Familiar and not-so-familiar travel tips for the holidays

open road
Photo of open road/Indie Art South

We are frequent ‘road trippers’ because of out of state family and because of the Daysies’ travel schedule, so I’ve learned a few things along the way.

I thought I’d share my travel tips. Some are familiar and some are unfamiliar, but they have served us well. First, there’s the obvious. 

If you can pack some snacks and light meal items, you will save money and time. It can take 20 minutes or more to get in and out of a fast food place, and it’s longer if you stop at a place popular with locals. Also, fast food is not cheap anymore and the quality is completely unreliable at most places.

We use a small soft body cooler. I pack our meal in it ahead of time and leave the cooler open in the refrigerator until we’re ready to leave. Leaving it open in the fridge ensures it will be as cold as possible when we take off. A half-frozen bottle of water goes in the cooler for extra measure.

We usually take a large cup of coffee because there are very few places on the road with coffee that meets our expectations. A Yeti works best for us, but as long as you have a well-insulated cup, that coffee will last for a long time. These tips are pretty obvious, but if you must purchase coffee, I have to suggest purchasing it where the coffee pot isn’t handled by other travelers. Some places have coffee pots the public can use. Thing is, how many times does the handle on a coffee pot like that get washed? Probably not very many. I have never been a fan of a community coffee pot with a handle at a travel center. For that matter, I’m not a fan of such pots at offices either.

I also clip coupons from fast food restaurants. Sometimes you have to stop and pick up food, and the coupons at least lower the cost.

Also use your rewards cards. For instance, the Plenti card I have via Winn Dixie can be used at all types of places including restaurants and gas stations. If you’re on a budget, a rewards card for the places you frequent will save you money.

Also, if you’re a student, in the military, or a senior, ask about discounts when you shop. You never know, and more than once, I’ve benefited simply from asking that question.

I stick a roll of paper towels in the back seat, and I stuff plastic bags in the towel tube. I don’t like a lot of trash in our car, and those plastic bags come in handy for more than removing what our small dog drops at rest stops.

I take a pillow with me. I have a thing about pillows. My husband thinks it’s funny.

If you’re traveling a busy interstate, consider mapping out a couple alternate routes ahead of time. We did this after getting stuck in a mind-bending halt on I-95 a couple years ago. We also sometimes take an alternate route to avoid areas where congestion is heavy or construction is occurring. As I often tell my husband, there’s always an alternate route. You just have to know where to find it. A paper map comes in handy for that, by the way.

Pack as lightly as possible, especially if you’re hauling equipment. The weight of your luggage and other items will affect the amount of gas you use, and no one wants to pay for more gas than necessary.

Put a flashlight in the car. If you travel at night, don’t resort to your cellphone light. Put a real flashlight in the glove box.

Check the weather for the area you’re traveling to. There’s nothing worse than heading to a cold climate with Florida clothing. I speak from experience.

If you possibly can avoid traveling at rush hour (or traveling through areas like Savannah when rush hour has a big impact on the interstate), do so. My favorite time to travel is at night. Unless the weather’s bad.

Above all when you travel, hold your road rage in check. Unleashing it not only endangers you and your passengers, it’s unpleasant.

I always tell my daughters when they travel by car to pretend every other car on the road wants to kill them. In other words, drive defensively.

If you hit the road for a gig or family reunion this Christmas, put a little planning into the details. It does a body good.

(Kay B. Day/12-12-17)

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