By Chris Holbert
November and December tend to be two of the busiest months to travel. It was reported that around 54.3 million people traveled for Thanksgiving and 112 million people traveled for Christmas last year. Crowded airports, crowded roads, people in a rush and bad weather all make traveling during the holiday season stressful and potentially dangerous. But, planning ahead, packing the right gear and having the right travel strategy can help make sure you arrive at your destination safely and still in the holiday spirit.
Travel at Off Times – If possible, plan on traveling to your holiday destinations at off-peak times. Build a few extra days into your trip if necessary or book a flight when the airport is usually less busy, late at night. If you are driving to your destination map out alternative routes you can take to avoid traffic jams. Don’t always rely on GPS to find you the best route once you’re already in heavy traffic. And, in case you hit bad weather that prevents you from driving any further, identify hotels along your route that you can stay at, especially if you are traveling with pets.
Keep Friends + Family Informed – Everyone has a cell phone, but you never know if you might get caught in a situation where you have no signal or the battery dies. It is best to provide friends and family with your travel itinerary before you leave home. And then if you have to make any changes update them along the way. A check in every few hours with an updated location is a good idea when driving so that if anything does go wrong, people know a general area of where to look for you.
Call Ahead – Before you hit the road call the non-emergency number for highway patrol, the local police or forest service in the areas you’ll be driving through that day. Talking to a real person will give you better insights into road and weather conditions in real-time than you will get from searching online.
Pack the Right Gear – If you will be driving through freezing temperatures, rain, sleet or snow during your trip, having the right gear in your car is essential. Blankets, snacks, a shovel, flashlight and water are basics. You might also want to consider throwing in some kitty litter if you go off the road and need traction. And extra bottles of windshield wiper fluid. There’s nothing worse than running out on wet slushy road with trucks driving past. For air travel, make sure that you put any cell phone chargers, medication, travel paperwork, identification, etc. in your personal item instead of a checked bag or carryon. This way there is no chance of you being separated from it if luggage is lost or overhead bins are full, and your bag must be checked.
Rely on Technology – Portable power is a must for the road or air travel to ensure your phone is always powered. And, keep any mobile personal emergency response devices, or SOS button, you may have in an accessible garment pocket. This way if you have an emergency and cannot dial your phone it is within easy reach to call for help. Consider downloading helpful weather, route guidance, gas station finders and airline or airport apps to your phone. These can give you alerts about bad weather, where to find gas, if your flight is delayed or let you check how long lines are at security checkpoints.
There is always a lot to get done during the holiday season. Between holiday get-togethers, endless trips to the grocery store and holiday shopping, taking the extra time to prepare for travel can help to make the process a little easier. While you cannot completely avoid heavy traffic and long lines this winter, you can minimize the frustrations of dealing with them by being ready ahead of time.
Chris Holbert is CEO of SecuraTrac.