Turkey-Day Travel Tips

At this time of year, many of us look forward to spending time with family and friends (and food!) Besides being a national and family tradition, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, and that means more people on the road than any other time of year.

Holy cranberry sauce! That’s a lot of cars.

Surprising fact: more Americans travel for Thanksgiving than any other holiday. According to forecasts conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA), about 44 million people traveled for Thanksgiving in 2013. The vast majority of those – nearly 40 million – traveled by automobile.

The floodgates open on Wednesday

The Thanksgiving holiday is unique in that it falls on a Thursday every year. Many people are off from work the Friday after; giving travelers more time to spend with family and friends. According to the AAA, the highest volume of travelers plan to leave for their trip the Wednesday before the holiday. While many holiday travelers plan to return the Sunday following Thanksgiving, a great many plan to return on Monday or later.

Thanks to lower gas prices, holiday travel volumes this year may be even higher. Nationally, a gallon of regular gas averages $2.95. Last year at this time, it was $3.23. Here in NW Florida, prices are even lower – about $2.93. Four or five bucks less per fill up starts to add up, especially on a longer trip.

Over the river and through the woods …

According to last year’s AAA survey, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend was about 600 miles, which is an increase from 2012 when travelers planned to log 588 miles. And with lower gas prices, we can travel further and still afford the fixings for the green bean casserole.

Before you hit the road

There’s no good time for an accident or breakdown, but either one is even worse during the holidays. If you plan to travel by car, especially for a longer trip, consider taking your car in for a checkup. A well-tuned car is more efficient, but more importantly, it is safer.

Now is the time to consider getting your oil changed, fluids checked, brakes inspected, and tires rotated and balanced. If you’re not sure what needs checking just bring your car to your mechanic or a quick-change oil place and tell them how far your round trip will be.

Behind the wheel

As mentioned, more of us are traveling further than ever before. A trip of 500 miles or more can be taxing – especially with heavy traffic – regular stops to get out and stretch can are a good way to counteract fatigue. This is also the time to check your text and voice messages … never while you are driving. This time of year can be busy. If you feel sleepy, pull over as soon as you are safely able; never drive drowsy. And remember, holiday travel should be enjoyable. Giving yourself plenty of time to make your trip can eliminate a lot of travel-related stress. Allocating extra time will accommodate rest stops and the inevitable snarl.

Follow this rule ALWAYS

If, in the course of festivities, you have been drinking, DO NOT DRIVE. Think before you drink. Elect a designated driver. Many cab companies offer free rides for the impaired this time of year. Make arrangements to sleep on a couch. Driving while impaired can not only ruin your holidays, it can ruin many lives.

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