9 Holiday Travel Safety Tips for Your Next Getaway

Holiday travel is back on the menu! After a year of  isolated or socially distanced festivities (thanks to COVID-19), we anticipate more people taking to the road and skies this holiday season. But wintry weather and extensive travel time can lead to safety hazards. Here are nine holiday travel safety tips to know before you hit the road.

1. Prepare your home for optimum safety while you’re away.

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If you have a security system installed in your home, ensure that it's working properly—including all alarms, motion detectors, cameras, and other monitoring equipment. 

Some DIY home security systems offer optional monitoring. If you usually keep tabs on your system in an app, consider adding 24/7 pro monitoring to your security system for the month in which you'll be traveling.

On top of stepping up security with your alarm system, cancel mail and any regular deliveries. Have a friend or neighbor check on your home while you're away, especially if you'll be gone for a long time. If you live in a snowy climate, make arrangements to have snow cleared while you're away.

2. Have your car inspected or serviced before you leave, and keep an emergency kit in it.

Car trouble is a common issue for travelers  during the holidays. You don't want to end up stuck on the side of the road in cold weather instead of tucked in around the table with a piece of  Grandma's homemade pie.

Be proactive to avoid hazards like a blown tire.  Take your car in for an inspection and any necessary maintenance, particularly on your tires— make sure they're winter-ready and properly inflated for the long drive.

Prepare a car emergency kit with necessities like a safety cone, carjack, flashlight, and jumper cables. Include first aid essentials and extras like a blanket to stay warm if you break down in the cold. 

3. Know how to drive safely on icy roads.

Study up to ensure you know how to safely navigate icy, wet, or slushy roads. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid driving until roads have been plowed and sanded.
  • Give yourself extra time to get to your destination so you don't rush in suboptimal conditions.
  • Decrease your speed as needed.
  • Leave yourself plenty of room behind other vehicles so you can stop safely on slick roads.

4. Plan the drive ahead of time, and know alternate routes.

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Proper planning ensures that you're prepared for whatever might happen during your trip. If you’re driving down a highway and hit construction, a road closure, or severe traffic, it can feel impossible to figure out an alternate route on the fly. 

When you plot your course, note alternate routes in advance. Tools like a vehicle navigation system or an app like Waze can alert you to potential snags and reroute you safely. These can be a huge help when it comes to staying on track, avoiding road closures, or finding your way back to the main road if you get lost.

Also, if you want to avoid traffic, time your travel to put you on busy roads before or after peak traffic times. 

5. Make frequent rest stops.

Winter driving challenges can tire you out much more than driving in the summer. Make frequent stops to rest or just stretch your legs. It's important to keep your energy level high enough to stay alert on the road. Stopping for even a few minutes every couple hours can do wonders for keeping your energy high. 

6. Carry a cell phone and charger.

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You never know when or where car troubles may rear their ugly head. A mobile phone lets you call for help, get a tow, or arrange alternative transportation if you run into trouble. 

But it won't do you any good if the battery dies. Make sure you grab your phone charger before you leave the house. A wall charger is good when you’re making a stop, but a car charger is better when you're on the road.

If you have a smartphone, you can also download apps to help you in your time of need. If your car insurer has an app, download it before your trip for easy access to roadside assistance. It's also a good idea to download or take a picture of your insurance card.  

7. Stay hydrated.

Dehydration may not be on the top of your list of  holiday travel safety hazards, but not having enough water during a long drive could mean fatigue or decreased alertness—and that's dangerous on the road. Keep a few bottles of water handy, and sip often to keep yourself hydrated throughout the trip.

8. Wash your hands frequently with soap or antibacterial hand sanitizer.

Proper hand washing isn't just for pandemic times. The holidays are also smack dab in the middle of flu season. Keeping your hands sanitized is especially important if you're flying or riding a train or bus. Everything you touch has been touched by someone else, including armrests and door handles. 

Clean your hands frequently with either soap and water or antibacterial gel or wipes—and for the love of Aunt Betty's homemade stuffing, keep those hands away from your face!

9. Give someone close to you a copy of your trip itinerary and photocopies of important documents.

Before you leave, give a copy of your itinerary and all necessary contact information to a relative or friend. This way it will be easy to reach you in case of an emergency, whether you're on your way out or heading back home. 

Also, leave photocopies of your passports, credit cards, and any other types of identification with this person in case something happens to the originals and you need a photocopy. It's also smart to keep a separate set of photocopies in your luggage.

The holidays don’t have to be a dangerous time to travel. Use these holiday travel safety tips to be proactive about travel safety. That way you'll spend time focused on the fun, not stressed about something going wrong.

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Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past eight. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime reports and spotting trends. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, NPR, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips.

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