Most Americans tend not to stray too far from their family’s roots, making long drives on the interstate an integral part of the holiday ritual.
The first step to ensure a smooth car trip is to keep your car in good working order. As temperatures drop during November and December, being stuck on the side of the road while waiting for an overworked tow-truck driver is not the place to be. Before you leave, have a qualified mechanic check all the car’s vitals: brakes, battery, fluid levels, tire pressure, light bulbs and any parts that need regular maintenance.
As with all long-distance winter road trips, it’s wise to bring emergency equipment, such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, blankets, drinking water and snacks, along with flares and jumper cables. An ice scraper and chains for the tires will also come in handy. While a white Christmas is great for the memories, it’s not ideal for winter driving conditions.
Pad your schedule to allow plenty of time for the drive. Like shopping malls, the roads are busiest on the days right before and after the major holidays. If possible, take an extra day off to reduce the chances of being lodged in a traffic jam.
Once on the road, drive carefully, patiently and stifle any burgeoning impulses of road rage. Try not to view other cars and traffic signals as personal obstacles. Work with your fellow drivers and not against them. Indicate during lane changes and give everyone plenty of room. Also, be forgiving when someone demonstrates reckless driving.
Don’t leave valuables in your car. Pack all items, especially brightly wrapped packages, in the trunk. If afraid of squashed bows, wait until you arrive to wrap the gifts.
Overall, try to make driving fun, and view it as part of the holiday, not as a chore. If traveling with children, get everyone involved by singing or reminiscing about favorite past holidays. The ride will be over before you know it, and you’ll actually look forward to the drive back home.
All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.
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Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.