Last year over 50 million Americans traveled over 50 miles via motor vehicle to celebrate the Christmas-New Year's holiday. This year, with gas prices sliding significantly since the summer, more people may use this time to take the road trip they denied themselves earlier this summer.
Diligent planning for everything from fuel costs to rest stops will make the experience more enjoyable and less frustrating. AAA offers motorists the following family-friendly advice to keep them safe, sound and smiling before and during a road trip.
What to do before you go:
Plan your driving route and travel stops. The TripTik travel planner on AAA.com helps travelers save time and money. Get point-to-point driving directions and convenient locations to enjoy AAA discounts on food, sightseeing, and overnight accommodations.
Budget fuel costs and plan your fuel stops. Continue the planning efforts many Americans adopted this summer when gas prices were hovering around $3.00 a gallon. Forecast the retail cost of fuel for your trip based on your vehicle make and model year, and locate the lowest fuel costs for places along your route by using AAA's fuelcostcalculator.com.
Gather travel information. Grab a travel guide that includes detailed listings of hotels and restaurants — plus attractions and events.
Get a vehicle checkup. Help ensure your road travel safety and efficient use of your vehicle. Get your vehicle inspected by a certified auto technician.
Estimate your travel time.Minimize stress by using time and driving distance charts to create realistic time estimates for each segment of your trip. Be sure to allow extra time for unexpected traffic or other factors beyond your control that could reduce your average travel speed such as road work or poor weather conditions.
While on the road:
Get proper rest. Set aside time to pack your clothes, load your vehicle and get a full night’s sleep so you can set out fresh and rested.
Travel during daylight hours. Try to do most of yourtraveling during daylight hours when visibility is best. However, if you find yourself driving into the glare of a rising or setting sun, consider taking a break until the lighting conditions improve.
Take stretch breaks and rotate drivers to stay alertwhile at the wheel. Keep in mind that caffeine’s effects are only temporary; once they wear off you could experience an even greater degree of sleepiness. Driving drowsy is extremely dangerous and results in many crashes and deaths each year. A good rule of thumb is to make a rest stop every two hours or 100 miles, especially if you are traveling with children and pets. To avoid driver fatigue, arrange to share time behind the wheel with other drivers in your party.
Plan ideas for low-tech entertainment. Keep children interested and involved in your road trip with a ready selection of cards, maps, family games, sing-along CDs and activity books — especially any with references to your destination. You’ll keep the kids occupied but also help to create more interaction among family members.
Buckle up. Make sure all passengers are secured properly with safety belts and age-appropriate child safety seats. Choose the proper type of safety seats for your children, and make sure they are properly installed. Studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have found that up to 8 out of 10 safety seats are not installed correctly. Contact your local AAA club to have a licensed child passenger safety technician inspect your child’s safety seat to insure correct installation.