Thanksgiving marks one of the busiest travel days of the year in America. People scramble to other parts of the country to see their loved ones for a feast of gratitude. Not surprisingly, it’s also the fifth most dangerous time of the year for drivers. Part of this is due to the millions of other drivers on the road, and part is due to failing driving conditions in much of the country.
Traveling safely and avoiding congestion is a priority for those intent on driving during the holidays. Safe road trips begin with preparing your car, which includes not only maintenance but also reviewing your car insurance to obtain the best coverage necessary in your state, to be ready for any mishaps should they happen along your route.
Research the Best Times to Drive
If you’re traveling to another city or even another state, chances are good you are unfamiliar with the traffic patterns and time of day that is consistently burdened with rush hour. Do a little online research of the major cities you will be driving through to determine when might be the best times to avoid driving the major thoroughfares.
Leave Earlier or Later in the Day
If you have little ones (and even if you do not), consider leaving very early in the morning or later at night when traffic is naturally light regardless of your route. While children will be excited to leave, they will more easily fall asleep (giving you some peace) if they are in the car during their normal sleep hours.
Fill up the Tank
Well before setting off enroute to grandma’s house, fill up the gas tank so you won’t get everything packed away in the car, onto the highway and remember that you need gas. Install a gas buddy app on your phone to help you locate the best fuel deals in unfamiliar cities.
Consider Avoiding Major Routes Altogether
Life is about the journey, not the destination, right? So, consider taking the long route. Not only to take in the views and to stop and absorb the culture, but to avoid endless, mindless hours on a highway that is likely to be congested, and utterly charmless.
Take an Extended Vacation
Most Thanksgiving Day road warriors will be leaving the day before Thanksgiving on that unofficial historical travel Wednesday. If you’re able to, consider leaving earlier in the week instead, to avoid that Wednesday rush. Likewise, if you’re able to stay until the following Monday, you’ll be avoiding all of those traveling back home over the weekend.
Be Prepared for Tolls
If you’re traveling out of state and are unsure what you’ll encounter on the other highways, do your research to find out if there is a pass you can purchase, if they will simply bill you electronically or if you’ll need some spare change to throw into a basket.
Be Patient around Snowplows
Getting behind a snowplow may seem like both a blessing and a curse. You are thankful for the clear path they are paving for you but, at the same time, you feel you are going painfully slow. Don’t try to pass a plow if you can’t see clearly around them. Be patient for an open lane (free of snow fog) or for them to turn off the interstate.
Prepare for the Worst
The holidays may be a time of hope and joy, but when you’re traveling anywhere, it’s safe to assume that something might go wrong. Leaving yourself enough time to get to your destination, optimizing your car for winter travel, and keeping the kids (and yourself happy) will lessen the load if and when you run into that holiday congestion.
Watch out for Other Drivers
It never fails that there are always those drivers who don’t pay any attention to the weather and drive erratically or much too fast for the conditions. Keep an eye not only to the front, but to the sides and back as well, for those drivers who may pop up unexpectedly and alarm you.
Install a Road Status App
Use technology to your advantage by installing an app that will update you on road conditions ahead. This includes discovering construction, pile ups, and bad weather. Apps include Google Maps, Traffic Near Me, and INRIX Traffic Maps & GPS.
The number one thing to remember while traveling over the holiday season is to be patient. No one can control what the roadways have to offer; you can only anticipate and do your best to prepare. Either way, if you wind up sitting at the Thanksgiving table with a plate full of delicious food in front of you, you’ve made the journey a successful one.