There’s no place like home for the holidays — and sometimes, that home is a few towns away (or across the country). Before you can start wrapping last-minute gifts in your childhood bedroom or learning how to make grandma’s famous pecan pie recipe, you need to make it through your annual holiday road trip.
When preparing for a joyful journey, there’s more to do than packing your suitcase with cozy sweaters and stocking up on car snacks. These festive travel safety tips for the holidays will help keep you, your family, and your home safe and sound during the trip.
Secure Your Home Before You Travel During the Holidays
Whether you’re spending a long weekend on holiday travel or staying at your in-laws’ house for the entire season, you want your home to look the same when you get back as it did when you left. Here are a few tips we gathered to help keep the Scrooges away and make sure your house doesn’t become a winter wonderland while you’re away:
- Lock every door and window before you leave.
- Ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to check on your house when you’re gone.
- Set timers for your indoor and outdoor lights. A well-lit home can make it look like you’re home watching your favorite holiday flick.
- Consider stopping your mail and send any holiday packages to a locker, P.O. Box, or your holiday address.
- Unplug appliances that won’t be needed, or plug them into a surge protector.
- Set your thermostat to no lower than 55 degrees if you want to save on your heating bills but still prevent pipes from freezing.
If you don’t already have a home security system, you may want to jump on those holiday deals and install a DIY kit before your trip. With an alarm system, you’ll get a notification if the Grinch makes his way inside and triggers your Motion Detector (or opens a window with a Contact Sensor). Plus, you can add Flood & Freeze Sensors to your Ring Alarm system and get an alert if there’s a leak or the temperature drops below 40° Fahrenheit, so you can call your neighbor to check things out before your home becomes an ice skating rink.
Want even more tips to prepare your home in the days and weeks before your holiday trip? Read Our Vacation Home Security Guide
Be Prepared for Winter Weather
Snow and freezing temperatures might be lovely weather for a sleigh ride together, but they aren’t always the best conditions for a road trip. If you see flurries in the forecast, you may need to follow a few holiday travel safety tips to get your car ready for a winter journey.
If you want to avoid a flashing tire pressure light on a two-lane highway miles from the nearest gas station, you should check your tires carefully before leaving. According to Consumer Reports, your tire pressure can decrease by one pound per square inch for every ten-degree drop in temperature, so a tire that’s slightly underinflated at the beginning of your road trip could end up causing serious issues a few hundred miles north.
While an underinflated tire may not seem like a big deal, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation, you could end up on the side of the road with a blown-out tire. And no one wants to test out how quickly they can get the spare on in 20° Fahrenheit weather. Tires with low pressure can also lower your gas mileage, according to Car and Driver — and no one wants to fill up more than they need to on a long road trip.
Your car battery can also lose power in the cold. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains, gasoline vehicles take more power to start in winter weather, so you may want to have a mechanic test your battery out before a big road trip.
And if you’re still using the same wiper fluid you used during warmer months, be sure to switch it out for fluid that says “de-icer.” Wiper fluid rated for winter won’t freeze in its tank or on your windshield, which means you’ll be able to get all the pesky salt off with no issues.
Finally, try to keep your gas tank at least half-full at all times during your trip. While you might have to stop more frequently than usual, you’ll give everyone time to stretch their legs and grab a treat — and you can prevent your fuel tank from creeping towards “empty” while you’re stuck in traffic.
Pack an Emergency Kit
Even if you head straight from the mechanic’s shop to the highway, you can’t predict what might happen on the road. But you can prepare for a dead battery or an unexpected snowstorm by packing an emergency kit. Here’s what your kit should include, according to the National Safety Council:
- First aid supplies.
- A flashlight.
- Jumper cables.
- A spare tire and jack.
- A car phone charger.
- A snow brush.
- A shovel.
- Cat litter to give your tires traction in snow or ice.
- Snacks (to fend off road trip traffic hanger).
Whether your kiddo needs some medicine to relieve their holiday sniffles or a fellow traveler needs a jump to make it home for a New Year’s toast, you’ll have everything you need to spread some holiday cheer.
Brush Up on Winter Driving Best Practices
Even if you drive to your sister’s house every single weekend in the winter, you should still get a refresher on the essential tips for driving safely in cold weather. Here are some holiday driving safety tips we collected to get you ready for a trip during the most wonderful time of the year:
- No matter how eager you are to chow down on Uncle Matt’s brisket or grandma’s snowflake-shaped sugar cookies, you should drive more slowly than usual in wintry conditions.
- Increase your following distance to give yourself plenty of time to brake.
- Be gentle with the gas and brake pedals to prevent skidding.
- Avoid stopping if you can. It’s easier for your car to regain speed when it doesn’t fully stop, especially if you’re going up an icy or snowy hill.
- If you have a long day of travel ahead, plan to leave early so you don’t have to spend too much time driving in the dark.
Now that you’re up to speed on the top holiday travel safety tips, you can start putting together a playlist of your favorite carols to get you into the holiday spirit during the car ride. And don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep before your trip, so you don’t spend the car ride saying, “bah, humbug!”