How to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Travel
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How to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Travel

It’s holiday season again, and that means long car trips to visit relatives. Want to make this year’s travel a little less stressful? These tips will help you plan ahead so you can get to your celebration and skip the headaches.

Get Your Car Ready Ahead of Time

If your car needs maintenance or a repair, the sooner you can get it done, the better. Unexpected repairs can turn a simple fix into a days-long affair as technicians perform complicated jobs and parts are shipped in from long distance.

This is also a good time to check up on your car’s paperwork. Make sure you have current insurance cards in your vehicle, as well as the current registration. Have you had work done that is covered by a national warranty? Have the receipts on hand just in case you need to make a claim. Renting a car or trailer for the trip? Reserve it now: rental vehicles are at their highest demand during holidays. Have roadside assistance coverage through your insurance or credit card? Program the number for the service into your phone now before you need it.

Before setting off, remember to check your car’s coolant, oil and wiper fluid levels as well as the tire pressure. Your car’s owner’s manual will show you how to do this, and tire pressure information can be found on a sticker on the frame around the driver’s door. Don’t forget to check the spare tire pressure and make sure the jack and lug wrench are on board: there’s nothing worse than having a flat and knowing you could be back on the road if you’d done a quick inspection before you left.

Plan Your Route

Before you travel, make sure you have an idea of where you’re going so you don’t have to depend on your phone’s GPS: cell service can be spotty in some areas, especially when you’re off the Interstate, and that can render your smartphone’s navigation apps unusable.

When you’re talking to your relatives about visiting, ask about local construction. Since they drive there every day, they’ll know about road closings and new routes.

Most states have Department of Transportation apps that can show you current highway closings due to construction, inclement weather, and traffic accidents. Having these handy can help you work around traffic jams and sudden storms.

Plan Your Stops

Where are you going to stay? Like rental cars, demand for hotel rooms skyrockets during holidays, so it pays to reserve ahead of time.

Where are you going to eat? If you’re traveling a long distance, you might as well enjoy some food that you can’t get at home. Most cities have kid-friendly restaurant guides online, and there are plenty of options for reviews like Yelp and Urbanspoon.

Car sickness is caused by a disconnect between the motion your eyes are seeing and the motion your body is feeling. Drivers rarely get sick because they’re focused on their road, even as their passengers get woozy. If you’re driving, remember that your passengers may need frequent breaks to keep car sickness at bay, even if you feel fine.

Keep Your Kids Happy

Traveling in a car usually means eating in it, so have some hand sanitizer and baby wipes on hand to clean up messes.

Pack a few healthy snacks so your kids aren’t tempted to grab the biggest, sugariest thing at the gas station. Sitting in a car for hours might not be fun for them, but sitting in the car while feeling bloated is even worse.

Is your child glued to their tablet or phone 24/7? A car charger can keep their device running so they can stay busy. Short on electronics and have a lot of kids to occupy? Put a few movies on a tablet and mount it where everyone can see.

Have kids that get car sick easily? Skip the screens and get some kid-friendly audio books to listen to on the ride.

Take Your Time

With everyone going to see their family, there’s a lot of extra traffic during the holidays: the Department of Transportation estimates that there are 54% more long-distance travelers on the road on Thanksgiving and 23% more during Christmas and New Year’s Day. Add in some winter weather and people traveling from states where they don’t experience driving in snow and ice, and you have a much greater chance of accident delays than any other time of the year, making it likely that it will take longer to get where you’re going.

Have Fun

All of us here at Merton Auto Body want to wish you a happy and safe holiday season. We may make our living doing body repairs, but we want to make sure you don’t need our services because of careless driving. Planning ahead won’t just make your holidays easier, it will make getting to your destination safer.

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