Thanksgiving Travel Tips 2014

018 LA Traffic

Ahh Thanksgiving! That beautiful time of year where family and friends get together from far and wide to spend a little time together, or maybe just for some great food and football. Either way, due to everyone wanting to see their loved ones at the same time, another very interesting phenomenon occurs just before this high holiday of culinary indulgence. For two to three days a year, seemingly the entire population of the United States attempts to travel at once. Train stations, airports, bus terminals and most importantly road across the nation will be teeming with throngs of commuters traveling from coast to coast. Thanks to high fuel prices the last few years, the number of would-be road goers who opted for flights or to stay home instead was on the rise. That said, the fuel price this year is at it’s lowest in years, that means that holiday traffic herd can return to the road with a vengeance (Thanks Obama). Always looking to validate the great public trust that is AK, and because it’s just fun, here are some great tips to surviving this years Great Holiday Road Trip.


Prepare My Chariot!!

The expectation is that a road trip begins as you pull out of your driveway, heading in the direction of one of our nation’s marginally maintained highways. Truth is, a road trip, or at least road trip prep, often starts as early as week before.

If you think that four hours in a car with your brother, who smells like Fritos, to see your Aunt Millie for some sub-par candied yams (who doesn’t put marshmallows on candied yams?!), was hard on you … you should see what it does to your ride. Road trips can be stressful on the moving parts of your car regardless of the time of year, but this particular trip will be full of short braking, bumper to bumper idling and generally over all annoyed driving. Prepping you car for this will save you that extra stressful thought and maybe a lot of time and duress on this trip.

The prep work is simple enough. At least five to six days before your trip take your car to a trusted mechanic for a once over. If it has been a while, this visit should include an oil change as well. Ideally you want to have your mechanic take a peak at everything, especially the brakes, tires and fluid levels. If you know of any small but recurring issues in the car (like that rattling sound you hear sometimes but just cant place), now is the time to mention it. The stresses of a road trip can be hard on a car and giving it a reason to give up before you have safely reached your destination is a terrible way to start this holiday season.


Expect Delays: Forever

Nothing is more harmful to a road trip than bad expectations. That said, if for some reason you have deluded your self into thinking that this is going to be any other average long drive, you clearly are mistaken, sir or madam. There is going to be traffic … period. There is just no two ways about it. Having the right tools to deal with that is the key to making it more tolerable.

While increased traffic is going to be an issue to contend with through out the journey, it will be particularly bad in and around major cities. Truth is there is just more people there. Coming to terms with that before hand will help you cope much better with it. Having a playlist of great music already lined up is a fun way to get through the waiting around to move. If you have more than one person in the car, take them into consideration before blasting it. Make sure to have a good amount of water for the trip and sunglasses too. Dehydration and less than optimal lighting conditions can often be the cause of quick onset headaches and can make a long trip all but unbearable.


0-100; All Without Moving:

It is only natural to let our temper get the better of you under these stressful holiday travel conditions. That said, there are some great tools in the 21st century to making driving on these long trips a little more manageable and make you less likely to lose your cool.

Apps on our smartphones allow us to do all kinds of things and can surely make the annual pilgrimage to Grandma’s house less of a pain and before we lose our cools. Check out these apps: (Necessary Disclaimer: Using your cell phone while driving is illegal and can be quite dangerous. Please place your phone in a car mount or ideally hand it to a passenger while driving)

