Traveling during the holidays can be daunting. There’s a lot of people on the road and the risk of bad weather is always looming.

In just a few weeks, Noah will be coming home for the holidays. For Thanksgiving, he only has to drive to Portland, so a short two-hour road trip. But by Christmas we will be living in Texas, which means he has a much further drive that includes at least one mountain passes. We’ve been discussing ways for him to stay safe during his drive. In fact, my first tip is that you should plan ahead of time. 

Now, I am positive that we are not the only family facing their college kid’s first road trip home for the holidays. With that in mind I’ve put together everything your college student needs to know for that first trip.

Roadtripping Home for the Holidays 101

I’ve partnered with Kelley Blue Book to help you plan your own trip home for the holidays. I’ll be going over trip planning, car preparations, and the actual driving. 

Plan Ahead

Plan your route in advance. If the weather is bad, the major roads and highways will have been treated and plowed, which will provide better driving conditions. Try to always avoid rural roads and mountain passes, they may be more treacherous than commonly used thoroughfares. 

Know how long your trip is going to take and don’t rush it. Instead, factor in bad weather and take your time.

Prepare Your CarCheck your oil

Make sure your car is ready to make the trip. 

  • Check for Recalls: You can check for recalls with the Kelley Blue Book Auto Repair Guide. Not only can you check for recalls on your vehicle, but you can also price out the cost of repairs if you need them. 
  • Check your Tires: Tires need traction to navigate rain, snow, and ice safely. A tire tread depth of 6/32 of an inch is recommended. You can check this for yourself by inserting a penny into the tire tread. If the tread reaches Lincoln’s head, you’re good to go. Check your spare tire, when you need it most the last thing you need is it to be flat. Check your tires
  • Buy Chains: If you are driving through snowy areas or over mountains you will need to carry snow chains. Clear your mirrors, windscreens and lights of snow and ice, and ensure your water reservoir is full of an antifreeze solution so you do not make the situation worse when trying to clean your windscreen.
  • Check your Wipers: Your windshield wipers won’t do you any good if they are in bad shape. 
  • Get Car Repairs Done: You may already know that your car needs to be repaired. Make sure you do not get ripped off by checking the Kelley Blue Book Auto Repair Guide and check the Fair Repair Range to make sure you do not overpay for your repair. Often times as a first time car owner or college student you may not know how much a repair should cost. This is a great way to find out. If you are unsure if anything needs to be checked you can look at suggested maintenance schedules for your vehicle, also found in the Kelley Blue Book Auto Repair Guide. Kelley Blue Book Auto Repair Guide
  • Check Your Oil: Make sure your oil level is good. If it’s been a while since you’ve had oil changed, doing it right before your drive would be a good idea. 

During the DriveRoad trip home for the holidays 

Handle Sliding Appropriately: If your vehicle starts to slide, take your foot off the accelerator and relax your grip on the wheel. Over-steering can make the situation worse. If the rear wheels are sliding, steer in the direction of the slide. If the front wheels start to slide, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral to slow the slide. When traction returns, shift back to drive and steer carefully out of the area.

No Texting: Do not text while you are driving in extreme conditions. Use your cell phone for emergency calls only and keep your eyes and your attention focused on the task at hand.

Brake Gently to Regain Traction: If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, press down with constant pressure. You’ll feel a pulsing action, which is normal. For vehicles without the anti-lock brake system, pump the brake pedal gently, then release, then pump again, and release. Repeat until the vehicle begins to regain traction.

Use Headlights: Keep your headlights on to increases your visibility and to make sure other drivers can see your car as it approaches. Slush and snow can build up on the lights and reduce their effectiveness, clean them off when you have the option. You may want to keep an old towel in the car for this. 

Utilize the defrost: Run the defroster on a high temperature and on the high fan speed to continuously melt any snow and/or ice off the windshield. Run the wipers to keep the snow from accumulating and keep the windshield clear. Use the rear defroster.

Pay Attention: Concentrate on the road and other motorists. Just because you are alert and driving carefully does not mean other drivers will do the same. By being aware of potential threats, you can react in a timely and safe fashion to avoid a collision.

Keep Your Distance: Keep your distance from other vehicles; the more space between your bumper and theirs, the better. Stopping distances are unpredictable on a low-traction surface, and if you or a fellow motorist goes into a skid, you want to make sure there is no one else in the way. Taking safe evasive action relies on having space around you. Failure to bear this rule in mind may lead to you being a sitting duck when someone else falls foul of the conditions.

Drive Slow and Steady: Drive a consistent speed, no quick starting or stopping. A sudden change in speed in bad conditions can throw the car into a spin that you will then have to compensate for. Slow and easy is safer. The slower you drive the less momentum your carrying, which gives you more time to react to any incidents, such as a car braking suddenly ahead of you or an icy patch of road.

With all of this in mind you should have a safe and successful drive home for the holidays. 

Everything you need to know for a Road Trip Home for the Holidays