Daily Travel Tips
Weekly Column
Eileens Blog
Travel Diary
In the Media

Featured Savings



Daily Tips

Teach Your Kids about Haitian Vodou at Chicago's Field Museum

Oct 25, 2014
Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti, is open at The Field Museum in Chicago. The exhibition has over 300 authentic Vodou objects from Haiti

Eileen's Favorites


Calendar of Events

Get out there and have some fun! See family friendly events happening all over the nation in our Calendar of Events.


Passports with Purpose


Driving Smart with Kids in the Car This Holiday Season


By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Media Services

Got the bag of kitty litter in the car?

It should be there along with the suitcases and goodies you’re bringing to relatives this holiday season, along with whatever you’ve got to amuse the kids along the way (snacks, DVDs, iPads and books on tape. Get a favorite holiday tale from the library and you can all listen together on the way!)

The kitty litter is in case you get stuck in snow or ice, says John Nielsen, AAA’s automotive guru. It works as well as sand or salt and weighs a lot less. A small shovel is a good bet, too, as is a flashlight. “I keep them in the car all winter long,” Nielsen said.

AAA forecasted that 42.5 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 4 percent increase from the 40.9 million people who traveled over Thanksgiving last year and the first significant increase in any holiday travel this year. Despite the economy, AAA says, we’re not giving up traveling to our holiday gatherings, though we may opt to bring the family pooch along rather than board her, bunk with the relatives or drive rather than fly. Expect the highways to be crowded for Christmas: Ninety percent of Thanksgiving travelers drove and stayed closer to home than last year. AAA says over the entire holiday season we’ll travel an average of 706 miles — down 13.5 percent from 2010.

“Americans feel like they are giving up everything else in this economy,” said AAA spokesman Yolanda Cade. This holiday season, when it comes to gathering with family, “The heartstrings are outweighing the purse strings.” (If you want to avoid sleeping on the couch, one new option to check out is www.airbnb.com where you might find a unique place to stay listed by an owner at a price that won’t break the bank.)

But the weather can wreak havoc with our best-laid travel plans — as we learned last Christmas with the blizzard that derailed travel across the country and the freak snowstorm those of us in the northeast endured just a few weeks ago.

The best thing we can do when taking to the road this winter, especially with kids in the back, is be prepared. Make sure your cellphone is charged and the relatives know what time to expect you. (They can call for help if they don’t hear from you on time.) Don’t leave the car if you get stuck or stranded either.

If you are using a GPS, make sure it is the latest version. And if the GPS is taking you away from major routes, don’t just follow blindly. “You’ve got to use common sense,” says Nielsen. In any event, you’re better off on major, better-maintained routes, even if it appears that the trip will take longer. It likely won’t in bad weather.

(AAA has a mobile app AAA FindMe, as well as a fuel cost calculator and a TripTik travel planner that you can download from aaa.com that will tell you where gas stations are along your route and how much you can expect to pay.

Have blankets and pillows for the kids, as well as plenty of warm clothes. Ditto for food — a few treats helps too. In our case, it was always cherry Tootsie Pops — and water in case you get stuck. And make sure your wiper blades are in good shape and that you’ve got wiper fluid that won’t freeze.

Keep medicines in the car, not the trunk. (If you should have an accident, you may not be able to get inside the trunk.)

Make sure to inflate your tires. As temperatures falls, so will the tire pressure. (Look for the correct tire pressure in your owner’s manual.) But most important, Nielsen says, is to make sure your tires are in good shape. “It is shocking how much less distance you have to get a worn-out tire to stop,” he says. Nielsen demonstrated, using a penny, that the distance between Lincoln’s head and the top of a penny is 2/32nds of an inch. If that’s all the tread you have, your tire is worn out. (On a quarter, the distance between Washington’s head and the top is 3/32nds of an inch.)

Get those safety seats checked to make sure they are installed correctly. (Are you listening, grandma, if you’re putting one in your car for the holiday visit? Don’t use that neighbor’s old safety seat either, unless you are certain it hasn’t been in a crash and you have all of the parts. Seats that are six years old or older should never be used.)

Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of kids, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — deaths that can be prevented through the proper use of child safety seats. But NHTSA research shows that seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained without parents or grandparents even realizing it. SeatCheck is a national campaign through which you can make sure your safety seat is installed properly at more than 4,000 inspection locations across the country staffed by trained and certified child safety seat inspectors.

Got teens instead of toddlers? Let those with permits or new driver’s licenses drive part of the way. “You don’t want them to have their first experience on an interstate, or in snow, three hours from home alone,” suggests AAA’s Justin McNaull, an expert on teen driving safety. “Holiday trips can be a real opportunity for teens to get more practice,” he adds.

Of course, we all know the potentially deadly combination of teen drivers and cellphones. McNaull urges parents to set a good example this holiday season. Let your “co-pilot” field the calls and let the relatives know you are running late, even if you have a hands-free device. It will keep you more focused (tips on helping your teen drive more safely).

Whoever is driving and wherever you are going, “Slow down and have patience,” urges Nielsen.

That’s good advice, of course, whenever you’re taking the kids.

© 2011 EILEEN OGINTZ, DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.


Families & Groups, Getting There, Weekly Column | 5 Comments

5 Responses to Driving Smart with Kids in the Car This Holiday Season

  1. laurel says:

    very great ideas, i will print this out at work so I have it on hand thanks @tomgirlbc

  2. Elaine Miller says:

    will check out the website for unique places to stay. Wish I had read this article before we got stuck in the snow in Whistler BC and ending up missing our plane flight home. Next time the rental car will be 4 wheel drive!

  3. Ashanti Strader says:

    Traveling safely with my kids is very important to me thanks for the ideas!

  4. Pat U says:

    Good advice, thanks!

  5. Pingback: Home Callout 4 | Taking the Kids

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>






Connect

Facebook Twitter YouTube Follow us with RSS

Family Travel Guides for Every Season

eNewsletter Archives

Taking the Kids publishes two e-newsletters per month, filled with information and advice for families traveling with children as well as tips on destinations and special travel offers from sponsors.





Find your hotel at the best price
Compare booking sites with trivago!

Follow us on Twitter



Recent Comments:

  • noemi bermudez: We really want to go out on a Disney cruise for the holidays but they always conflict with Christmas recess helllppp!!!
  • dina: I really liked your article. I have family living in London, I hope it is close to east End so I can visit all the restaurants you mention.
  • Amy Carney: Loved using your guidebooks in Boston, Washington DC and Boston! Thanks for making touring these big cities easier for us!...
  • Luana: On holiday when the kids wander off!! I have read reviews of the Vital ID identity wristbands that help find lost kids and thought it may be helpful to...
  • Alison: I love that you can pick and choose what your family is interested in doing! It would be a wonderful place for them to try out different things that they...
  • Kimberly: OH! I am so jealous!!!! This place looks like a lot of fun. I wish I could afford to take my family some place like this. I think they would have a...
  • Kimberly: WOW! They offer a lot of great activities. The Ramblewild excursion looks like a lot of fun. I’d like to try something like that but I’d...