for your next family road trip:

Image via Flickr/jessgrrrr


1.     Get your rest: I’ve read that more people are injured by drivers who fall asleep at the wheel than by drunk drivers. Make sure you get a full night’s rest so you are alert. Plan out pit stops to walk around and keep you from getting lethargic on the road.

2.    Scout your route: Familiarize yourself with where the gas stations and rest areas are along your route so you aren't surprised by a stretch of road without facilities. It’s easy to get lulled into the idea that there’ll be another town just down the road, but I’ve learned the hard way by getting stuck in the Arizona desert without a service station for 30 miles because I’d gotten so caught up in a conversation and wasn’t paying attention.

MORE:  7 Road Trip Essentials When Traveling with Kids }

3.    Bring proper paperwork: Is the paperwork in your car up-to-date and accurate? Do you have a copy of your registration, car insurance, and AAA (or other roadside assistance) in your car? Do you carry a copy of your health insurance or medical card with you? Having this paperwork in an accessible spot will help tremendously if a bad situation arises.

Image via Flickr/KOMUnews


4.    Emergency kit: A basic emergency kit, along with a flashlight, first aid kit, and reflective triangle, can really come in handy in a variety of situations. Packing these vital supplies will put your mind at ease as you embark on your journey.


5.    Survival supplies: Growing up in the earthquake zone of California, I was taught to carry a 72 hour kit in my trunk at all times. You never knew when there’d be a disaster and you’d be caught away from home or help. Having a blanket, a gallon of water, and a small supply of food (crackers, nuts, granola bars, etc.) is a smart way to keep your family safe in any emergency. I haven’t had to use my kit for a natural disaster, but I have used it when my car broke down or when I was stuck in traffic for hours because an accident shut down the freeway.

6.    Don’t rely on technology: Simply put, always carry some cash and bring along a paper map. We are so dependent on technology that we think it will always be there. Unfortunately, something as simple as a harsh winter storm can disrupt power, shutting down access to ATMs and cellular service. Don’t get caught unprepared when it’s easy to plan ahead and carry the “old fashioned” versions of currency and navigation with you.

Image via iStock


7.    Tune up:  Before any long trip, it’s wise to take your car in to be checked for regular maintenance. Schedule a tune-up or have someone you know check the battery, tire pressure, and fluids to reduce the chance for any surprises on the road.

8.    Check your spare: Do you have a spare tire in your vehicle? If so, do you know where it’s at? Have you checked it lately to make sure it’s properly inflated with the right pressure? In addition, do you have the proper tools needed to change it? Having a spare tire isn’t very useful if you don’t have a jack to lift the car or a tire iron to loosen the lug nuts. Make sure you’re properly equipped so that you, or a good Samaritan that comes to your aid on the roadside, can get the job done.

{ MORE:  Planning a Vacation }

9.    Do a seatbelt check: In our day and age, when we are blessed to have state-of-the-art restraint systems, it breaks my heart that there are so many baby car seats installed improperly. Please get your car seats double-checked to make sure your child is secured properly. Many fire stations and police departments have free inspections to fix incorrect installations and educate you about how to do it right so your family stays safe on the road.


Image via Flickr/wwarby

On the Road

10.  Avoid distractions: With so many gadgets at our fingertips, it’s easy to divide our attention and lose concentration on our main job: driving. If you’re easily tempted to look at your phone, turn it off, or give it to whomever is in the passenger's seat. Let your co-pilot deal with changing the radio, and keep snacks and drinks easily within reach so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. These might seem like small things, but people have caused accidents because of these small distractions. Don’t become a statistic.

11.   Be a good co-pilot: To make it a pleasant drive, help the driver as much as possible. Switch off driving with them every couple of hours if needed. Help them stay awake with books on tape, news radio, verbal games, or even great conversation. We have a rule in our family that the driver gets to choose the music. This one small perk helps the driver stay alert and content during the monotony of the miles yet to be covered.

12.   Park smart: When stopping for a rest, or arriving at your destination, make sure you park where it is well lit and people are nearby. Try to walk to and from your car with at least one other person so you’re not alone. Keep your keys in your hand, and be observant of your surroundings. Predators target people who look distracted or weak and seem to be easy victims. If your body language is strong and confident and your eyes are alert you will dissuade someone from approaching you.

If you take the time to implement these 12 tips you will be prepared for your next journey, and anything that might come your way. Hopefully there’ll be no hiccups along the way, and you’ll just be able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with being prepared. Enjoy your holiday season. Maybe our paths will cross along the road.

What tips for family road trips can you share? Share in the comments below how you prepare for travel.

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Safe Holiday Family Travel Tips

Shannon is a mother of 3 teens, who hit 40 and decided that instead of a "mid-life crisis", she wanted an adventure of a lifetime. She convinced her wonderfully open-minded husband to pack up their house, sell most of their possessions, and travel the USA in an RV for a year or two. Besides homeschooling her kids, running their online program, Watts in the World, Shannon loves to explore new places. Nothing is more exciting than waking up in a new city everyday, and discovering what's great abou ... More

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1 comment

  1. Lynette says:

    Great tips

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