So the holidays are upon us, last minute shopping is taking place, plans are being finalized, ugly sweaters, Santa hats, and reindeer antlers are getting worn. The holiday season is a lot of fun and it is also a costly endeavor, so looking for bargains, deals, and using general money savings strategies is always a priority. Toward that end, many people will take to the roads this holiday season to avoid the hassle and cost of flying or other forms of mass transit to gather with friends and loved ones.
Having just returned from a (on the early side) holiday road trip, I can say with certainty the following tips can save you time, headaches, and money if you have a road trip of your own coming up.
1.) Research and Plan Ahead – You know you need to go to Grandma’s house, you know when you are going to be there, and what you need to do to prepare for going there, but also give some thought as to how you are going to get there. Plan alternative routes if the original way you choose becomes traffic heavy. If you have a longer drive, consider breaking it up and find some interesting places along the way to stop that have a bit more to offer than the typical off-ramp rest-stop, especially important when traveling with younger kids.
2.) Be Prepared – Pack activity bags for your kids (or yourself) which can run the gamut from electronic games, to coloring books, reading books, favorite toys, puzzles, games, etc. If your car is equipped with an entertainment system bring along favorite movies and music cds. Most important, DON’T FORGET EARPHONES and/or EARPLUGS, you will thank me for this later!
3.) Think With Your Stomach (and Your Wallet) – To avoid multiple stops for food along the way, bring snacks/food with you, that way you don’t have to stop as frequently and have a bit more control over what the kids are eating. We all know the options on the road aren’t the best or the most nutritious, and it will save you some money too. Another bonus of packing your own food is reducing complaints about what food they want to eat and where they want to stop to get it, thus saving yourself the additional hassle of negotiating.
4.) Ship Gifts in Advance – If you get your gifts in advance have them shipped to your destination, that way you free up space in the car for all the gifts you will bring back with you and you will lighten your overall load; always a plus especially when traveling with kids.
5.) Travel on Off-Peak Days and Early/Late in the Day – Sometimes depending upon how far you have to go it serves you better to leave on the actual holiday itself since most people will try to leave the day or two days before thereby significantly increasing the volume of traffic on the roads and the likelihood of accidents. The best times to hit the road are either really early or really late when others are sleeping. Don’t worry about being tired yourself because you can always take rest stops along the way, tag team with your co-pilot, and/or take a nap when you get to your destination.
6.) Expect the Unexpected – Expect your trip to take longer than you may have originally planned. Any and everything happens on the road especially during the holidays when many more people than usual are on the roads. Linking back to “being prepared”, if you are traveling to a snowy destination, make sure your car is ready to deal with changing weather. Make sure to have your spare tire, flashlights, first-aid kit, tire-chains, flares, and anything else you think you might need to ensure a safe and successful road trip especially in potentially inclement weather, will also give you peace of mind.
Happy Holidays and Safe Travels!