So the holidays are upon us, last minute shopping is taking place, plans are being finalized, food is being prepared and ugly sweaters, Santa hats and faux reindeer antlers are getting worn. The holiday season is a lot of fun, but it is also a costly endeavor. Therefore, 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 to see friends and loved ones.
Having just returned from a road trip, I can say 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 you know what you need to do to prepare for the trip. But also, give some thought as to how you are going to get there.
Today’s travelers usually rely on their car or phone GPS systems with little pre-planning. And that’s fine, but my advice is to not wait until you’re already in the car, where you’re left to coordinate alternative routes and navigate around time delays in the moment. Investigate the timing and your optional routes before you hit the road.
If you have a longer drive, consider breaking it up and finding 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. This can be a fun bonus to build memories for your children, which they may always correlate with the experience of going to see grandma.
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 CDs. If not, load your tablets and computers with your favorite movies and shows, so you can play them offline. Even Netflix now allows you to pre-load content to your devices for offline viewing.
Most important, DON’T FORGET EARPHONES and/or EARPLUGS, you will thank me for this later!
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3. Think with Your Wallet, Not with Your Stomach
To avoid multiple stops for food along the way, bring snacks/food with you. This is also great for the health-conscious moms who want 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 these tips will save you some money, too.
Another bonus of packing your own food is you can reduce complaints (think whining) from the kids about the food when you pack their favorites. Plus, your kids will bother you less if they can just reach to grab their snack versus complain as you pass every unsatisfactory highway exit.
3. 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. This is always a plus especially when traveling with kids. Plus, there is nothing more enraging than seeing when that gift Christmas package shifts in transit to block your rear view mirror view.
4. 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 a day or two days before. This significantly decreases the volume of traffic on the roads and the likelihood for accidents to happen.
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.
5. 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.
Having these items will at worst mean you are prepared and at best give you peace of mind knowing you are ready to face whatever challenges arise.
Happy Holidays and Safe Travels!
BMWK, what other holiday road trip tips do you abide by?