Road trips - the quintessential American mode of travel that highlights the joys of the holidays like no other activity. It's a tradition, much like listening to your Uncle’s high school football highlights, which can set your teeth on edge. If you are lucky though, you'll have your aunt’s pecan pie to look forward to and make the whole trip worth it. Here are some tips to get you safely to into your relatives’ warm and cozy kitchen:
1) Research your route - This seems like a pretty obvious tip, but since we’re so accustomed to asking Siri to take us to the state park or mall, it’s easy to pack the car, get the kids situated and be on the road without really looking at a map. If there's time to do some exploring, finding some interesting stops before hitting the road will help you keep to your schedule. Knowing and avoiding temporary trouble spots like construction zones and detours will make your trip a lot more enjoyable.
2) Have an atlas or map – Your smartphone may pick the worst possible time to lose signal or crash its GPS app, particularly when traveling in areas without good cell coverage. Many GPS apps only download the current section of map that the app is using, and if your signal goes down, your directions may disappear as well. To be safe, you can either print maps of certain areas or purchase an atlas to keep in the car for emergencies.
3) Be prepared for emergencies - Nothing can destroy a road trip more quickly than an emergency. Even something as small as a flat tire can derail the entire trip if you haven't planned for such events. At United Heritage Credit Union, we have several options for protection just when you need it. Our CruiseControl program offers 24-hour roadside assistance, coverage for trip interruptions should you need food and lodging while your car is repaired and benefits for car rentals. UHCU Insurance Services also offer auto coverage to protect you in case of an accident.
4) Plan your breaks – Pre-planning your stops along the way will make it easier to answer the age-old question of “Are we there yet?!” Having planned stops also takes away the fear of not having enough gas or not knowing where the closest restroom is. Building in breaks also gives you a more realistic arrival time, and allows you to build in some extra time to allow for spontaneous sight-seeing stops.
5) Sort and prepackage snacks - If you are traveling with kids, handing them a family sized bag of chips will probably lead to disaster. It may take a little bit of time, but having individualized snacks available will make everyone a bit happier on the road.
Packing a small, easily accessible cooler will also save you money – roadside snacks are typically very expensive!
6) Anticipate trouble spots - Knowing which parts of your route might be under construction or that may be difficult to traverse due to weather will save you time and stress. Try to schedule your time in big cities outside of rush hour, fill up before heading into rural areas and check out each state's transportation department web sites to avoid any construction delays where possible.
7) Give kids a budget - The best and sometimes worst parts of a trip are the rest stops offering everything from giant cinnamon buns to toys and games for the kids. It's easy to let a stop destroy your budget, so make sure that the kids know the spending limit before ever setting foot in the door.
8) Explore and enjoy - Road trips can either fill you with excitement or bring on a severe case of dread. Add in some time to stop at that offbeat roadside attraction - it'll give you a break from the car and give you something to talk about once you make it to grandma's house. Yes, it will make the drive longer, but how many opportunities in life will you get to see the world's largest ball of twine or a museum dedicated to bottle caps? You may even find the perfect gift for your dad - the guy who is nearly impossible to shop for.