  •  Spotify (App: Free – Monthly Price $9) – Music is tricky to get right on a trip. Why not have the entire world’s music library for unlimited streaming at your fingertips. You will always find something great to listen to with this app loaded and ready to go.
  • Waze (App: Free – No Monthly Charge) – We use crowd-sourced information for so many things these days. From “what’s the best place for a drink tonight” to “should I see this movie”, why wouldn’t you use this information for driving? The power behind the Waze GPS app is the power of the people. Not only will it show you a turn by turn on how to get where you are going, it will also tell you what all the other Waze users see on the way there. This can include anything from traffic ahead to construction, accidents and police speed traps. With drivers reporting what they see as they see it, you have the knowledge of all the drivers on the road. Now that’s power!
  • Sit or Squat (App Free) – If you have a long trip ahead, this app is a must have. With thousands of locations across the nation, the Sit or Squat app will always find you a place to relieve yourself of all those coffees you drank to get going on this trip. A “Sit” rating is given to restrooms that are considered cleaner and well maintained, while a “Squat” rating is given to some more questionable latrines of urgent need. This app is great for families traveling together, as children can often inform you of the need for urgent pit stops with very little warning. You might want to keep this one on your phone even when you return to more familiar territory.

These are only a couple of the great apps available to smart phone users! Be sure you have your charger in the car with you as well. All this fun can be over pretty quick if you have a dead phone and a long trip ahead.


It’s not you; it’s him! (Also a little bit you)

Any true motorist, and surely the members of AK Nation, understand that people on the road that are not us, are essentially all pricks! It is a never-ending barrage of people seemingly always driving with total and absolute disregard for you, other motorist, their own safety and most importantly for any understanding at all of road rules and universally understood custom. This holiday, with the increased number of people on the road, the number of idiots will be in no short supply. Whether it is the interstates or braving the parking lot of the local mall on Black Friday, dangerous driving is around every corner. These conditions can infuriate even the most levelheaded drivers.

Keeping your cool can help you avoid accidents and help maybe save you from that ticket you didn’t need. With stop-and-go traffic it is easy to stop paying as much attention to the road. As you staring at the never-ending path of illuminated taillights ahead, it is only natural to distract yourself for the boredom with distractions like your phone or the radio. This is when bad things happen. In an attempt to make an exit or simply to vent the frustrations of not moving, people will often attempt to sudden change into lanes and force they way into “open spots” on the road. Keep an eye out to the left and right even when moving slowly to spot and preempt these reckless road warriors.


Finally, accident can often turn the already heavily congested two-lane highway into a one lane pretty quickly. This can mean an unplanned lane merge and surely a lot more traffic. In these situations, people like to display their displeasure with the situation by attempt to merge at the last minute, or to block an unwanted merger by driving right up against the vehicle in front. Both are dangerous acts of subtle passive-aggressive road rage and can lead to more accidents. The difference that one car in front of you can make is marginal. The difference that an unwanted minor fender bender can make is much worse.

Editorial Note: This seems like a good time to quickly vent a pet-peeve of mine. Please stop staring at accidents. If it isn’t enough that this person is already having a terrible day and that the cadre of first responders are blocking up all the traffic behind you, you are now slowing down and at times stopping all together to stare at this train wreck. If we collectively commit to not looking and just moving forward, we can all get where we want to be faster.


Eyes on the Prize

Finally, driving on these adventures can be so daunting that they become the focus of your journey instead of the destination at had. The holidays are upon us and it is a time for friends and family. We travel from far and wide because on this day, this weekend, this season, we want to spend time with the people we love. The road trip is an essential component of the American zeitgeist. Since the days of western expansion on horse drawn carriages, the idea of packing the trunk with everything but the kitchen sink, throwing the family in the car and simply traveling has always been with us. Here in the US, the automotive culture in general has been shaped for decades with the family vacation in mind.

Popular culture has spun a narrative over the last 30 years of disastrous and semi-disastrous holiday gatherings, marred with the stresses and annoyances of family and old friends. What they always seem to get right at the end though, is that when it is all over, we are always happy that we were all together. This holiday season, try not to let a bad commute ruin a great thing. Hop in your car and good luck.


Slipping Out For A Second

If you are in need of a little break this week from the holiday madness be sure to check in with us all week long as we help carry you into the holiday season with a little automotive cheer. Be sure to share you holiday travel stories and pictures with us on Twitter @AutoKinesis or leave your best holiday travel tips in the comments down below!



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