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Best Tips for a Holiday Road Trip


As Thanksgiving nears, there’s a lot to be thankful for and if predictions prove true, Americans will be hitting the road for the long weekend at close to pre-pandemic levels.

A new AAA study shows that 53.4 million people will travel for the long weekend, representing a 13% increase from 2020. That’s within 5% of the levels last seen in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The majority, or 90% of those travelers, will hit the road in their vehicles. That means more traffic and congested Interstates and other roadways during your trip.

Before you set out on your road trip, stay safe and sane with our top road trip tips to help you get ready for the drive.

12 Best Ideas to Prepare for a Holiday Road Trip

  1. Preset your navigation. Set your destination in your navigation well before your departure. This will be one less thing to worry about when you’re loading up the car at the last minute to get on the road in a timely manner.
  2. Check your driver and safety assists. If your car is equipped with various driver-assistance systems (adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert), make sure you turn them all on to help keep your journey safe for the ride.
  3. Look at the weather report. Find out what the weather and road conditions will be like before you depart. For road trippers living in colder climates, check the weather forecast because you don’t want to be caught off guard by a winter storm or road closures in the middle of your trip. The Federal Highway Administration’s website is an excellent resource. You can also research any number of other reliable traffic and weather sites you can visit for information.
  4. Keep an emergency kit in the car. Be ready for potential snow or ice. Thanksgiving is often the first winter driving weekend for those up north. To prepare, equip your vehicle with emergency supplies like thermal blankets, jumper cables, flares, a flashlight, hand warmers, a window scraper, and more. Read our story: Items Everyone Needs in the Car, for your full preparation list.
  5. Pack an extra charger for your cell phone. You never know when you’re going to run low on power. Keep an extra charger in the car. You’ll be glad you did, especially in the event of an emergency.
  6. Talk safe. Remember not to talk and drive on your mobile unless you’re doing it hands-free or while pulled over safely on the highway.
  7. Wear seatbelts. You may wonder, “why suggest this, it’s a law.” Passengers in the car might fall asleep, but stay vigilant and remind everyone in the car to properly wear seatbelts, especially if you’re in a larger vehicle such as a van or RV.
  8. Take regular breaks. We all get tired on long trips. So take breaks. That’s what rest areas are for. Stop at least once every two to four hours and more frequently if it’s snowing. Falling snow can have a hypnotic affect. The same goes for night driving. Taking breaks reduces fatigue and tunnel vision on the highway.
  9. Watch your speed. Driving too fast to cut travel time is especially risky when highways are packed with holiday traffic. It’s just not worth it. Plus, state police will be out in full force to catch rule-breakers.
  10. Don’t drink and drive! This one’s a no-brainer. Just don’t do it. No matter what.
  11. Try not to overeat. Eating too much can make you tired during the drive back home. Especially turkey, which contains a natural sedative called L-tryptophan.
  12. Cut distractions. Supply the kids with games and movies so they don’t distract you. Get those movies set up before you pull out of the driveway. Teach them timeless road trip games like the license plate game, the billboard game, and more. These might keep the passengers busy for hours. If all else fails, you can always arm them with their devices (with headphones of course). For your own entertainment, connect your phone to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto ahead of time.

Have fun. Holiday road trips can be a great pastime for the whole family while creating wonderful memories. Enjoy the adventure!

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Renee Valdes
Renee Valdes is an author and editor with Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. She edits and writes stories about vehicles, including advice on how to buy and sell cars in an ever-changing world. Valdes also edits and authors stories about the ins and outs of car insurance from a consumer’s perspective. When she is not editing or penning the latest automobile advice, Valdes is enjoying photography,... Read More about Renee Valdes

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