Holiday Travel Survival Guide Part II of III - Driving

This is the second of 3 entries on holiday travel survival. Miscellaneous tips will appear on Friday. Post your own suggestions - share the wisdom and we can all get through this together.


Driving anywhere during the holidays involves all kinds of trauma, which is usually only slightly alleviated when you reach your destination. As the survivor and driver of many a 10-14 hour road trip (not to mention yet more 4-5 hour sprints), alone and with friends or family, I have learned (often the hard way) how to get where you're going as painlessly as possible.

Number one, absolute must - have a map. Not negotiable.
Using Mapquest or Yahoo maps to get directions and an estimated travel time is a good idea, but having a map is critical for when (yes, when) you get lost and/or disoriented.

Truck stops tend to be the best (and cheapest) places to stop for gas - usually near an intersection of two highways or major roads you'll find a huge station or three or four around the same space. If you're buying inside a city you'll probably find higher prices (and the farther you are from the main route, the more confusing it is to get back).

It's also a good idea to know your gas mileage. You can figure out about how often you'll need to stop, and about how much cash you're going to drop on fuel.

Unless you have an unusually large or well controlled bladder, plan to stop about every 2-4 hours for a loo break. It's a good idea to stop and stretch anyway, just because you're sitting for a long time (I know my car doesn't have cruise control, either, so it's nice to relieve the gas-pedal-cramp periodically).

Bring snacks - I know I sound like your mom, but make them healthy, for your own sake. No one likes to drive with indigestion, and that's all you'll get from the snacks at the gas stations. Think fruit, veggies, nuts and raisins. You know, hippie food. And have some juice or water, too. Tea in a thermos if you need something warm.

A lot of you will probably bring cell phones. 'In case of emergencies'. If you need to make a call, pull over. Hands-free doesn't count - your driving is still impaired.

Oh - FYI, there are a few 'dead zones' with cell phones along highways between cities, so don't freak out when you drop a signal. Just don't pick up any suspicious hitchhikers or ignore a persistent rattling sound.

Speaking of which, get a tune-up before you go. I did before my last trip (a trek to Chicago) and they found a nail in my tire. Imagine finding that out somewhere South of Sarnia.

You'll stay more alert if you having something playing in the stereo. Have a good variety, and mix it up with a book on tape/CD or a comedy album. Laughing and singing along helps the ride go faster and keeps you from getting hypnotized by the road.

Wear comfortable shoes and sunglasses, and enjoy the journey. It might be the only peace and quiet you get.

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