Tips For Driving Home For The Holidays
Thinking of hitting the road for
holiday travel instead of flying? You won't be alone. AAA predicts
that 87 percent of people who travel for the holiday will drive—a
record high, topping 83 percent last year. If AAA is right, the
nation's highways will be very busy this holiday season; therefore,
it's essential to plan ahead. Thankfully, several websites are
making road-trip planning easier.
Is Your Car
Is your vehicle winter-ready? If you're traveling
to a colder, snowy climate, have you checked the tread on your
tires? When was the last time you checked the antifreeze in your
radiator? Is the windshield-washer reservoir full? Will your car's
heater and defroster clear icy or fogged windows? CarTalk.com has a complete checklist for long car
trips. In addition, they offer winter driving tips.
Do you have everything you need? Not only gifts,
suitcases, and snacks for the trip, but also safety gear,
considering climate changes? Here are a few things to bring:
Also, before taking off, make sure that each
passenger is properly buckled up—either in a seat belt or in a
size-appropriate child restraint.
- Car jack for changing tires.
- Spare tire filled with air.
- Jumper cables.
- Shovel, snow brush, and ice scraper.
- Emergency breakdown kit with flares or reflective devices.
- Flashlight and batteries.
- Abrasive material (such as sand, salt, or kitty litter) to use
- A cell phone, if you have one, just in case.
For more car travel lists,
visit AAA online.
Plot Your Course
With today's free online-mapping programs, you are going
to have to think of all sorts of new excuses for being late at the
in-laws. Virtually every square inch of the globe has been mapped,
and is now more navigable than ever.
MapQuest is the
most extensive, accurate, and convenient online map service.
Although not 100 percent reliable, MapQuest offers rather accurate
graphical maps and traffic reports that can serve as excellent
travel guidelines. Furthermore, it offers restaurant and hotel
information, and relevant e-coupon to use along the way. An
exceptional service that MapQuest offers is the option to e-mail or
fax directions to a friend, or even to download them to a PDA. Other
mapping sites worth checking out are Delorme
CyberRouter, MapBlast, and Rand McNally.
When you plan your route,
become familiar with maps or directions, and always let others know
your route and planned arrival time. Others might know better travel
routes once you're off the highway.
For the latest weather on the open-road, Weather.com offers a selection of driving maps,
which spotlight fog, wind, or precipitation forecasts. Users can
find up-to-date weather reports for nearly every city. Weather.com
is also accessible through wireless Internet devices such as cell
phones and PDAs.
Do you have enough
gas in your tank to get you through a lot of slow-moving traffic? It
is better to refuel often and have enough than to risk getting stuck
in wintry conditions with only a few drops in the tank.
save money on gas along the way, check out GasPriceWatch.com, which lists the most economical
gas stations to fill up along your preferred route.
There is a difference in the way that regular
brakes and antilock brake systems (ABS) work and need to be used. A
study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that many drivers
don't know how to use ABS systems to reduce accidents.
Before the development of ABS, drivers were taught to "pump"
their brakes, especially on slippery roads. ABS does this pumping
for you and uses electronic controls to maintain wheel rotation
under hard braking that would otherwise lock a vehicle's wheels.
Familiarize yourself with the braking systems of the vehicles you
drive beforehand, just in case you need to make a quick stop. For
more information on ABS, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Watch Out for Illegal Cell Phone
How many times have you chatted on your cell phone
while driving? Most of us don't even think twice about it, but be
forewarned that it's now illegal to do so in one state and in many
towns across the U.S. On November 1, New York became the first state
to ban hand-held cell phones. The law makes it illegal for a driver
to use a hand-held cell phone while in the car. First-time offenders
of the new law could face a $100 fine. To avoid getting pulled over,
attach an earpiece or other hands-free attachment to your cell phone
for car usage. The law permits people to make 911 calls, and to dial
and answer regular calls while driving. At least a dozen localities
have established bans, initiated in 1999 by Brooklyn, OH, and
followed by Carteret, NJ, the Philadelphia suburb of Conshohocken,
and next year Florida's Dade County.
Speed Trap Warnings: One site to
check out before hitting the road is Speedtrap.com.
This site advises users on potential law enforcement speed traps,
traffic slowdowns, traffic hazards, and other information to help
save time on the road.
Toilet finder: When
nature calls, even bold travelers prefer hospitable surroundings. The Bathroom Diaries.com locates clean, free
restrooms worldwide with comments and rankings from users.
Swap Audio Books on the Road: Stories on tape
will eat up hours on the road. You can find books on tape at most
bookstores nationwide. Cracker Barrel restaurants will refund the
purchase price upon return of the book minus $3 for each week you've
As much as
we all wish to spend the holidays with our loved ones, sometimes it
is just too dangerous to drive. Leave early and allow extra time,
and if you run into bad weather, stop or slow down! It is better to
spend the night safely in a hotel and arrive a few hours late than
to risk not getting there at all.
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