An estimated one-third of Americans traveled last year for the holidays, according to AAA, setting records as families reunited (yay!) and tripling travel times on some of America's most-congested highways (not-so-yay). Weather willing, 2019 is likely to be a record-setter, too.
These tips can help ensure you arrive more grateful than Grinchy:
Get your car and family road-ready
- If you're due for a tune-up, schedule it now. That will allow time to fix any problems that might be uncovered. Fluid levels, tires, wipers, hoses and belts, lights and the battery are the minimum must-checks. Consider adding emergency roadside assistance, either through an automobile club or your PEMCO auto policy (Towing and Emergency Road Service).
- Minimize "I'm bored!" meltdowns with surprise travel bags. Include crayons, books, snacks, toys and activity sets, plus a few little wrapped surprises for each child. (Just don't give out all the goodies at once!)
- Plan stops every two hours. That gives kids a chance to use the bathroom, run off some energy and even avert motion sickness.
- Restrain your pet. If your furry friend is along for the trip, belt your pet carrier into the seat or try a dog safety harness that attaches to your car's rear seat belt.
Plan to beat airport stress
- Choose direct flights whenever possible, since connections increase your chance of missed flights and lost luggage. Opt for early or late departures, which avoid peak crowds, and consider flying Dec. 24 or 25 (Dec. 21 and 22 will be the busiest days). If the idea of jockeying for parking zaps your holiday spirit, try an airport shuttle, cab or rideshare service, instead.
- Ship gifts directly to your destination. If you must take them with you, pad them well in your suitcase and don't wrap them until you reach your destination. Security may unwrap them to check what's inside.
- Add one hour to whatever time you think you could possibly need to catch your flight. It's better to kill time sipping coffee than sprint to the gate after getting caught in a long security line. (More on that from our frequent fliers.)
Manage luggage and rental car mishaps
- Pay with a travel rewards credit card. Lost luggage and rental-car fender benders are (thankfully!) uncommon. But if you find yourself in either predicament, you'll be glad you booked your flight and paid for your rental car with a credit card that includes automatic perks and insurance coverage for travelers. (Check your card agreement to see what it offers.)
- PEMCO's in your corner, too. Your PEMCO policies include help for travelers. Your home or renter policy can replace lost or stolen luggage, less your policy deductible. Your auto policy covers rental cars, with certain limitations.