Today we welcome John Walton, author of the British travel blog Voyagers, to give us incredibly useful tips for auto travel. Welcome, John!
This holiday season, with prices at the pumps lower but airline prices not really dropping, many of us are taking to the road instead of to the skies. But is your car, truck or SUV ready for the trip over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house?
If you’re like me, your car is normally pretty clean, but this time of year there’s stuff in it that you don’t need. (I live at Land’s End in Cornwall. That free map of Scotland isn’t much use, so I can take a digital picture of it and throw the paper version away.)
Loose objects in your car can be more than just an eyesore. They’re potentially lethal projectiles if you have to stop suddenly. So use those little nets, compartments and pockets wisely. Embarrassing holiday incidents shouldn’t include a coffee flask to the back of the head.
Often, a messy car results from not having anywhere to put things away. When I downsized to a smart earlier in 2008 it took me a while to figure out where to put my iPod, phone, maps, water and coffee. My tiny car doesn’t really have enough nooks and crannies, so I buckled an old daypack-sized backpack into the passenger’s side seatbelt so my stuff isn’t going anywhere if I have to slam on the brakes.
Take a look around your local auto supply store for things that would be helpful. I love my CD holder that holds elastically to the sun visor. Beware the temptation to acquire things just because they might be useful, though! You almost certainly don’t need a Hello Kitty Mirror Muff, but one of those FM transmitters that lets you play an iPod through the radio could be a great investment.
If you’re going far, make sure that everybody in the car has something to keep them entertained. Don’t forget that new gadgets will need power or batteries! That new iPod isn’t going to play for long if you haven’t charged it. Before it’s wrapped is the perfect time to load it with its new owner’s favorite music or that thirteen-hour set of The Lord of the Rings, and music gift cards let the recipient pick something new and interesting to listen to. Recent models even play video. And if you’re going for a seriously long drive, consider getting hold of a car charger that fits into that round 12v socket we used to call the cigarette lighter. It’ll be a lifesaver when your music player starts to lose power three hours from your destination.
Lastly, and perhaps most important of all, be sure your vehicle is mechanically prepared for the season — whether you’re below freezing in Norway or Nebraska or sunning yourself in Argentina or Australia. Make sure you are comfortable driving in the weather conditions. Check your local automobile association’s website for tips appropriate to your region — and remember to check for your destination too, if you’re traveling!
Happy travels and happy holidays!